Tips on how to turn the lovable beast into a lovable pet
Hundreds of thousands of Americans got a new pet in the last year. But those first few months with your new puppy can be some of the most rewarding – and challenging – of all! Warren Eckstein gives advice to help out all those new puppy owners who are asking, “So, I have a new puppy – now what!?”
MOST PUPPIES DON’T complete their rounds of immunizations until they are about 4 to 5 months old. Make sure that you keep up-to-date on these, and keep your puppy away from other dogs and animals until they are complete. And whatever you do, don’t let puppy wander too far… If they meet a strange dog or other animal, they may catch a disease or other ailment that you don’t want to deal with.
PUPPY-PROOF YOUR HOME
Just like a new baby, making sure your home is puppy proof can help your new dog enjoy the house without worry. Put cleaning products out of reach – not just under a cabinet – curious puppies may learn to open doors. Keep lids of garbage cans, medicine containers and other hazards securely fastened. The best bet is to secure your home as if for a 2-year-old child – what’s dangerous for kids may be more dangerous for your dog – young or old.
Start right away! Puppies can learn quickly some basic obedience commands like “sit” and “down” and “come”. And the earlier you start this kind of training, the easier it is for you to control your dog later. After all, once they learn “who’s the boss”, the easier it is for you!
Just remember – giving puppy lots of positive praise when they do things right is a great way to train them. Never hit your dog with anything like rolled up newspaper or even your hand, or rub their noses in messes – this may lead to unusually aggressive or skittish behavior, and someone could get hurt. Scold only with a stern “no”, and praise with lots of positive verbal and physical attention – they can never get too much loving attention!
SET THE RULES
Keep the rules straight – immediately. Setting the rules and regulations in the house early makes it easier for puppy to learn how to do things “right.” Make sure that everyone in your family knows the rules about what the dog is and isn’t allowed to do. Is Fido allowed on the couch, or not allowed in certain rooms in the house? If everyone in the family follows the same rules, then your puppy won’t get confused. Nothing contributes to a badly-behaved pet more than if Mom lets Fido on the couch, but Dad yells at him to get off! I’d be confused, too.
Start sleeping and potty-training routines quickly. If you want your dog to go to the bathroom outside, make sure that you start this early. Take him on regular outings, and praise him a lot when he does his business. But starting with “paper training” and then expecting the transition to outdoor training to be easy is a mistake. If you do this, don’t be surprised if Fido thinks its okay to use the Sunday paper as a bathroom later on in life!
This is also true with sleeping arrangements. Create a safe, comfortable, and warm area for your dog to sleep and start those sleeping arrangements earlier rather than later. After all, a 2-month-old puppy is so cute sleeping next to your child in bed… but breaking that habit later is not easy! Another important tip: Never leave dogs and small children alone. It’s too easy for the child or the puppy to get into rough play and someone might get hurt.
GET THEM FIXED!
Unless you’re planning on breeding, get that dog spayed or neutered! With an estimated 3.1 million dogs available for adoption each year, approximately 2.1 million of these are euthanized. Most of the time, these poor dogs don’t have a home because their “parents” didn’t get fixed. Inexpensive – and sometimes free – spaying and neutering services are offered all over the country by many organizations, including local pet shelters, the ASPCA, and the veterinarians’ offices.
Right now, there’s a controversy about spaying and neutering: Some places recommend spaying or neutering puppies and kittens as young as 8 to 9 weeks. Generally, owners should wait until their pets are about 4-5 months old, and work with the recommendations of your veterinarian. It’s a little procedure that can save a lot of heartache in the long run.
GET THEM TAGGED
Losing pets can be horrible, for any family member. The best way to prevent this is to keep them on a leash whenever they are in an un-enclosed area, and make sure your pet has dog tags on with your current address and telephone number with an answering machine. The lost dogs at shelters aren’t wearing tags – how easy would finding their homes be if they were wearing simple tags?
There are a variety of different types of tags including the basic metal tags, or high-tech tags including under-the-skin registry chips, or voice-recording tags. Any tag is better than none, so make sure your new puppy has one, and make sure it’s on a collar that fits correctly. Around the neck, you should be able to fit three fingers under the collar comfortably.