When most people think of puppy care, the responsibilities of feeding, grooming, walking, and cleanup come to mind. But there’s much more you can do with your puppy to enhance his life, and yours. Here are 7 puppy care tips for the owner who’s looking for a more fulfilling pet experience.
1. GET SOCIAL
Puppies love to wrestle with chew toys and run circles around the kitchen island. But as good as your dog may be at keeping himself busy, it’s important to socialize him, too. Socializing a puppy involves exposing him to a variety of environmental stimuli, ideally when he is between 3 – 12 weeks old. That way, he will be more comfortable in many different types of situations as an adult. With you as his guide, introduce him to animals, buildings, crowds, good and bad weather, loud sounds, modes of transportation, music, parks, people, various surfaces, water, and any other experiences you expect he will regularly come in contact with during his lifetime.
2. EXERCISE WITH YOUR PUPPY
As you’re socializing your puppy, you’re also being active, which will boost your well-being. Try and schedule a long walk every day, and make it more interesting for you and her by exploring neighborhoods besides your own. But don’t limit your exercise to just strolls. If you have a pool or waterway nearby, you can swim, kayak, or paddle board with your puppy. Make sure to outfit her in a canine life vest, especially in deep water. Or climb stadium steps at the local football field. She can accompany you for short bike rides, too. And the old favorites, playing fetch and Frisbee, are excellent for your puppy’s aerobic health.
3. CONNECT WITH THE DOG COMMUNITY
With Fido by your side, you’re certain to attract dog owners, so take the time to talk to them. What’s the most effective way to crate train? How did they get their dog to stop mouthing? Is there a doggie day care they would recommend? Dog lovers are an incredible resource and are happy to share their honest feedback about all things dog-related.
4. RAISE YOUR PUPPY’S GAME
Could the sporting life be for you and your puppy? Check out an agility event hosted by the United States Dog Agility Association (usdaa.com), or a flyball tournament courtesy of the North American Flyball Association (flyball.org). To see how music, movement, dogs, and their trainers can combine to create a choreographed performance, attend a World Canine Freestyle Organization showcase (worldcaninefreestyle.org). Or if your puppy is a natural herder or tracker, the American Kennel Club (akc.org) provides information about herding and tracking events. After you enjoy these activities together, you and your pet may want to join the competitive fun.
5. IS YOUR PET THERAPY MATERIAL?
Therapy dogs are welcome visitors to hospitals, nursing homes, physical therapy centers, and other facilities where patients benefit from the calming companionship of a furry friend. If you feel that your dog would be an ideal candidate for a Therapy Animal Program, visit Pet Partners (petpartners.org). There you will learn the program’s requirements and how to register.
6. TURN YOUR PUPPY EXPERIENCE INTO A PAYING JOB
Dog owners who are away for extended periods of time may prefer the services of a pet sitter over dropping their dogs at a day care or boarding facility. Pet sitting responsibilities may include stopping by a home to feed and walk a dog while an owner is at work, or caring for a dog in your home if the owner is on vacation. If you enjoy being around animals and could use the extra income, get the word out that you’re available to be a pet sitter. Tell friends, animal businesses, and veterinary practices. Your puppy will benefit from the additional company, too.
7. WHILE BACK AT HOME, HAVE FUN WITH DAILY DOG DUTIES
Does everyone scatter when your puppy needs to be taken out for one last bathroom break before bedtime? You’re already in training mode with your pooch, so time to get your family in line, too. Create a schedule that lists all the pet-related jobs and post it on the family bulletin board or on the fridge. And have fun with it. Instead of “brush the dog,” how about “Hair Stylist to the Hounds?” Make sure you occasionally add duties that you don’t usually see on a doggie to-do list. By including “teach a cool trick” or “walk a new neighborhood” you’ll encourage your family and your dog to bond in different ways.