New Puppy Parents Handy Guide

New parents of a young puppy? Here’s a handy guide full of paws-itive tips to help get you started!

Introducing a puppy to the family & home

This is an exciting time, especially if you have children, but it’s important to remember that your home, while fur-miliar to you, is a strange environment to your newest little explorer.  Try to keep children calm and not to make loud noises or sudden movements that can startle a puppy. Be sure to let them explore on a leash inside at first to avoid accidents.

Housetraining

This takes time and commitment so it’s important to establish a good routine from the beginning.  Take your puppy out to the same spot so they learn where it’s okay to go. Make sure you let them do their business at regular intervals, especially before bedtime (you might need to do this multiple times a night), first thing in the morning, and after meals.  You may also find they need it after a nap or physical exercise. Be prepared for accidents in the beginning while they are still learning, and invest in some puppy pads and spray to eliminate odours to help you along, as well as lots and lots of paws-itive reinforcement.

Feeding

It’s important that your puppy has an age-appropriate food to meet their nutritional requirements, and keep them healthy. There are many different brands available, so if you are unsure, ask your vet for a recommendation. Once you have chosen a brand, try to stick to it as changing food can cause upset tummies. Because of their rapid growth, puppies require food in smaller quantities, and at more frequent intervals, so establish a regular feeding routine as soon as possible, and always keep a bowl of fresh water nearby. A general rule of thumb is:

8-12 weeks:  4 times per day
3-6 months:  3 times per day
6-12 months:  twice per day

It’s also important not to fall for those “puppy-dog-eyes”, no matter how tempted you are.  Certain foods are bad for all dogs, not just puppies, so stay away from chocolate, grapes, apple cores, garlic, chicken bones (or any bones that splinter), raw fish, dairy, nuts & avocado (or any high fat foods), sugar (and sweeteners), alcohol and caffeine. MediPet’s Option 2 even contributes towards  prescription food.

Exercise

Dogs of all ages need plenty of regular exercise to keep them healthy, fit and stimulated.  This also helps eliminate bad behaviour habits when dogs get bored.  Puppies love to play, but play with them gently so they don’t get hurt, take them for walks and games of catch or fetch, but remember not to overdo it.  They may have energy bursts, and you may be tempted to tire them out for a nap, but too much exercise can lead to injuries and cause dehydration.

Socialisation

It’s important to introduce your puppy to other pets early so that they know the difference between good and bad behaviour, but make sure that their early vaccinations are up to date because coming into contact with an unvaccinated dog could be deadly for your pup.  At around 4 months you can start puppy training classes with other dogs so they learn to interact, but they can also learn from you before then.  Imagine your puppy as an adult dog and train them accordingly. While certain behaviours are cute in a pup, they won’t be when your dog is fully grown, so walking on a lead without pulling and greeting visitors without jumping are things you can teach them at home with positive reinforcement.  If you do run into traits like anxiety, excessive barking, or aggression that require a little more than standard training, remember that MediPet covers behaviour therapy as part of their holistic wellness support.

Image courtesy of X-TREME, Pixabay

Puppy proofing

Your home is like a whole new world to a puppy – one that is full of new scents, sights and interesting things that must be explored.  So to keep your puppy – and your belongings safe, puppy-proof your house in anticipation of your nosy newcomer. Simple things, such as investing in a baby gate to keep off-limit areas, and making sure your dirt bin is out of reach, or heavy enough not to be knocked over are good ideas to save both you and your furry friend a lot of cleaning up and breakages.  Also make sure electrical cables are not easily accessible and all toxic substances, like cleaning products, are locked up.

Accessories, puppy products & toys

The pet aisle can be a bewildering place for new parents.  A good bed is important, but bear in mind you may go through a few of these as your puppy grows – and chews.  Invest in metal food and water bowls as they can’t be chewed.  Treats are essential, as well as a brand of shampoo that does not contain any harsh ingredients. A sturdy leash and nylon collar, as well as identification tags are a must. Tiny puppy teeth are sharp, and love to chew, so make sure they have the correct toys to keep them stimulated, and remember, small parts can cause choking.  Also don’t let them have an old shoe to chew on, because they cannot tell the difference between your broken flip-flop and your brand new heels.

Vaccinations & general health

Vaccinations are essential to good health – both your puppy’s and other animals they come into contact with, so ensure that they keep up to date with their vet visits and all their routine care needs.  This will include not only vaccinations, but also regular deworming, and parasite control.  MediPet supports sterilisation at the correct age as it helps eliminate certain health risks, and to assist with that they introduced Top Pet, a benefit that give members cover up to R1 000 for routine care costs.  And what’s even better, there is no excess on Top Pet claims. Having your puppy microchipped is a good idea, in the event your pup runs off or breaks out and goes missing.

A good support system

As a new pet parent you will need a good support system of the people you need most while finding your feet with a new addition to the family.  Find a vet that is close to you, and whom you trust, as well as an emergency or after hours vet practice.  A good obedience or socialising school is key, and you will find that most vet practices run programs and classes to help you train your new four-paws. A reliable pet-sitter or trusted neighbour may help you out in sudden situations and can provide invaluable peace-of-mind.

Pet insurance

What is pet insurance?  Simply put, it is invaluable peace-of-mind in case something unexpected happens. Many mistake it for medical aid, but it is not. Pet insurance is short-term insurance, similar to car and household insurance, that provides cover for vet treatment in the event of an accident, an illness or an emergency.  It works the same way in that you pay a small premium each month, and should you ever need it, you are assured of financial assistance when claiming back the costs of your pet’s vet bills. Claims carry a small excess, which is your contribution towards their costs, while your insurer contributes the rest.  In MediPet’s case, up to 85% of your bills.

Accidents do happen, and your puppy – or any pet – will get sick at some point in their lives and may require costly veterinary treatment.  A good pet insurance plan is vital for when life happens. Do your research, compare them carefully and make sure you understand the ins & outs of their cover. Many will not tell you about certain limits upfront so you need to ask the right questions, Are hereditary conditions covered? Do they sub-limit per claim, per incident or per year?  Are certain breeds excluded?  Ask your vet for a recommendation if you’re not sure, because they will likely deal with insurers on a regular basis, and will know who has a good reputation in the industry.  Some will insure your puppy from as young as 6 weeks, and the sooner you get them covered the better, before any conditions develop, as most insurers won’t cover these if they are pre-existing.

Although puppies require a lot of work, love and dedication, they will reward you with a lifetime of companionship and loyalty.  Your journey is just beginning and it’s going to be an exciting one!

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