A new puppy in the home is very exciting and there are lots of things to think about:
Microchip identification and registration
In most European countries this is a legal requirement, as all dogs must have a Pet passport. In the UK at the present time there is no mandatory registration. However, permanent identification with a microchip is strongly recommended. Read more about microchips.
Your puppy should have had his primary vaccinations. The specific protocols vary, but this is usually completed before 12 weeks of age. Rabies vaccination may be mandatory in some countries.
If you are acquiring or buying a new puppy, be sure to find out the previous vaccine history and check the appropriate certificates. Puppies from dealers or puppy farms may not have been vaccinated though may have some papers purporting to show this. For peace of mind it is better to go to a registered breeder or good quality rescue centre.
So-called “Homeopathic vaccines” do not provide protection and so you should regard the dog as not vaccinated.
There are a range of worms that can affect your dog, and it is important for your dog’s well-being as well as the health of your family that you use an effective worming programme. Generally worming puppies should commence at 2 weeks of age and be repeated every 2 weeks till 12 weeks of age. There is a range of effective products available, but sadly there are also ineffective ones on the market. Check with your veterinarian for the best advice.
Flea / parasite control
There are a number of parasites than can affect your dog, and some can also affect your family members. Fortunately, there are some effective products available though not all control the same spectrum of parasites. Some are used against worms as well as skin parasites. To avoid unnecessary duplication, it is important you have a comprehensive parasite control programme. Your veterinarian will advise.
Lactation and Weaning
It is likely that these stages are over by the time you take on your new puppy. However, it is important to know how this was done. In the first few days of life the puppies receive some special enriched milk from the bitch called colostrum. This contains maternal antibodies that will give the puppy protection during the first couple of months of life. If this did not happen and the puppy did not get it’s share of colostrum, it will be susceptible to a range of diseases and the primary vaccinations may need to start earlier than normal.
Weaning is the process whereby the puppy’s nutritional needs are changed from being totally reliant on the bitch to being independent. This is generally done gradually over a period of time so the puppy’s digestion can adapt more easily. Abrupt changes may lead to digestive problems.
A range of suitable options are available to you when feeding your dog. Follow the link to the nutrition section to find out more. Puppies are growing rapidly and so require a different balance of nutrients than adult dogs. This is allowed for in the formulation of the commercial puppy stage diets.
If you have acquired a dog from a registered breeder they will usually provide you with a written diet sheet. It is normally best to continue with this initially to avoid the puppy having to cope with too many changes at once. By about 8 weeks of age, a puppy is normally fed 4 meals per day. This generally is reduced to 3 larger meals per day by 12 weeks of age.
This is very important and is considered in more detail in the me and my puppy section. The early environment of the puppy is very important for its normal development. This is best where the whole litter are raised together with the bitch, ideally in a home environment. This is unlikely to have been provided to puppies from puppy farms and so these are best avoided.
A critical period for socialisation is between 3 – 13 weeks of age, and it is good to expose them to many novel experiences during this time. This appears to conflict with the desire to achieve absolute immunity before the puppy ventures out. A compromise is often possible and your veterinarian will be able to advise. Some veterinary practices organise puppy parties to facilitate this.
Grooming and coat care
Some general care procedures such as grooming, cleaning ears and eyes, checking teeth or looking between the toes can be resented if painful. Repeating the procedure may then become problematic. It is therefore good if you get the puppy used to examining these areas while there is no problem – make it a game!
Pet insurance is worth considering at an early stage when you acquire a new puppy. There are many companies in competition and clearly will offer different packages to give attractive premiums. In general (though not always) the higher the premium, the better the service.
Cheaper premiums may be achieved by limiting the scope of conditions covered or putting a cap on the amount paid out per year or per condition. This does not make them bad – simply that you must understand what you are getting and weigh up the risks and benefits. Find a policy that best suits you circumstances.