Introducing a puppy into your family can be an exciting but stressful time for you and your new pup. To keep everything running smoothly, Kathryn Eccles, from equestrian and pet supplies store Millbry Hill, has given us her top tips for first-time puppy owners.
The UK is a nation of dog lovers. In fact, last year, dogs were the most popular pets in the UK, with over a quarter of British households enjoying the company of their precious pooch (Statista).
If you’ve recently become a dog owner, there are a few things you’ll need to bear in mind to keep your puppy safe and well. Below you’ll find five essential tips that every new dog owner should know.
Remind yourself which foods can be toxic
Dogs love to investigate, and they often eat whatever they find on their adventures. But, some food that we might think is harmless could actually be poisonous to dogs. While you’re waiting for your new puppy to be big enough to come home, you can use this time to familiarise yourself with toxic foods. These include — but are not limited to:
- Artificial sweetener (xylitol)
While they’re investigating, your little pup is going to try to get into low drawers and cupboards, so make sure you store these foods away on high shelves where they won’t find them.
It’s a good idea to make a list or chart of these foods that you can put up in your kitchen. This will remind you which foods your new puppy can eat at a quick glance.
Get them vaccinated and microchipped
In the UK, it’s now compulsory for all dogs to get microchipped. This makes it easier for your dog to be identified in case it gets lost. Most puppies will be microchipped at around 8 weeks old before they come home, so you’ll need to make sure the details are updated and correct. If they’re not yet microchipped, a vet can do this for you.
When your puppy comes home, it’s important that you get them registered with a vet straight away and book them in for their vaccinations. Your vet can advise you which injections and boosters your new pet will need, as well as check for any injuries or illnesses that could cause complications as they grow up.
Develop a night-time routine
A new puppy can quickly become unsettled at bedtime and you’ll need to be prepared for a few sleepless nights while they’re getting used to their surroundings.
Make sure you have a soft and comfortable dog bed for them to sleep on, with a cuddly toy and blanket for them to snuggle into. For extra reassurance, it helps if you can bring a blanket from their birth home that smells like their mother and the rest of their litter.
If your puppy starts to cry or becomes unsettled during the night, calmly and quietly let them out for a toilet break, but don’t engage in any play. This will give them a sense of comfort by having you nearby, but they won’t learn that crying during the night can initiate playtime.
Eventually, your puppy will start to settle and become more comfortable sleeping through the night on their own.
Start training as early as you can
After your new puppy has joined your household, try to start essential training as soon as you can. The earlier you start teaching them important behaviours, the quicker you’ll have a well-trained puppy. Make sure you use treats as rewards to let your little pup know when they’ve done something good.
When it comes to house training, designate an area of the garden to be your puppy’s toilet and take them out regularly. Eventually, they’ll start to work out that this is their toilet area, and they’ll start to go out by themselves.
Make sure you reward any good toilet behaviour with praise and treats, but try not to scold them for doing something wrong, as this could only make them avoid going to the toilet altogether. House training can take a while to get right, so be prepared for any mess. Again, starting this early on means you’ll have a well behaved, toilet-trained puppy in no time.
During playtimes, excitable puppies can have a habit of biting. This isn’t a malicious act, but actually, a sign that they’re having fun, as puppies often bite each other when playing.
But what can be a friendly gesture between dogs can soon become something dangerous when they start biting humans. If this happens, respond with a firm “no” and stop playing. This will teach them that their biting can quickly put a halt to playtime, and they’ll refrain from using their teeth in future.
Allow time to develop a sense of curiosity
Just like babies, new puppies can find the world a little bit scary at first. To help your puppy grow out of their nervous stage, it’s important that you give them some time to develop their curiosity.
Allow them to walk around new places and explore, but if they do find things a little overwhelming or frightening, try not to pick them up, cuddle them, or take them away from the situation. Instead, speak to them in a calm, reassuring tone. Eventually, they’ll realise that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and you can reward them for their bravery.
Try to introduce them to crowds and busy places gradually but start as early in their life as you can. Even if they’ve not had their injections yet and can’t go outside, having people over to your house to play with them can help them develop important social skills.
It’ll also teach them to be calm in busy situations and they’ll be a lot less nervous on walks and around other animals and humans.
The tips in this guide can help get you well on the way to a happy and healthy pup. Just remember to enjoy the quality time with your puppy while they’re still small — they’ll grow up a lot quicker than you’ll expect!