New year, new pet?
What do you need to consider before taking the plunge and inviting a new four-legged member to join your family? What do you need to buy for a new puppy? How do you toilet train a puppy? When are puppy vaccinations needed? What about puppy training? What food should my puppy have? How much exercise should a puppy get? What should you think about when choosing a puppy? Find out with our comprehensive puppy checklist...
Happiness Is a Warm Puppy was Charles M Schulz's first book featuring Charlie Brown and his loyal, funny and good-natured Beagle bestie Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang – and it’s a heartfelt sentiment that remains true to dog lovers everywhere.
Bringing home a new puppy is a magical moment – that super soft fur, melting eyes, tiny paws and little wagging tail is a fluffy bundle of joy that will change your life forever. However, puppies can be hard work and you’ll need to ensure you’ve made all the right preparations for your new four-legged friend. Not to mention being ready for a few sleepless nights while they settle in and some little accidents as they get to grips with toilet training.
Our comprehensive puppy checklist includes:
- Getting everything ready
- Puppy-proofing your home
- Puppy kit list
- Early days
- The three-month milestone
- What about walkies?
- The importance of training
- The right nutrition
- How much is it going to cost?
- How do you choose the right dog for you?
- Foods that are poisonous to canines
Getting everything ready
The breeder (always choose a Kennel Club Assured breeder) should already have organised the puppy’s first vaccination, socialisation – positively introducing new situations and people – and started toilet training.
From when the puppy is eight weeks old (some breeders recommend 12 weeks) you’ll be able to bring your puppy home, so will need to have made the following preparations, as recommended by the RSPCA :
- Provide space for your puppy to play and puppy-safe toys to keep them stimulated.
- Provide a crate, hiding places and/or cosy bed in a quiet, draft-free place where your puppy can rest undisturbed.
- Take a blanket from the puppy's first home away with you for familiarity and comfort.
- Find a vet, puppy classes and arrange pet insurance.
- Arrange to take your new puppy to the vet for a check-up and to book any remaining vaccinations and other treatments they are due. Pop a reminder in your diary for any future vaccinations and worming/flea treatments and keep their microchip details up to date.
Puppy-proofing your home
Have a good look round – are any items that could be harmful to an inquisitive young puppy able to be placed out of reach? Is your garden secure and dog friendly with a six-foot fence so it’s safe for them to run and play in? Is there anywhere they could squeeze through or dig under to escape? Have you checked for plants that are poisonous to dog? Veterinary charity PDSA advises:
- Sort your puppy’s sleeping area – a crate can be useful to give them a secure base to explore from. Make sure it is in a quiet place where they won’t be disturbed or in the way, with lots of blankets and bedding to keep them warm and comfy. (It’s vital that this should be your puppy’s safe and happy place and they should never be put in there as a punishment).
- Sort out where your puppy will eat. This should be in a different place to their sleeping area. Make sure you’ve got somewhere to store their food that they can’t get into as well.
- Consider putting in baby gates if there are areas of your home you don’t want your puppy to go.
- Set clear boundaries for your puppy from day one as it’s very confusing if they’re allowed to go somewhere sometimes but get told off or prevented at other times.
- Secure your garden to make sure your puppy can play safely outside. Make sure there is nowhere they could squeeze through or dig under a fence and check for poisonous plants and other garden hazards.
- Make sure anything that could be harmful to your puppy is kept securely out of their reach (such as cleaning products, cables and anything else they can chew that they shouldn’t!)
Puppy kit list
You’ll also need to get all the puppy paraphernalia. The Kennel Club lists all the basic items you'll need to ensure the new addition to your family feels comfortable and welcome:
- Bed and bedding
- Bowls for food and water
- Puppy crates, play pens and child gates
- Clothing – such as a waterproof coat
- Collar and lead, harness and long training lead
- Identity tag
- Car harness, travelling crate or dog guard
- Poop bags
- Puppy pads for toilet training
- Grooming equipment
- Dog shampoo
- Dog toothpaste and toothbrush
The first eight to 12 weeks is a very important time for your puppy. What they learn and experience during this time will shape their future behaviour. Even though your young pup won’t be fully vaccinated yet, it’s essential to continue socialisation by exposing your puppy positively to experiences such as:
- Meeting other healthy, fully vaccinated dogs and cats.
- Carrying them around outside to introduce them to new people, sights and sounds.
- Gradually introducing them to the car, grooming, being handled and having their ears, eyes and other body parts checked.
- Begin to leave them alone for short periods to prevent separation related behaviour.
- Establish a consistent routine and rules.
- Reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour.
- Keep the same routine with small, regular meals.
- Continuing puppy toilet training by rewarding them when they go outside.
The three-month milestone
From 12 weeks onwards, your puppy can have their second vaccinations and you can also ask your vet about worming and flea treatments and the right time for your pet to be neutered. And, once your puppy is fully vaccinated, the fun can begin as you can socialise them outside. You can also ask your vet about puppy classes, which, for most dogs, can be a good way to boost their confidence and learn some training basics, Food treats and favourite toys can help with training – but remember that this is pretty taxing on a young puppy so keep sessions short and allow for lots of rest time so they can absorb all the things they’ve learned. Remember that young dogs continue to learn for many months so continue reward-based training and keep all experiences positive to help your puppy grow into a confident adult dog,
DID YOU KNOW?
The sensitive time for socialisation is around four to 12 weeks of age. Puppies between the ages of eight and 10 weeks often experience what is known as the ‘fear period’. Any negative life experiences that occur during this period can make a lasting impression for the rest of the dog’s life.
What about walkies?
Puppies gradually need to build up the amount of exercise they have each day. The Kennel Club advises: “Puppies need much less exercise than fully grown dogs. If you over-exercise a growing puppy you can overtire it and damage its developing joints, causing early arthritis. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes exercise per month of age (up to twice a day) until the puppy is fully grown – for example, 15 minutes (up to twice a day) when three months old, 20 minutes when four months old and so on. Once they are fully grown, they can go out for much longer. As a guide, animal charity PDSA has created a chart which outlines the minimum recommended amounts for different breeds.
The importance of training
Dogs can find the human world complex and confusing, which is where training comes in. Dogs don’t just arrive knowing what to do and a lack of training can result in behavioural problems that can be hard to manage. Training helps dogs learn what’s expected of them and helps them become calm, confident and polite members of society. All dogs – from puppies to older canines – can benefit from a suitable, reward-based training class – it also gives humans the chance to learn about how dogs learn, helping to build a great partnership.
- Make sure all training is consistent and that your family all stick to the same rules. If you don’t, your puppy might get confused and frustrated, as well as finding it more difficult to learn.
- Make boundaries clear from the beginning and stick to them. For example, if you don’t want your dog to go on the sofa, you need to make sure you and your family keep to this from day one.
- Always make sure your puppy has space when they need it and aren’t overwhelmed. If they need to sleep and rest, let them.
Courses such as the Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Dog Training Scheme are well worth investing in.
The right nutrition
A dog’s nutritional needs varies throughout their life. Puppies require a little more protein to support their growing muscles and the right balance of calcium and phosphorus for developing bones and teeth. Their small stomachs mean they need three or four small meals a day. This can be reduced to two meals a day as they get older and move onto adult food.
Supadog Finest Puppy Chicken is an especially delicious food, free from artificial colours and flavours and with no added preservatives, to nurture all puppies and growing dogs and can be fed from weaning to 12 months. It features:
- 28% protein for young growing muscles
- Smaller nuggets specially created for smaller mouths and teeth
- Fortified with calcium for your puppy’s growing bones and teeth
- Natural antioxidants to help developing immune systems
Sensitive Puppy Turkey & Rice is made from simple, highly digestible proteins to keep your dog healthy on the inside and out. The unique recipes are free from the usual ingredients that can upset your dog's stomach, making it ideal for those with a sensitive digestion
All Burgess pet food is produced in line with FEDIAF (the European pet food industry federation) nutritional guidelines. These guidelines, which are based on many pieces of published research, helps us to calculate the nutrient content and dietary components such as protein, fat, carbohydrate and vitamins and minerals required to ensure all our foods meet the detailed nutritional requirements for the pets they are designed for. All Burgess Dog Food is a complete food. This means, whatever variety you choose, it will contain all the nutrients they need in the correct balance.
Is your puppy a Burgess puppy? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.
How much is it going to cost?
Before you get totally swept away by the idea of getting a puppy, it’s essential you consider the financial impact. Not including how much it costs to actually get a dog you’ll also need money to cover regular vaccinations, boosters and parasite control, neutering, microchipping, insurance (in case they get ill or injured – there’s no NHS for pets – and premiums will steadily rise as they get older) and top-quality food. If you have a breed that doesn’t shed – such as a Cockerpoo – they’ll need regular visits to the dog groomers to keep their coat neat and trim, which can be pricey.
If you’re not home all day, you’ll also need to look into the costs of either day care or hiring a dog walker – the RSPCA recommends that dogs are never left alone for longer than four hours. Puppies, in particular, need plenty of company and ongoing training during the day. Plus, what arrangements will you make when you go on holiday? There are various options from kennels (which don’t suit every dog) to pet sitters and these may cost more than you think.
PDSA estimates that owning a dog will cost you a minimum of between £6,500 to £17,000 over their whole lifetime:
- Small dog breeds: £6,500 to £12,000 (around £70 a month)
- Medium dog breeds: £8,500 to £13,000 (around £80 a month)
- Large dog breeds: £7,400 to £17,000 (around £105 a month)
These figures don’t include the cost of purchasing a dog, vet fees, the cost of day care or dog walker, boarding kennel or training classes.
How do you choose the right dog for you?
Never, ever choose a breed of dog just because you like the look of them or because they’re fashionable. The watchword is research so you can discover the right breed to fit with your lifestyle. Find out as much as you can about the breeds you’re interested in and ask your local veterinary team for advice. PDSA has an online quiz Get PetWise to help you make the right choice.
If you decide you’re ready to take on a puppy, always select a breeder from the Kennel Club Assured breeder list. Never buy from a pet shop, the internet or local newspapers. Dogs sold here may come from a puppy farm – unscrupulous places where profit is placed above animal welfare. Pup Aid has useful information about the correct way to get a dog. The organisation’s #Wheresmum campaign focuses on educating new owners about the cruel trade of puppy farming, ensuring people only buy from a reputable and honourable breeder.
Essential information for all dog owners – foods that are poisonous to canines
Here are some of the main foods that are dangerous for dogs. If you suspect your puppy has eaten any of the following, consult your vet immediately.
- Alcoholic beverages – Can cause intoxication, coma, and death
- Chocolate, coffee, tea – Contain caffeine, theobromine, or theophylline, which can be toxic and affect the heart and nervous system
- Fat trimmings – Can cause pancreatitis
- Pits from peaches and plums – Can cause obstruction of the digestive tract
- Grapes and raisins – Contain an unknown toxin, which can damage the kidneys
- Gravy – If made from meat juices, it can contain high levels of fat, which can cause pancreatitis
- Large amounts of liver – Can cause Vitamin A toxicity, which affects muscles and bones
- Macadamia nuts – Contain an unknown toxin, which can affect the digestive and nervous systems and muscle
- Milk and other dairy products – Some adult dogs do not have sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. This can result in diarrhoea
- Mouldy or spoiled food – Can contain multiple toxins causing vomiting and diarrhoea and can also affect other organs
- Mushrooms – Can contain toxins, which may affect multiple systems in the body, cause shock, and result in death
- Onions and garlic (raw, cooked, or powder) – Contain sulfoxides and disulfides – chemical compounds which can damage red blood cells and cause anaemia.
- Potato, rhubarb, and tomato leaves; potato and tomato stems – Contain oxalates, which can affect the digestive, nervous, and urinary systems
- Raw eggs – Contain an enzyme called avidin, which decreases the absorption of biotin (a B vitamin). This can lead to skin and hair coat problems. Raw eggs may also contain salmonella
- Raw fish – Can result in a thiamine (a B vitamin) deficiency leading to loss of appetite, seizures, and in severe cases, death. More common if raw fish is fed regularly
- Excessive salt – If eaten in large quantities, it may lead to electrolyte imbalances
- Sugary foods – Can lead to obesity, dental problems, and possibly diabetes mellitus
- Table scraps (in large amounts) – Table scraps are not nutritionally balanced and if excessively fed can lead to obesity. Fat should be trimmed from meat; bones should not be fed
- Xylitol – This artificial sweetener sneaks its way into all sorts of foods – from peanut butter to jellies and jams and is highly toxic to canines. After a dog consumes a significant amount of xylitol, there is a massive release of insulin from the pancreas. This, in turn, results in a dangerously low blood sugar level and symptoms such as weakness, trembling, seizures, collapse, and even death
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Sources: pdsa.org.uk, rspca.org.uk, bluecross.org.uk, dogstrust.org.uk, thekennelclub.org.uk