“It takes a village.” This quote is usually associated with raising kids, but it absolutely applies to raising a puppy too. Raising a puppy can be exhausting and tough, and you don’t have to do it alone! I highly suggest that you create your own village, which may include a trainer, veterinarian, and family or friends. Be selective in building your village, though, as too many cooks may cause overwhelm rather than stability.
And, you won’t need any help with the overwhelm. Trust me. There will be times when you’re ready to just give up! However, with the help of these tips and your established village, I know you’ll be breathing easier already.
You’re the parent
While you may not know everything about raising your new furbaby, trust your gut when it comes to building your village. If you’re not feeling great about a situation, get a second or third opinion. You don’t have to settle, just because someone was referred to you or they are closest to you. You want to find someone easy to talk to and seek advice from. They should be open to and interested in hearing your fears, concerns, and want to help you. Do research on anyone you’re interested in adding to your village. Make sure their values and the way they work match yours. It’s better to find those trusted sources now, rather than settling and then scrambling when something major comes up.
Finding The perfect Veterinarian
I asked Sarah Bason DVM, a small animal vet and small human mom in Prescott, Arizona, for her tips on locating the right veterinarian for your family. “You’ve got your dog, now you’ve got to find your Dogtor! Ask fellow dog owners who they use for medical care and why – you want to find a veterinary practice that fits with your needs. Consider their hours (are they open on weekends if you need them), their services (do they offer boarding or grooming), and mostly their approach to medicine. Some of this can be gleaned from their website, but don’t be shy to ask for a tour if you’re considering a couple of different practices. We love touring clients around because we’re proud of what we do!”
scheduling with your veterinarian
According to Sarah Bason DVM “Your puppy should have its first wellness visit within 48 hours after it comes home. This allows your veterinarian to identify any issues, gives the staff a chance to meet and snuggle your puppy and give them lots of treats so that they love us, and set up a vaccine schedule. Expect your pup to come in for vaccinations every 3-4 weeks until they are around 5 months old, for full protection against all the nasty diseases out there. Until that series is finished, I always tell people to keep pups in arms only in public places.”
Research your new puppy’s breed
Dogs are bred for specific “jobs” and it’s important to know what that job may be to best understand who your new puppy is. As Teresa Hanula, a DC Metro area dog trainer and owner of A Dog’s World Training & Pet Care, Inc., shares “dogs are all bred to have a certain job. And, when they become our pets, sometimes we forget that they have needs too! A Spaniel with no birds to hunt, a Labrador with nothing to retrieve and a Border Collie with no sheep to herd can find themselves their own hobbies, which typically end up being hobbies that we, as pet owners, don’t agree with!”
Give Your Puppy a Job
Did you know unemployment is the major cause for undesired puppy behavior?! But there’s a solution, according to Teresa Hanula! “Have your puppy earn all of this food and attention. Food is the money of the dog world and shouldn’t be given out for free. Have your pup learn behaviors like watch me, sit or down. Set up fun food trails for them to seek out and hunt their food. Hand feed them so they develop positive associations to men/women, training and hands! Slow bowl feeders and Kongs are wonderful tools to stuff and have your dog work on that puzzle! So many opportunities for work that there should be no need for dog employment furloughs!”
Food absolutely matters
I’ve mentioned this key piece of advice in regards to raising a senior dog, so it makes sense that it matters for your puppy, too. Sarah Bason DVM agrees and gave thoughts on how to choose the right puppy food for your furbaby. “Please choose a puppy food that is appropriate for your little buddy’s adult size, and choose a high quality brand that has undergone feeding trials. Your Great Dane should be eating a giant breed puppy food, your German Shepherd a large breed puppy food, and your Beagle or Chihuahua a regular puppy food. If you adopted a mixed breed puppy, your vet should be able to help you determine based on the puppy’s current size, just what you’re going to be dealing with, size-wise as an adult (but we don’t guarantee it!). Puppies should be fed at least twice daily, and should be encouraged to eat slowly – sometimes hand feeding for the first couple of weeks when you have time can help with this.” And, those same slow feeding bowls mentioned earlier would also be beneficial here, too!
Toys and Treats Aplenty
Just like with food, a puppy’s treats and toys matter, so how do you know what to look for? As Sarah Bason DVM says: “Everyone wants to give puppies snacks – it’s human nature and they love them! A soft, low calorie, breakable treat is best for puppies during training, because your puppy is going to be a good dog 1000 times per day and you want to be able to reward them without also overfeeding them. For chewing toys, the main risk is the fracture of those sharp little delicate baby teeth or the potential for ingestion of part of the treat. Stick with the firm rubber balls and toys, especially if they are able to be stuffed with smaller treats to keep puppy busy. Stay away from rawhide chews and actual bones or antlers. The rule of thumb is that if it hurts when you hit it directly across your knee, it’s not safe for your puppy, or adult dog’s teeth.”
Day to Day Schedules
Figure out the household’s schedule and how does it apply to your puppy. Do you need to hire someone to come in during the day (once or twice) to maintain scheduled outdoor visits? Do you have a safe space for the puppy to stay while you’re out (or even when you’re home)? Talk with your village members to see what is going to be best for your four-legged family member and your specific situation. Puppies (and many dogs) do well on a fixed schedule. Make sure whoever helps with your puppy is willing to maintain specific training, too.
Get your home ready
Have you puppy-proofed your home? It’s a very critical step as your puppy becomes curious. As with babies and toddlers, you’ll need to make sure your house promotes a safe environment for your puppy to grow in. Puppies will want to put everything in their mouths. Make sure you are putting away things that could harm them (cords, chemicals, and shoes are just a few things). Find toys and items safe for puppies to play with. Work with them to learn the appropriate things that are theirs vs items that aren’t.
Positive reinforcement: best for you and your puppy
I’m most definitely an advocate for positive training methods. They have worked very well with my own dogs and friends’ dogs. Studies have shown that this training style is better for the human and dog bond, especially for the animal’s welfare. You can learn more about the style and psychology around positive reinforcement training here. Teresa Hanula is a positive reinforcement trainer in the DC metro area with a variety of training services, including puppy kindergarten where she introduces positive reinforcement training.
First, I want to send a huge thank you out to our two pros, Teresa and Sarah! Second, I really hope these tips will give you peace of mind and confidence in raising your new furbaby. And, finally, I just have one last piece of advice to add. There may be times when you’re questioning everything, but just remember: you’ve got this!