All Things Dog

The ten golden rules of puppy care

Owning a puppy can be a lot of fun and highly rewarding—however, there are a lot of responsibilities involved. Here, we've compiled a list of 'golden rules' to help remind you of some of the more important things you need to know about raising a puppy.

Rule 1: Training starts on day one

Since dogs aren't born fully trained, your puppy will be looking to you for guidance. Good training plays a big role in ensuring a happy and successful relationship between you and your dog. Through training, your dog will learn to understand what his human companions expect of him and be better equipped to fit into his environment. Likewise, the better you understand your dog's behavior, the more rewarding your relationship will be.

Rule 2: A puppy needs a balanced diet

What you feed your puppy really matters. In fact, he needs special nutrition with just the right amounts of protein, fats, minerals and vitamins. A puppy's diet must also be balanced so he receives the right amount of nutrients. Food should be concentrated to allow him to take in all the needed nutrients with a small amount of food. And always make sure your puppy gets plenty of fresh, clean water.

Rule 3: Keep your puppy well groomed

Start grooming your puppy at an early age. The earlier your dog gets to know the procedure, the more readily he will get used to it.

Rule 4: Puppies need regular dental care

Taking care of your puppy's teeth now will prevent a lot of problems later on in his life. In fact, the number one health problem for dogs, apart from being overweight, is periodontal disease. The accumulation of tartar and plaque and the resulting gingivitis can lead to more serious disease. So start brushing your puppy's teeth now, because most dogs over two years of age who haven't received regular dental care have these dental problems.

Rule 5: Exercise your puppy daily

Part of the normal routine for a healthy puppy is regular exercise. The amount your dog needs will depend not only on his size, but also on his breed. Don't make the mistake of over-exercising your puppy, however. A growing puppy's bones aren't yet strong enough to cope with the extra stress this puts on him.

Rule 6: Regular vet check ups

Ideally, you should choose a vet even before bringing your puppy home. Then, once your puppy is home, you should take him in to the vet within the next day or so for an overall check-up. In the first few months, there'll be several visits to the vet for various vaccinations and spaying/neutering. Once your pup reaches adulthood, at least one visit a year is required to ensure his ongoing good health.

Rule 7: Give your puppy home health checks

You can play a big role in keeping your puppy healthy by doing health check ups at home. Checking his weight, coat and skin, eyes and ears, teeth and gums, and doing spot checks can prevent little problems from turning into big ones.

Rule 8: Introduce your puppy to other dogs

One of the best ways to teach good canine manners is to allow your puppy to interact with an adult dog. Most adult dogs won't be aggressive toward a puppy though sometimes, a big dog will find a way to put a puppy in its place, perhaps with a growl or a snap. Don't prevent an adult dog from doing this, since puppies learn to limit the strength of their bite and how to control themselves. If you prevent an older dog from controlling a puppy, then the puppy soon learns to think of himself as the boss and that he can do anything he wants.

Rule 9: Reward good behavior

Positive reinforcement is a powerful way to make your puppy a well-behaved member of your family. Reward him with a treat or praise when he does what you tell him. This will encourage the repetition of good behavior and will increase the likelihood that he will repeat the desired behavior in the future.

Rule 10: Be patient

Raising a puppy requires a lot of love and even more patience. Educate yourself by reading as much as you can about raising a dog, talking to other dog owners and communicating with your vet. This will eliminate many "surprises" along the way, and will put you well on the path to building a strong, long-lasting relationship with your puppy.

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