So You've Acquired a Puppy

by Michelle Hakala

Your best slippers are slightly chewed, and there's a suspicious wet place in the living room carpet that you found with your bare toes. First, you're angry, but then you look into those sad brown eyes and your heart melts. How can you stay mad at the little ball of fuzz?

Your new puppy has some basic life requirements, just like we all do. S/he needs a sheltered place to stay out of the weather, a steady supply of food, and fresh water available at all times. There are a couple of not-so-basic needs, too; your puppy needs some shots, and your love.

The dog foods on today's market are nutritionally balanced to meet your dog's needs. Be sure to get the right type of food; puppy food for dogs under one year of age, a maintenance diet for dogs one to seven years old, an old-timer's diet for dogs over seven, and don't forget that females making or feeding puppies need a diet just for them. If you're feeding your dog added table scraps (remember that table scraps alone are not enough!), keep in mind that the things that aren't good for us aren't good for them, either. No alcohol, no caffeine, and avoid excesses of sugar, salt, and fatty foods.

As far as drinking water is concerned, just remember this; if you wouldn't want to drink what the dog has available, it needs changing.

If your dog is lucky enough to be an indoor dog, then the shelter part is taken care of already -- and you'll have to work on housebreaking him/her. If your dog is housed outside, s/he'll need a shelter of some type; a dog house is fine, but may not be required. Your dog needs to be able to get out of the wind, rain, and sun at will. While your area may have the wind from a certain direction most of the time, it can come from another, and the sun moves, over the course of the day. Too often I've seen dogs tied where it was shady when they were placed there, but soon the sun creeps around and there's nowhere for them to go. Keep your area's climate in mind, too. Where I am, we've gotten snow twice in ten years. A dog housed outside where it snows regularly may definitely need his own dog house.

Can't afford a pro? Give do-it-yourself dog grooming a try.

Check with your vet on which shots you should get for your dog. Rabies is a definite must; parvovirus and several others are suggested, especially if your dog will have contact with places other dogs frequent, like the local park. You might check to see if heartworms is common in your area, or if ticks are a problem.

Last but most important, your dog needs love. Dogs are willing to do almost anything to try to please you. You are his/her pack leader. As the pack leader, you have some responsibilities of your own. A few of them we've already covered. There is another that is important. You have a responsibility to keep your follower(s) safe. Keep their living space free of dangers, and use common sense. It makes me sick to hear of dogs dying from avoidable accidents. Never leave a choke chain on a dog that's loose in the yard. Never assume your dog can get out of your swimming pool if s/he falls in. Never use a ball for a plaything that the dog can swallow. (If the ball fits in the dog's mouth without being visible, it's way too small.) Don't feed your dog chicken or fish with bones in it.

Follow these suggestions and you'll have a good long relationship with your dog. If you bring him/her up right, and give him the love s/he deserves, you'll have a friend that would lay down their life for you, and love you unconditionally.

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