Updated: May 3
Our must haves for bringing your bundle of cuteness home...
Nothing is more exciting than bringing home that new bundle of puppy-cuteness!
Our resident canine behaviourist and animal nutritionist, Megan, has compiled a list of things and tips that are super important for preparing your home and space and lives for your new puppy.
We know the butterflies that flutter about in your tummy, and sometimes the feeling of being overwhelmed and a little frazzled at what to do and get for your new arrival.
(I am feeling it too! My bundle of cuteness arrives on Thursday 6th May – EEEEK!)
Through trial and error, a little research and common sense, we have narrowed it down to a solid list of things you need so we have tackled it by category for you!
By the point of bringing your pup home, you would have done detailed research on the breed (if you opt for a breeder pup or you would have questioned the shelter on your pups’ parents and history, if you opt to adopt!) and this will have given you a really good idea on what your pup’s breed requires.
Let us start easy – DIET!
Diet is huge.
It shapes the way your puppy develops, their overall condition (externally and internally) and their steady but on-par growth patterns.
Investing into a good puppy food should be one of your main priorities. Make sure you research and ask all the questions when purchasing a brand – and stick to it!
Popular vet recommended brands of dry food would be Acana, Orijen, Royal Canin or Hills.
Now being an animal nutritionist too, I am very pro-raw feeding.
There are so many pros to this, healthy and steady development, organic pH levels in the tummy and gut, great skin and coat, less risks of cardiovascular disease and obesity etc etc, with cons really only being that you need freezer space and no fear of blood! The list could go on.
Make sure that if you feed raw food, that it is DAFF registered. Don’t be afraid to ask your supplier for the registration number and production process – they will be happy to share it with you!
Regardless of what you opt for, dry vs raw, be sure you are feeding the best option that you can afford for those first 12 – 24 months of your puppies’ development.
This allows for your pooch to have a great, solid foundation for betterment. Don’t cut corners during puppyhood!
Good dry foods contain added minerals, vitamins, and single-source proteins. A bonus is if they have Inulin or Psyllium Husk in it – these ingredients help support a healthy gut and encourage thorough absorption of nutrients! Raw food has a whole lot more than dry food and contains a host of healthy goodness.
Mental stimulation and enrichment
Pups need mental stimulation and enrichment? Aren’t teddies and balls enough?
I often joke and say that puppies are like goldfish – they can’t focus on one task for very long but know exactly when it’s time to eat!
While your pup is still young and developing and receiving those very important and not-negotiable vaccines, you really can’t take Fido on that long walk you really want to do. Puppies are super limited with the amount of rigorous exercise that they can do. Rule of thumb is 5-minutes per month they are old.
i.e – 4-month-old puppy gets 20 minutes “rigorous” exercise.
But now what? What do we do with the rest of the day and what do we do on rainy days?
Invest in toys that keep their busy minds active!
A favourite of mine is Snuffle Mats. These are particularly exciting for your puppy if they are food motivated and love to “hunt” and sniff edible things out.
(here is a link to an awesome woman-owned small business that makes enrichment toys for your beloved pooch or feline - https://www.facebook.com/snufflingtazz)
[Image of ordered items from Natasha, genius and owner of Snuffling Tazz Enrichment toys]
Another favourite, is a Kong heavy duty stuffable toy. You can stuff it with lean, non-fatty things and treats, partially freeze to slightly solidify it, and then give it to your pup. They need to try and figure out how to get the yummy goodness out of there and this can keep them entertained for some time.
Another good option is a lick-mat. These are also great if you feed raw and want to make food time stimulating and exciting. This also aids in getting your pup to eat slower and not gorge on their food. It is also great to smear some paste and treats on and let your puppy lick it off!
Don’t be afraid to make your own mixes – once of my dogs’ favourite’s is frozen banana, plain Greek yoghurt and blueberries. Bonus is that the combo is full of pro-biotics, antioxidants and minerals!
Toys that are single play (like chew toys and teddies) are great to have at your disposal, but enrichment toys are great activities for your puppy and really does create a fun way of learning and encouraging their need to hunt, smell and eat (treats)!
Omg – you keep your dog in a cage? Why? That’s cruel!
No, we do not keep dogs in cages, but crate training is incredibly beneficial to your puppy and adult dog’s well-being.
A crate is a great tool for you should you need to step out and do not want your puppy to cause havoc in your home or be at-risk outdoors and unsupervised. It is also great if they are already comfortable in a crate should they need surgery and cage rest (sometimes 6 – 8 weeks post-op) or need to stay the day at your local vet.
A crate should never be punishment, but a space your pup has easy access to during the day and night while you are home. This also gives them confidence in your home, and they feel secure having a safe space.
My Greyhound, that passed at the end of 2020, had a rare genetic pain disorder, and struggled to walk and move about for extended periods of time despite receiving medical treatment. He loved his crate and would be in it for long periods of time. It was his safe space and he thrived in it. It was a great tool to have towards the end of his time here with us.
When he was healthy, the crate was always up for him and he often took his snacks in there to eat, and toys went in there with him. Some nights he chose to sleep in there too, instead of with us.
But I train my dog at home – that is enough, isn’t it?
My puppy plays with my dog at home, it is already social!
Unfortunately not, sorry!
Puppy classes aren’t only about learning leash skills, how to sit and how to settle down – it is more than that. It is teaching your puppy social skills (how to approach, behave and safely interact with other puppies and dogs and humans) and desensitizing them to an array of stimuli.
Most puppy classes have activities before class, like a pool shell filled with balls, different challenges for your pup and different sensory tasks. Puppy class also has social time. This helps your puppy learn "dog" skills.
Be sure you opt for a trainer that makes use of positive reinforcement (treats, praise, encouragement) as this is scientifically proven to help puppies and adult dogs adapt and enjoy their lessons more!
Puppies should be in puppy school between the ages of 10 and 16 weeks. This is where they learn their social skills and learn not to be fearful of pretty normal things.
Fun fact – most reactive and “problem” adult dogs were not adequately socialized or taught how to cope in different situations as a puppy during those critical few weeks! It is also a not-negotiable when getting your new puppy!
They need their first two or three vaccines to join a class. Waiting for their last vaccine is waiting too long and then they are juveniles with less-than-ideal habits!
Medical treatment and pet health insurance
This is a big one!
Like with your human child who needs a doctor often, your new addition is going to need regular vet checks throughout it’s life. If you are on the unluckier side, your pooch may need to see a specialist and get tests done one day. These are expensive – there is no sugar coating this.
The most common procedures in South Africa for dogs, is cruciate ligament repairs and IVDD (Intervertebral disc disease) repair. Some dogs are genetically predisposed (Dachshund dogs are high risk for IVDD) to this and will need to be catered for should this arise in their lifetime.
Both of these surgeries need a specialist, and those bills can easily come to R25 000.00 for the procedure, hospitalization and medication to minimise pain levels. These procedures also need the patient to be crated (wink wink, see here?) for post-operative recovery.
Obesity is a big cause for this too! A lean dog is favourable and healthier – they should definitely tuck in below the ribs (hour-glass shape) and have a thin fat layer around their body.
You should be able to feel their ribs when running your hands over them and not pressing hard to find them – not see them, feel them.
Most medical pet insurance premium plans pay a large portion of this! It is definitely something you, as a pet-parent, should look at.
My herd, as I lovingly call them, are insured, and it has saved us many a time from huge bills. There are excesses, but you can save for these as well.
Medical care also includes those very important vaccines at 8, 12, 16 weeks of age. These are not-negotiable.
In South Africa, we are rife with Canine Parvovirus which can be fatal if not caught soon enough. Vaccinating and parasite treating your puppy on-time, should be one of your top priorities (if not THE TOP PRIORITY) when adding your new addition. Make sure your current pets at home are up to date as well, before bringing in your much more fragile puppy.
Other general items that are great to have before your pup arrives home are;
- Steel or ceramic food bowls. Plastic bowls get scratched over time and can store bacteria. Stainless steel or ceramic bowls can be sterilized and cleaned well.
- Training pads for those stubborn little ones that are “going” inside the house. Also great for a base in your puppies’ crate for easy mess cleanup from treats, wees and anything else.
We always recommend the 20-minute rule and suggest you go for a potty run outside on the grass after every nap, meal, play time or every 20 - 30 minutes. These little bladders will not be strong enough to hold anything properly until 4 - 6 months of age, but even then - you need to ensure there is frequent potty breaks.
- Small and bite sized treats for training.
- Comfortable and washable pet collar and lead. Be sure that if you are getting a dog with a longer neck, that you opt for a Martingale collar as this does not put as much pressure on their necks internally.
(here is a link for another woman-owned small business that caters specifically to Sighthounds and dogs with their body shapes https://www.facebook.com/millamoopets/)
This collar was made with love by Dalaine, owner and genius behind Milla Moo Pet Couture.
- Really comfy and supportive beds. This is very important so that your pooch gets sufficient joint support. Beds that deflate quickly, are not ideal! Wagworld makes great K9 castles that are durable and waterproof.
- Lots of toys that you are okay if they get broken. Be sure to rotate them and not over all the toys at once, so that your pup does not get overwhelmed for choice. Pick up and discard any plastic toys that are broken or breaking. Ingestion of these pieces are not good!
There is more that can go on here, but these are super important!
Remember – enjoy puppyhood! It is frustrating at times but oh-so-rewarding! Puppies bring life to your home and it is one fun ride. It flies by faster than you want it to.
Hugs and rubs,
(here is a bonus, cute little snap of Isla, my little pocket-rocket that arrives on Thursday 6th May 2021!)