Welcoming Your Newcomer Into The Family
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You've thought about it and you've chosen the puppy or kitten you believe will best fit your lifestyle. Now the anticipation builds as you look forward to bringing your newcomer home. Helping it adapt to its new home will be easier if you plan ahead. If you have all the pet's basic needs in place you can focus on introducing your adoptee to its new surroundings and begin its training.
Do your shopping in advance. If your choice is a puppy, you'll need a collar and leash, a crate (a great aid in housebreaking), brush or hand mitt for grooming, toys that will be safe for the puppy, a bed for the puppy, non-tippable, easy-to-clean food and water bowls.
If the puppy is to be housed outdoors, choose a well-insulated doghouse large enough to accommodate the puppy at its full-grown size. It should be located on a high, well-drained site protected from the wind. Choose a location that provides outdoor shade during the summer.
You'll want the proper diet on hand to meet the special nutritional needs of your rapidly growing newcomer. Diets such as Purina® Puppy Chow® brand puppy food and Purina® Kitten Chow® brand kitten food are formulated to provide the extra protein, calcium, phosphorus and other nutrients puppies and kittens require. Please remember: kittens have unique nutritional needs and should never be fed a puppy or dog food.
Select a veterinarian for your new pet as soon as possible. Ask pet-owning friends and neighbors for recommendations. The Yellow Pages is another source. Visiting veterinary clinics in your area may help in your selection. Choosing a veterinarian who is located nearby is a convenience and saves time if an emergency should occur.
Puppy-proof and kitten-proof your home. Put household cleaners and detergents and other chemical compounds in tightly closed containers and be certain they are properly stored. Medicines should be kept out of reach. A good rule to follow is that anything that is not safe for children is not safe for pets.
The best time to bring your newcomer home is at the beginning of a weekend. If possible, add a few vacation days. This gives you time to acquaint your puppy or kitten with its new home and to begin housebreaking and other training.
Make arrangements with the person from whom you are getting the puppy or kitten as to the time you will pick it up. Ask that it not be fed prior to pick-up time. This helps avoid the puppy's or kitten's becoming car sick on its way to its new home.
Once in its new home, remember that your adoptee is adjusting to strange new surroundings and people. Children can become especially excited. Explain to them that their new companion needs time out for naps. Show children how to pet the newcomer and the proper way to pick up the kitten or puppy.
A puppy should be closely supervised and taken outside to relieve itself after eating, following naps and play periods. A kitten should be introduced to its new home one room at a time. Show a kitten where its litter pan is located. The mother cat may have trained it to use a litter box. Watch for more about housebreaking and litter box training in future columns.
As soon as possible after you adopt your puppy or kitten, take it to your veterinarian. At this time, a schedule can be worked out for needed vaccinations to protect your newcomer from a number of viral and infectious diseases. It should also be examined and treated, if necessary, for extern al and internal parasites.
Bring any immunization information you may have received when you adopted your pet to your veterinarian to begin a case history for future reference. It's a good idea to keep your own medical record. You may need it for reference if your pet's veterinarian is not available.
Choose a name for your newcomer and use only that name in calling the pet. In teaching a pet its name, as in all training matters, 100 percent cooperation of all family members is essential. When a pet is sent mixed signals, it can become confused and not respond to any of the contradictory signals. Behavioral problems may be in the making.
Key words to remember as you welcome your newcomer: Gentleness. Care. Patience. Consistency. Praise. Love. Your reward is a delightful companion for years to come.
A final thought
Avoid bringing home a new pet during busy times such as birthdays and holidays. The noise and confusion may frighten the pet. Family members are generally too busy with the festivities to devote adequate time to help the puppy or kitten become comfortable in its new home.
PUPPY PROOFING YOUR HOME
Before bringing your puppy home, you'll need to "puppyproof" your house. Puppies are like babies: they want to explore every corner of your house, and they want to put everything into their mouths.
Here's a simple checklist to make sure your home is safe before letting Rover run free:
Make sure all poisonous household items are securely stored out of the puppy's reach. Did you put the household cleaners, laundry detergents, bleach, disinfectants, insecticides, cleaning fluid, fertilizers, mothballs, antifreeze, insect poisons, rat poisons and other items in cabinets or on high shelves? These items can be deadly to your puppy. As your new puppy grows, he will be able to explore higher places and be tempted to jump up on shelves.
Check your plants
Many plants in and around your house can be threatening to your pup. Did you know that the pits of apricots and peaches, as well as spinach and tomato vines, can make your puppy sick and, in large dosages, can even be fatal? For a more complete list of dangerous doggie plants, consult your vet.
Look at your house from your puppy's point of view Get down on all fours and look around. Are there any dangling electric cords, loose nails, plastic bags or other tempting objects that will be in puppy's reach? If there are, be sure to put them away immediately.
SOME ADDITIONAL TIPS
Never leave your puppy unsupervised inside or outside, and keep him off balconies, upper porches and high decks Puppies, no matter what breed, are so little that they can slip through openings and fall. Puppies may also get tangled in ropes or the plastic from six-pack beverage holders. Cut these items apart to prevent problems.
Keep your toilet lid down
Puppies are often tempted to play in toilet bowl water. This habit can be awful to break. Not only is it embarrassing when friends or family are visiting, but toilet cleanser may be harmful if swallowed.
Unplug, remove or cover any electrical cords in your puppy's confinement area Chewing on these cords can cause severe mouth burns, electrocution and fires. It is also a good idea to cover electrical outlets, when they are not in use.
Keep buttons, string, sewing needles, pins and other sharp objects out of your puppy's reach If your puppy swallows any of these objects, he can damage his mouth and internal organs.
Do not tie ribbons around your puppy's neck. Rufus may be tempted to chew the ribbon, which can cause digestive problems. He could also choke himself if he catches the ribbon on anything.
Problem plants for puppies
If your puppy has a tendency to nibble on grass, don't be alarmed. Certain plants may make your puppy sick and may even kill him. You'll need to talk with your vet to learn more about these and other plants that can be harmful to your pup.
SUPPLIES TO BUY
Before bringing your puppy home, purchase the following supplies. Preparing in advance for the arrival of your new pal will allow you and your puppy to spend time getting to know each other.
Food and Water Bowls
Select bowls that won't tip over. Make sure they're easy to clean, since they will need to be washed daily. Purchase separate bowls for food and water. You may want to buy smaller bowls at first, and upgrade to larger ones as your puppy grows. This will keep him from getting buried under a heaping pile of dog food or from falling in his water bowl every time he drinks.
There are a variety of lightweight collars available for your puppy. Some have buckles and others snap. Regardless of the collar style you choose for your puppy, remember to attach an identification tag listing your puppy's name, your address and phone number. Your puppy's first collar should be made of lightweight nylon or leather. To measure your puppy's collar size, measure his neck and add two inches. To ensure that the collar fits properly, you should be able to slide two fingers between the collar and your puppy's neck. If your fingers fit comfortably, you have the right size collar. If there is extra room, you need a smaller size. If both fingers don't fit, the collar is too small. It may take a while for your puppy to get used to wearing his collar, so don't be discouraged if he is uncomfortable and scratches his collar.
Leashes come in a variety of styles, such as leather, nylon and retractable, and a in variety of lengths. A six-foot leash is the ideal length for both training and walking. Always keep your puppy on his leash unless he is in a fenced-in area. Many states and cities have leash laws, which make it mandatory for your puppy to be on his leash at all times, even at public parks and playgrounds. Under these laws, you can be fined if caught with your puppy off his leash. Remember to clean up after your puppy if he goes to the bathroom in a public place, such as a park or a neighbor's lawn.
Make sure you have the proper grooming tools. These will differ depending on your puppy's coat. For shorthaired breeds, use a brush with natural bristles, a rubber currycomb or a hand mitt. A sturdy wide-toothed metal comb and perhaps a mat splitter are needed for longhaired breeds. Be sure to include a flea comb in your grooming supplies, and begin by establishing a weekly grooming program with your puppy as quickly as possible.
All puppies need toys to help them exercise and to provide them with a safe way to satisfy their chewing cravings. Be sure to choose toys that are made for puppies and cannot be splintered, torn apart or swallowed. Large rawhide chips, nylon chews and hard rubber balls are fun and safe. As a general rule, if the toy can fit comfortably in a puppy's mouth, it's too small.
Your puppy's Toy Chest should be free from the following items:
Sponge toys or items with hard, sharp points or attachments, such as squeakers, which can break off and be dangerous if swallowed. Shoes or other personal clothing. Giving your puppy these items will only teach him that it's okay to chew your shoes and rip holes in your shirts. Balls of string, yarn, cellophane, twist ties, plastic baggies and other household goods that could get lodged in your puppy's throat causing him to choke or suffocate. Children's toys made of soft rubber, fur, wool, sponge or plastic. If your puppy swallows a small particle of any of these materials, it could cause digestive problems.
Start your puppy on the right track with the essential nutrition of a balanced puppy food.
Crate or Sleeping Bed
Your puppy will need a warm, comfortable place to sleep. A crate provides a den for your puppy when you are not home. Crates usually come in one of two types: a portable, enclosed, plastic crate with handles; or a wire crate. Your puppy's crate should be large enough for him to stand up, turn around and lie down and should have adequate ventilation. If you buy an adult-sized crate, purchase partitions or place a cardboard box in the back to provide a cozy space for your puppy. Even if you crate your puppy, you should have a separate sleeping bed for when you are at home. Make sure you buy a puppy-sized bed rather than an adult-sized bed, so your puppy will feel safe and snug.
Stain and scent remover
Special formulated stain and scent remover takes the odor away from a puppy's nose, as well as yours. Conventional household products not found in the pet aisle or a pet supply store mask the odor to humans, but not puppies. If you use a conventional household product to clean up after your puppy, don't be alarmed if he keeps repeating himself at the same spot. He's merely trying to mark his territory.
Book on puppy care
Place this handy reference guide on a shelf in your bedroom, den or kitchen. You never know when you'll need a quick answer.
A dog or puppy is either housetrained or not. If your dog is sneaking off to another room and having an accident, you will have to take some of his freedom away until you can solve the problem. The longer you allow this type of behavior to exist, the harder it will be to modify. Unless you can catch him, it really does not do any good to drag him off to the site of his mishap and try and punish him. Keep him in sight if he is bold enough to try something in front of you, say "No," get his attention and take him outdoors quickly so he can finish eliminating in the appropriate area. Remember, it is your house. He has to earn his freedom through good behavior and this is your responsibility.
The first step in housetraining is to decide whether your pup will be trained to only eliminate outdoors, or if you will use the Purina secondnature® brand Dog Litter Housetraining System as an alternative for pups who will weigh up to 35 pounds. Purina secondnature® is a convenient, stress-free alternative consisting of three elements: Super-absorbent Dog Litter, Specially Designed Litter Pan, and an Easy to Follow Training Guide (found in every secondnature® bag.)
If your dog will be trained to eliminate only outdoors, start by establishing an elimination spot. In the morning, clip his leash to his collar and take the dog outdoors to his spot for elimination. State commands like "go potty" or "hurry up." After he does his duty, bring the dog inside for food and water. About 15 to 20 minutes after the meal, take the dog outside again for elimination. Take your dog to his "spot" at each elimination time. Maintain a regular feeding, drinking, and elimination schedule.
One of the most commonly made errors in housetraining is rushing too quickly ahead of your dog. Too much freedom too quickly can cause some confusion. If your dog experiences an accident or two, bladder and bowel and he will have no choice but to relieve himself in his crate. Make sure you take your dog or puppy outdoors to eliminate on a regular schedule and especially prior to being left for prolonged periods of time.
If you have tried all the above and are still experiencing what you believe to be "Territorial Marking," consult your veterinarian. Your dog/puppy may have a bladder infection and it's always best to be safe, not sorry. If your dog/puppy is not spayed or neutered you may want to talk to your veterinarian about this procedure. It usually has a very positive effect on this type of behavior problem.
Even well-trained dogs sometimes have accidents. Clean the accident area with a pet odor neutralizer so your dog won't be tempted to repeat his mistake. Here are some tips to help prevent accidents:
Do not make sudden changes in his diet.
Avoid giving your dog late night snacks.
Make sure to spend enough time outdoors.
What your puppy learns about people and his environment now will stay with him for the rest of his life. From his fourth to twelfth week a puppy acquires almost all of his adult sensory, motor and learning abilities. The more loving interaction you establish now, the stronger the bond your dog will have with you later. Plan to spend at least two periods a day playing with your puppy. Use playtime to teach your puppy the basic training commands.
As soon as your veterinarian says it's safe, you should also begin exposing your puppy to as much of the outside world as possible. Introduce your pup to a variety of positive experiences. Visit three new places a week and introduce him to five new people at each place (find a variety of people). Take your pup on regular car rides-use a carrier to insure safer driving.
Puppies may be predisposed to developing phobias between 8 and 11 weeks of age. During this time, you may want to be cautious when exposing your puppy to particularly stressful experiences, like large crowds and unusually loud noises. If he does become frightened, reassure him in a cheerful voice and pass it off quickly. Keep in mind, your puppy will sense feelings from you, so keep your response fairly matter-of-fact. Too much attention to a frightening experience may actually encourage a phobia.
Brush your pup daily with lots of affection and reassurance to make it a special time for both of you. At the same time, handle your pup's feet and ears and open his mouth for inspection. Massage him all over. If the pup fusses, say "no" firmly. When he is quiet, talk to him in a soft, pleasant voice. Similarly, teaching your puppy to allow you to wipe his paws now will be a real asset when he's full grown, bounding inside with wet feet on a rainy day!
Leash Training Fundamentals
Complete leash training is a gradual process. However, the fundamentals of leash training are an essential part of basic puppy training. Begin by having your puppy wear a collar. She may resist this at first but do not give in; for the safety of your puppy this is one rule that must not be broken. Once your puppy is used to the collar, begin letting her drag her leash around the house, under your supervision. When it's potty time, guide the puppy to her potty place on her leash. Get her used to walking on your left side by simply placing her there each and every time you take her outside. Most puppies learn to love their leash since it's a signal they're going outside - and puppies love to explore!
Once your puppy is used to her leash, you can introduce the command, "Heel." Stand with your puppy at your left side and start your walk. Talk to your puppy and keep her focused on you by making yourself the most interesting thing in her line of sight. When she becomes distracted and runs ahead, as she undoubtedly will, call her name and say, "Heel," and make an abrupt U-turn to the right. She will find herself behind you and hurry back to your side. Praise her and repeat. Make it fun for your puppy to heel with your praise and excitement and she will learn quickly.
This basic training command should be started from the first day you bring your puppy home. As with all the basic commands, you should announce your intention by calling his name first, followed by the one word command - i.e., "Max, come!" Make the invitation as inviting as possible by using an enthusiastic voice. When he stumbles to you, praise generously. If he doesn't come immediately, give a tug on his leash, then guide him to you.
If you're having trouble getting your puppy to come, examine your technique. Are you using his name, getting his attention? Squat down to his level and put a lot of energy into an enthusiastic command. Praise lavishly and repeat quickly - puppies typically enjoy learning to come to their leader. Never use "Come" in an angry tone or to call our puppy for a punishment. "Come" must be seen as a positive behavior.
Teaching your puppy to sit can keep him out of a world of trouble and do wonderful things for your relationship - and by eight weeks of age, he's ready to learn this basic command. Start by getting your puppy's attention, then using his name and the command, "Max, sit," gently help your dog to a sitting position by folding his back legs under his bottom. Once sitting, praise him. Repeat the exercise often to reinforce the training.
You can also teach "Sit" with a food reward. Using a kibble of Purina Puppy Chow, show your puppy the food. Once you have his attention, have him follow the treat as you move it slowly up and over his head. As the puppy follows the food, he will have to sit.
"Sit" is an excellent command to teach a puppy for praise. Once it's established in his mind that sitting is the sure way to receive praise, you will never have to worry about your puppy jumping on you or other people for attention.
Be aware that scolding your puppy after it has misbehaved is fruitless. If you catch the puppy in the act of chewing, remove the object with a very firm "no." Let the puppy sense, through the firmness of your voice, that chewing is unacceptable. Correct your puppy quietly and firmly each time you catch him chewing. Realize that chewing is natural behavior for a puppy. It eases the discomfort of teething and is part of the puppy's exploring its environment through the sense of taste. Give your puppy safe chew toys such as rawhide bones and hard rubber toys. Avoid toys containing parts that might come loose and be swallowed such as plastic eyes or metal balls. Praise him when he plays with his chew toys. Never give the puppy a special sock or slipper to chew or a toy that looks like a slipper. Puppies cannot tell the difference between the toy and the real thing. Treat objects your puppy chews with hot pepper or with Bitter Apple for furniture, a bad tasting product available at pet stores. Boredom may also lead to chewing. Be certain your puppy enjoys play periods and enjoys walks with family members. Before leaving your puppy alone, take him for a walk or spend time playing with him. He will have less energy for chewing. Confine the puppy to his crate or to a small area, such as the kitchen. A pet gate may be useful in confining the puppy. Leave drinking water and chew toys.
PLAYING WITH YOUR PUPPY
Playing with a puppy is more than great fun. How you play can affect your puppy's future behavior. Your job is to sort out the games that will help your puppy's training and avoid those that may create behavior problems as your puppy matures. If you or family members play tug-of-war with your puppy, you are playing an aggressive game that fosters competition between the puppy and its owner. Tug-of-war gives your puppy the opportunity to establish dominance. Many puppies use the same tearing action with clothing and household items used in tug-of-war. A puppy cannot distinguish between items that are off limits and those that may be used for play.
Children are especially tempted to allow a puppy to play "chase." This sends a signal in direct opposition to "come," one of the most important commands your puppy can learn. If you give the "come" command to a puppy who has been encouraged to play "chase," it may pounce with its front paws, tail wagging as if to say, "catch me."
Some puppies tend to be biters. You are reinforcing this bad habit when you allow your puppy to bite you during play time. Never wiggle your fingers or hand in a teasing way at your puppy or encourage it to attack you. Such "attack games" may seem cute when your puppy is little, but the end result is usually an adult dog who bites.
When your puppy attempts to bite grasp its collar and say NO firmly. If your puppy continues to bite, flick it under the chin by snapping your forefinger off your thumb firmly saying NO, NO.
If your puppy does not stop biting, confine it until it calms down. Resume play later. Biting should never be rewarded. If you continue to play with your puppy after it has tried to bite you, it will think biting is part of the game.
You can turn play time into a fun and a positive learning experience for your puppy. Teach it to retrieve, to play with its toys (only those safe for puppies) and to do simple tricks. Take your puppy for walks. All these activities establish a bond between you and your puppy.
When a puppy jumps on visitors or climbs all over people, this behavior is often dismissed as "friendly as a puppy." However, climbing and jumping are not friendly or cute as a puppy matures. Teach your puppy to sit when someone enters your house. When it responds to the "sit" command, reward it with lots of praise.
Whenever you give a command, maintain eye contact and remember the importance of your tone of voice. Do not laugh at a misdeed as you say "no" or add in an amused tone of voice comments like "such a naughty puppy."
It''s essential that all family members work together to help your puppy establish good habits. Every family member should use the same commands spoken in a firm, no-nonsense voice. If each family member uses a different command, your puppy will become confused.
After a puppy is at least six months of age, attending obedience school is a good idea. Even if your puppy is well-behaved, its good behavior can be reinforced through obedience classes. If you are having training problems, professional trainers can help you gain control of your puppy as the first step toward solving these problems.
Obedience classes are offered by many organizations such as humane societies, kennel clubs and community colleges. You can also ask your veterinarian to recommend an obedience school.
The classes are usually for a 10- to 12-week period. Enroll your puppy when you have time to work with it between classes. This "homework" reinforces what it has learned in the previous class.
Be mindful that obedience school is for you as well as your puppy. To be successful, obedience training should continue after your puppy "graduates" from school. Use the commands it has learned at school and reward it only for positive responses. Enlist the assistance of all family members in being consistent with the commands you and your puppy have learned.
A final thought
As you play with your puppy, ask yourself, "What kind of behavior patterns am I creating? Will they be acceptable as my puppy matures?" The best time to stop bad habits is before they start.
All puppies need to be vaccinated against disease according to the schedule provided by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may provide routine vaccinations for canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, coronavirus, parainfluenza, Bordetella, Lyme disease and rabies. Remember, most vaccines must be given over a period of time and require multiple veterinary visits. So check with your veterinarian and get ready for a happy, rewarding friendship with your pet.
A highly contagious, often fatal virus that affects a dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system. Generally this virus spreads as an airborne infection, so vaccination is the only effective control.
(Also know as infection hepatitis) A viral disease that affects the liver and cells lining the blood vessels, causing high fever, thirst, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, liver damage, and hemorrhage.
A highly contagious viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, high fever and dehydration.
An extremely contagious disease that spreads through contact with nasal secretions, urine or saliva of infected animals, and can affect humans as well. The ailment causes inflamed kidneys, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Liver damage can also occur.
A common and deadly viral infection whose symptoms include diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Parvovirus can kill puppies very quickly.
This virus is one of a number of infectious agents that cause what is often called "kennel cough." The disease is highly contagious and attacks the respiratory system.
A fatal infection of the central nervous system that affects all mammals, especially raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, domestic dogs and cats, and humans. Since rabies poses a serious public health threat, it is imperative that your puppy be vaccinated. Most states require it.
Newborn puppies receive disease-fighting antibodies from their mother's milk. These antibodies normally last only six to sixteen weeks, however. After that, your puppy needs vaccinations to help protect him from disease.
SWITCHING TO ADULT FOOD
Many veterinarians recommend changing from a growth food to an adult-type food at the time of spaying or neutering which is usually between 6 and 9 months of age. Neutering reduces the energy needs of puppies. A veterinarian may recommend feeding fewer calories, such as adult-type food, to help reduce the chance of pups from becoming obese. Other veterinarians recommend waiting until the puppy is at least 12 months old. Probably the two most important criteria to keep in mind are to choose a product which has a complete and balanced claim for the appropriate life stage and to closely monitor the animal's body condition as it matures. These two factors should always be considered when you are discussing when to change your pet's diet with your veterinarian.