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Adopting and settling in your puppy

Adopting and settling in your puppy

The perfect best friend has four legs and a wagging tail, which is probably why you want to add a puppy or dog to your household. Keep reading for tips on finding the right pooch for you and getting them settled in. 

Finding the perfect puppy

Some people like big, bouncy dogs that can chase balls all day. Others want a quiet, cuddly companion who’ll keep their lap warm. And there are those looking for a canine version of themselves, both in looks and personality. In other words, there’s a dog for every type of owner – you just have to find the one that’s right for you.

  • Think about what you’re looking for in a puppy before you head off to visit breeders or animal shelters. Write a brief that covers size, looks, personality, intelligence and health (some breeds are prone to diseases and hereditary problems), then use Google to find some breeds or crossbreeds that meet your brief.
  • If your heart is set on a specific breed, read up about it to ensure it’s a logical fit for your life, i.e. if you live in an apartment, don’t choose a German shepherd. A mismatch could mean a sad rehoming situation further down the track. Choosing a dog purely on looks is not advised.
  • Some breeds are very active (border collie, pointer), while others will need a lot of care for their skin and coats (shar pei, poodle, afghan hound, samoyed). Some can be very vocal (husky, huntaway, schnauzer) and others are natural couch-potatoes (greyhound, basset). Even within a litter there will be personality variations, so take your time getting to know each available pup before you make a choice.
  • When adopting a puppy, check to see if they have been vet checked, treated for fleas and worms, microchipped, desexed, and that they have had at least their first puppy vaccination.
  • Be prepared for expenses, such as adoption fees, microchipping, desexing and puppy vaccinations. It might be a smart idea to take out pet health insurance too.

If you're confused about what sort of puppy to get, talk to our friendly team in-store at Animates or at your local Animates Vetcare clinic. A list of registered breeders can be found on the New Zealand Kennel Club website.

Puppy-proofing your home

Like human babies and toddlers, puppies can be messy (and also destructive!), but they also bring you happiness and comfort. If you want more joy and less mess, you'll need to puppy-proof your home.

  • Prepare a warm, quiet, well-ventilated room as your puppy’s safe place. The floor needs to have a hard surface, because there will be accidents. The room will also need a bed (perhaps also a crate), food/water bowls and puppy toys. A bathroom or laundry might be ideal.
  • Door barriers can be very useful for the initial set up, so that your puppy can’t access some areas of your home.
  • Consider providing a puppy-safe ‘litter mate soft toy. This can help your pup to feel less lonely in the first few days.
  • Have pet-safe cleaners on hand for removing stains and odours.
  • Stock up on appropriate puppy food – if you’re not sure what to buy, use live chat on our website or call into your nearest Animates store.
  • Keep toxic products and objects safely out of reach.
  • Only use puppy-safe toys and throw away puppy chew toys that are falling apart.
  • If you have a cat door, it might need to locked if your puppy is small enough to fit through it. Maybe it’s time to change to a microchip-operated cat door?
  • A fully-fenced or secured section is recommended. If that’s not possible, look into other options, such as a puppy playpen or run.

Your puppy's first week at home

Advance planning will ensure your puppy’s arrival happens as smoothly as possible. While it will be a joyful day, it will also be stressful. Be prepared for highs and lows. Here’s how to look after a puppy that’s just joined your household.

  • Ideally, you should be at home with your puppy for a few days while they are settling in. It will help with puppy training and make your pup feel more secure. Or if you can, try to make it a week or more.
  • When you collect your puppy, take a friend or family member who can reassure the pup while you’re driving. The first car ride can be scary! Use a safety harness, puppy crate or puppy carrier to keep your puppy safe in the car.
  • Carry the crate or carrier to the room you have prepared. Open the carrier and let your pup come out when they are ready. Resist picking them up for a cuddle straight away and let them explore. At this point, it should be just you (the main caregiver) and the puppy. Other people can be introduced in a while. Make sure other family members understand what’s going on and why.
  • When your pup has settled down, leave them to rest. Visit regularly, so that you can clean up puddles, provide cuddles and reassure the pup.
  • After the first day, let your puppy explore other areas of the house – but only those with easily-cleaned floors and nothing valuable to chew.
  • Take your puppy outside on a lead or puppy harness for toileting after every meal and nap, before bed and as soon as you get up in the morning. Take them to the same toileting place each time. Reward your puppy for peeing or pooping outside.
  • When your puppy has an accident, don’t make a fuss. Avoid eye contact and clean it up quietly. Never punish your puppy, but don’t provide positive reinforcement either.
  • Start crate training your puppy from when they first arrive home. Find out more about puppy crate training here.

Making your pup part of the family

Bringing home your puppy is exciting for everyone involved, but introductions need to be handled with care and calmness.

  • When a child is meeting your puppy, ensure there is always an adult present. Have the child stand calmly with their arms by their side and let your puppy approach, with a little bit of encouragement if needed.
  • Once your puppy greets the child, ask the child to pat the puppy on their chest (avoid the head, as some pups can find this threatening). Then give your puppy a treat and verbal praise. Praising and rewarding your puppy for good behaviour is the foundation for a happy, well-trained dog.
  • Adults need to go down to your puppy’s level and offer their hand for your puppy to sniff - dogs main sensory input is through scent. Once your puppy has smelled the person’s hand, the new person can offer a treat and verbal praise or even a chest rub.
  • Once your puppy is comfortable with family and close friends, make sure everyone spends quality time with the puppy.

Introducing your puppy to other pets

If you have other pets, introduce them one at a time to your puppy after the initial settling in period. Your pup will have smelled them, so it won’t be a total surprise.

Dogs:

  • If you’re introducing your puppy to an existing dog in your household, ensure you walk or run the dog first so that they are relatively calm when they meet the puppy. Instruct the dog to sit and have the puppy on a lead. Allow the adult dog to lead the interaction. Always give both dogs an escape route, so they can get away if they want to.
  • For both dogs, reward positive behaviour with pats, verbal praise and/or a treat. Positive behaviour includes your dog sniffing the puppy calmly and your puppy staying calm while your dog is in the room. Treats have to be given separately; don’t encourage treat sharing.
  • Don’t leave your puppy with other dogs unattended. Even if they look like friends, your puppy has likely left an environment where they had littermates or other puppies to play with. Your dog might be less tolerant of puppy play.

Cats:

  • When introducing your puppy to a cat, let the cat watch your puppy and make sure they have an escape route. Reward your cat with treats, so they recognise that the puppy is a good thing. Some cats may never truly warm to a dog, but they can learn to respect each other.
  • When your puppy is sitting calmly in the presence of the cat, give them a treat. It’s important that your puppy knows that acting calm around your cat is the behaviour you want.

Putting your puppy to bed at night

Puppies love a bedtime routine. A handy tip to help prevent toileting mid-way through the night is to follow this bedtime checklist:

  • Quiet behaviour, not excited or playing
  • A meal and water two hours before bed, then remove food and water before they go to sleep.
  • Toilet immediately before bed
  • Put puppy in their bed with a puppy-safe cuddle toy

If your puppy is distressed in the night, take them to the toilet then put them back to bed. As your pup grows, they will be able to hold on for longer.

Leaving your puppy home alone

Puppies need human interaction, especially when they’re getting used to a new home. For the first few weeks, try not to leave your puppy home alone for long periods. Ask friends and family to help with puppy-sitting and visits.

  • We recommend you take a week off (or more) when you get your puppy, so that you can be a full-time parent during the settling in period.
  • Have a roster of people available to feed and keep up the puppy toilet training while you’re at work. As puppies; small breeds need to be fed four times a day, medium-to-large breeds need feeding three times a day.

Meeting local council requirements

You must legally register your puppy before they are three months of age. Check your local council’s website or give them a call for more information.

  • Some councils require you to get a permit if you have more than one dog on your property.
  • Many councils require pet dogs to be microchipped.
  • Discounts are sometimes offered for dogs that are desexed.
  • Your puppy needs to wear a registration tag at all times, in case they go missing and to identify them as a registered dog.
  • Once you have had your puppy for long enough (this varies depending on your region), there is also the ability to apply for an RDO license (Responsible Dog Owner), a special dog ownership status that rewards good, responsible dog owners with a reduced annual dog registration fee.