Getting a new dog? Here’s our list of top considerations
25 August 2023
Introducing a puppy into your family can be an extremely exciting time, but it’s important to remember that whilst a new dog can be cute, there are several things to think about when it comes to your new companion. For this International Dog Day, we’re giving you our top considerations for when you’re getting a new dog.
It’s common to bring a puppy home when it is at least eight weeks old, meaning that it’s in the key period of socialisation. ‘Socialisation’ is the term used to describe the period of an animal’s development at which it is most responsive to forming social attachments1. It starts at three weeks and lasts until 12 weeks, peaking at eight.
There are lots of different things that you can work on at home to prepare your puppy for situations they may face in later life. For example, you can work on grooming and handling your puppy at home to help prepare for trips to the vets or the groomers. You can also allow your puppy access to different objects, smells and surfaces to explore and walk on. Make sure that any objects or items that you use are safe for your puppy, and that any activity is supervised. Puppy parties/clinics at your veterinary practice are also a good idea, as it gives your puppy the chance to meet and play with other puppies, but also gives you a chance to ask any questions you might have2. Contact your vet practice to see if they offer these!
Vaccinations and Worming
The BSAVA gives the following recommendations for vaccines in dogs in the UK (the letters indicate the abbreviations often used in vaccination records):
- Canine Distemper Virus (D)
- Canine Adenovirus/Infectious Canine Hepatitis (H)
- Canine Parvovirus (P)
- Leptospirosis (L). Please be advised that vaccines are multivalent; preparations are available containing different Leptospira strains4.
In most cases the primary course consists of at least 2 doses of vaccine given 2-5 weeks apart, followed by a booster a year later. It’s also important to check that your new puppy has been regularly wormed and protected against fleas. The first treatment should be at 3 weeks old, and then every 2 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. After 16 weeks, this can then move to every three months, or as regularly as your vet suggests5.
Before your dog arrives home, it’s important to make sure that your home and garden is free from anything that could harm your dog. Puppies especially will chew anything they can get their teeth on, so toxic plants, or anything else that is valuable or dangerous should be removed or blocked off3.
Crate training can also be a great tool, providing your puppy with a safe space to rest and sleep throughout the day and at night, meaning it can’t get into any mischief! Crates come in many different sizes, so it’s worth getting guidance on a suitable sized crate. Puppies should be introduced to a crate very slowly, and meals can be eaten in there to help build confidence. If you’d prefer to keep your puppy in the crate when leaving the house, start by leaving them with the door shut for a few minutes at a time, and build this up until the puppy is comfortable being left for longer periods.
There are so many brands of dog food that it can sometimes be hard to know which one is best for your pet. When you collect your puppy, it should be fully weaned and come with a supply of food from the breeder that the puppy is currently on. Changing a puppy’s diet quickly can cause tummy upset, so if you are wanting to change the food that the puppy is on, you will need to gradually do this over the course of around a week. Make sure that the diet is designed specifically for a puppy.
If you choose to feed a home prepared diet it is important to get advice from a veterinary nutritionist as it can be difficult to meet all the nutritional needs of a growing puppy. Treats are very useful when training, but just be mindful that they should be kept to 10% of the daily intake to maintain a healthy weight3!
Training starts as soon as you get home! Everyone within the household needs to use the same commands and keep training sessions short and sweet for your puppy. Have a look at puppy classes within your local area that use reward-based training, they can be great not only for training but for added socialisation too.
House training is also one of the most important tasks. Dogs are creatures of habit and will establish a routine quite quickly. Take your dog to a particular spot in the garden, and praise highly once they have done their business. Make sure that you don’t get mad if your dog has an accident in the house, just simply take them outside and show them where they should be.
Exercise and enrichment
Puppies can go for short walks each day once they have been fully vaccinated, typically around 12-14 weeks of age. They can be a great way of introducing them to the outdoors and familiarising them with the world but be careful not to overdo it as puppies generally need around 18-20 hours of sleep a day6. When they are young, it’s best to try walking them in a variety of different places, as they are receptive to new things. For example, if you live in the countryside, try taking them into your nearest town or vice versa.
As well as walks, there are plenty of fun enrichment ideas you can do at home to keep them entertained. Lick mats can be a great way of calming your puppy down if they are over-tired. Some ideas for lick mats include (dog friendly) peanut butter, mashed banana, Greek yoghurt, or kibble. Instead of feeding breakfast or dinner in a bowl, use a snuffle mat or scatter the kibble on the floor. This means your dog needs to sniff out its food, which is great enrichment and will often tire your dog out more than a walk would!
Take a look at the BSAVA PetSavers Puppy Guide for more information on how to look after a new puppy.