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Most of us can probably agree puppies are the cutest thing on Earth.  Becoming the proud parent of one, however, can be quite challenging. Below are some tips for easing you into the role of a puppy parent.

That first day of bringing your new pet home is usually met with unbelievable happiness, lots of puppy accidents, and your world being turned upside down.  As you start to adjust to your new lifestyle, you’ll learn your puppy will need more than food and shelter to survive. It’s similar to caring for a newborn baby:  A LOT of work, and totally worth it. Like with human babies, puppies need good habits established early on in order to guarantee many happy years ahead. You’ll be sleep deprived, but laying a foundation of a regular routine and good habits will pay off in the long run.  

The first thing you should do in find a good vet you’re comfortable with and take your puppy in for a checkup.  Your vet can establish whether there are any birth defects, health issues, etc and help you set up a preventive healthcare plan.  A good place to start is with finding a vet is through recommendations from friends or neighbors, or with your local shelter. You can talk to your vet about food recommendations, how often to feed your pup, and portion sizes.  You should also set up a vaccination plan, options for parasite control, spaying/neutering options, and what to watch for in the first month’s of your puppy’s life.

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Making healthy food choices for your puppy is important.  Choose food that is formulated for puppies, not adult dogs. If your puppy is a small to medium sized breed, it can transition to grown up food between 9-12 months.  Large breeds should wait until they are 2 years of age. Food recommendations are: 6-12 weeks – 4 meals per day; 3-6 months – 3 meals per day; and 6-12 months – 2 meals per day.  Always have plenty of water available.

House training your pet requires patience, planning ahead, and lots of reinforcement and praise.  Having a good carpet cleaner is not a bad idea, either. Bear in mind accidents WILL happen. Before your puppy has finished its vaccinations, it’s best to find somewhere outside where other animals won’t be in order to reduce the risk of viruses and disease.  Praise your new pup whenever it goes potty outside and never punish it when it has accidents indoors (and it will.) Some standard times to take your pup out for potty training are: First thing when you wake up, right before you go to bed, directly following your puppy’s meal, when your puppy wakes from its nap, and after your puppy has exercised.

Puppies are vulnerable to illnesses that can become serious if not caught and treated.  Symptoms to look for are: little to no weight gain; no appetite; breathing difficulties; diarrhea; vomiting; pale gums; swollen abdomen; fatigue; coughing; inability to urinate or pass solids; pale gums; swollen eyes; and/or discharge in eyes or nose.  If your puppy is exhibiting any of these symptoms, contact your vet.

Obedience early on is vital to ensuring you and your puppy’s social life.  It will also help create a deeper connection with your pet. Teaching your puppy to sit, come, and stay will help keep your puppy safe from potential danger, and under control.  But teaching on your own can be daunting. Finding an obedience school is a good way to train your pup. Most schools will take puppies starting at 4 to 6 months.

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