This year has seen a record increase in puppy adoption across Australia as households embrace the benefits of having a furry friend as part of their family. The RSPCA NSW has advised that the average number of days that a puppy will spend waiting to be adopted has more than halved. Between February and October of 2020, the average wait time has fallen to 4.25 days compared to 8.75 days during the same period in 2019.
While this is great news for puppies, Masterpet veterinarian Dr Lee Danks advises those looking to adopt a puppy this Christmas, that bringing home a puppy is a huge change for any family.
“A puppy is an exciting new addition to the family. It is a special time and can be overwhelming for both the puppy and other members of your home, including other pets. Before your puppy arrives, take time to plan and get your home ready to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible” said Dr Lee Danks.
To help new puppy parents to be prepared, Dr Lee Danks shares his top 10 ‘new puppy’ tips covering everything from the first days to nutrition, exercise and managing separation issues:
- Start by settling your puppy into a smaller area that is designated as their ‘safe space' or ‘nest’. Try to make this a positive place to be by allowing them to make it their own, with soft bedding, familiar smells, and the ability for them to isolate themselves there. You can then gradually give your puppy time to explore their new home and environment under supervision.
- The first night can be a challenge for puppies when they are without the company of their littermates and mother, and some puppies may cry on their first few nights alone. Soothe them by providing them with everything they otherwise need: comfort, space, warmth and ideally a soft blanket or toy (with smells included!) that has travelled with them from their original home. Some frustration is inevitable, so help them work through it.
- The key to a healthy dog is to feed them a quality diet right from the start. Puppies develop at a fast pace and this varies depending mainly on their breed and adult size. During peak growth, puppies require about twice the calories of an adult dog of the same weight.
- Not only what, but how you feed will vary for each dog depending on breed, activity level, neutered status and age. As a general rule, puppies need to be fed three to four small meals per day, as they only have small stomachs and are burning through all of that energy very quickly. This is why it’s so important to choose a food that can give them all of the right ingredients in an easily digestible food. As your puppy approaches 6 months you can reduce their meals down to just two per day.
- If you haven’t had a dog before, learning ‘dog speak’ and training them to understand you can take some time. Start teaching basic lessons as soon as you can and seek the advice of certified trainers, pet care professionals and Expert Vet Shares Top 10 Tips For Your New Puppy This Christmas.
- Ensure the best start to life for your pup with regular visits to the vet. Just casually popping in will acclimatise them to the clinic and the vet team will be able to advise on everything from weight and growth, to how to prevent against common diseases. Puppies should have their first visit to the vet at around 6-8 weeks of age.
- Exercise is very important to keep your pooch fit and happy. A chance to let out all of that puppy energy is not just important for physical health but also important for learning and development. Train them into to having their collar and lead on, explore the house and garden then venture out into the wider world once their vaccinations are complete and immunity is 100%.
- Time with other dogs is one of the most important developmental steps for your puppy. While socialising, they will learn what ‘normal’ behaviour is: how to play, interact and the many subtleties of dog-to-dog communication that they will need for the rest of their lives.
- Chewing is completely natural dog behaviour, and puppies are renowned for it. While learning what’s acceptable and what’s not from you, they may chew inappropriate things. While exploring the world and teething, divert them from the hazards with toys to keep them occupied.
- Separation from their littermates is one thing, but from you and the family at certain times is inevitable. This can lead to stress and even longer-term anxiety if they’re what we call ‘hyper-attached’. Excessive barking, destructive behaviour and inappropriate toileting might occur, but let’s remember that this is a reflection of your pup’s emotional state. With good advice, gradual exposure to alone-time and introducing comforting coping elements into their life will help greatly.
“Being lucky enough to bring home a puppy is one of life’s big thrills. There’s pretty much limitless joy to come, but also many considerations to make before they set a paw in your house, and your life! So, preparation is key” says Dr Lee Danks. Perhaps never has the saying “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas” been more important.