Taking care of a new puppy is a big responsibility. It requires patience, time and lots of love. The decision to introduce a puppy to your life should not be taken lightly. Finding out in advance what kind of dog supplies you need, how to train your dog and how to take care of its health and emotional wellbeing in advance will help you decide if it is right for you. Deciding which type of dog will fit in with your home and lifestyle is equally important. Another consideration is where to find the dog of your dreams. At Vetopia, we are very pro dog adoption and urge anyone considering bringing a puppy home with them to first visit their local shelters. Giving a puppy or adult dog from a shelter a chance to live a full and happy life filled with love is extremely rewarding.

Pets are also a financial commitment; make sure you can support your dog’s needs by researching well ahead of taking in a new puppy. It’s not just a case of adding dog food to your grocery list. There are multiple other things to think about and shop for.

In sickness and in health

Once you have decided that a puppy is definitely right for you, start to find out about your local veterinarians. Make sure you find a good, registered vet who can provide all their vaccinations, microchip them, perform check-ups and treatment in case of sickness or injury. It is also very important to get good pet insurance. Make sure you choose a plan that gives adequate cover for serious health issues and surgeries. Nobody likes to think about health problems occurring in our furry friends but good treatment costs money and insurance can be the difference between you being able to give your puppy the best treatment or, sadly, being left with no options if you find yourself unable to afford it.

Food for thought
A huge part of keeping your puppy fit and healthy is choosing the right diet. Make sure you choose vet approved foods and treats. Be careful about what you give to your dog. Some foods that are fit for human consumption are deadly to dogs; the most famous being chocolate, but did you know that grapes can be toxic to our canine friends?

In fact, while there isn’t much wrong with the occasional treat, this leads us on to the next point. Obesity in pets is on the increase in Hong Kong. Monitor your puppy’s weight and how much he is eating to ensure that he is getting enough nutrition but not gaining more weight than he needs. It is quite normal for puppies to have a little tubby before a growth spurt but your vet can advise you if your pet is at risk of obesity. Obesity in dogs can create a whole host of other health problems, just as it can in us. It’s easily avoided by being mindful about the quality and quantity of food your puppy eats. Some dogs will eat as much as you put in front of them so don’t leave it up to him how much he needs in order to remain healthy and always consult your vet if in doubt. Also make sure the food you buy is age appropriate. Manufacturers include the nutrients needed for your dog at different life stages so make sure you read the labels and stick with puppy food until he is old enough to move up to adult food.

House training
House training your puppy requires lots of patience. Never punish a puppy for going to potty in a place you really didn’t want them to go. Doing so can mean your dog will be afraid to do his business in front of you. This is not nice for him and also means he will hide in places that are hard for you to reach and clean up! It’s also good for you to be able to see your dog’s stools so you can check for worms and other issues like diarrhea. Instead, make sure you take your puppy to where you’d like him to go regularly. It can take a long time for some dogs to learn this so be prepared with your cleaning products, best smile and patience for up to six months!

Instead of punishment, use praise. As soon as he goes when and where you want, give him a treat or lots of verbal and physical affection to let him know he did a great job. You can even train him to ‘go on command if you start to introduce a verbal command like ‘go potty’ as he is doing his business. For young pups, they will need to go in the night so it’s a good idea to get up and let him go once in the night as well as giving lots of opportunities throughout the day. It’s also a good routine to take him to the bathroom about 20-30 minutes after mealtimes. While a younger puppy might need to go every few hours, an adult may be able to hold it for around six hours. Don’t leave your dog holding on for too long once he is trained as he can get urinary problems and kidney problems if he not able to go when he needs to.

Teach obedience    
Ensuring you can stop your dog from doing something that could endanger himself or others is crucial but training can also be fun for you and your dog. It takes time and patience to teach obedience, just like bathroom training, but commands like ‘stop’, ‘stay’, ‘sit’ and good leash training will make both your life and his much easier in the long run.
Use positive reinforcement in the form of a favorite treat, verbal praise and physical affection to tell your dog when he has done something right. Be consistent with your commands and take training one step at a time. You’ll be surprised how quickly some dogs will learn to sit when food is involved! If you are struggling with any part of obedience training, consider working with a dog trainer. They will help to teach you how to teach your dog. Make sure you go to a reputable trainer who will use kind and ethical methods. You can find a list of trusted resources for Hong Kong dog trainers here.

Socialize your puppy
Dogs, like humans, are social animals. They like to interact, play and get to know other dogs and people. However, without being given the right opportunities to socialize, they can develop behavioral issues. It’s best to get your puppy interacting with other dogs and people from a young age so that they know how to greet and socialize in an appropriate manner early on. Again, just like people, some dogs are naturally more shy or more gregarious than others so get to know what your dog needs for a healthy social life.

When introducing your puppy to new dogs, ensuring their safety is of utmost importance. Keeping both dogs on a leash can help you stay in control of the situation. Remember that a doggy handshake is a bottom sniff though so they will need to be able to reach each other to say hello properly. There are lots of resources online to check for signs of aggression in dogs. They use body language as a huge part of their vocabulary so get to know the body shapes and positions before making new introductions and you can stop any trouble before it starts. Seeing your dog run and play with other dogs is one of life’s great pleasures so it is worth investing a little time into integrating them into doggy society and etiquette.