Santa brought me a puppy!!!  So now what??

Santa has come and gone and for many hopeful children, he delivered a sweet puppy to become part of the family and to bring many years of joy.  But now that your puppy is here you may be wondering…now what do we do?

Well we are here to help you navigate all the fun, interesting and sometimes challenging aspects of welcoming a new puppy into your life.

Ideally, a puppy should not leave mom and siblings until at least 8 weeks of age.  This allows them to develop socialization skills and a stronger immune system to fight off nasty things.

When you first get your puppy, it is every important to have them fully evaluated by a veterinarian.  This helps to determine the overall health of your puppy, help identify possible congenital issues and to discuss important vaccinations, milestones, and the overall well being of your puppy.

A veterinarian will perform a full physical exam and often check for common parasites that puppies can harbor.  They will often take a stool sample and discuss vaccinations and what is best for your new puppy based on their lifestyle.

A few very important points about vaccinations.

  1. Vaccinations should be started about 7-8 weeks.  Vaccinating a puppy younger than this does not provide adequate immunity.  The vaccines only work with a maturing immune system. Young puppies rely on their mother’s maternal antibodies for protection.  They do not have the ability to mount a proper response to a vaccine because their immune system is too young.
  2. One vaccine does not work.  The immune system relies on exposure to diseases to try and defend against them.  A vaccine is a way to expose them to a particular disease in a safe way that will not cause them to get the disease.  The bacteria or virus (main causes of disease) is inactivated so that it doesn’t cause illness, just tells the body to defend against it. A young immune system needs to be “reminded” of this exposure so we repeat these vaccines several times when they are a puppy.
  3. Do not expose your puppy to other animals with unknown vaccinations or places that multiple animals frequent.  Until your puppy is fully vaccinated (15-16 weeks) don’t expose them to dog parks, pet stores, or other common areas other pets frequent.

So now your new puppy has seen their veterinarian and the vaccination schedule is set, its time for life at home. That means potty training.

This can often be a daunting task for puppy owners as it can be frustrating and you don’t always know the best method of making sure your puppy does their outside business…well outside!

Here are some tips that can not only make housebreaking easier..but make it stick!

  1. Think of your new puppy as a naked toddler running through your house.  I can’t think of anyone that would trust a baby without a diaper to run free in their house.  A puppy is the same, so letting you puppy have free reign in the house is a big no no.  Your puppy should have access to one room.  They have an area for eating, playing, sleeping, and then there isn’t much room left for the other business…except outside! A good rule of thumb is give your puppy one room and after two weeks of no accidents in the house, they get another room.
  2. Take them outside!  Puppies should be taken outside every 4 hours.  Set an alarm and even if it is 4am in the morning, they have to go. Again think of a toddler.  Wake them up, take them out and reward them greatly.  Lots of positive rewards, praise, treats and many good boys/girls.  They respond to positivity.
  3. Negative reinforcement (rubbing their nose in their accident, spanking, etc) is never a good idea.  This reinforces that going to potty at all, no matter where it is, is a bad thing.  This can lead to inappropriate potty accidents in hidden areas because they think going at all is a bad thing. Celebrate and give positive rewards when they go outside.  Also, outside is super fun for a puppy, they enjoy all the great smells and sounds.  Once your puppy has done their “stuff” praise them and reward them and give at least 5-10 minutes of outside fun playtime.  This can help with the dilemma of taking them outside with no results only to bring them inside and instant accident occurs.

We all know how cute and cuddly a new puppy can be and we want nothing more that to snuggle up with them in our bed.  But as hard as it is, training your pup to sleep in a crate can win you many battles later on. So let’s talk about crate training an why its the best thing that you can do for you and your new pup.

  1. Keep the crate small, just enough room for a bed.  No pee pads or food and water bowls.  This should be a place of rest and comfort.  Pee pads encourage them to do their business inside the crate.  By setting alarms and getting housebreaking under control, potty accidents shouldn’t happen in the crate.
  2. Food and water should be regulated as well.  With toy breed dogs it is especially important to set that alarm to provide food and water as well as potty breaks to prevent low blood sugar.
  3. Make the crate an awesome place to go.  Lots of snuggly blankets and toys and the most favorite toy that your pup loves will help make in a place they WANT to go. I also recommend that you cover all but one side of the crate with a blanket to make it fell more cozy.
  4. Crate training helps with housebreaking as well as setting you and your puppy up for success. This also help with future issues as separation anxiety.  Making the crate a safe and happy place to be helps both you and your pup in the long run.

Lastly, love your pup and make them part of the family. They give so much joy and we get so much in return.  Reach out to your veterinarian for questions and concerns. We are here for you and this new amazing part of your life.

Hopefully these tips can not only help welcome your new puppy into your home with a great start, but also keep them healthy and happy and begin the start of a lifetime of love from your new furry baby!

I am always here for any question you may have!!! and congratulations on your new family member!

Alisha Spivey, DVM

University Veterinary Hospital