By Dr Pete Wedderburn
This feature was first printed in the February edition of Pets Magazine – available to read online at www.petsmag.co.uk.
Before you bring the puppy home:
Choose the right animal and set up his new home in advance.The biggest mistake people make is choosing the wrong pup in the first place, ending up with a pet that’s inappropriate for their situation.e.g. too big, too bouncy, too anxious, too assertive. To avoid this, first consider getting a pup from a rescue group: when you do this, you automatically get the back up of experienced dog people who will help to make sure that you are well matched to the pup. Alternatively, choose a pup from a private breeder and meet both the father and mother of the pup on the premises: if they are both good-natured, healthy animals, it’s far more likely that the pup will turn out that way too.
Meanwhile, buy a puppy crate, bedding and food/water bowls so that his home is ready for him.
Rebecca, a client at my practice, chose a 12 week old Labrador-Collie cross from a local rescue centre: she could not meet his parents, but the staff assured her that the pup was good natured, placid and healthy.
Make sure you have a good “new home” package from the pup’s breeder:
Ideally, the person giving you the puppy will do this automatically, giving you written instructions on how to care for the pup, including details of all vaccines and parasite control that’s been given and microchip registration details.
They should also give you a small amount of the food that the pup is used to eating: you should continue to feed the same food for the first few days in your home, and only then making a gradual change to a new diet of your choice.
The rescue centre gave Rebecca their standard “new puppy pack” with all the information she needed as well as a small bag of the puppy food that they recommended.
Take the puppy to your own vet as soon as possible:
Before you get too emotionally involved with your new friend, it makes sense to ask your vet for a full, independent medical check over. Sometimes pups have hidden congenital problems, like heart murmurs, hernias or cleft palates, and very rarely, your vet may recommend that the pup is returned to the place where he came from. During the visit to the vet, you’ll also be given plenty of good quality information about important puppy issues – such as vaccinations, parasites, nutrition, pet insurance and behaviour.
Rebecca took the new pup – now named Harry – to her vet on the way back from collecting him from the rescue centre. The vet gave him a clean bill of health, and at the same visit, he gave him his final vaccination, so that a week later, Rebecca would be able to start to take him out and about without the fear of picking up a viral infection.
Be very gentle with your pup for the first few days:
Your pup has just left everything he has ever known behind, and everything is new to him. Go easy on him, giving him plenty of loving attention, minimising stress.
Make new introductions slowly and cautiously (such as to children and other pets). You will notice him becoming more lively and active as he adjusts to his new situation.
Harry whined at night in his crate for the first evening. Rebecca left the radio on beside him, and he soon quietened down, sleeping well at night time.
Focus on socialisation and training from the start:
The most common reason for puppies not working out in their new home is “bad behaviour” as they grow older. This is often the owner’s fault rather than the unfortunate dog’s. Engage with a good trainer from the start (ask your vet for a recommendation), so that you learn the best way to interact with him, and he learns the best way to behave to fit in with your home.
Rebecca took Harry to puppy socialisation classes immediately, and then she took him to a weekly course in basic training at the local doggy daycare centre for the next two months: they both learned a lot.
If you follow these simple steps, you and your new pup will be more likely to live happily ever after, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
ABOUT Dr Pete Wedderburn: Pete qualified as a vet from Edinburgh thirty years ago in 1985. He has worked in his own four-veterinarian companion animal practice in County Wicklow, Ireland, since 1991, and he has his own menagerie of dogs, cats, ducks, hens and others including a pet rabbit in his kitchen.
Pete is well known as a media veterinarian in Ireland and the UK, with a weekly breakfast television slot on national television for the past fourteen years. He is a prolific writer on animal topics, with weekly columns in the Ireland’s Herald newspaper and the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Pete is known as “Pete the Vet” on his busy Facebook and Twitter pages, regularly posting information on topical subjects and real-life cases from his clinic. He also writes a regular blog at www.petethevet.com.
There are some situations in life where an element of uncertainty and ignorance is hard to avoid: going into a new workplace for the first time, bringing your first baby back from the hospital and yes, bringing your new puppy home for the first time. By the nature of the situation, there’s always going to be some degree of anxiety, but with some simple planning, it’s easy to avoid the worst mistakes.
In Pets Magazine March: Pete writes about how to raise a healthy indoor cat.