Did You Get A Puppy For Christmas? A Simple Guide To Puppy Parenting
Getting a puppy as a gift during the holiday season can be a tremendous moment, especially if you’ve wanted one for a long time. However, becoming a pet parent is a huge commitment and can be an overwhelming experience once the excitement of the holidays has worn off.
In fact, shelter intakes have been shown to increase during the first few months of the new year. According to monthly reports in 2016, there was an average of 14% more owner-surrenders of puppies and dogs during the months of January to March than the rest of the year. In 2017, this number jumped to 22%.
Luckily, there are many things that owners can do to make the first months with their puppy as stress-free as possible. To ensure that life with your new puppy or dog goes smoothly, the key is to set them up for success by following these important steps.
Set Up Your Puppy’s Healthcare
Preventative veterinary care is the number one thing pet parents can do to avoid costly vet visits in the future. After adopting your puppy, arrange for a preliminary vet visit to establish a primary care doctor for your new family member.
The vet will do a check-up to see where your puppy’s health currently stands and go over important healthcare information such as immunization, de-worming, flea and tick prevention, spaying or neutering, heartworm prevention, and nutrition.
Your dog’s vet will also go over important health considerations for puppies, such as when it is safe for them to be around other dogs and what kind of behaviors pet parents should expect. These types of details are especially important for first-time puppy owners.
By setting up veterinary care early on in your dog’s life, you are protecting them from potentially dangerous (not to mention expensive) health conditions that could arise.
Puppy-Proof Your Home
In the same way, parents must child-proof their homes to protect their young kids from hurting themselves or destroying valuable things, pet owners should prioritize puppy-proofing before bringing a new pet into the house.
Because puppies are in the early stages of their behavioral training, pet parents cannot expect them to stay out of the trash or know the difference between a favorite pair of shoes and a chew toy. Keeping things out of reach from puppies while working on their training is the best way to set them up for success.
Some helpful puppy-proofing steps include:
Put the trash in an inaccessible location and use a can with a secure lid.
Keep personal items such as purses, backpacks, shoes, clothes, toys, etc. up and out of reach of puppies.
Use cord covers or bitter, no-bite spray to keep puppies from chewing on power cords.
Be cautious about the location of food, medicine, and household cleaner storage to make sure puppies never have access to potentially dangerous materials.
Check that your houseplants are not poisonous to dogs. You can refer to the list of pet-toxic plants from the ASPCA.
Some pet parents may find it easier to simply keep puppies contained to the living space until they are older and more well-trained. While keeping doors closed is helpful, there is always the chance that someone in the home forgets to shut a door, so all rooms should be properly pet-proofed regardless. And, of course, your puppy should always have proper supervision to ensure they are safe.
Begin Potty Training
A top struggle for many pet parents is potty training. While accidents are to be expected, proper potty-training techniques can help new pet owners get their dog housetrained more quickly and easily.
According to the American Kennel Club, there are three primary potty training methods for puppies – crate training, paper training, and frequent trips outdoors. There are varying opinions on which method is best and, ultimately, the choice is up to you.
Crate training involves stimulating a dog’s instinctual nature as a den animal by making a crate their main resting space. Dogs will typically not go to the bathroom where they sleep and eat, so by utilizing a crate, pet parents gain a bit more control over where and when their puppy potties.
Paper training refers to teaching the puppy to go on potty pads in addition to outside. This method can be confusing for dogs as it gives them permission to potty indoors, but it is a helpful tool for people who work long hours or live in places with especially harsh winters.
The method of frequent trips outside is a top choice for many pet parents and can be used in conjunction with crate and/or paper training. The more a puppy is outside, the more likely they are to potty outdoors. When this happens, a ton of positive praise and training treats can be given to reinforce the habit of going to the bathroom outside.
Regardless of which method you choose to use, puppies should be on a schedule when it comes to feeding, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. Puppies should be taken out after they eat a meal after they wake up from a nap, and after they finish play time. Having a consistent schedule regarding their time spent outdoors will help encourage them to go potty when and where they’re supposed to.
The keys to potty training are to have patience, be diligent, and utilize positive reinforcement.
Begin Behavioral Training
When your puppy is small and oh-so-adorable, the temptation to let them do whatever they want can be strong. However, it’s important to remember that puppies do not stay small forever and behaviors such as jumping, nipping, pulling on the leash, and chewing become more troublesome when your small puppy grows into a large dog. Begin training as early as possible to make life with your dog happier and easier.
The Pet Gal’s preferred training method is positive reinforcement. From learning basic commands such as “sit” or “stay” to learning not to chew on household items, positive reinforcement training is extremely effective.
Dogs are people pleasers who are eager for positive reactions from their owners. In positive reinforcement training, owners reward their dog for doing things correctly and as a result cultivate the behavior they want.
As with potty training, behavioral training requires dedication, consistency, and patience. Everyone in the home should be on the same page when it comes to training. All who interact with your puppy should use consistent commands and have the same standard of behavior to avoid confusing your little one.
Behavioral training classes, whether in a group environment or working one-on-one with a trainer, can be very helpful in training you how to train your dog. The Pet Gal often partners with Tara Stermer at K9 Workingmind to educate our pet sitters on dog and cat behavior as well as best practices for training. Tara offers group and individual training options that can be extremely helpful.
Ensure Your Puppy Gets Plenty of Attention, Socialization, Play, & Exercise
Adopting a puppy is a big commitment – one that requires a lot of time and effort. But it should also be an exciting and fun time for the whole family. One of the best things new pet parents can do for their puppies is to spend as much time with them as possible.
Taking your new dog for walks, making time for play sessions, and allowing it ample opportunity to socialize with other dogs and humans will positively impact the puppy’s behavior.
Since socialization, exercise, and consistency with training are so key, parents should consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker to step in at times when being with their pet isn’t an option. Whether you work during the day or are traveling, The Pet Gal’s team of experienced, trained sitters can ensure that your puppy stays on schedule, has fun, and learns positive behaviors while you’re away.
What To Do If Things Are Not Working Out
If for some reason you and your family are hitting roadblocks with your new dog or puppy that are making you reconsider your decision to adopt, contact others for support. Reach out to friends or family members for help. Contact veterinary offices, trainers, rescues, and shelters in your community. All are good resources for advice and most will always be happy to provide alternatives to rehoming, such as training and behavioral resources, low-cost healthcare options, support, and more.
The Pet Gal has aided many in puppy parents make the transition to keeping a happy puppy by offering puppy pet sitting and walking visits. Our sitters follow the same instructions given by your behavioralist so that we reinforce everything your puppy is learning while you are away. We can provide daily visits so your puppy is not left home alone for too long or help out if you need to leave town for a few days.
If the moment comes where you decide that giving the puppy up is the best option, be sure to surrender them to a reputable, no-kill shelter or rescue group. Luckily for Austin residents, the city has been no-kill since 2010, making it the largest no-kill city in the United States.
Organizations like the Austin Animal Center, Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, and Hawaii Island Humane Society serve as shelters for lost or stray animals and owner-surrendered pets. All these groups are committed to rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming pets regardless of age, breed, or health status.
While, of course, the preference is for you to have a long, happy relationship with your puppy, these organizations are great options.article by Pet Gal Kirstie and infographics by Pet Guy Dan.