6 Frequently Asked Questions about Puppies

Puppies are one of the cutest things you’ll ever see—but they’re not easy to take care of.

When I brought home my youngest dog, Bones, as a ten week old puppy it had been nine years since I’d had a baby puppy. I had rescued two dogs in between my oldest dog and Bones but they had not been young puppies. Even though I teach puppy training classes every week for puppies and their owners and have written several books on raising puppies, I was a little concerned. Puppies are cute, smell of puppy breath, and make you just want to squeeze them, but they’re also a lot of work. There is so much work involved with raising a puppy but thankfully, Bones was an awesome puppy and we both survived his puppyhood. You can survive your puppy’s youth, too.

What Age is Best to Bring Home a Puppy?

Ten weeks of age is the best both physically and mentally to bring home a new puppy. At this age he’s past weaning, should be eating well and may have been introduced to a crate and housetraining skills. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, his mother and littermates have had plenty of time to teach him how to be a puppy; including how hard (or more importantly, how easy) to bite while playing.

Many people like to bring a puppy home at eight weeks old, but the puppy might still be tiny (depending on the breed) and it’s not unusual for puppies to be frightened of new things at eight weeks of age. The ride home in the car can be traumatic, as can the trip to the vet, and even your house. By ten weeks the puppy is usually past this fear period.

The breeders of toy or small breed puppies often like to keep their puppies until twelve weeks of age as these puppies are very fragile.

Never bring home a puppy less than eight weeks of age. Many behavior problems are associated with a puppy leaving the mother and littermates too young. These can include biting, inability to accept rules and guidelines, a bad temper, and a number of other issues that make living with that dog difficult and sometimes even dangerous.

Why Do I Need to Puppy Proof My House?

Many puppy owners have asked me this question, usually adding, “It’s my house and my stuff and I want my puppy to respect my stuff so why should I put everything away?” I certainly understand the desire to have your dog respect your belongings and as your puppy grows up he can be taught that. Puppies under six to seven months of age, however, have the attention span of a gnat, are curious about everything, and put everything that can fit in their mouth, into it. And they chew, oh my do they chew.

A puppy needs to be treated like a young human; he needs to be supervised, prevented from getting into trouble, and then as he grows up he can then be taught what is his and what isn’t. Puppy proofing the house (or the areas where he has access) is the easiest way to prevent him from chewing on your stuff.

How Soon Should My Puppy go see the Veterinarian?

Most reputable breeders will have in their contract a clause that asks you to take your puppy to the vet within a certain period of time; 48 hours is common. Many rescue groups and shelters will have a similar clause in their adoption contract.

This is always a good idea as your vet will examine your puppy, identify any problems if there are any, and look at the health paperwork you have on your puppy that shows what has been done to him prior to your bringing him home. A schedule can then be drawn up for worming your puppy and for future vaccinations.

When Can I Start Training My Puppy?

Most dog trainers have a kindergarten type puppy class that introduces the puppy to basic obedience exercises while teaching the owner how to train this adorable little thing. These classes also include time for socialization and discussions about problem prevention and solving. Most trainers allow puppies to begin after receiving two sets of vaccinations but call trainers in your area for their requirements.

Meanwhile, everything you do with your puppy teaches him something. Show him what you want him to do and when he does it, say a word to represent that action, and reward him for doing it. Prevent him from getting into trouble as much as possible and if he does, figure out how you can prevent him from doing the same thing again.

How Can I get Rid of Urine Spots?

Puppies generally learn housetraining skills quite well once they understand what you want but there will still be a few accidents. It’s important to get rid of all of the urine and urine smell otherwise your puppy will continue to go to that spot over and over again.

Blot up all the urine you can, to the point of stepping on a wad of paper towels placed over the wet spot on the carpet. Repeat until you have as much of the urine soaked up as you can. Then using either white vinegar or an enzyme cleaner made specifically for urine, soak the area well, and then blot again. Make sure you soak the carpet beyond the edges that were wet from the urine. When blotting, get up as much of the cleaner and vinegar as you can as you will also get any remaining urine at the same time. Then spray a light application of the vinegar or cleaner and let it dry.

If this is a spot that has been used by your puppy several times, repeat this but really soak the spot well with the vinegar or cleaner, making sure there is enough vinegar or cleaner to get into the carpet pad underneath the carpet. Let it sit for fifteen minutes or so and blot it up again.

Can my Puppy be Left Alone?

I love to spend time with my dogs and especially a puppy when I have one in the house. I cuddle with them, brush and groom them, do some training, encourage them to hang out with me in the house and out in the yard, and walk them. I also take them for rides in the car, go camping, and a whole host of other activities, which also includes playing with them. However, I also want my dogs to be able to spend time alone without being worried, frightened, or anxious so at times my dogs are also left alone.

So with your puppy, spend time with him and do a variety of things, sometimes focusing on him, sometimes just letting him hang out with you, and even leaving him alone in a safe place. Give him a toy to play with by himself (such a a food dispensing toy). Then at other times, actively play with him, throwing a toy, hiding a treat and encouraging him to find it, or playing hide and seek outside.

You’ll have to find a balance that works for you and your puppy, and all the other aspects of your life.

Meet the Author: Liz Palika

Liz Palika is a Certified Dog Trainer, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant, and the co-owner of Kindred Spirits Dog Training in Vista, CA. Liz is also an award-winning author and writer specializing in pets. She writes about cats, cat behavior and health, dogs, dog behavior and health, living with pets, and pet nutrition. Liz’s works have been recognized with many awards, but her most recent book, “Idiot’s Guides: Dog Training” (Penguin Books, 2014) recently won the Best Nonfiction book category in the San Diego Book Writing competition. Liz shares her home with two dogs; Bashir, an Australian Shepherd, and Bones, an English Shepherd. Three cats, Spock, Scottie, and Kirk, provide motivation for her articles about cats. And yes, she is a Star Trek fan. For more information go to www.kindredspiritsk9.com.

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