March 23rd is National Puppy Day! Celebrate the holiday by spending time with your little one -- or reminiscing if your pup's younger years are behind him.
Or, of course, it might be the perfect time to welcome a new bundle of joy into your home. If that's the case, here are five things to expect when you're expecting:
#1: Puppies call for patience, the buddy system, and cleanser.
Especially on your first day together.
Case in point: When Maria brought her 12-week-old boxer home from the breeder, it threw up twice in her car and pooped three times on her oriental carpet. Typical, say experts, who recommend preventing this and other first-day calamities by:
- Bringing somebody with you to hold the puppy for the ride home from the breeder or shelter. It's dangerous for a new puppy to roam loose in the car. Also, puppies almost always get sick on their first few rides, so bring a couple of old towels as well.
- Introducing the dog to each room at home on leash. The point is to do it in a controlled way so the dog isn't running crazy. Avoid those rooms that are off limits.
- Making sure your new puppy has a quiet place to sleep -- and not your bed. "I prefer a crate, but you can also find a quiet, but not isolated, spot in the house,'' said Gajkowski.
- Preparing to take the puppy out to do its business every hour or two. If it doesn't go, take it out again 10-15 minutes later.
- Waiting an hour before offering food to your new puppy. It needs some time to adjust to the new environment.
- Exhausting the puppy with play and potty breaks before bedtime. "It's normal to hear some crying and whining when you leave it alone,'' said Gajkowski. "If it doesn't settle after an hour, take it out again.''
- Taking it to the veterinarian. Preferably, do it the next day to make sure your puppy is healthy.
Be prepared to spend money on bills beyond just what you've paid the breeder or the rescue. That includes costs for:
- Medical: Expect to pay for the normal course of vaccinations, along with deworming medication and blood and fecal tests unless your dog is unhealthy, in which case costs could skyrocket. (In fact, this is a good time to look into pet insurance.)
- Lifestyle: Food, equipment (eg, a crate, bed, bowls, toys, dental products, treats, leads, collars, etc), pet sitting, grooming, and other services.
- Training and socialization: Puppy classes and one-on-one training.
If puppies aren't socialized -- or exposed to people, pets, and situations in a safe and controlled manner -- they can become overly aggressive, shy, or insecure later in life.
To prevent these and other problems, socialize your pup by:
- Enrolling it in puppy classes that combine obedience with play. Keep in mind, however, that most won't accept your pup until it's fully vaccinated (usually at about 16 weeks of age).
- Setting up play dates with neighbors, friends and other animals.
- Involving the puppy in your daily activities (eg, walking, shopping and even working if possible).
#4: Puppies need lots of physical and mental stimulation.
All puppies need constant interaction, Gajkowski said. "You can't just stick it in the backyard and expect it'll keep itself entertained.''
Instead, he recommends spending three to four hours a day engaged in play and exercise with your new puppy.
#5: Puppies shed -- and get dirty and smell bad.
If you're not prepared to manage these things on a regular basis, you may not want to take on the responsibility of ownership.
Finally, there are a few things you can't prepare for: Like how guilty you'll feel having to leave your puppy alone for work and play, or how much you'll adore the four-legged creature that needs you for everything.
"If you do the right things with a puppy,'' said Gajkowski, "you'll not only wind up with a great dog someday, but a constant and faithful companion.''
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