Learning all about puppies can help you raise a dog that will fit with your household and overall lifestyle, while giving your puppy an overall head start living a happy and healthy life. Early socialization, excellent nutrition, and regular training are essentials that will greatly affect the personality, behavior and health of your adult dog. Helping your young dog learn about the world while their body and mind is still growing can help you avoid common adult dog problems such as reactivity and shyness. The right nutrition can also help your puppy’s body and mind grow into a lively, confident adult dog.
What Should Your Puppy Eat?
Start off with an all-life-stage or growth formula until your puppy is 90% of their expected full-grown size. Most puppies reach that size when they are 9 to 12 months old, but large and giant breed dogs may take 18 to 24 months to reach that benchmark.
To find the right puppy food, look at the nutrition label. A food should have at least 24% dry matter and 8% DM fat. Puppies also need a minimum of 1.2% DM calcium and 1% DM phosphorous to ensure proper growth. Dry matter is a way to compare different foods of different moisture contents accurately, so if you don’t know how to convert the numbers on the bag to dry matter, ask a Muddy for help.
Finding the right food is only part of the nutritional puzzle. Supplementing Omega 3 with a fish oil, green-lipped muscle, or seaweed supplement encourages proper brain and eye development during crucial growth spurts; a combined EPA and DHA should be at least 0.05% DM to meet your puppies needs. A prebiotic supplement with digestive enzymes can prevent an upset stomach when switching between formulas, while supporting your puppies overall digestive health.
You should also consider rotating between different food types and proteins to prevent pickiness and improve digestive flexibility in your adult dog. Even switching between kibbles with different protein bases can be remarkably beneficial, but feeding raw, wet, and freeze-dried foods, in addition to kibble, can be a fun way for your dog to explore flavors while feeding them less processed foods.
Meeting the Nutritional Needs of Large Breed Puppies
Large and giant breed puppies have slightly different nutritional requirements because their growth rate is significantly slower than other dogs. These dogs should eat a growth formula or all-life-stage formula for 18 to 24 months, or until they are approximately 90% of their adult size. The right food will have the same minimum protein and fat levels as all other puppies, but calcium levels should be between 1.2- 1.8% DM to encourage slow growth, and phosphorus levels should stay at 1% DM. Like all other puppies, these dogs also benefit from Omega 3s, digestive supplements, and a variety of foods.
To give your giant or large breed puppy the best start in life, track their weight carefully. A lean body weight ensures your puppy doesn’t grow too quickly and reduces stress on joints. Puppy owners who notice that their puppy gains weight quickly might want to consider a large breed puppy food, which is formulated with lower fat and protein levels to encourage measured and consistent growth.
All About Puppies’ Housetraining
Housetraining should begin the moment your puppy comes home. After ever nap and meal, as well as regularly throughout the day, you should take your puppy to their puppy pad or specific place in the yard. Wait patiently, and then after your puppy pees or defecates, praise them profusely and give them a treat. If you see your puppy trying to go in an unacceptable location, clap your hands to startle your puppy and take them outside or to the puppy pad immediately.
Until your puppy is completely housetrained, you may also want to consider a barrier you can use to keep your puppy in one area, as well as a kennel for your puppy to sleep in. Even if you intend for your puppy to have the run of the house as an adult, kennel training and room barriers can help house training because your puppy will naturally not want to soil an area near their bed.
Keeping your puppy confined to a single room will also help you supervise your puppy during housetraining. If you’re able to supervise your puppy and prevent small accidents, your puppy will learn what is acceptable quickly. However, if your puppy can find an abandoned corner rather than going outside to pee, it can become harder to break that habit.
Puppy Proofing Your Home
Even people who know all about puppies sometimes forget this step. But puppy proofing your home is an excellent way to avoid a late-night visit to the emergency vet. Before you bring your puppy home, remove electrical cords, poisonous plants and anything else that could be a potential hazard. Many of the same products used to keep cabinets shut and electrical outlets plugged for human babies can help protect your puppy from harm.
Chews and toys that appeal to your dog’s play preference can also prevent mischievous acts. Redirect your puppy when they chew on furniture or fingers with an appropriately sized chew or toy. When you can’t supervise your puppy, place them in a kennel. Never use a kennel to punish your puppy; most dogs like closed spaces and the right kennel can reduce anxiety with proper training.
All About Puppies’ Socializing and Learning
Puppies under six months are eager to learn about the world. Exposing them to sirens, fireworks, vacuum cleaners and other unique noises early will reduce the chance your adult dog will be fearful of them. Consider taking your puppy to pet stores and other places where they are welcome for additional exposure to different noises and environments, but only after your veterinarian approves and they have necessary vaccines.
Now’s also the time to socialize your dog. Be sure to find safe ways for your puppy to meet other friendly dogs of different sizes and breeds regularly. Puppy play groups and doggie daycares are great places for your new puppy to interact with other vaccinated, well-behaved dogs and learn how to relate to members of their own species.
Seize the opportunity to introduce your puppy to other animals, as well as people of various ages, genders, and ethnicities. Encourage your friends to give your puppy a treat and praise in a safe environment. Some puppies are naturally shy, so be sure to give them opportunities to have fun in what could be an otherwise intimidating situation. Early exposure will help ensure that your puppy grows into a dog that is at ease with all people and animals.
To make it easier to travel with your puppy, start leash training early in your backyard or other small, closed area. Practice in small, five-minute segments, using plenty of praise and a few treats to make it fun. Don’t use negative reinforcement:
Distraction is the key to getting your puppy to focus on the right behavior. If your puppy wants to pull you in one direction, make a quick turn in the other direction and have your puppy follow. Most puppies are eager to please and want to stay with you when they’re young, so take advantage of their inclination to follow you.
Once your puppy has the right vaccinations, start building their skills by expanding your walks to nearby streets and sidewalks. Make time to stop and chat with neighbors and other friendly dogs (but be sure to ask the other dog’s owner first). Many puppies find it intimidating to interact with a dog when they are on a leash and can’t get away. Other puppies become frustrated with the leash when they want to meet new people, which can lead to pulling in adult dogs. Creating positive interactions with strangers will help prevent reactivity as your dog gets older.
Start working on teaching your puppy basic commands, too. Knowing words like stop, stay and come can keep your dog safe, and understanding other words like sit and heel can make spending time with your dog more enjoyable. Group puppy classes are usually inexpensive and provide structure so you and your puppy will regularly practice basic skills.
Your puppy may also have a hunger to learn that requires additional training. Many breeds of dogs in the herding and working categories are happiest when they are learning new things. Ignore your puppy’s need to learn, and your puppy can become mischievous and learn unwanted behaviors
Meeting Grooming and Dental Needs
Make a point to gently touch and play with your puppy’s paws, teeth, and ears every day to desensitize your puppy to having these areas touched. A few early grooming appointments can also be an inexpensive way for your puppy to experience being handled by a stranger.
But no matter who cares for your dog’s grooming needs, be sure you have plans for regular nail trims, tooth brushing, and coat and ear cleaning. Your puppy’s needs in this area are often breed and lifestyle specific: A puppy who is a regular running partner may not need nail trims more than a few times a year, but the typical family dog may need a trim every few weeks. Also, long haired dogs are prone to mats and tangles that will require daily brushing versus the weekly brushing required for many short-haired dogs.
When to Visit Your Veterinarian
Your veterinarian not only learns all about puppies at school, but they see hundreds of puppies each year in their practice. For this reason, a trusted veterinarian can be an excellent partner while raising your puppy.
Schedule an appointment early to make sure your puppy has the right vaccinations for their age, as well as flea protection and deworming if necessary. Microchipping can also protect your puppy if they get lost or stolen.
It’s also a good time to discuss spaying or neutering your puppy if they’re still intact. The best time for this surgery depends on your dog’s breed: too early and your dog’s growth might be affected, but too late will increase their risks of certain cancers or an accidental pregnancy.
No matter how carefully you raise your puppy, you should also plan for unexpected vet visits, extra training, and other added costs and challenges. People who know all about puppies know to expect the unexpected—and that each new dog that comes into their lives has a unique personality with individual strengths and needs. Planning for these challenges—and knowing who to contact if you need help with your puppy—will ensure you’re building an loving relationship with the newest member of your household.