Your New Puppy

posted: 02/09/13
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Before you head out to pick up your new four-footed family member, you need to prepare.
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Before you head out to pick up your new four-footed family member, you need to prepare.

Buy a flat collar and leash, and make sure you have those with you when you go to get the dog. A puppy's neck will grow -- and grow fast -- so be prepared to replace the collar a few times.

Fit the collar so that there is just enough room for one or two fingers to slip between the collar and neck. Flat collars may be nylon, leather or some other sturdy material, but don't purchase a very thin one. It may dig into the dog's neck when you tug on the leash.

Choke collars may be used for training, but don't use a choke as your dog's permanent collar. The movable end ring can get caught on anything, tightening the collar around the dog's neck as he struggles against it. Or the chain itself can get caught on the dog's lower jaw -- an uncomfortable and frightening experience for your pooch.

Get proper identification tags, and make sure they indicate your name, address and phone number. Later, you'll need license tags from the city -- if required -- as well as veterinary tags indicating that your dog has been properly vaccinated. Food and water dishes (plastic or metal) should be deep enough to hold adequate nourishment, but not so deep that your dog's ears droop into the bowl. No matter where you get your dog or puppy, ask about his diet and continue feeding the same thing for a little while. After your dog has settled in a bit, your vet may recommend gradually switching to a different food.

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Even the most outgoing pup will need a period of adjustment before he feels secure again. If your new dog is a little quieter at first than when you chose him, just give him time. He'll come around.

Dogs need to explore their environment in order to gain a sense of security. Your new dog will want to check out every part of his new home -- let him. But watch him closely to keep him out of trouble. It's best to leave the dog on his leash, and either let it drag behind him -- with you nearby -- or take it loosely and follow along on his journey of discovery. Your companionship on this first daunting expedition will tell your dog that you're there for him, and also remind him that you are in charge. A gentle tug on his leash when he gets too near the stove, garage or other danger will reinforce this.

It's normal for a nervous dog or puppy to wet the floor. Take the new arrival to his designated elimination spot, preferably outdoors, as soon as you bring him home. After he has eliminated, make a big deal about praising him; this will start the positive reinforcement necessary for toilet training right away. If he has an accident before getting to his special area, don't yell -- this will only cause further stress, and it won't do much for the bonding process, either.

Don't invite all your friends over to meet the puppy right away. It's important that he form ties with your family members first, and learn his place in the pecking order. Too many people at once will both scare and confuse him, neither of which helps develop a well-adjusted pet.

Place your dog's food and water dishes where he can at least see his human family. Of course, it's up to you to prevent the habit of begging for food. Bring your dog to the dining area for the first few days, fill his bowls, then set them down. When he starts to eat, convey the praise. He'll soon learn where to go at mealtime.

If you already have another pet at home, you'll have to introduce him to the new addition. Don't push for the two to become friends right away. They must feel each other out and establish trust and respect -- just as a first child might with a newborn baby. Keep a close watch on the two, and never leave a puppy alone with an adult cat or dog; if the older pet feels his place in the family is threatened in any way, he might just take it out on the new arrival. Expect the older pet to exert his special status a little. He may taste the new arrival's food, use some of the new toys, and maybe even check out the newcomer's sleeping quarters. Don't ignore your older dog in favor of the new one -- train him to respect the new kid on the block.

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You wouldn't go to just any doctor without checking up on her first, and you should do the same where your dog's health is concerned. A real animal lover doesn't take his dog's relationship with his vet lightly.

Ask friends with dogs to recommend qualified vets, then narrow your search to those vets who operate close to home. Time might be crucial in an emergency, but it's just a matter of convenience most times. Check into operating hours -- look for vets who run or are affiliated with 24-hour emergency clinics -- costs, and even the policy on house calls. Vets who specialize only in dog care might be more knowledgeable in the latest medical care and procedures. As a bonus, their waiting rooms won't be filled with birds, cats and other strange distractions.

Once you've pared down your list to a few candidates, make an appointment to talk to each at the clinic. Check out the place -- it should be clean, the staff should be friendly, and the waiting room should be large and comfortable. Talk to the vet -- is she friendly, communicative and compassionate? Remember, you're looking for someone who not only will be gentle with your best friend, but who also will be willing to let you in on the details of your dog's condition without being condescending or confusing.

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Naming Your Dog
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If you want your new dog to come when you call, he'll need to know what to answer to. The numerous incidences of "Rover" and "Sparky" notwithstanding, naming your dog can be a challenge. A true animal lover will try to match the name to the dog -- either his personality, looks or behavior. Others name their dogs as they would babies -- after relatives, their favorite places or even public personalities. Remember that it's easier to train a dog if the name is not too complicated. A one-syllable name might be confused with other words, but keep it to no more than three syllables. Once you've decided upon a name, use it often, and tell others to do the same. Only begin using nicknames when you're sure your dog knows his real name.

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Removed from his home and thrust into a new family, your dog might miss his old, familiar surroundings, especially if he was taken from his litter. Many people assume that their dog will sleep at the foot of their bed, or on the floor in a warm room. This might be the case, but only after the dog has settled in and feels secure. To help ease transition, get a crate (wire or plastic) or a comfortable dog bed or pillow. Line the crate with a warm, washable blanket, drape a portion of it with another fabric for privacy, and keep some toys inside. Dog beds and pillows should be washable, and large enough to let your pooch stretch out. Always remove your dog's collar before he enters the crate, and never leave him inside for more than a few hours, unless it's overnight and you're there. Place the crate in a corner of the family room, or some other quiet area where the dog can feel like he's part of the family. As an added bonus, your dog's natural instinct to keep his sleeping spot clean will help ensure that there won't be any messes.

For the first night, some people keep a ticking clock near their dog's sleeping area to approximate the sound of his mother's and littermates' heartbeats. Others leave a radio on so the dog won't feel alone. If your new family member cries or whines continuously, check on him. He might just need the reassurance that he's not alone.

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Your New Dog