The ability to bring a new life into your pack is one of the most magical experiences in life.
Whether you are imagining the tiny kisses, the frolics through the flowers, or the implicit foundation of trust that is borne with adopting a dog at a young age, it is easy to cling to the positives the way young rascals cling to new owners, and neglect to consider the difficulties in adopting a puppy.
Diet and Health
So, you did it! You adopted a little piping squirmer. What's next? If you adopted him from a reputable shelter, he likely has been eating the nutritious food he needs to grow into a healthy and happy adult. The type of food your puppy receives is incredibly important to his development. By 16 weeks of age, your dog's brain will be 80% developed. It is paramount to give your dog the very best food between adoption time and 20 weeks.
Canine's digestive tracts are very different than ours and can be much more sensitive when introduced to new food blends. Because of this, it is best for everyone involved if you keep him on the same brand of food and stick as closely as you can to the same formula. Dog health experts agree that the best diet to give your dog is one that is high in quality meat based proteins with healthy grains and starches, such as sweet potatoes, barley, and oats.
Your dog's gut evolved to process both grains and meats but it is vital to limit the amount of grains he receives. Be sure to read the ingredient list and go for companies who use GMO free and antibiotic-free ingredients. Once you have your dog on the best grub you can find, it's time to look into supplements that can help him live a healthier and happier life.
Many shelter dogs contract a variety of ailments, such as kennel cough, urinary tract infections, and other bacterial or viral issues. The shelter's usual response is to overwhelm the animal's system with antibiotics.
Antibiotics are not all bad, they can be successful at treating a host of bacterial issues. The problem with antibiotics is in how they destroy everything, both good bacteria and bad. When your dog loses out on all of that good gut bacteria, digestion problems and immune system problems can rear their ugly heads. There can be immune system complications due to around 70% of your dogs immune system being housed in his gut.
Ask your shelter if your new pup was on antibiotics, if so it is time to fight back with the power of probiotics for dogs.
Probiotics work to put good bacteria back in your dog's gut. These micro-organisms work within the gut to help your dog digest like he's supposed to, help maintain healthy nutrient absorption, stop those smelly farts, as well as a host of other benefits.
Putting your puppy on probiotics is one of the best things you can do for him. While dogs of all ages will enjoy the benefits of probiotics, giving his gut the tools to be at his digestive best from such a young age could help you avoid health issues down the road.
Exercise and Play
Your little guy is a fireball of energy. As such, he needs constant exercise and mental stimulation. Similar to what was said earlier, make it a point to keep him out of the crate as often as possible.
Outside of his frequent potty break walks, take him to the park for an hour or two and let him scamper around. He will love you for the freedom and will pay you back when he is snoozing the night away in his crate.
It is important to monitor how hot it is outside and the amount of shade he may or may not have. Do your best to avoid asphalt in the sun, their paw pads are still quite soft and could be painful for your growing growler.
Being near a water source can be a great idea to cool Fido down, but be careful about the water source. Many ponds or creeks near parks are contaminated with human waste or bacteria. Teach your dog early on that creek water is to not be ingested, it will save him heaps of suffering and will keep your bank account from evaporating! If he has a cut or any other bodily opening, it would be wise to keep him free from those water-holes.
Crate training a dog is not an easy process and can be awfully scary for a young pup. The feeling of being boxed in is not a great one, any person crammed into a car or small room can likely relate. For your dog, however, there is no openable door out. You have given them their crate dwelling and they now need to learn how to process their new bed-room.
Having a young dog is a massive time investment, the best way to train a puppy is through pure repetition. Do not adopt if your dog's life will be primarily spent growing old in a metal cage. Do your best to take your dog out of the crate about every hour. If you ARE willing to put in that time investment, it is good to remember that comfort is often in the eye of the beholder. One of the most exciting parts about training up a pup is that you have a hand in changing the perception of metal prison to stable sanctuary.
When introducing your fresh furball to the crate, make sure everything is as calm and pleasant as possible. Turn down the music, give him some smooches, and prep the crate with chew toys and an old blanket you don't mind being ruined.
Grab one of his favorite treats and guide him into the crate. As you do this, be sure to praise him and use a key word for what is happening. For example, you could say "Good crate!" or "Good boy! That's a good crate!", something in a praising tone that you will say consistently. Give him a good five to ten minutes to explore his new castle and then close the door.
It may seem like your job is done but there is still more work to be done!
Show your dog that him being in a crate does not mean that he is all on his own. Sit with him for 10 to 15 minutes at a time and praise him when he is calm and relaxed, ignore him if he barks or whines.
Ignoring him during his initial tantrums is paramount. You have to communicate to him that cries for help will not change anything and will only serve to tire him out. It can be tough on your heart, but it is the best way for him to learn.
After you have sat with him, make small trips out of the room. This communicates that while you may leave the room, you aren't leaving your helpless love forever. If his tantrums don't stop, he just can't settle down, or has severe separation anxiety, look into getting him on an all natural calming supplement for dogs.
Lastly, it is awfully tempting to let your newest addition sleep in the bed with you. He's a warm little ball of blanket that wants only to give you love. Do your best to resist sleeping with him when crate training, especially when he is still potty training. Dog's are notorious for not wanting to urinate where they sleep, this is the absolute best way to avoid accidents and save you from buying new carpet!
Potty training a puppy can often make a person feel like their world is upside down. It is a tedious undertaking that takes time. When housebreaking a puppy, follow the crate training guidelines and only let him freely roam when he is properly housebroken.
Remember, your dog will have accidents often but if you train him the right way, he will reward you with a trained bladder and a carpet free of whoopsies!
The general rule of thumb when housebreaking a puppy is that they will only be able to hold his bladder one hour for every month old he is, plus one.
Let's say your little man is 2 months old, you should reasonably expect him to hold his bladder for about 3 hours. During the first few months, it is best to be home as often as possible so when he communicates his needs, you can fulfill them.
Use every accident as an opportunity to communicate with your dog and teach him the rules. Old school methods of rubbing their nose into the pee and poop is both ineffective and cruel. All this will do is make your dog afraid of you. The best policy with dogs (and people) is to correct actions through positive reinforcement.
If your little chunker sneaks behind you and makes a mess in the kitchen you need to immediately bring him out to your designated potty spot and wait until he uses the bathroom again while saying your keyword, whether it be go potty, do your business, etc. Once he uses the bathroom, take the opportunity to use the key word again in a praising tone and give him a treat. This may take a few weeks, but if you are consistent with your actions and your words, he will understand and do his best to get as many praise-treats as possible!
Use these guidelines to radically improve your adoption process. Congratulations on your newest addition, we hope you two rascals have a wonderful time growing together.