So You Want a Dog Part 5: Basic Puppy Needs

By now, you’ve decided what kind of dog to get and where to get it.  Now what?  Today we’ll talk about basic puppy care. Here are the top 7 things you need for a puppy.

1. Puppy Food

Puppies need puppy food, not adult or senior dog food, not cat food, and certainly not people food.  As a vet, honestly, the brand doesn’t matter.  Are the brands with no corn or lots of veggies better? I don’t know. There’s no studies that indicate that one way or another.  If you want to try them, great. If not, that’s fine too. Remember, people in pet stores are sales people.  They often have deals with certain brands and can work on commission, so don’t put too much stock what they say.  Listen to your veterinarian’s recommendations.  Just pick a brand and stick with it. Changing foods will cause tummy upsets. Water and food bowls go along with this, of course. Stainless steel are the easiest to keep clean and don’t harbor bacteria like ceramic  or plastic can. (I have cute ceramic ones though, so there you go.)

2. Leash and Collar

A collar with an I.D. tag on it is imperative.  You want to make sure if your new puppy gets lost, it gets found again. Consider a microchip.

As far as leashes go I’m a bit of a stickler.  Get a 6 foot leash. None of these expandable deals. They don’t keep your dog under control.  Your dog does not need, and really, has no business, running 20 feet away from you.  I’m also a big fan of head harnesses, like the gentle leader or halti, for dogs over 20-30 pounds, and step through harnesses for little dogs. The step through harnesses do not go around the neck.  Harnesses are not for bigger dogs, they are positioned over the strongest part of your dog, making you work harder to keep control. I am not a fan of choke chains or pinch collars in general. Ninety-five percent of people don’t use them correctly, making them ineffective and simply painful for the dog.

3. A Bed

I recommend crates for dogs.  It facilitates potty training and gives them a safe place to be when you’re away and when they’re sleeping.  My dogs are both crate trained. My older dog is rarely in it anymore, but it’s nice when we have workmen at the house, I can put her away and she’s not barking, growling, or generally following them around. The crate should be big enough for your dog to turn around in comfortably, but not so big as to allow them room to potty and then lay in a different spot. If you have a large breed dog, buy a large crate that will fit the adult dog and then partition it off with pillows or rolled up towels as your puppy grows.

4. A Veterinarian

You’ll need puppy shots if yours isn’t fully vaccinated, flea and heartworm prevention in most areas, and it’s good to start a relationship with a vet before you have an emergency.

5. Puppy Training Classes

I really recommend these to all my clients.  It helps you and your dog learn to work together.  It will teach you the right way to train your puppy and teaches a few basic commands to have a well-behaved dog.  Also, it’s great for puppy socialization. Exposing your puppy to other dogs helps it learn to interact appropriately with them so you don’t have aggressive or fearful behavior.  That’s no fun. Check with the training center and your veterinarian, some places require full vaccinations before participating, some are okay with two sets (starting at about 12 weeks).

6. Toys

Puppies like to play.  Get them toys that are appropriate for them to use.  Watch toys for breaks or loose strings and throw away broken toys. Some larger puppies are very destructive and a swallowed bit of toy can lead to the need for intestinal surgery to remove it. Puppies teethe just like human babies and lose their baby teeth.  Some toys to chew on, maybe even refrigerated to help soothe their gums, are a good idea. Never let a puppy teethe on your hand. It may be cute, but the puppy needs to learn that people are not for chewing on. It’s not cute in an adult dog.

7. Lots of Love

Puppies need love and attention to thrive and to integrate into your family. Shower it on them. Spoil away.

**Disclaimer: I am a veterinarian, but this post is intended as general information only and should not be construed as veterinary advice.  Always follow your own veterinarians recommendations.

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