During much of March and all of April, people have been having to work from home, social distance from friends and family, and life as we know it has changed drastically. Since people are home for the time being, many families have welcomed a new family member!
Veterinary Care for your New Puppy
One of the most important aspects of a new puppy’s life is veterinary care! Because many of the initial vaccines must be boostered, you will be seeing your veterinarian a lot over the next couple of months. Your puppy will need vaccines at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 14 weeks, 16 weeks, and 20 weeks. After this, most vaccines become annual vaccines. Your veterinarian will also likely deworm your puppy at every visit! This is because puppies put everything in their mouths, and are readily infected with intestinal parasites. Your veterinarian will also listen to the heart and lungs, monitor tooth development, eye development, and growth. This will ensure your puppy is growing normally and progressing at a normal pace!
During each puppy appointment, your veterinary team will also discuss heartworm preventives, flea and tick preventives, and behavioral challenges associated with your new puppy. Even when a puppy is primarily indoors, and during the winter, heartworm, fleas, and ticks are prevalent in this area, and year-round preventives are important. Many heartworm preventives also offer regular intestinal parasite protection as an added bonus.
At around 6 months old, your puppy should be spayed or neutered. Prior to this, we require some blood work, just to ensure everything internally is developing normally and there are no increased risks of surgery. At 7 months old, your puppy should have his or her first heartworm test! Unfortunately, we cannot detect heartworm infections before this age.
Puppy Training with Social Distancing
The most important time in a dog’s life for localization and future behavior is, of course, as a puppy. Socializing your puppy at this time will be difficult. In a world without social distancing, we recommend introducing your puppy to three new people and three new (vaccinated and de-wormed) dogs or puppies every day. When they are puppies, they are neophilic (love new things), but as they age (like all animals) they become more neophobic (fearful of new things). This is a normal part of many animal’s aging process. Training your dog to be continually curious of new noises or actions, rather than afraid, can help your dog lead a stress free life.
Dog parks are not good socialization places for puppies, unfortunately. Many dogs in dog parks are unvaccinated, and there is too little control for initial socialization events. We usually recommend puppy classes (a controlled environment, vaccines and fecal testing are often requirements) for socialization. This should be considered once the pandemic is cleared.
Noise fear is one of the most common issues we see in adult dogs (think fireworks on fourth of July, thunderstorms, etc.). To help prevent your puppy from having these stressors in his or her future, start introducing new noises early! You can drop something on the floor far away and ask (in a high pitched, happy voice) “what was that?” and encourage your puppy to ignore it with treats. If your puppy will not eat during this exercise, make sure to use a quieter object or move further away, we want your puppy to still be comfortable enough to take treats at all times during the training process.
When walking your puppy, if she becomes afraid of something, allow her to move away from the scary thing! Allowing her to move away, giving her the freedom to choose, will help her choose to be brave in the future (imagine never being able to move away from the thing that scares you!).
Biting is another common problem we see in puppies. This is mostly done in play, of course, but puppy teeth are sharp! In order to reduce biting behaviors, be sure to ignore your puppy when he is biting you. You can also ‘yelp’ like a puppy would to indicate pain. These guys are teething, and chewing on a frozen towel (with direct supervision) can really help sooth a teething mouth. Further, keeping them active throughout the day (lots of playing outside in a yard if possible) will go a long way to keeping your puppy too tired to get into mischief.
Another behavioral stressor that we often see with puppies adopted during a break (e.g. summer break) occurs right when everyone goes back to work or school. Suddenly the family that was with the puppy all day every day is gone. This sudden change can be very hard on puppies. Ideally, you would start by leaving your puppy alone for half-days to start.
To help with the anxiety of all the changes associated with a new home and a new schedule, please talk to your veterinarian about Adaptil. Adaptil is a pheromone that is released by mother dogs to help relieve puppy anxiety and it can go a long way, even in adult dogs! There are collars and diffusers that can be used.
Finally, congratulations on your new addition! Please remember that every animal is different, and you may need to come up with individual plans for your puppy with your veterinary team. We cannot wait to meet your new family member!