The day has come! The new puppy will be at home when you get back from school!
The excitement of a new puppy can go on for a dozen years or more if you and your family take some precautions to keep your pet safe and healthy. Although all accidents and illnesses cannot be prevented, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce chances that your pet will suffer.
First thing is to get Fluffy to a veterinarian for an examination and vaccination. Choose a veterinarian to visit regularly; don't count on the discounted shot clinics offered away from veterinary offices. Fluffy needs a personal doctor just as you do.
While you're at the veterinarian's office, ask questions about predispositions to medical problems. For example, some breeds are sensitive to skin or allergy problems, others to joint problems or bloat. The best place to get medical answers is from a qualified veterinarian.
After initial vaccinations are done, take Fluffy to the veterinarian for regular checkups, usually once a year, for boosters and a routine examination, and take him when you suspect or find a problem and when he's ill.
Now I understand you don't want to run to the veterinarian's office every day or week. There are some things you can and should do yourself to help insure his health and safety.
Clean, quality food and fresh water are a must. Fluffy's breeder and the veterinarian can help you select a food best suited to Fluffy. Food dishes must be kept clean, especially in hot weather when bacteria grow very rapidly. I recommend stainless steel dishes, elevated at least knee high for Fluffy. Stainless steel is nearly indestructible and can be sanitized very easily.
Exercise — physical and chewing — should be part of Fluffy's daily routine. Proper levels of exercise keep people and pets physically fit and help fight off disease. Exercise along with a proper feeding program should keep Fluffy from becoming overweight. Adjustments in food amounts and protein and fat levels need to be addressed as Fluffy ages — your veterinarian can help decide when changes are needed.
Chew toys help Fluffy relieve his natural chewing instinct in a positive manner and help keep his teeth clean. Regular toys help Fluffy occupy his time and enjoy himself while you're away.
Personal hygiene and grooming are part of everyone's daily life and should be part of Fluffy's life too. Have you ever smelled someone who hadn't bathed or used deodorant? Did you move away from them rather quickly? When were you last hot, tired, and really sweaty and dirty? Didn't a shower feel wonderful?
Well, Fluffy likes to be brushed and clean, too, and he's certainly a lot more pleasant to be around when he doesn't smell bad. You can handle some of the grooming at home; however, I recommend that all dogs be professionally groomed at least every 12 weeks. Many pets are bathed every week or two and groomed monthly or every six weeks because their owner's take pride in their pets' appearance.
Cleaning up the yard after Fluffy urinates and defecates can be a dirty job, but someone has to do it! Worm eggs leave the dog's body in the feces and worms can repeatedly re-infest the dog if the feces are not cleaned up. (The easiest way to deal with this job is to teach Fluffy to use one spot as a toilet so you always know where to look for the piles.)
You can do the clean-up chore right before an evening shower. If you have a hard time remembering to do the job, reward yourself afterwards with a fun romp with Fluffy or other special treat.
Do weekly home health inspections of Fluffy from head to tail and face to feet so you'll immediately know when something changes on his body or if an area becomes sensitive. Early detection can often save lives.
Basic obedience is important for every dog. I believe every pet should learn to obey “come,” “sit,” “down,” “stay,” “stand,” and “stop.” Many classes are available in the area; check the Bulletin board listings and the advertisements in Dog Owner's Guide to find a club or business near you.
Do a safety check of your house. Jot down problem areas as you check each room to see what dangers lie in wait for a puppy or dog. Things to watch for are electric cords that tempt puppy to chew or grab, cleaning rags or sponges left in puppy's reach, hanging cords on draperies and window blinds, small objects that puppy might swallow, a bowl of candy on the coffee table, etc. Keep puppy out of the garage — even a teaspoon of spilled anti-freeze can be deadly.
Make sure you can confine Fluffy when you cannot watch him. Use a crate or baby gates to keep him safe when you are busy.
It's easy to clean up after Fluffy if you teach him to use one particular spot as a toilet. From the time he's a pup, take him outside to that spot and tell him to “Hurry, do it.” Put him on a leash so he can't wander, and don't play with him until he's done.
When he performs, praise him and give him a special treat. If you are using a clicker or squeaker for training, click or squeak before you give the treat. Very shortly, Fluffy will get the idea.
When you clean up, use a disposable mitt, a plastic bag, a shovel, or a pooper scooper. Dump the feces in the garbage can for disposal on trash day in your neighborhood.
If Fluffy's going to play and sleep in your bedroom, make sure you protect your possessions as well as Fluffy. Don't leave books or other valuables in puppy's reach. Puppies must chew in order to ease the discomfort of teething, to explore their world, and to satisfy an instinct to gnaw on things. If you keep things out of Fluffy's reach, you won't be frustrated that he has chewed a library book or your prized stuffed toy.
Put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Puppies and dogs love to chew their owner's dirty clothes, especially socks and underwear.
Don't allow tug-of-war with blankets and bedspreads; puppies love to grab anything and pull and can quickly destroy bed linen by doing so.
If you eat snacks in your room, be sure to clean up the crumbs. Puppies quickly become scavengers once they find a regular source of food, which can lead to unacceptable begging, obesity, and intestinal upset.
Even if you use good health and safety practices with your pet, you will likely outlive him. When a pet dies, it is a very sad time in your life. When a pet comes into your life as a puppy and lives as part of your family and then has a critical accident, becomes very ill, or dies of old age, it is hard to understand and deal with the sadness you feel.
When death occurs to a beloved pet, you have a right to mourn. If you have questions about what happened to your pet, talk to your veterinarian. How you handle the death of a pet is a very personal thing. Just remember, it's all right to feel very sad.
When your pet shows signs of age, consider getting another puppy. New puppies help revitalize older dogs and give them a bit more time with you. They also help the family to accept the aging or illness of the older dog.
Don't think that your pet would not want you to have another dog. If you select that next puppy carefully, he'll enrich your lives for another dozen years or more.
The Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association has a report card for pet health to help you determine if your pet needs veterinary attention. Here are the categories and grades.
Pets with Cs, Ds, and Fs should head to the veterinarian for a checkup.
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