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6 important tips for new puppy owners

Updated: Jan 15

Getting a puppy is a tremendous commitment and starting it right is very important for your new family member to feel safe and welcome in your home.

Congratulations new pet parents! What an exciting time!

When adopting your puppy, they should hopefully be at least 8 weeks of age or older, which is the best time for them to leave their mum and litter-mates. At this age, they are physically and mentally developed enough and have received adequate socialisation with their own species. However, the socialisation period doesn’t just stop here, as the next 8 weeks will be just as critical for your new pet.

Socialisation means having interactions with the same species, or other species, in a socially acceptable way. Through socialisation, animals learn what normal behaviour is, what is safe in their surroundings and what could potentially be dangerous, and they develop communication and survival skills. It sounds very important, doesn’t it?

To ensure that your pet is socialised effectively and positively, it should be supervised in the process. Similarly, children have to learn how to navigate life in a social group, including arguing and reconciling at times, and therefore an adult needs to be nearby to provide guidance and to resolve conflicts.

Enrolling your puppy in a well-organised puppy school, led by a reputable dog trainer, is essential - It is the best environment for them to learn social skills.

As the critical socialisation period for a puppy is between 8 and 16 weeks, you should start puppy schooling as soon as possible and no later than 12 weeks of age. You do not need to wait until your puppy is fully vaccinated. A reputable dog trainer should have all the precautionary measures in place to minimise your puppy’ risk of catching an infectious disease.

Outside of puppy school, on the other hand, you should only allow your puppy to socialise in a safe environment until they have received all their vaccinations. In general, meeting healthy dogs with a known vaccination and medical history is safe. Meeting in a house, or other indoor environment, can also be considered safe from infectious diseases that are circulating in the community. I suggest holding back on taking your puppy out for a walk, or visiting dog parks, until 2 weeks after the immunisation schedule has been completed. During this period and before you can go for a walk, teach your puppy to wear a harness and walk nicely on a leash around the house and in the backyard.

Positive reinforcement should be the only method of training that you use to teach your puppy. This way, you will become a respectable leader for your puppy, whose company they fully enjoy. Use food, treats and praise to make the training fun, encouraging and rewarding. Punishment has no place in modern science-based animal training as it will damage your bond and relationship and create deep-seated fears.

Introducing your puppy to their new home – all the basic requirements.

I am sure you have already organised most of the essentials such as beds, toys, food and water stations or toilet training tools.

Beds are comfortable resting places that the puppy should have access to throughout the house. You can have as many beds as you like your puppy to have. I would suggest placing one in the activity hub of the house, and one in your own resting area.

Puppies will seek out a companion to feel safe. After all, they only just left the litter where they had companionship 24/7. A sudden change in their environment and companionship schedule can be very stressful. If your puppy is crying or seeking attention, offer gentle petting and vocal reassurance to help them settle.

Food and water stations must be easy to access. Elevate the bowls above the ground to your puppy’s shoulder height. It is important to ask the previous owner what the puppy was being fed. Keep the puppy on the same food for a few days and make a slow transition to the new diet over a week. In general, I recommend a premium quality puppy diet that suits the particular breed to ensure a balanced nutrition. These products can be found at your local pet shop and vet.

Have you heard of enrichment feeding tools? They are essential for both mental and physical enrichment.

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