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February 2024

Caring For Your Puppy: Must-Know Tips On Raising A Healthy Pup

Puppy Care

Thinking about adding a new member to your family? Or maybe you’ve already rescued the puppy of your dreams? Either way, caring for your new puppy takes a lot of time, patience and it’s far more strategic than common sense.

You’ll find there are lots of guides, checklists and articles to help you through your puppy journey. This includes everything from puppy socialisation tips, to how often you should feed your puppy – it’s all out there. These tips are just some healthy reminders for when you may feel like cutting some corners.

**1. Puppy socialisation

  1. Teaching your puppy to be alone

  2. Mental stimulation for your puppy

  3. Puppy feeding routines and guide

  4. Puppy obedience training**

Puppy Socialisation Doesn’T Just Happen

Most people have heard the term ‘puppy socialisation’, but do we really know how important it is? It also doesn’t just happen with good luck and a couple of puppy dates. It’s an essential part of caring for your puppy.

Puppy socialisation is something which dictates how your puppy will react and interact in all situations for the rest of their life.

“People don’t always think about everything they should be exposing their puppy to when it comes to socialisation. It’s not just about meeting other dogs and people, it is about ensuring they are introduced in a positive way to all people, animals and environments,” says Lara Shannon, Pooches at Play Host and Dog Behaviourist.

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Socialisation basics
As mentioned above, puppy socialisation isn’t just getting to know other dogs; puppy socialisation includes a variety of situations and interactions:

  • Puppies and dogs of all different shapes and sizes
  • People and children of different ages, backgrounds, demeanour and voices
  • Various environments: the beach, walking tracks, offices, different surfaces
  • Situations: groups of people, groups of dogs, one of one with other dogs
Hot Tip

Get your puppy familiar with fireworks and thunderstorms by associating these sounds with enjoyment, whether that be a game, treats or a cuddle. You can do this by playing a music track with these sounds, while giving your puppy something enjoyable to do. Just remember to start the track on low, and gradually build up that sound during your sessions.

One of the best ways of ticking off your puppy socialisation basics is to enrol in puppy school. A trained professional will be able to guide you through a safe, calm process, leaving you with the right tools to continue an ongoing program.

Petstock Puppy School

What to get your best mate started on the right paw? Head to our Puppy School page to find out more

Enroll Now

Teaching Your Puppy To Be Alone Can Prevent Long-Term Issues

Puppies love attention and have lots of energy, which can’t always be provided by their owners throughout the entirety of the day. Despite the guilt of leaving a puppy alone, it’s essential to their wellbeing. Early on, your puppy needs to learn how to be happy and content when you’re not around – which can help prevent them from developing anxiety, or more specifically, separation anxiety.

Teaching your puppy to be alone is otherwise known as independence training and essential when caring for your puppy. You really need to spend quality time on this training to get it right, and to ensure your puppy is in the right mindset every time you leave them alone.

“Independence training is really important at all stages of a dog’s life to build their confidence and comfort in being alone,” says Lara.

Lara’s independence training tips

  • Make sure your puppy has its own safe space where they can feel safe and secure.
  • Even if you’re at home all day, create frequent separations from your dog, about three to five times a day.
  • Crate training is often one the of best ways to successfully undertake independence training.
  • Always try and provide your puppy with things to do when you’re not around, like interactive toys and safe long-lasting treats – they might even look forward to these!
  • Keep your arrivals and departures calm. After every separation, walk inside and ignore any excited jumping or barking, or any other attention-seeking behaviour. Once they’re calm, you can greet them warmly.
  • Desensitising your dog to your departure is also effective. You can change the order of your departure and normalise some of the sounds of associated with your departure. A rattling of keys is one of those sounds you can replicate without the ‘leaving’ part.
    Be mindful that you should never yell or punish your puppy for crying out if they’re alone, as they are trying to communicate with you, and they shouldn’t become scared because of this. The same goes for any destructive behaviour.

Mental Stimulation For Puppies Helps Them, And You

Another key to caring for puppy is providing the right type and level of mental stimulation. Like humans, and any social beings, puppies need this enrichment to keep them happy and healthy. Not only do puppies feed off the mental stimulation of social interactions, but they also learn and expend energy doing so. So, leaving your puppy to find their own version of fun won’t work out for them, and definitely not for you.

“It’s important not to over walk your puppy while their bones and joints are still developing. So, to help them expel any excess energy, you should incorporate a mix of physical games and mental enrichment,” says Lara.

Activities for puppy mental stimulation and enrichment

  • Treat dispensing or interactive toys will keep their brain ticking.
  • A treat treasure hunt using their kibble as their treasure.
  • Hide and seek with your puppy where they are held by someone else, then let free to find you.

How to run a treat treasure hunt

Step 1 For the first couple of times have your dog sit and wait, or restrained on leash, but let them watch as their treats are hidden around the room.

Step 2 Release your dog from their sit or leash and, when they target in on a treat, you indicate they are correct by saying ‘yes’ or using a clicker, which is then followed by the reward which is the treat itself. (By saying ‘yes’ or using the clicker as a training tool your dog learns this is a marker word or sound for the exact moment they have performed the right action). Once they are reliably doing this, you can say ‘find your treats’ so you are working in some obedience training techniques too.

Step 3 Some dogs are quicker than others, so if your dog is a little unsure about what to do, you could gently lead or direct them over to where the treat is hidden to help.

Step 4 After you are confident that your dog understands what ‘find your treats’ means you can start making it a bit more challenging. Have them stay in another room when you hide the treats.

Step 5 As they get better at the game you can then start to hide them in places that really require them to use their nose, such as under a rug or even an object like a paper cup.

“Playing brain games like a treat treasure hunt with your dog’s treats or kibble engages them mentally and physically. It taps into their natural scenting skills, which also makes them feel good,” says Lara.

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Mental stimulation for puppies is not only beneficial for them, but it can also be a great source of fun for you too. Who can resist the cute pleasure of a puppy’s excitement when they find you after you’ve hidden? Absolutely no one.

Puppy Feeding Routines Are More Crucial Than You Think

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A puppy feeding guide or advice is one of the first things you research before getting a puppy, or maybe you’ve just picked up your puppy and trying to figure it out now? Well, you’ll need to know the types of food to feed a puppy, how often to feed a puppy and when – all found in puppy feeding guides provided by vets.

What’s not always emphasised, is the importance of the routine and schedule itself. Just like babies, puppies have a small stomach, so they can’t ingest all their calories or nutrients in one sitting, they need several meals throughout the day. Plus, having their feeding times on a specific schedule will help them feel content.

“Although our dogs may welcome new smells and tastes into their food bowl, dogs are fundamentally creatures of routine and habit. They need a consistent routine, a diet that provides their daily nutritional needs and is ideally delivered in a format that appeals to their individual preferences and can be digested easily,” says Lara.

Puppy Training Will Dictate Future Behaviour

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Training is not just important for a puppy’s early years, it often sets them up for success into the future – in behaviour, development and happiness. Plus, it’s a key part of caring for your puppy.

You should begin obedience training as soon as your puppy enters your home, as those first 16 weeks of their life are crucial in their development. Remember, everything they learn during this time, good or bad, is retained for life - unless you’re willing to work a lot harder later on, which isn’t ideal. Set them up to win as early as possible.

Your first few weeks of puppy training should look a bit like this…

PETstock Puppy Pre-School Basics

Week 1

  • Bridge/marker and release word
  • Focus, sit and recall
  • Toilet training, socialisation and nutrition

Week 2 - 3

  • Mat training
  • Sit for a pat
  • Loose lead walking
  • Sit, down and stay
  • Social interaction

Week 4 - 5

  • Stand exercise
  • Sit and wait for food exercise
  • Graduation

If you’re looking for some visual references on some of these key puppy training exercises, take a look at one of our At Home With PETstock videos.

You can watch Claudia and Archie take on more of these key puppy training exercises via our IGTV channel.

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Petstock Puppy School

What to get your best mate started on the right paw? Head to our Puppy School page to find out more

Enroll Now

If you’re still searching for the right place to adopt a new puppy, consider local rescue organisations or getting in contact with RSPCA Australia, Second Chance Animal Rescue or PetRescue.

Various sizes available