Good puppy care doesn’t just happen. It takes a planned approach. The recommendations below will help you give your puppy everything that’s vital to her health and to having a long, happy relationship together.
It’s been said that the most important part of caring for your puppy is making sure the owner is trained properly.
There’s some truth to this. It’s no use expecting a puppy to learn consistent behavior if her owner is inconsistent. Puppies, like children, learn their habits and attitudes from the adults they grow up with.
Puppy Care Basics
Now that you’ve made yourself responsible for a puppy and her health, here’s where to start.
Make sure your puppy gets enough of the right kind of food. Hint: puppies are not people, so they shouldn’t be eating the same foods people eat.
A puppy’s diet must include the right balance of nutrients for growth and strong bodies. Larger breeds will require extra nutrition to support their extra-rapid growth. Special diets are available that are tailored to different sizes of dogs and their growth and developmental needs.
Think in terms of good quality. In fact, premium dog food is especially important during the first few months of a dog’s life.
Also, your puppy will need a constant supply of clean, fresh water.
If you’ll introduce your puppy to grooming early, the idea gets planted that this is something normal and routine. As soon as you bring her home, start regular bathing and brushing or combing.
Then maintain that routine long-term. Many dogs take delight in their trips to the groomer and enjoy being bathed, brushed and combed. It’s a good plan to make weekly brushing and grooming a part of a short-hair dog’s routine. Daily brushing for long-hair dogs keeps the coat from matting and tangling.
Puppies love physical activity — need it in fact — so give them plenty of opportunities to play and run. Don’t let them overdo it, however, because when young, their energy reserves are quickly used up.
During especially hot or humid weather, keep the play time shorter. This prevents overheating.
Play keeps your puppy fit, but good puppy care includes teaching proper socialization. Puppies can get over enthusiastic and play too rough. Over-aggressive play or biting should be stopped at once.
Don’t introduce your puppy to the local dog park too soon. Parks are fun, but younger puppies are prone to pick up contagious illnesses from other dogs. Make sure all shots and immunizations are finished before hitting the park.
Proper puppy care includes thorough training. Most new puppy owners think training is all about obedience, like learning to heel, stay and come. Others think of all the fun tricks their dog will learn, such as fetching, shaking hands and rolling over.
But good training serves a more important role than mere obedience and tricks.
Teaching obedience positions you as the “alpha member” in your puppy’s pack. The leader, the boss.
Fail to do this, and you’ll have a dog that has no respect for you. We’ve all seen families where “mommy and daddy” jump to obey little Fido’s every growl and yip.
You don’t want your puppy (and your family) to end up like that — it’s an unhappy situation for both dog and human.
Training your puppy for instant obedience can also keep her safe, especially when in traffic or around other animals.
Like children, puppies learn very quickly, so as a part of good puppy care, begin training her to obey as soon as possible. This assures a happier, more secure adult dog.
Keep medical records
This is especially important if you have more than one pet. Records help you keep the details of your puppy care straight. Maintain a regular file — preferably on paper (computers crash) — showing your pet’s medical history.
These records should include details on:
At 6-8 weeks start your puppy on vaccines, give them every 3-4 weeks, and continue them until age 16-20 weeks. There are vaccines to prevent rabies, distemper, parvovirus, kennel cough and other diseases.
As with human beings, dogs have more health concerns than just their basic needs for food, water, and shelter. Like human beings, dogs can and do become ill. In the event that your puppy gets sick, remain calm. Just like when a human being gets sick, prompt medical attention is always a good idea.
It is vital you take your puppy for regular veterinary exams. It is also critical to pay close attention to your puppy behavior and eating habits.
Heartworm larvae are transmitted by mosquito bite. Once in your puppy, these creatures congregate in the muscles of the heart, where they grow and multiply.
But heartworms are preventable. A monthly oral dose is a good commonsense part of puppy care, especially during the warmer months, when the chance of heartworm infection is highest.
Most veterinarians recommend a heartworm preventative. Symptoms of heartworms include coughing and difficulty breathing. If you suspect your dog may have heartworms, treatment is available from your veterinarian, but prevention is the best policy.
Medications and treatments now available can prevent tick infestation. But if you find a tick on your puppy, be sure to remove it very carefully with tweezers. A special removal device is also available.
Ticks are parasites that attach themselves to a dog’s skin. If you find a tick on your puppy, use a pair of sterilized tweezers to pull the tick out by the head. Squeezing the tick’s body may force toxins out of the tick’s body and into your dog, leading to infection.
It’s easier to prevent fleas from moving in than it is to evict them. There both oral and topical treatments that are puppy safe, and those that are applied monthly make the job easy.
But if you ever let fleas get a foothold (or mouth-hold), you’ll end up having to de-flea your entire home and yard. So prevention is better.
Fleas are very common in outdoor dogs, but any dog is susceptible. Symptoms include itching, discomfort, and rash. There is a variety of preventative measures that ward fleas off, and if your dog becomes infected, treatment can be as straightforward as a bath with medicated shampoo.
Mites are the cause of mange. Signs of mange include hair loss, redness, rash, and scaling. There are other mites that affect your dog’s ears. Signs of ear mites include itching, swelling, red skin, and black crusting within the ear canal
Every puppy should be de-wormed as a standard practice because many puppies are actually born with roundworms.
Other intestinal parasites include hookworms, whipworms, giardia and coccidia. A fecal sample should be taken right away so that the vet can check that your puppy is parasite-free.
Even after a first de-worming, it’s possible your puppy might need a second treatment to complete the process. Once de-wormed, monthly medications can help prevent re-infestation.
To be on the safe side, a yearly fecal check by the vet is a good idea.
Hookworms attach themselves to a dog’s intestinal lining. This is a relatively common problem among dogs, and is easily treated with medicine.
The symptoms of roundworms are typically mild in comparison to some parasites.
Additionally, roundworms are very contagious, as they affect nearly every part of a dog’s body. Symptoms include stomach problems, bloating, and poor growth. Again, as with most parasites, roundworms are easily treated, and can be prevented.
Giardia is caused by microscopic organisms in your dog’s intestines. The Giardia is a very commonplace infection and many effective treatments are available.
Dogs infected with tapeworms generally exhibit no symptoms except for gradual weight loss. The only sure way to check your puppy for infection is regular trips to the veterinarian, and treatment is very simple.
And here’s one more puppy care tip, but this one is for you:
Since you’re the “alpha member” in your puppy’s family, it’s important for you to behave like one.
Every young creature, whether baby or puppy, needs patience and love from you. Also a consistent hand. Learn what you’re doing. Educate yourself about how puppies and dogs behave, what they need from you, and the best ways to communicate with them.
If you’re a book person, get books and read up on puppy care. If not, get videos or DVDs and watch them. In either case, talk with your vet. Learn all you can.
This will keep unexpected surprises from cropping up and catching you flatfooted.
Prepare well to provide good puppy care, and you’ll find it’s easy and fun to build a strong, trusting relationship with your new puppy… a relationship that lasts a lifetime.