Preparing for your new puppyWell, in less than 40 hours, our house will be welcoming our new puppy. An 8 week old Pointer pup will be setting up housekeeping here and we are thrilled to have him. Having a medium for bragging about his exploits is always wonderful, and I am sure there will be many, but it is also an opportunity to provide information to others on what to expect when they decide to bring a puppy home.

Zwei will be exactly 8 weeks old. I would have preferred to have had him a week ago but Pensylvania State Law forbids a puppy to be transported without it’s dam prior to the age of 8 weeks. Since his breeder is a dear friend of mine and since she had arranged to transport the litter to visit the breeder of their sire after they turned 7 weeks, I stopped complaining and waited my turn.

I had the distinct advantage of witnessing the birth of the litter, assisting my friend over the course of two fun filled days of anticipation, non-productive, nervous new mom, the inevitable vet visit in the middle of the night and the exhaustion that followed as new mom and seven pups got acquainted.

Zwei was 5th in the line-up, if I recall. An uneventful birth (thank goodness) and a pretty substantial puppy. They all were. Nice, juicy, squirmy babies.

Well, 8 weeks later, we are on the cusp of his arrival and permanent relocation into our home.

And I am no better prepared than any other new puppy owner.

Oh, I have the requisite containment for confining him when we are busy with other dogs and other commitments; an appropriately sized crate for indoors and an enclosed exercise area outdoors, the appropriate food bowl and toys, a comfy bed for him to lie on when he is with us and blissfully warmer weather for those 2 am potty breaks. A willing son (so far, we’ll see how long *that* lasts!) for the weekend duties and an ex pen to place just outside the back door for him to do his business in without having to chase his curious little butt all over the property should he decide to take a walkabout in the middle of the night.

These are just a few of the necessary things that will be employed from the minute you bring your new puppy home:

The type of puppy you get determines the type of grooming equipment you get, but should always include a good pair of nail clippers and at least a soft rubber curry to help with bathing. The rubberized curries lift dirt and massage skin without a whole lot of effort on your part. They are also great for dry-brushing a short-haired dog, like a Pointer, and for “pulling” dead undercoat for dogs that are coated like German Shepherds. It is a wonderful tool and they are designed to last, as long as they are not used as chew toys for your new puppy. They are soft and flexible, so the skin of a freshly minted puppy of any breed will not be damaged. They can be found almost anywhere, and most reliably at any quality feed store that carries products for horses. They come in a variety of sizes and textures, so there is one out there that is perfect for every puppy.

Zwei and his litter-mates have already experienced having their feet handled and their nails cut at least a few times throughout their short lives. It will be important for me to continue the practice of foot handling daily and nail cutting as frequently as necessary to keep his nails trimmed as they are soft and easily damaged. Not so soft that they will not damage the tender skin of my legs, the legs of my family or the legs of guests.

Daily foot handling and frequent nail clipping of your new puppy not only enables you to monitor foot health, but also prepares your dog for being handled in this manner. Whether your new puppy will need professional grooming or not, he will most certainly visit a vet at least once a year for the rest of his life. Preparing your pup for this will help him to learn that having his feet handled is not a trauma-inducing experience, and it will save you the embarrassment of being kicked out of your favorite grooming shop, or incurring the additional expense of having to sedate your pup every time you go to the vet.

If you have ever owned or heard of a dog that was so anxiety ridden at the vets that they needed sedation, (as a professional trainer, I see them all the time) it is easily prevented by daily handling and teaching your new puppy (when he is at an age where he is still physically small enough to manipulate without too much of a struggle) that being physically touched should be viewed as a “good thing”.

When Zwei (finally) arrives, we will demonstrate proper foot handling and nail trimming, as I am sure the little booger will need it pretty quickly! Puppies grow almost exponentially every week for the first 5 months of their lives, and that includes nails!

Of equal or even greater importance is food. What will I feed Zwei? Feeding puppies is hotly debated and a contentious argument. Depending on who you ask, some folks advocate for a primal diet, others for the convenience of a quality prepared (extruded) food. All I can advise is this: if his diet was adequate to keep him age-appropriately fit, in good flesh and in healthy coat, don’t change it if you don’t have to. A quality prepared puppy food should be sufficient. Be forewarned however, prepared feeds are being recalled frequently and you should at least research your choice of foods prior to feeding it to your new puppy.

I prefer and feed the Verus products, made locally with a small distribution. Verus manufacturers have not been pressured to develop a food with a long shelf-life, nor have they succumbed to pressure to distribute to a larger market. I have been feeding it for about 7 years and am quite happy with the results. If Verus is not available in your area, do a Google search for regionally prepared foods near you and you may discover an equivalent.

I do not adhere to the formulaic BS found on most dog food bags, and prefer to look at the pup himself to determine if I need to increase or restrict food to manage his weight. Your eyes and your hands are your best guide to the physical condition of your new puppy. Run your hands along his back. If you can feel his spine, all of his ribs and his hip bones, and if you can see these things when he is standing or moving, then increase his food intake by half. If his skin slides over his ribs and his spine and pelvic bones are covered but still easily felt, he is probably in good weight. If your pup has too much flesh, his ribs cannot be felt without pressing on his sides, his pelvis has ‘dimples’ above the iliac wings and he has an indentation that runs along his spine, it’s a good bet that he’s overweight. Reduce his overall intake by a third or cut a meal entirely if being fed more than twice a day, and feed the bulk of his meal at the period of the day when he will be most active. Obesity is a real concern in young dogs and the gateway to serious health problems later in life. When you look at your new puppy while standing above him, does he have an hourglass shape? If so, he’s in nice weight. If he looks like a tube, he’s probably a few pounds overweight.

I also feed a raw diet of meaty bones, and permit access to raw bones for pacifier toys to all my dogs, both in-training and my personal dogs alike. I have not had dentistry issues while engaging in this practice. Bones should come from as organic a source as possible, never cooked, and at least so big around that your new puppy cannot close his mouth around any portion of it. Beef bones are preferred, unless you have researched and are considering an RMB diet, then any appropriate bone is permissible.

Zwei eats three meals a day currently. Since I am self employed, adhering to this schedule will not be a problem. If I were employed outside the home, I would enlist a trusted friend or family member, perhaps a bonded, insured pet care-giver to attend to my pup midway through the day to help him adhere to his biological schedule and keep him on a successful track of housebreaking.

Certainly not last, but I have to consider the daily itinerary my new puppy will engage in. We are early risers and late-to-bedders but that doesn’t mean that your pup has to be too. Eventually, his schedule will align more with yours, but being a baby, he adheres to his own and will for quite some time. If you are or have ever been a parent to an infant, you know what I mean!

Have all of your support supplies prepared before your new puppy comes home, and make his arrival early enough in the day that you can spend a good portion of it with him as he gets used to the new environments and the new expectations. Puppies are pooping, peeing machines and frequent outings that first day, through the same doorway, to the same location, will help establish a routine that will make your housebreaking attempts much easier. Be sure to take him out frequently to a designated spot and encourage him to relieve himself. Do this before and after naps, before and after feedings, and every 1/2 hour to 40 minutes that your pup is “up” and active. The few days you spend getting to know each other this way will help prepare the both of you for the learning tasks ahead.

Keep an eye on your pup when you are together. Don’t let him wander about your home without supervision. Start guiding his choices right away and keep him close! There is no need to leash him up and tie him to you at this age, social attraction is still a very important feature in your puppy’s life and the abrupt removal from his dam and litter-mates will make you seem even more appealing.

Use his social nature to bond him to you. Spend time with your new pup and get to know him. He did not come with a handbook and most of the ones available are somewhat lacking in the day-to-day particulars that comprise the puppy experience. I hope that this guide will help fill in the blanks!