Life as a new pet parent can be challenging, and to be honest, you never really know what to expect. After losing Oskee, our dog of 14 years, last fall, I knew our family would get a new dog, but we just didn’t know when. We were not in any rush, but over the past few months, we were discussing it more and more.
This past month we adopted a puppy from a rescue in Central Illinois called Hudson’s Halfway Home. I had the privilege of working with this rescue group before moving to Chicago, and they do amazing work. Our family was lucky enough to adopt a 6-month-old puppy, and she has been a great addition to our family.
Even though I see puppies daily, it had been more than 15 years since I had a puppy at home, so I had a lot to think about before bringing Winnie into our family. Here is my list of ways you can help set a puppy up for success.
Most important is creating consistency among all family members to avoid confusion for new puppies. Having a routine that everyone follows around housetraining, feeding, basic commands, and so on will help your new dog catch on quickly.
When it comes to housetraining, it is very important to be proactive early on. Puppies initially will not ask to go outside to go to the bathroom. Anticipating when they may need to go and then providing a small reward once they go outside is key. Additionally, do not confuse puppies by trying to teach them both potty pads and grass early on. I always tell owners if your goal is to train to go to the bathroom outside, that should be started from Day 1. After they are puppy pad trained, they can still be trained to go outside, but it may be more challenging.
Puppies commonly have intestinal parasites and are also known for eating/chewing on everything. Keeping puppies on a consistent diet will help keep their bowel movements regular and predictable. Feeding an overabundance of treats and/or human table scraps will likely lead to soft stool/diarrhea. When puppies have diarrhea, the frequency of defecation increases, so accidents inside are common, further delaying potty training. Not to mention that a poor diet could make puppies very sick. I always say avoid the human food. It is not a good habit to start at such a young age.
Be sure you puppy-proof your house and have limitations for your new puppy. I highly recommend crate training. Crates are not to be used as a source of punishment, but a place where puppies feel safe and secure. The training may take time, and you may need to sleep next to the crate initially, but once puppies realize it is their safe place, it is wonderful. Having a dog crate trained also keeps dogs safe when you are away. If crate training is not for you and your puppy, then using baby gates to create boundaries can be used similarly. In addition to boundaries, make sure all garbage cans have lids or are in cabinets. Be sure electrical cords are placed where puppies can’t chew them. Keep all cleaning products away from the puppy. Puppies love socks, so use caution to prevent your puppy from eating your socks.
It is very important to take your new puppy to the vet as soon as possible for an overall health check and vaccines, if needed. Typically, puppies receive vaccines at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age. Additionally, puppies should have an intestinal parasite screen for worms (very common in puppies) and need to be started on heartworm, flea, and tick prevention as young as 6 to 8 weeks of age.
It is very important to socialize puppies with both dogs and people. Puppies mature so quickly that it is important to start socialization very early on.
If you are considering insurance, the best time to purchase is when you have a puppy with, hopefully, no pre-existing problems. Once a problem occurs, most companies will consider it pre-existing and insurance will not cover treatment of that problem the remainder of that pet’s life (allergies and ear infections, for example). There are many insurance companies, so to find one that’s right for you consider whether you are looking for coverage for accidents and illness or full coverage that includes wellness/preventive care.
Over the past three weeks, our family has made changes to our routines to accommodate Winnie. She is adjusting well and, luckily, our house is somewhat puppy-proof because it is somewhat kid-proof (minus all the kids’ toys).
We are crate training her, and she is doing great. She loves her crate and goes in willingly at bedtime. During the day, she prefers never to go in, but when we leave the house, she does great in her crate. When we are home, she goes outside to pee every few hours, and she can make it through the night without an accident. So overall, housetraining is going very well, though there have been a few accidents.
We are both trying to figure each other out. Since she had lived in a kennel setting for 4 months, the grass and leash walking were brand new to her. Now that she is catching on and is gaining confidence outside, she is doing well. She still does not alert us when she needs to go out, so we try to stay proactive in telling her it’s time to go “potty.” With a continued consistent routine, I’m confident we will be accident-free in a short time.
Like many of you, we are thrilled to have a new dog in our home. We love having Winnie in our family. Start early and stay consistent to set your puppy or new dog up for success.
Dr. Drew Sullivan, Medical Director