Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time for the whole family. They’re tiny and cute, wriggly and always up for a cuddle or a play. It’s also a time that goes a lot smoother for everyone by planning ahead. Before you even bring home your new pooch, there are several care and safety factors you can prepare for. Here’s what we recommend:
Ask the breeder or previous caregiver about their diet
One of the easiest ways to upset a puppy’s tummy is to suddenly change their diet. Avoid this by chatting to their current caregiver about what, when and how often they are eating, and ensure you have it stocked before they even arrive (if it’s home cooked, ask for the recipe or see if you can buy a supply from them.)
Have your vet appointment booked
You should have your vet selected and a meet and greet appointment booked in for their first few days. This will allow your vet to give them a thorough health check and get your puppy comfortable with visiting the vet - check-ups are a far friendlier event than going in for vaccinations or more serious matters! Bring along your puppy paperwork and any vaccination or microchip paperwork so they can update their records. Also ask for diet recommendations and tips for transitioning them to a new diet with their tummy health intact.
Have a special space secured for them
While puppies are exciting and excitable, they also need a lot of sleep in their early months and may become easily overwhelmed by new smells and sights. Before bringing them home, have a quiet space kitted out for them with their own bedding and toys. This area should ideally be hard for little hands and other pets to easily get to, making puppy training crates ideal for this as they provide a safe space to retire to when they are tired or want to relax. If you have children (or excitable adults), ensure before pooch comes home that they understand that puppies need their sleep and space, and have everyone agree that when they show signs of tiredness, they are to be returned to bed – or when they hop into their special space, they are to be left alone to relax.
Do a safety ‘audit’
Puppies are enthusiastic chewers with a full sense of adventure and very little fear or caution. This means everything is up for grabs by their tiny gums and teeth, which can cause injury, illness or even death. The best way to ensure your home is safe for a puppy to explore is to get down on their level in each room – if you can see, they can eat it. If it’s electrical, they may chew it, and if it’s plugged it, this may electrocute them. Small items are also a choking hazard, so put them away. This is also a good time to assess what items are special to you and put them out of reach – your puppy won’t understand why you are so upset, and it may strain your relationship and affections if it keeps happening.
Assume your puppy is a tiny baby – or busy toddler – and ensure any poisons or toxic products are kept out of reach, with the expectation if the puppy can go through all the hoops required to get to them, they will. Consider food a poison, as puppies will often happily eat anything left out and some human foods are toxic to dogs – and any food in large quantities can cause major stomach upsets (it’s also worth noting if they eat enough dry food, adding water can turn it to a cement like substance in their stomachs, require immediate vet attention, so store it securely.)
Check the great outdoors
Plants can be poisonous to pets, so check your garden (and indoors) thoroughly and remove them. Check out this comprehensive database of plants poisonous to dogs, and if you are unsure of any, chat to your vet. Also secure your shed – the RSPCA provides handy advice on fertilisers, insecticides and mulches that are not recommended for gardens used by puppies, as they may ingest them, so you may wish to dispose of these. And of course you’ll need to secure any gates or fence lines they may be able to dig under. When they do arrive, spend an hour or two outside with them observing where they go to dig – they’ll often surprise you with weak spots they can wriggle through or widen.
Have a first week plan
Many a parent to a pooch has underestimated or forgotten how much a puppy needs as they settle in to your home. They will be up and crying during the night and they will not like to be left alone. Ideally, someone should be home with them for their first week (it is possible to get plenty done during this time as they’ll mostly sleep if they feel secure and safe) – if you can’t manage this, consider having a pet sitter to watch them so they don’t spend the day fretting.
Already got a pet in residence?
If you’ve already got an animal in residence – be it canine or feline, this changes the rules somewhat, as you’ll be managing two or more sets of big feelings, and you’ll need to consider the safety of both. Because puppies are yet to learn the rules of doggie engagement, they are likely to lunge and play with abandon and bad manners, which can upset older dogs and most cats. That said, your existing pets are their best teachers when it comes to learning how to engage with other pets, so growling or hissing shouldn’t be punished per say – but they should always be closely supervised during interactions, and all positive behaviour quickly praised. The best way forward is to ensure your older pets have a safe place to retire to, that puppy has crate time which gives your older pets a break, and they are never left together unsupervised in the early days.
Once you’ve checked of your preparation list, it’s time to sit back and wait for your puppy to arrive, and bring all their fun and mayhem with them!
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