By Dr. Norette L. Underwood
We love our dogs like we love our children, so of course many of us remember our puppies’ “firsts.” Their first toy, the first time they responded to their name, the first time they “went” outside…all have a place in our hearts.
Puppies don’t stay puppies for long, but in their short time as the little bundles of joy we fell in love with, they experience many changes. For this reason, a puppy’s first few months with you will build the foundation of their health and behavior throughout their lives.
It pays to be prepared for these many important firsts. Are you? Here are some firsts you and your puppy will probably experience and my recommendations for how to deal with them.
First teeth: Your puppy will inevitably experience teething as their adult teeth develop. This process makes their gums hurt and makes them want to bite and chew to relieve the pain. To help your puppy during his teething process, provide him with a suitable toy to chew on. If you want to encourage your puppy to chew on this toy, you can smear a tiny bit of peanut butter on it. If the weather is warm enough, you can also provide ice or crushed ice for your puppy to chew on once in a while. The hard surface is great for crunching on, and the cold will numb the puppy’s gums, easing the discomfort temporarily.
First biting: With teething often comes hand biting! Puppies may also bite to play or to get your attention. The very first few times that your puppy bites you, no matter how lightly or playfully he does it, it’s important to react correctly. If a puppy is not deterred from biting when he’s young it becomes more difficult to prevent biting as he gets older. When a puppy bites you, try discouraging the behavior by yelping loudly and withdraw – which is how the puppy’s siblings would react to let the puppy know if he bit too hard during playtime. If your puppy does not stop biting, stop playing with him immediately and do not pay attention to him for several minutes. This teaches him that biting means “playtime is over,” and no puppy wants that!
First learned command: You want your puppy to be well-behaved, so you should begin training as soon as possible. But which command to teach first? “Sit” and “down” are two of the easiest commands to teach and they are good to learn. However, I also recommend that everyone teach their puppy the commands “come” and “stay” before that. These two commands can be important for your puppy’s safety. If your puppy were to get away from you, you need to be able to call him to you or tell him to stay and wait where he is so you can retrieve him safely.
First food: What do you feed your puppy? The right food will make all the difference in your puppy’s health and well-being because it paves the way for a healthy, happy life. It should be food made specifically for puppies (adult dogs need a different set of nutrients and minerals.
I hope some of these tips help you and your puppy – especially if a puppy is a first for you. Give your puppy the right start and your puppy will grow up healthy, strong, and happy.
If you have questions about raising your new puppy contact Dr. Norette L. Underwood of the Trumann Animal Clinic and Best Friends Vet Mobile at firstname.lastname@example.org