10 great ideas for looking after your puppy

10 Great Ideas for looking after your puppy

1. Set a routine

During the first few months, puppies really benefit from a good routine, so get into the habit of feeding your puppy at regular intervals. Take it outside as soon as it wakes up, following its mealtimes, and every hour or two. Make sure that you schedule in 'play times', and 'quiet times' when you are present, but not interacting with it. Your puppy needs to learn to settle quietly as well as how to occupy itself with a chew or its toys, otherwise it will become demanding and expect you to interact with it all the time.

2. 'Home alone' training

Your growing puppy will sleep a great deal, and this is the ideal time to get it used to being separated from you (and other pets) for short periods every day, so that it does not become over dependent on having constant company. If you do not get your puppy used to being left alone while you are in your home, it may suffer from 'over-attachment' and 'separation anxiety' when you go out. This can become a very serious problem, so put your puppy back in its sleeping quarters when it is tired, resting or sleeping.

Try not to return to your puppy when it is whining, crying, barking or misbehaving in any way, as you will be unwittingly rewarding the undesirable behaviour, which might make things worse in the long run. Either wait until the behaviour has stopped, or create a noise diversion to distract the puppy and THEN enter the room. Do not greet the puppy straight away - do something else first (put the kettle on for example) - and then say hello (calmly and quietly) to the puppy. This prevents problems later on with attention seeking behaviour and overexcited greetings.

Once your puppy is older, toilet trained and happy to be left on its own, you can leave it for gradually longer periods. When it is an adult you can leave it for up to four hours at a time (maximum).

3. Puppy sitter/minder

If you occasionally have to leave your puppy alone for longer than a few hours, you should expect a few toilet training accidents which may set back your progress slightly. However, if you have to do this on a regular basis you may well fail completely in the toilet training stakes, and furthermore your puppy is also much more likely to get bored and develop destructive or noisy habits.

To prevent this, you should consider asking someone to come in to let your puppy out and to break up its day. Alternatively, take your puppy to someone who can look after it when you are gone for long periods.

Make sure you find someone suitable as it may not be fair to leave an energetic puppy with a relative, friend or neighbour who is elderly or infirm, or who may have young and excitable children!

4. Professional dog sitter/minder/walker/dog creches

Only use people who have been highly recommended (by several people) and always check out their references and that they carry appropriate insurance.

Some options may not be suitable for young puppies; as they could result in them bonding more strongly with other dogs than with human company, which could make them excessively distracted by other dogs when out being walked.

If you would like your puppy to stay with a dog sitter or minder, check (go and see for yourself - do not take their word for it) how many dogs they keep at one time and the conditions they are kept under.

You have to be sure that your puppy is getting along well with its companions and is not being taught bad habits, being bullied (which could make it timid or aggressive) or learning how to become a bully! Have a contingency plan in place in case your puppy does not get on with any of the other dogs. Always take your puppy to the sitter's home. Do not let them collect and deliver the puppy back to you, as you have no way of checking that they have not farmed the puppy out to be looked after by someone else!

You may be better off finding someone who can give your puppy individual attention, rather than placing it within a pack of dogs, where it could be overwhelmed and make it timid or defensive.

5. Boarding Kennels

If you have to board your puppy out when you go away on holiday you may be better off using a recommended kennel, in which case you may wish to try boarding it overnight in advance of your holiday so it is not alien to your puppy when it is left for longer.  This way you can go on holiday comfortably in the knowledge that it is staying somewhere familiar to it. An initial short stay will give your puppy confidence you will be back to collect it.

Before boarding, you must ensure that all your dog's vaccinations are up to date as the kennel may ask for the vaccination certificates to be presented when your dog arrives.

Boarding Kennel Tips:

  • The staff should be helpful and attentive - particularly if it is your dog's first visit
  • Check whether they are adequately insured
  • They may provide a grooming service prior to collection - ask if this is available
  • Do not be afraid to ask to have a look round. The kennels should appear clean and tidy and should be heated if your dog is boarding in the winter months
  • The other boarders should appear contented and well looked after
  • Check what food they have available, as you may need to provide this if they do not provide your dog's brand of food
6. Set 'Out of bounds' areas

It is strongly recommended that you keep your puppy away from the stairs and steep drops, as running up and down stairs can damage a puppy's delicate growth plates, causing long term damage. Even jumping off chairs, sofas and beds can cause unnecessary damage, and puppies are best kept off these. A suitable gate at the bottom of the staircase should prevent this. You should also lift them in and out of cars, and be careful not to play fetch games on slippery floors, or encourage them to jump about or twist themselves, for the same reason.

It is also wise to keep puppies out of bedrooms, as the temptation to urinate on carpets or beds and steal items is often irresistible. If you do choose to have your puppy sleep in your bedroom then have it sleep in a crate to avoid problems.

7. Stopping Irritating behaviour

You should prevent adults and children becoming over enthusiastic with your puppy. Do not allow them to disturb its sleep patterns, over-tire it, or to play rough or over-exciting games, which will encourage (undesirable) play-biting or grumpy behaviour. Do not let anyone pick it up, mollycoddle it or smother it, as it is not uncommon for puppies to be picked up and carried awkwardly, causing pain and discomfort, and teaching pupies to be nervous and hand-shy. What is more, a puppy that is constantly picked up and carried can become overly clingy and demanding, so it is better to squat down to the puppy's level.

8. Start dog training classes

Most owners can benefit from attending good training classes, and training in the company of other dogs is very useful because of the realistic distractions this involves. Ideally, you should start your classes as soon as your puppy's vaccinations are complete, but classes can be invaluable for older dogs too! Every puppy needs to be taught good manners and have constructive lessons in basic control. This includes responding to its name, how to greet and behave politely around people and dogs, coming back when called, walking nicely on the lead, sit, down and stay on command, and allowing itself to be groomed and examined by you and your vet. As a dog owner you also need to learn what laws affect you and your dog.

It is important to find a good dog training class to teach you how to stimulate your puppy and show you methods to use that can prevent and correct different types with a good service. It is vital that you are patient with your puppy - do not expect too much too quickly as all young animals need time to learn what we expect of them. Puppies learn at a very fast rate, so it is essential that you understand the importance of teaching useful and positive lessons early on that will benefit your puppy throughout its life and help to prevent the most common (and predictable) training and behaviour problems.

9. Teach him to play nicely

It's possible that puppy may test the boundaries by giving you a little nip, so any game which encourages him to bite is obviously a bad idea (bites hurt, irrespective of the biter's cuteness). The rule of thumb is no wiggling fingers in front of puppy in a provocative fashion.

There may also be times when he tries to get physical. He wants you to tug on a toy he's picked up, so you tug. He pulls harder, egging you on. Should you respond? Afraid not… rough and tumble at this age will probably end in tears and is, therefore, a bad idea. When it comes to physical play, if you're in control and everything is reasonably calm, then okay. But if rough begins to outweigh tumble it's time to stop. Aggression is only a growl away.

10. Leaving him home alone

Imagine the day when your puppy is left home alone for the first time. The big sad eyes, the whining, the lonely staring out of the window - and that's just you. But it doesn't have to be that way, for puppy at least. With some careful preparation you can alleviate the symptoms of separation anxiety (which can be anything from whining to chewing the leg off your favourite chair) such that it's really not a problem at all.

The key is to gradually build up puppy's experience of being away from you. Start by leaving the room for a few minutes at a time. Extend the periods of time you are gone. Then (deep breath) step outside on your own for a couple of minutes. As long as he's not distressed to begin with he should be quite happy pottering around, happy in the knowledge that you'll be back soon.

When, after a week or two of trial separations, you decide the moment has come to leave puppy for an extended period, make sure that he's been out for a wee, he's got water to drink and a bed to lie in. Leave him and try not to worry - he'll be a lot happier about the experience than you will!

Don't be afraid to ask

If you have any specific problems during this time, speak to your breeder or dog trainer and they will advise you how best to overcome them.  Problems with puppies are usually easily solved so ask for advice sooner rather than later, as problems can be harder to rectify in the long run if you don't correct them by training the desired behaviour. As a new puppy or dog owner, you will be aware of the responsibilities that come with dog owning and caring for your dog. However, you will also benefit from the incredibly rewarding and pleasurable experience of dog ownership.

In time, with the correct training and care, your puppy or dog will hopefully become a well-adjusted adult who is a pleasure to own and a credit to you and the dog society at large.


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