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Puppies 101

All About Puppies

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Bringing a new puppy into your home will change your life forever. Puppies are definitely a lot of work, but the also bring plenty of joy to your world. Whether you are getting your first puppy or just need a refresher course, this is what you'll need to know. From welcoming your new puppy home, to training and health information, these tips will help you get your puppy on the right track to adulthood.

Choosing the Right Puppy

Labrador Retriever Puppies Picture - Photo of Labrador Retriever Puppies
Photo by China Photos/Getty Images
If the time is right for you to add a new puppy to your family, that is wonderful news! Sometimes, your future companion finds you. He comes into your life by chance, and in an instant you feel that connection. You know he is the one. However, it does not always happen like that. Often, you must take on the important task of going out and finding the right kind of puppy for you. First, you need to examine your lifestyle and consider what you are looking for in a puppy. Purebred or mix? Big or small? Other factors include grooming and exercise needs, temperament and potential health issues. Then you need to decide where to look for your new puppy. Research and patience are essential throughout the process. When you have found the right puppy, you will know you have a friend for life.

Getting Your Home Ready for Puppy

English Bulldog Puppy Photo - Picture of English Bulldog Puppy
Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Before you bring home your cute little furball, you need to puppy-proof your home. This process is similar to toddler-proofing a home, but there are differences. Get an idea of the puppy-eye-view of your home. Electrical cords, potential toxins, and breakable items should be placed completely out of reach. Remember that your puppy can jump, climb, chew and scratch, so place what you can very high up or in a locked cabinet. "Child-safe" latches do not tend to work on curious and determined puppies. It's best to secure cabinets and drawers with locks or metal hardware. Basically, it should be chew-proof and require opposable thumbs to operate. Proper puppy-proofing not only keeps your puppy safe, it also gives you peace of mind.

Naming Your Puppy

Boston Terrier Puppy - Picture of Boston Terrier Puppy Madison
Photo © Andy Lyons/Getty Images
As your puppy joins the family, the all-important job of naming this new addition is a priority. Obviously, you will be using your dog's name constantly throughout his life, so your choice should be a wise one. Pick something that has a nice ring to it and is not too long. It should be easy to say and simple for your puppy to understand. You may want to name your puppy something that describes his personality or appearance. Or, you may want something very unique. Check out some name suggestions to help your decision. Once you have chosen a name, use it plenty. Before long, your puppy will learn his name and respond to it.

Essential Puppy Supplies

Pomeranian Dog Breed Pictures - Photo of Pomeranian Puppy
Photo © Cynthia Vawter
Your new puppy will need certain items from the very start. Some are essential for your pup's well-being, while others are quite helpful. Most important items include a leash and collar with identification, food and water bowls, and chew toys. You should also get a nice dog bed and, preferably, a crate or kennel. Some if these items can last as your puppy ages, but bear in mind that most of them will need to be replaced when your puppy grows. Collars may be adjustable to a certain point. A kennel can be purchased in a larger size for the future, but should be blocked off with boxes or other objects to make it the right size for the puppy. Be prepared for the expenses associated with dog ownership so you can budget accordingly.

Choosing Your Puppy's Food

Puppy at Empty Food Bowl - Hungry Puppy
Photo © sanjoyg on flickr
Your puppy's diet can make all the difference in his future health and well-being. Before you decide on a puppy food, do your research. Talk to your vet, other pet professionals, and fellow dog owners. Remember that if the food you initially choose does not meet your expectations, you can gradually switch to another food. In today's dog-friendly world, the choices of diet seem endless. Some owners like to feed premium foods, while many feel that holistic/natural diets are best. However, homemade and raw diets are becoming increasingly popular. While researching puppy food, consider the quality of ingredients, inclusion of proper nutrients, and taste. Basically, the food should be good for your puppy and he should like eating it.

Keeping Your Puppy Healthy

Puppy at Veterinarian - Photo of Puppy at Vet
Photo by Getty Images
Preferably, you will find a veterinarian before you get a puppy. Within a few days of taking your new puppy home, you should bring him to your vet for a general exam. Your vet can help identify any potential heath issues early on, and advise you on caring for your puppy long-term. This initial visit also opens the doors of communication with you and your vet. Over the course of your puppy's first six months, you will see a lot of your vet. This begins with vaccines and usually leads to spay or neuter. Typically, puppies should be spayed or neutered around six months of age. To help keep your puppy's expenses down, you may consider purchasing pet health insurance, which could cover up to 80% of your dog's health care costs.

Puppy Vaccinations

Puppy Gets Vaccinated - Photo of Puppy Getting Shots
Photo by China Photos / Getty Images
The puppy vaccination series is one of the most important aspects of your puppy's early life. Vaccinating pets has been a controversial subject for years. Many people worry that we are over-vaccinating out pets, possibly putting them at risk for auto-immune issues and vaccine reactions. That's part of the reason many vets are moving towards a three-year protocol (rather than annual) for adult dogs. However, when it comes to puppies it's a different story. Just like human babies, puppies (and kittens) need basic immunizations at the very least. Plus, the vaccine visits allow your vet to examine your puppy every few weeks and monitor his growth and overall health. Talk to your vet about the best immunization schedule for your puppy.

Housebreaking your New Puppy

Boston Terrier Puppy - Photo of Boston Terrier Ace
Photo © Jodi Mallory
Housebreaking is one of the first things you will teach your new puppy. This process can sometimes be quite arduous, though some puppies catch on earlier than others. You should begin house-training as soon as you bring your puppy home, but it takes patience. Puppies are generally not able to control their bladders and bowels until about 12 weeks of age. If your puppy is younger than this, just be patient. Starting early can help get your puppy on a routine. As he grows and develops control over his bodily functions, he will already know what to do. As a general rule, you should take your puppy to the designated "potty spot" immediately after eating or drinking. However, accidents happen - so be prepared, consistent and patient.

Basic Puppy Training and Socialization

Australian Shepherd Photo - Picture of Australian Shepherd Puppy Phin
Photo © Holly and Craig Southcott
Beyond housebreaking, there are many more things you will need to teach your dog. Start by working on socialization. Leash training will set the stage for teaching basic commands, like sit, come and stay. These basic commands can help you curb some behavior problems. Just remember that puppies are curious, active and teething. They put everything in their mouths, including your hands! Work with this by replacing the inappropriate object with an acceptable chew toy. Distract your dog from mischievous behavior by offering something more pleasing, like a game, walk or other activity. Reward your puppy with treats and/or praise for shifting his attention. Puppy training can be a challenge, but the outcome will make your efforts worthwhile.

Bonding With Your Puppy

Puppy Kisses - Puppy Bonding With Person
Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
The bond you have with your puppy begins the moment he comes into your life and never stops growing. You can nurture this bond though affection, training, grooming, playtime, general exercise and participation in various activities. You may want to join an obedience class, start training in dog sports like agility and flyball, or participate in dog shows. One of the kindest ways to bond with your dog and allow your dog to bond with others is to get involved with pet therapy. If your puppy is right for therapy, he can begin training to visit people in hospitals and nursing homes or help children to read and learn. Strengthening and preserving the human-canine bond benefits the health and well-being of both you and your puppy.
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