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Here's how to care for your puppy

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  • RSPCA Australia
  • Thursday, 23 March 2017

With their oversized paws, waggy tails and little pink tummies, there’s no denying that these little creatures are just plain adorable.  According to a Japanese study from 2012, looking at puppy pictures can improve your mood and boost your productivity.

If you’re thinking of adding a puppy to your family, check out the RSPCA Smart Puppy and Dog Buyer’s Guide.

Never cared for a puppy before? Here are four facts you need to know:

They need time with mum before they’re ready to find a new home

Puppies cannot be rehomed before they’ve weaned off their mother’s milk. This milk contains nutrients that are vital for normal puppy growth. Pups will wean at around 8-12 weeks of age. By this time, they’re ready to eat puppy food and will already be spending most of their time playing, eating and sleeping.

If someone is trying to sell you a puppy that’s younger than that, you should be concerned.

Socialising is super important

Between 3-17 weeks of age, puppies experience what is called a critical socialisation period. The experiences they have during this time of learning and development can shape their behaviour well into adulthood.

You can help your puppy grow into a well-adjusted adult by ensuring they have plenty of opportunities for socialisation, as well as exposure to different people, objects and environments.  We recommend enrolling your pet in puppy preschool classes where you’ll get great advice as well as an opportunity to socialise your pup.

Positive reinforcement is the way to go with training

When it comes to training – including toilet training - keep it positive and reward-based. This means encouraging, recognising and rewarding ‘good’ behaviour, and ignoring (not punishing!) ‘bad’ behaviour. No yelling, and definitely no smacks!

For example, when it comes to toilet training, give your puppy plenty of opportunities to go outside and reward them whenever they go where you want them to go.  Make sure the reward (which can be in the form of praise, a pat, a treat or a toy) is offered immediately after your dog has gone to the toilet so that they will make the association between the reward and going in the right spot.

Positive reinforcement also means you have to ignore it when your puppy messes up and goes to the toilet in the wrong place. Try to display no reaction and just clean the area thoroughly to reduce the chance your dog will use the same place again next time.

Begin with short walks  

Before you even take your puppy for their first walk, make sure they’re up-to-date with all their vaccinations and comfortable with their collar/harness.

Once you’re ready to hit the pavement (and/or the park), keep your walks short. If your pup sits down or lies down during the walk, allow them some rest time and wait until they’re ready to continue the adventure.  You need to avoid over-exercising your puppy while they’re growing, as too much exertion can affect their bone and muscle development.


For more tips on caring for your puppy, check out the RSPCA Knowledgebase. If you’re looking to adopt from a shelter, visit Adoptapet.

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