Getting a Puppy: What You Need to Know

Are you thinking of getting a puppy? Elisha Fahy RVN DipCABT gives some advice and tips to help with getting a puppy for the family:

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Socialising Your Puppy

Socialisation is a vital part in the upbringing of puppies and will prevent certain behavioural problems later in life.  Pets that are poorly socialised and habituated live a life of fear.

At the start of their lives, all animals go through what is known as a ‘sensitive development period’. During this time, they encounter the world for the first time – and learn to accept what they find.

In puppies, this period starts at birth and lasts until about 14 weeks of age. Anything a puppy experiences during that time will become part of its natural order of things. After that age, unfamiliar objects and experiences can cause a fearful response (sometimes extremely fearful) and can ultimately lead to aggression.

It is important, therefore, that the owner introduces his or her puppy to as much of puppiesthe environment and lifestyle as possible, as soon as possible.

Learning to interact normally with adults, children, other dogs and pets is called socialisation.

The experience of household noises like appliances, cars, the countryside and city – becoming accustomed to a wide range habitats and environments – is called habituation.

Why are socialisation and habituation so important?

More young adult dogs are euthanased because of behavioural problems than die from the diseases we vaccinate against. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these behavioural problems are brought about by poor socialisation.

For example, if a puppy has never met a postman, or a child, and encounters one of these for the first time later in life, it can become extremely fearful. A natural response of a fearful dog, if it has no other means of escape, is aggression.

Proper habituation helps prevent similar problems. Imagine trying to take a dog who has never encountered a car on a journey – the poor animal will be sick with fear, and may become aggressive. And, if a puppy has not been accustomed to separation from its owners during the sensitive period, it may, in later life, bark, whine, lose toilet control or be destructive whenever it is left alone.

You might also like reading 5 Tips to Help to Avoid a Bored Cat or Dog

The Importance of a Puppy Diet

A huge amount of research has resulted in Life-stage diets which are formulated specifically for the nutritional needs of senior pets and are available in many veterinary hospitals.

Puppy diets have extra supplements added such as glucosamine and chondroitin to aid joints and antioxidants which promote a healthy immune system and help to protect brain cells.

Dog Ageing Tips

At eight years of age, our pets are officially “seniors” – a designation given to dogs and cats 7 years or older. Pet owners are encouraged to take their senior pets to their veterinarians for Senior Care health checks on a regular basis as they are more likely to develop arthritis and other health problems that become more common with age. When detected at an early stage, these diseases can be treated more effectively.

‘Senior Pet Health Checks’ provide an opportunity to discuss

  • appropriate diets
  • weight with relation to arthritis
  • dieting
  • dental care
  • exercise and
  • general health etc.

Older pets have different nutritional needs than younger adults, puppies or kittens. Your pet needs a food that provides the appropriate balance of nutrients needed for everyday living and maintaining a healthy, happy and active life.

Your Pet’s Behaviour Will Change With Age

A pet’s behaviour changes with age as well. Pets often become less active, less playful, and may be more irritable. The older dog’s brain is more vulnerable to free radicals that are naturally produced by the body. The damage, which free radicals inflict on the brain, may cause progressive changes in behaviour in older dogs.

A diet alone could help a pet fight the signs of brain ageing and age-related behavioural problems such as social interaction, sleep or activity changes, confusion and house-soiling accidents and even help improve the learning ability of older dogs. Because these behavioural changes can also be signs of physical illness, more frequent health care checks are important as pets age.

  • Provide a comfortable place to rest, as older pets need thick padding and softer bedding to better cushion aging joints.
  • Like older people, senior dogs need regular exercise in moderation. While exercise is important to maintain good health, strenuous hikes may no longer be possible for older dogs. Slower walks on lead may be more appropriate.
  • Older pets may no longer want to negotiate the stairs or high places so you may need to consider changing the location of beds and feeding areas.

Are you thinking of getting a puppy?  Tell us in the comments below.


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Jill is one of the co-founders of Mykidstime and a mum of 2 girls