Welcoming a new puppy into your home: Pete the Vet on Ireland AM

Click on the link at the foot of this page to watch Pete on Ireland AM discussing the arrival of a new pup into your home.

How to choose a new puppy

The biggest mistake that people make when getting a new puppy is to rush into the acquisition rather than thinking about it carefully with intelligence and objectivity. While it’s true that it’d be rare for a puppy to be given away as a prize, many people choose a pup with just about as little consideration as this. They decide that they want a particular breed of dog, they search for one online, then they pay significant sums of money for it. There are far better ways of planning a new puppy in your life:

Consider adopting, not shopping. Thousands of dogs need homes, and you don’t need to have a highly priced pedigree pup to fulfil your objective of finding a wonderful new pet.

If you must buy a pedigree pup, do your research first. Find out about your chosen breed’s potential health issues, and buy from a breeder who has done the necessary health tests to minimise the risk of problems later in life. Many of the specific breed clubs have health schemes aimed at minimising the health issues faced by pedigree dogs. You may need to pay more money, and you may have to wait for a few months, but it will definitely be worth it.

Avoid buying from a puppy farmer. Instead, choose a pup bred by a private breeder. Be aware than many of the pups bred by puppy farmers, as well as illegally imported pups, are sold online with the specific aim of fooling you into believing that they have been bred by a genuine private breeder.

How to transport the new puppy home

Ideally, buy a carrier cage of some type for your puppy: for a small breed, this could be a plastic cat carrier, while for a bigger breed, it could be a wire mesh indoor kennel that you lift into the back of your car. You should line this carrier with some of the bedding that the puppy has been using at the breeder; this will carry the reassuring scent of “home” and “family”, and it will make the transition to the new set up less stressful for the pup. Have someone sit close to the carrier, reassuring the pup. If the pup is small enough, it may be better to hold them in your arms during the journey, but in most cases, it’s best to have them in their cage, with the knowledge that a caring human is close by, talking to them.

How to make the new puppy feel at home

The process of leaving the family pack and arriving in a new home is a normal and natural part of the life of a young dog. It’s always going to involve some stress, but puppies have adaptable minds, and as long as care is taken to avoid big shocks, most pups soon adjust to their new homes.

​ T​he carrier that was used to transport the pup home often functions well as a base for the pup in their new home, like a type of “private bedroom” for them. They can sleep here, and if the door is left open to give them continual access, they will often see it as a type of sanctuary, going in whenever they feel like “time out” or snoozing.

It helps to leave the bedding from their original home in there for the first few weeks, only taking it out to wash if it is badly contaminated. You can also use proprietary products to create a soothing vapour in the vicinity: you can choose from pheromone-based versions or herb-sourced diffusers.

Be aware that puppies are geared to learn about and accept new experiences easily until they are around 16 weeks of age; after this, their minds become less adaptable, and it’s more difficult for them to adjust to new experiences. For this reason, it’s important to take specific steps to optimise their social experiences while they are young. The idea is to encourage them to enjoy a wide range of new experiences while not traumatising them by going too far, too quickly. The Kennel Club has designed a specific Puppy Socialisation Plan to be used by breeders and new owners, and it’s well worth following this as closely as possible. A well socialised puppy is more likely to develop into a well-balanced, calm, obedient adult dog.

How to introduce a new puppy to the family dog

One of the big worries facing new puppy owners is the reaction of an established family pet. It’s difficult to predict how this will go, but previous reactions of the dog-in-residence to other animals should give you some clues. If your dog is a social creature, enjoying the company of other dogs on walks, then the omens are good. If, on the other hand, your dog shows aggression to other animals, and doesn’t engage with them in a friendly, playful way, you are more likely to encounter problems.

For a smooth introduction, the general idea is to make the puppy as unthreatening as possible. Start by introducing the puppy’s smell only: bring back some puppy-used blankets or bedding, and allow your dog to sniff these. Ideally, choose a neutral area to make the first introductions: perhaps in a friend’s house, with the pup being held by a friend when you arrive with your dog.

Keep both animals under close control, allowing them to sniff one another. Then put the pup into its carrier, and allow the dog to sniff this from the outside. If all goes well, you can then bring the carrier back to your home and allow further sniffing to happen there. Finally, if there are no signs of discontent, you can allow nose-to-nose contact in the open. Supervise the animals carefully, with a loose long leash on each so that you can control them if there is any conflict.

Even if they seem to get on well at first, continue to keep them under observation for some time. Puppies often show inappropriate behaviour to older dogs, hanging on to dangling ears, biting tail tips or just generally hassling the other animal. You need to ensure that your older dog has an escape route so that they can go somewhere else where the puppy can’t follow them if they get fed up.

It’s normal for there to be some growling and even occasional “snaps” from the older animal; this is often how pups are taught to behave. All the same, you should stay close by in these early stages to ensure that no harm is done to the younger, more vulnerable animal.

How introduce a new puppy to the family cat

Most cats are adept at managing introductions to new animals like puppies: they have enough life experience to know how they want things to go. They may wish to engage up to a point, before finally either telling the pup to go away (with a hiss and perhaps a batted paw) or choosing to move out of the pup’s range (e.g. jumping onto a chair or out of the cat flap). Again, you can facilitate a smooth meeting by allowing the cat to smell the pup’s bedding before the animal arrives, and by keeping the pup in its carrier for the first few hours, so that the cat can come up and have a sniff/look on his/her own terms.

As with the dog, you should ensure that the cat always has an escape route, such as a chair to jump onto or a doorway to run out of. As long as a cat has other options, they are generally unlikely to react in an aggressive way to a new puppy. Close observation is important however, since animals – both dogs and cats – can be unpredictable in social situations.

How to get a new puppy through its first night

Your new puppy will be reassured by the odour from its original bedding, and the extra scents of a nearby diffuser should add to a sense of calmness. From the pup’s arrival, instigate a daily routine, so that your pup soon learns what’s expected. It can be helpful to offer supper a couple of hours before bedtime, followed by a period of play/ interaction, then a quiet interlude winding down towards bedtime. Go outside for a final walk and emptying of bladder and bowels. Leave a radio playing beside the pup’s bed, so that there is some auditory comfort and distraction. When it’s time for you to go to bed, put the pup into their own bed (inside their carrier/ indoor kennel) and just leave them to it. It’s often as simple as that: young animals naturally seem to know that the hours of darkness are the time to sleep.

How to stop a new puppy from crying

Your new pup may not have experienced sleeping on their own: up until this time, their short lifetime will have been filled with companionship from mother and siblings. However the adaptability of pups means that most rapidly adapt to their new situation of being on their own.

​ ​They may whine a little, but you should not react immediately if you hear this: if you go to them at once, you will teach them that whining gets rapid results, and they will be more likely to do this whenever they want anything. Instead, ensure that their set up is as ideal as possible, with comfy bedding, comforting background noise (with a radio playing), and a warm ambient temperature.
Try to ignore them if they cry, and most often, after a few minutes, they will accept their new environment and sleep. If the crying persists, check to make sure there is not a real issue (such as a paw trapped somewhere), and then after reassuring them, leave them in peace. Try to be less reactive rather than over-protective: this usually works best for owner and pup. Separation anxiety is a common problem in young adult dogs, and if you can teach your pup to be on its own comfortably from an early stage, they are more likely to be happy in their own company as they get older.

 

A new puppy can bring a great deal of pleasure to a household, but it’s important to get those first few days right.

Watch the video below for more information

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