Welcoming Your New Puppy

Bringing home a new puppy is a fantastic experience.  Suddenly your family includes this delightful little ball of fluffy fur and fun.  Puppies have two speeds – loving life at full tilt and looking absolutely precious while they sleep.  But before you bring home that sweet little pup, you need to know what to expect.  You need to be prepared to meet that pup’s needs as he grows.  With patience and preparation, that pup will grow into being your best friend, the one you can tell anything to, who always wants to watch the same thing you do on telly and who always, always has your back.

Where you get your dog matters.  You can get young puppies from dog rescues.  A shocking number of pups wind up in dog shelters for a variety of reasons, and they are every bit as lovable and adorable as other dogs.  If you want to get a specific breed, you can also find a reputable dog breeder.  The Irish Kennel Club is an excellent place to look, and a good breeder will be happy to show you the mother dog.

What to Expect
Your new puppy has a lot to learn, and it can be a bit overwhelming for him at first.  It helps to start slowly.  To avoid destruction and distress, do not give the pup free run of the house at first.  Decide in advance which room will be his initially.  The kitchen is a good option because the floor is easily cleaned and he’s right near the family.  Introduce him slowly to the family.  If you have young children, explain that they must be calm and meet the pup one at a time.  It is best to supervise young children near a puppy for both of their safety.  Puppies nip, and children can accidentally injury a puppy by playing to roughly or stepping on him.

Puppies need quiet time and their own place.  Put your puppies bed in a quiet corner of the kitchen, and let him rest there undisturbed when he needs to.  Teaching him to go to his bed on command is important and useful.  Simply say ‘go to bed’ when you bring him there, praise him when he is in the bed, and he will catch on in time.

Housebreaking a new puppy is the thing that tends to worry new dog owners the most.  Two factors determine when your pup is housebroken.  The first is the effort you put in to training him, and the second is his own development.  Just like humans, dogs need to reach a certain point in their development before they can control their bowel and bladder.  Scolding a pup who has an accident is likely to create anxiety, which will make it harder to train him.  Forget all the old advice about smacking him with a rolled-up newspaper or rubbing his nose in it.  Those tactics are the reason previous generations had a hard time housebreaking puppies!

Dogs have a natural instinct to relieve themselves away from their den.  They are also very social pack animals who are hardwired to please their owners.  All of this works in your favour when you are housebreaking a puppy.  The best approach is to bring your puppy home at a time where someone can stay with him all day.  Take him outside every half hour and shortly after he eats to give him a chance to go potty.  When he relieves himself outside in the correct place, praise him and give him a treat.  Then the next time you bring him out, bring him to the same spot he used before.  He will smell that this is the place to go.  If he has an accident inside, simply clean it up without acknowledging him.

Your New Puppy Shopping List
Your new puppy will need a few things right away, and it is easiest to have them all in place before he arrives.

Dog bed – Purchase one that your dog can grow into.  The hard plastic frames with the soft mattress are a good choice for keeping clean and resisting puppy teeth.
Assorted toys – A few high-quality toys are better than lots of cheap ones.  Select toys that can withstand vigorous chewing from sharp puppy teeth.  Avoid soft plastic toys with squeakers as these can come out and choke your pup.  Go for a good quality solid rubber or rawhide chew and a sturdy ball that is large enough that your pup can’t choke on it.
Collar with ID tags and harness – Your dog should wear a collar at all times with a tag with your name, address and telephone number.  This is the law in Ireland now.  For walks, however, a harness is safer because your pup is less likely to wiggle out of it or hurt his throat pulling against it.  Just make sure to get an adjustable one in the right size and keep it snug on your dog.
Dishes and food – Stainless steel food and water bowls with a flared base are excellent.  They can’t tip over, and they can’t be damaged by chewing.  Do expect your puppy to step in the dishes a few times!

Care and Feeding of Puppies
When you get your pup, you should also get a record of his vaccinations to date.  It makes sense to bring your new pup to see your regular veterinarian soon.  It is good peace of mind for you to confirm he is healthy and to get your vet’s advice on his specific care, and it is nice for your pup to meet your vet and learn it is a safe place right away.  He might or might not be microchipped already, but it will be your responsibility to make sure not only that he is microchipped, but that his chip is registered to you.  If you move, you need to make sure to update your information with the microchip company.

Puppies start to wean at about three or four weeks of age when their sharp little teeth grow in.  A puppy should be fully weaned by the time you get him, unless some tragedy has separated him from his mother.  Puppies are normally between eight and ten weeks old when they join their new human family.  By this time, they are eating solid, commercial dog food and drinking water.

Your puppy is growing and developing rapidly, and good nutrition is essential for him.  His needs depend not only on his age, but also on the type of dog he is.  Large, medium and small breeds have different nutritional needs.  To get your pup off on the right paw, chose a quality brand of food formulated for the size of dog he will grow to be.  Large breeds, for example, require more glucosamine and chondroitin to support healthy joint development.  And the size of the kibble should be appropriate to the pup’s size so large pups are not wolfing down tiny pieces too fast and small breeds aren’t struggling to chew giant kibbles.

Your vet can give you specific advice about any questions or concerns you have about your new puppy, or if you have any questions about nutrition or feeding, you can ask our experts here

By Irene Hislop