The first months with your puppy are filled with excitement and nervousness if it’s your first time. You walk them through everything– eating, potty training, obedience training.You start to feel the pride and joy of being a fur parent, and the weight of the responsibility that comes with it.
If you’re a new puppy parent, you’ve come to the right place! Here are tips to guide you through puppy parenting– from day 1 to 6 months.
Birth mom knows best
During the first 4 weeks, expect that your pup is totally dependent on their birth mom. At birth, puppies are blind, deaf, and toothless. Their mom is the whole world, and that’s totally normal.
As for you, you have to trust their mom. She feeds them, gives them warmth, assists them with urinating and defecating– at this point, Mom knows best. You can assist her, but only with some things.
- Give them a nice, warm, well-lit den. Baby puppies need constant warmth. Their environment’s temperature should be kept at a temperature of 85-90° for the first 4 days of their life. After that, it can be reduced to 80° and by four weeks their temperature can be reduced to approximately 70°.
To keep both Mom and pup warm, place them in a comfortable, covered den. Make sure the area is well-lit so Mom wouldn’t accidentally sit on one of her puppies.
- Check on them several times a day. Check if the puppies are well-fed. If there are more babies than their mom’s nipples, make sure each puppy gets their turn, or bottle-feed or syringe-feed the ones who can’t breastfeed.
- Clean their area. During this period, expect that their dens will be messy. They are just learning to pee and poop, so their Mom is licking them all the time. You might need to clean up after everyone in the area regularly. Stock up on wet wipes.
If you’re taking care of an orphaned pup…
It’s very rare for mom dogs to abandon their babies, but if you do have a rescued newborn puppy, or a pup that’s been left behind, the best way to take care of them is to act like their Mom.
- Feed every 2 hours. Use puppy formula and bottles with puppy-size nipples. Make sure the bottles are sterilised after use to ensure bacteria are removed, which is especially important for any puppies that missed out on colostrum (first milk feed from the mother - rich in antibodies).
- Provide constant heat. Like how their mom would cuddle them, give them a warm place to stay. Use an incubator, heat lamp, or warm bottles. Make sure they’re not feeling too warm or too cold.
- Help them urinate and defecate. Moms lick puppies’ genitals to assist them with peeing and defecating, and you can do the same with a moistened cotton wool ball or tissue. After every feeding, rub a cotton wool ball or tissue moistened with warm water over the genitals and anus of the puppies so they can pee/poo and avoid constipation.
Taking care of an orphaned pup takes dedication and a lot of love. Go here for a quick guide on everything you need to know.
Sensory development continues
It usually takes a week, or 10-15 days for a pup’s eyes to open, and that’s when they start to see you and the world! Other senses develop too– smell, hearing, taste, speech– and they continue to develop as weeks pass by.
Your pup learns play and social skills
Puppies begin to become aware of their surroundings and have the capacity to form relationships with people between the ages of three and five weeks. During this time, they also become accustomed to the everyday sounds of a typical home, such as TVs, vacuum cleaners, telephones, etc.
They also gain play skills with their littermates. They learn group structures and rankings in the group. They become more vocal with play barking and growling.
They’re ready for potty training
At this point, you can now do potty training. They’re still too small to “hold it” for long, so potty breaks every hour is best, and practise positive reinforcement when they go outside. Be patient and remember that they’re still new to potty training, and it takes weeks for them to consistently control their bladder.
Vaccinations prevent diseases as early as possible. If you’re adopting a puppy from a shelter, make sure to ask for their vaccination record so you know if they are already vaccinated or not.
Your pup goes through a “fear imprint stage”
Fear periods are a normal part of a puppy's development, although they can be quite stressful for dogs. Puppies become more perceptive and conscious of their surroundings during times of fear.
They might feel more anxious around new things or experiences, and even things they may have previously found enjoyable might start to worry them. Be careful during this period, as scary experiences can develop into life-long traumas.
They are socialising more
Their 3rd month is their golden age of socialisation. They develop social skills and interact with humans and fellow dogs more often. This formative period has a huge impact on the development of your puppy’s personality and behaviour.
Make sure you spend time with them and try to understand their behaviour and needs. Socialisation is a must during your puppy's third month.
They start teething
Your puppy is likely to begin teething during this stage.
Start hiding your shoes, and get toys made for teething puppies. Learn more about puppy teething so that you know typical and abnormal behaviour and how to comfort your dog if their mouth hurts.
Problematic behaviours can arise
Your puppy’s bad behaviours are showing at this point, and if you don’t do something about it, they’ll bring it with them as they grow. This is the time where you start actively training your puppy.
Set house rules, teach them things, manage their barking habits, and make use of positive reinforcement. This way, your puppy learns basic obedience and discipline.
Your pup is figuring out who’s the boss
Your puppy starts to challenge rules and boundaries at this stage in their development. Think about getting baby gates, fences, and keep leash training them. Make your rules clear and consistent as they attempt to explore.
They should see you as a strong and reliable leader and fur parent.
They use their mouths more often
During this period, they start exploring the world around them– with their mouths. They pick things anywhere, bite or chew your carpet, and make you their target too. Discourage inappropriate biting and nipping of hands or clothes– ignore them or move away.
Teach them the difference between gentle playing and painful playing.
Your pup is starting to act naughty
Your puppy’s flight instinct period starts at this stage. They are prone to not listening, or even running away when you call them. The best thing to do at this point is to wait for it to pass, and keep them on a leash until then.
They are “night crying”
Night crying may still be common at 5 months. In that case, you can move their bed in your bedroom, so they feel more safe and secure. Give them a consistent bed schedule too so they know when it’s time for bed.
You can also engage them in physical exercise during the day. Tire them out for the night.
Your pup is officially a teenager
At this point, they start looking like a grown-up dog, entering adolescence. They still have a lot of puppy energy left, and the 6th month can still be tough.
Like a normal teenager, they can be moody and unpredictable, and may have “selective memory” for all the things you two have been working on in training. Don’t fret! Your puppy is on their way to being an adult, and at 6 months, they have already come a long way.
And to you, congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back. You made it through the crucial first 6 months of your puppy’s life, and you already know their ways of doing things. If you need more help in dog training, Dog Gear offers a wide range of training equipment perfect for your fur baby.