Puppies… and steep learning curves!

It’s been a busy few months in our household since the arrival of Albus but we couldn’t be happier – we just love him! In saying that, getting a new puppy has been a big commitment and a steep learning curve… even for me. So, I thought I’d share a few lessons learned and some tips and tricks for all the new puppy owners out there as well as those thinking about adding a furry friend to their family.

Socialising your pup is one of my most important pieces of advice. Getting your pup to learn to interact with other dogs is critical for their social development and the key time for this is during the first 16 weeks of life. It can however prove tricky if your puppy hasn’t had all their vaccinations so the best way to do it is attending a puppy preschool. Albus loved his preschool and although we did get moved to a different class (he was a little too rambunctious for the smaller breeds) my husband and I saw a big difference in him from start to finish. We were very proud parents on graduation day and happy to say Albus is the life of the party in the dog park!

It goes without saying that feeding your pup a good quality food gives them the best start in life. Ensuring the food is for puppies (not adults) is essential as this will provide them with enough energy to grow as well as ensuring the correct calcium and phosphorous ratio for proper bone development. Just like babies, puppies need multiple meals a day. Once they reach 5-6months old you can reduce to twice-daily meals. We have just transitioned Albus off his lunchtime meal and while he is slowly getting used to the idea, he has been looking longingly at his bowl hoping his favourite K9 Natural will magically appear at lunchtime!

The adage you reap what you sow couldn’t be truer when it comes to dogs! The training and rules you instill in your puppy will greatly determine their adult behaviour. Some are easy, such as our rule of no dog in the bed (I may have had a slight slip up on night one!). Others take more perseverance and persuasion (of the treat variety), such as no jumping, leaving the park when called, and not stealing food – all of which we are still firmly working on. It is also important puppies get used to being left on their own. Whilst initially it shouldn’t be for more than a few hours, as they get older it is fine to leave them and important to do so. Even if you can take your dog to work everyday I would advise against it as it can lead to separation anxiety when they are left alone. We were acutely aware of this with Albus, particularly because Vizslas can be prone to anxiety disorders. It was difficult at first but with a bit of perseverance and some very understanding neighbours, Albus can now happily spend a whole day at home alone getting up to doggie mischief!

Finally, I can’t stress enough the importance of stimulating your puppy. This means having lots of toys, games and chews at their disposal as well as exercise! Albus loves chewing his goat horn or deer antler and chasing squeaky balls in the backyard, not to mention the 2 hours of park time he gets a day. He is a particularly active breed and not all puppies need that much exercise but remember – a bored puppy is a destructive puppy! We have been pretty lucky with a current tally of destruction of 2 dog beds, 3 leads and 2 harnesses. While I might add this has all been under my husband’s supervision, I’ll take that over a chewed couch any day of the week.

By Dr. Josie Gollan