Are you adopting a new puppy, kitten, dog or cat into your home? It’s a long, long time since I last brought a puppy home (in fact it was Bella, 17 years ago!) but I remember being soooo excited but also so nervous about it! Set off on the right paw with your new pet by being prepared right from the start.
To help you start off in the best way possible, here are some simple tips I’ve learned about what to tackle on your first 15 days with your new critter companion:
Pet-proof your home. Anything you don’t want nibbled or peed on needs to find a new home off the floor or be tucked away from a climbing kitten. Bella was REALLY quick at learning how to get into things she shouldn’t – we’re talking the kitchen bin, handbags (3 iPods destroyed!), it really was a steep learning curve for me. Avoid the drama and keep everyone safe. Have toys at hand to distract your new pet from an early fascination with wires or shoes. If you have a low kitchen bin, consider putting it up high or in a cupboard so that your little one can’t get in there and eat things she really shouldn’t.
Be ready to supervise. Celebrate the arrival of your new furry family member home with some vacation days and arrange (well in advance!) for a friend or pet-sitter to check in frequently if they will be home alone. Puppies especially need lots of outdoor breaks to set them up for house-training success. They will ideally need to go out immediately after waking, after meals, and every 2hrs hour in between. That’s a big commitment but you’re far more likely to get them housetrained that little bit quicker if you, or someone else, can be there to prevent so many indoor accidents happening.
Give your new pet a once-over. Peek in their ears to check for dark crust that indicates ear mites and ruffle their fur to make sure they are free of fleas or specks of flea dirt. Don’t resort to over-the-counter parasite treatments for young pets. Call your veterinarian for advice.
Schedule their first veterinary appointment. Your vet’s calendar is probably packed, so get your puppy or kitten’s first healthy pet appointment scheduled right away. This is especially important if your new pet has not yet been vaccinated or screened for parasites. If you don’t already know a good vet, then ask friends or your local Facebook group for recommendations. Think about whether you’d like a vet with a more holistic approach (eg offering titre testing rather than vaccinating every year), or a traditional one. IMPORTANT Your puppy or kitten will definitely need to have some vaccinations prior to being allowed outside, so make sure you get him booked in for these as soon as possible.
Pay attention to poop. While a change in diet might cause a young pet’s stool to be loose, don’t ignore diarrohea, mucus, blood, or poop that is very dark or very pale. Bring a stool sample to your pet’s first veterinary visit.
Set up an exercise pen or safe room. Small puppies and kittens will find their litter box and pee pads more easily in a small space, and you can find and clean up accidents easily, too. Don’t forget to have a good enzymatic cleaner nearby as well, like this one.
Make their crate an everyday haven. Crates are fantastic for puppies but should never be used as a punishment. See your puppy’s crate as her den and make it somewhere she wants to go for a bit of peace and quiet. Add a comfy blanket, toys, and treats to their roomy new crate. Leave it open for them to explore, so they’ll cuddle up for a nap or retreat to it when they are frightened. Give them treats such as puppy kongs in there and they’ll soon associate it with good things. Try and have the crate situated somewhere that is quiet – especially if you have excited children, a crate can be a safe haven for your puppy when he feels a bit overloaded.
Learn the lingo. If you're new to dogs and cats, it can be really helpful to learn how they communicate! Check out this link for cats, and this one for dogs - I promise you it really is worth spending a little bit of time learning this as you will be able to read your little one much more easily and will know if something is stressing them out - which in the long run makes for a much happier relationship.
Praise instead of punish. Your puppy or kitten will learn more quickly – and love you more strongly – if you reward them when they do right instead of swatting or yelling at them for mistakes. Check out this book for some great tips.
Be gentle but consistent with potty training. Frequently set your kitten in their litter box to dig and explore and praise your puppy when they piddle on a pee-pad or outdoors. Pups need a bathroom break at least every two hours.
Create consistency with family rules. New pets thrive on consistency. So do I – I like my meals at regular times, and I like to go to bed at the same time most nights! Everyone in your household needs to be aware of feeding times, potty breaks, and training cues, so as not to confuse your puppy or kitten as they learn to successfully navigate their new life. And while we’re on the subject of feeding times, don’t forget to order them their first Chow Bella bowl! 😊
Enjoy this time. Puppies and kittens grow up sooooo fast! And although the first 15 days can be really exhausting, make sure you enjoy it as well. Take lots of pictures and spend time bonding with your little one by giving gentle cuddles.
I hope that this has given you a few pointers for your new puppy or kitten. Good luck with their arrival, it is such an exciting time!