Welcoming a fluffy puppy or kitten into your home is a wonderful moment. Then, nighttime rolls around, and you wonder what you were thinking. Crazy antics in the middle of the night, pitch-black potty breaks, and howling when confined can leave you second-guessing your decision to add to your family. But, if you properly train your new bundle of joy, she’ll be a wonderful new family member in no time. Learn what to expect in your pet’s first year of life and how to build the best foundation for a happy, healthy companion.
- Socialization — Socialization is perhaps the most important aspect of raising a well-adjusted, friendly, confident pet. While socialization is often thought of as a brief process during kitten or puppyhood, it involves much more than simply introducing your pet to new people and animals. Proper socialization requires forming positive connections with unfamiliar surroundings, living things, and objects. For puppies, the socialization period begins at about 3 weeks of age and lasts until about 12 to 14 weeks of age. Kittens have a much shorter socialization period—from 2 to 7 weeks of age. The object of socialization is to convince your pet that the world is interesting and rewarding and to build her confidence in unfamiliar situations. One thing to remember: Ensure any socialization activity is always positive, whether it’s with a new person, pet, location, object, sound, or interaction.
- House training — This is critical to preserve the bond with your new furry companion. Kittens are exceptionally quick to learn proper litter-box habits, while puppies are a bit slower when it comes to elimination location. The key to quick house training is constant supervision or confinement with prompt rewards. If you can’t keep an eye on your pet, confine her to her crate or a small room with a puppy pad, if you choose to use pads in the early training stages, or a litter box. Small areas help your pet learn to eliminate in the offered space, and avoid her having to sit in a mess. With puppies, consistency is key. Use the same door to go outside, go to the same spot, use the same cue, and praise her immediately when she eliminates. Keep in mind that puppies and kittens often have to eliminate when their activities change—when they wake up, after they’ve eaten, and when they have finished playing. With consistency, close supervision, and prompt rewards, your pet will be house trained in no time.
- Puppy or kitten classes — If set up correctly, puppy or kitten classes are an excellent way to socialize your new pet. When choosing a class, look for the following criteria:
- Positive-reinforcement training techniques are used.
- Puppies or kittens are grouped together by age.
- Classes are run by a professional dog trainer, veterinary team member, or behaviorist.
- Age-appropriate vaccinations are required.
- The facility is clean.
A well-run puppy or kitten class exposes your pet to a host of new situations, people, animals, and handling in a positive manner, and provides a strong base for a confident pet.
- Manners — Young pets must learn their manners for pet and human interactions. Without them, your young dog may jump on you, bite when playing, or lack social skills. Young cats may play with unsheathed claws, bite too hard, or act aggressively when they have no guide for appropriate interaction. Older pets are often good role models for younger pets to learn proper play, social skills, and bite inhibition. Ask friends and family to set up playdates with friendly pets to help teach your new puppy or kitten how to behave.
- Handling — Using gentle restraint, teach your pet from an early age to hold still for grooming, veterinary visits, and other less-than-pleasant activities, such as nail trims, ear cleanings, and baths. Accepting these somewhat scary activities is a must for a lifetime of wellness care. Condition a positive response with plenty of praise and tasty rewards, and nail trims will be much simpler when your Great Dane puppy reaches 150 pounds at adulthood.
- Playtime — Setting aside time to play with your new pet is not only fun for the whole family, but also a great way to teach your pet tricks and to burn off excess energy. Dedicate a portion of each day to learning new skills, creating new toys, playing new games, or exploring new places. Novel activities will stave off boredom and prevent naughty behaviors, such as chewing, digging, scratching, or excessive barking.
- Crate or carrier training — Dogs and cats need to learn to be comfortable in a crate or carrier. Many cats see the carrier only once a year, and forcing them inside is a struggle. Create a safe haven inside your pet’s carrier or crate by stocking it with treats and a cozy bed. Over time, your pet will learn to associate the carrier or crate with good things, and you will have a secure place for her when the need arises.
- Veterinary visits — Regular visits are the most important part of your pet’s first year of life, and for every year beyond. A relationship with our veterinary team helps pinpoint any medical issues your pet may develop and prevents them from turning into major problems. At each visit, we will discuss proper care for every stage of your pet’s life, and the best options to keep her happy and healthy for many years to come. Wellness veterinary care includes:
- Parasite prevention
- Spaying or neutering
Are you at your wit’s end with a teething puppy, or a kitten who uses her claws too much? Perhaps you need some extra tips on crate and house training. Give us a call, and we can help with everything your new pet needs.