It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of bringing home a new puppy, but to ensure you’re giving your pup the best start to its new life it’s best to be well prepared from the second the new family member enters your home. Here are 10 tips to making the transition an easy one that sets you and your puppy up for a lifelong, fulfilling companion relationship.
Before your puppy comes home:
- The commitment of bringing a puppy into your home is a serious one that will last the entire lifespan of your new pet. Do all you can to ensure you’re starting out on the right foot by investigating the breeder or shelter before committing to taking on one of their animals – the developmental environment in which dogs spend their first weeks of life is extremely important to their development. Are they with their mother and littermates? Are they stimulated and being introduced to elements that they will encounter in their adult life? They really should be, up until the age of at least 8 or 9 weeks. Ask about the food they’ve been weaned on to – puppies have very specific nutritional needs and should therefore be fed a puppy-specific commercially prepared pet food from a Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) member brand. Also make sure that the entire family is on board to share the duties of a new puppy and that you’re all in agreement about the approach to training – consistency will go a long way to getting unwanted behaviours under control quickly.
- Be ready for your puppy’s homecoming – a bed, collar & lead, water & food bowls, food, appropriate puppy treats and toys are essential from the moment puppy enters your home.
- Get your home puppy ready by blocking off any areas that they should not have access to and safeguarding items from sharp teeth that are looking for something to gnaw on. Scrutinise your home to puppy proof all areas, making sure they are safe for this inquisitive life. Making a safe space for your puppy, with comfortable bed, toys, water and food will aid them in their transition.
- If at all possible, it’s best to have a few days with the puppy to help them through the challenges of the changes and allows for bonding to begin. See if you can arrange a couple of days off from work or arrange a pet sitter to help.
- Enrol your puppy in a reputable puppy school that uses positive methods of reinforcement to allow socialisation to continue even after leaving the litter.
When your puppy arrives:
- Have treats and toys handy to make the experience as pleasant as possible. Read your puppy’s body language – if the introduction is proving to be overwhelming retreat to their safe space and try again later.
- Avoid an upset tummy by continuing to feed the same food that the puppy has been eating (unless it is truly not acceptable to you). The huge adjustment of moving into a new home is stressful enough, so it’s imperative that the gut is supported during the transition by maintaining a consistent diet. Once the puppy is settled, if you need to switch to another brand, one that is a member of the PFI. Whenever doing a swop, do so slowly and gradually over 1 – 2 weeks, allowing the puppy’s digestive system to become accustomed to the new food formula.
- Start training as early as possible. And this doesn’t mean through the puppy school – every interaction at home is an opportunity to train your puppy, so have treats ready to reward the behaviours you want to encourage.
- Get into a routine as quickly as possible as this will provide reassurance and stability for your puppy.
- Find a vet that is close by and one that you are comfortable with, then keep up their vet visits to ensure the best start to life (there are many in the early stages). It’s also advisable to sign up for pet medical insurance, to give you the peace of mind that most medical expenses will be covered throughout your pet’s life.