CARING FOR YOUR DOG THROUGH EVERY STAGE OF LIFE

It's a proven fact: There's nothing cuter in this world than a puppy. They're adorable. Floppy. Fuzzy. Warm. And they're messy, and a big responsibility. As any seasoned dog owner will tell you, having a 10-week-old puppy is very nearly like having a baby, suddenly you're waking in the middle of the night for potty breaks, speaking freely about subjects like poop, and fretting over whether your puppy ate that stray red berry on the sidewalk during her walk. Poisonous? We hope not! As your dog grows into a smart, well-mannered member of your family, you will have many years of fun to look forward to, even into her twilight years. There will be plenty of moments when you want to spoil your puppy with the best dog blankets around, and we don't blame you. Here are the basics of life care for your dog, from puppyhood through the years.

PUPPIES

Bringing home a new puppy brings tremendous joy and sometimes more than a little hand-wringing. First of all, puppies chew. All puppies. That is because, like human babies, puppies are born with a set of baby teeth that will fall out, starting at about 12 weeks of age through 8 months.1 Use this Puppy Teething Guide to get through this phase. This puppy fact of life means that anything she sees will look enticing. There is very little a puppy won't explore with her mouth. At this time, it's best to keep valuables out of reach for your little one, close off doors, or even use a puppy pen filled with good puppy chew toys like JW's Puppy Connects to make sure your pup only chews what is appropriate. Another tip: If you and your puppy are playing together and she is gently mouthing and biting you, the second it becomes too hard, let out a high-pitched yelp and pull your hand back. She will get the idea that biting your hand hurts you and temporarily stops playtime. With consistent use of this tactic, your dog will not bite you during play as an adult.

Another important part of puppy training is potty training, and while we could write an entire article based on the theories of bathroom usage, and we have, we can reduce our advice to two words: Be consistent. Whatever method you choose, whether it be crate training, tethering, a bell, or any of the other schools of thought on puppy housetraining, be consistent, and never yell or hit your puppy for failure. That will only make your puppy fear you and make housetraining more difficult.

Puppies require quite a few vet visits and rounds of shots. Most puppies are adopted out between 9 and 12 weeks of age, and depending on where you get your dog, she should have already had her first rounds of booster shots. Be wary of any breeders who do not share their vet records with you. Reputable breeders and adoption agencies are sure to give the very best care to your puppy and will share. The most important shots are rabies and parvovirus, which your pup will get in several rounds. For more information on vaccines, ask your vet. Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, it is important to keep her away from these potentially dangerous diseases. Dog parks and visits with other dogs who aren't vaccinated are not something we recommend until she is current on all shots.

A note about safety; keep in mind that puppies are like babies, and they can get into trouble at a moment's notice. If there is a substance that could harm a child if ingested, it will injure your puppy, too. Loose electrical cords, household chemicals, human medicines, and some plants could injure your dog. Also, some foods that humans eat, like avocados, grapes, raisins, and chocolate can be extremely harmful to dogs. Be sure your home is as ready as you are for your newest addition!

SENIORS

It's no surprise that a dog's needs change as she ages. That exuberant puppy energy starts to lessen, stairs get a little trickier, and little white hairs start showing up. But just because your dog starts to age doesn't mean she can't still have the best life. With a little extra TLC, your dog can go into her golden years with all the grace she deserves.

The first best course as your dog starts to age (6+ years for larger breeds, 8 for smaller breeds) will be to make sure you have a veterinarian you trust and respect. Vet visits will become more frequent as your dog enters her twilight years, and yearly vet visits help ensure your dog is in good health, if something does start to go wrong, having an established relationship will be important.

You may notice weight loss or gain in your dog; each of these changes can mean different things. First, nutrition for your senior dog is crucial. Be sure to talk to your vet about the right foods to keep your dog at her ideal weight. For instance, diets lower in sodium can be important for dogs showing signs of heart disease.2 Teeth cleanings will also be important to ensure your dog can chew her food properly and isn't troubled by painful gingivitis, common with older dogs. And, even though it sounds silly, tooth brushing can be very helpful in extending the life of your dog by improving the health of her teeth.

When a dog's age, hip dysplasia, and arthritis are common ailments. It's important to keep this in mind, especially for strenuous activities such as air travel. Soft bedding, like orthopedic beds, on the floor, towels and blankets, and ramps for stairs can make life significantly easier for your senior dog.

Another tip for dogs with arthritis: even if your dog can't run around, she still will love mental stimulation. Treat dispensing Puzzle Toys, like the JW Tumble Teez are great for entertainment and keeping your dog mentally occupied even if she's not as mobile anymore.

The most important part to remember when getting a dog is that getting a puppy is a responsibility you take on for life. Her needs will change with the years, but the part that won't change is her undying devotion to you. Sensitivity to your dog in her youngest and oldest stages will ensure that you are the best pet parent possible; for life.

Sources:

  1. Drs. Foster and Smith Educational Staff. Puppy Tooth Loss: What Age Foster and Smith. Web. 10 March 2015.
  2. Huston, Lorie. Tips for Caring for Senior Dogs. petMD. Web. 10 March 2015.

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