CONGRATULATIONS on your new puppy! Here is some important information for you to know about the new addition to your family.
It is imperative to get your puppy vaccinated! There are many viruses that your puppy can be exposed to in the environment that can cause deadly diseases such as parvovirus and distemper virus. You need to start vaccinating your puppy at 6 weeks of age with the Canine Combo Vaccine. The vaccine needs to be repeated every 3-4 weeks until your puppy is 16 weeks (4 months) of age. At four months, your puppy should also receive its first rabies vaccine. Properly vaccinating your puppy could not only save its life, it will save you many unnecessary medical expenses if your dog contracts these viruses. Unlike many of the vaccines that children are vaccinated with, these viruses are still VERY present today and your dog is HIGHLY likely to be exposed to them.
The next most important thing you can do for your puppy is getting it spayed or neutered. Doing this surgery could also save your dog’s life. Male dogs are the worst offenders of “roaming.” Once they hit puberty (sometimes as early as 6 months), they have the drive to procreate! Three out of every four dogs that gets hit by a car are intact male dogs. Female dogs have the possibility of getting pregnant if you don’t get them spayed and this can be very expensive. Not only caring for the puppies once they are born, some female dogs have problems when they’re pregnant and have to have C-sections or they will die (C-sections can cost anywhere from $1,000-3,000). Female dogs have an increased risk of cancer when they are not spayed prior to their first heat cycle (sometimes as early as 6 months). One of the last (and MOST important) reasons to spay your dog is called pyometra. Pyometra is a life threatening condition that occurs when bacteria take over inside the female dog’s uterus. This is an all too common condition that kills dogs everyday and is completely preventable.
Now that we’ve gotten the important things out of the way, let’s talk about the fun stuff!
Puppies love to be trained. This is a chance to really set up good behaviors in your dog. Find a good puppy book that focuses on training and follows positive reinforcement, not punishment. You should also sign up for puppy classes. Always make sure that the puppy classes require all participants to be vaccinated.
Puppy classes are a great way to socialize your puppy with other dogs. Your dog is going to encounter many things in its life and the more you expose your dog to when it’s a puppy – the more well adjusted it will be as it grows up. Be creative – screaming children, loud motorcycles, booming firecrackers, hissing cats, annoying leaf blowers…you get the idea. Make sure you are aware of the surroundings – don’t take your puppy to areas like parks or let them walk around on city streets until they are fully vaccinated.
Find a good puppy food that is AAFCO approved for all life stages. Until your puppy is about 5-6 months of age, it is a good idea to give three meals a day. You can also use kibble as “treats” when you are training. Figure out how much food your puppy will require throughout the day and then set aside a small baggie to use for rewards.
Prevent bad habits early! Obesity is not only an issue for the human population, it is a major factor in dogs and can cause decreased life expectancy. Never feed your dog “table scraps” – especially when you are in the middle of eating…no one enjoys a begging dog at their feet when they are trying to enjoy their meal.
Microchip and license your dog. The best way to make sure your dog gets back to you if anything should happen is to get him microchipped. Licensing information can be obtained by going to your local animal shelter or your veterinarian can also point you in the right direction.
Find a veterinarian that you (and your dog) both like and build a great relationship. Consider pet insurance. Pet insurance has come a long way and there are a lot of options available (some include annual exams and vaccines, others just cover the unexpected).
Most of all… have fun! Enjoy your new addition to your family!