Five Tips For Raising a Healthy Puppy
Smart ways to do what’s best for your little pal.
Editor’s note: Dr. Nick Trout, a staff surgeon at the Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston, is the author of Tell Me Where It Hurts, a chronicle of his work and its joys, sorrows and miracles . Here, based on his extensive experience, he talks about smart strategies every new puppy owner should know:
SOCIALIZE. As soon as you bring home your seven- or eight-week-old puppy, you need to have a full social calendar. The window for optimal socialization begins to close at 12 weeks, so get out there and make sure your pup encounters all kinds of people (people with beards, people with sunglasses, screaming kids), dogs (all sorts, as long as they’re healthy and vaccinated), and situations (shopping malls, noisy traffic). When a situation feels familiar to your dog, it also feels safe to him.
HOUSEBREAK. Work on this from the get-go. Remember, puppy bladders are small and therefore need to be emptied more frequently. Assign your pup a specific, clean area of the backyard to use as a toilet, respond to their nighttime cries, take them out after every meal and most of all, offer lots of praise and reward them when they get it right.
PUPPY-PROOF YOUR HOME. They are going to chew. They are going to get excited and wag their tail. If you value the antique Persian rug, take it out of the equation. It’s a good idea to give your puppy a crate or a safe den in which to lay down when you’re not around to provide supervision. But don’t leave them in there too long!
BE A FRIEND. Love them up, but be their leader, too. You should reward positive behavior when they get things right, but when they mess up, do not physically punish them. Instead, deprive them of your attention or your touch or hold back on the treat. They’ll learn how much better it is to please you.
INVEST. A puppy is a big investment, both emotionally and financially. This little creature is destined to become a huge part of your life, perhaps for the next two decades. When natural immunity against disease wears off at around six to eight weeks of age, your pup is going to need vaccines. (So begins a long-term relationship with a veterinarian!) But if you’re not ready to make this kind of commitment, you may have to rethink whether now is the best time to add a new member to your family.
To order Dr. Trout’s book, Tell Me Where it Hurts (Broadway Books,$14), click here.