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Adel, IA 50003

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Puppy 101


By Dr. Elizabeth Holland


It’s fair to say that we see a lot of puppies.  A LOT!  It’s also fair to say it’s one of the best parts of our job.  However, I would wager that most members of the Adel Veterinary Clinic team (me included!) would say we also often enjoy sending them home!  :-)


I am sure my staff is bored to death of my story over and over, but I really mean it when I say that often having a puppy is more difficult than having a newborn baby!  I always share that I had my first (and only???) puppy Holden when my sister had her first son and I spent A LOT of time fairly certain that I would never be able to be a mom.  Having a puppy was SO HARD, I could only imagine what having a HUMAN BABY would be like.


Fast-forward 10 years and my intense admiration (jealously!) for my sister dropped a (very small) notch when I realized I may have been working harder then her back then!  In some ways I’m kidding, but in others…not so much.  I mean, newborns wear diapers!  Diapers are amazing! You have at least 2 years before you have to face potty training a human tot and it is FRONT AND CENTER in puppy care from day 1!


The second piece of information my staff will roll their eyes when they read this is how often they hear me say, “If you haven’t cried and thought that getting your puppy was a mistake, you’re either lying, incredibly lucky or it’s coming soon so be prepared!”


There is immediate pressure to have your “A-game” from the start of puppy ownership.  Honestly, quite a bit of what happens is luck, there is SO much variation in the difficultly of potty training, how destructive these curious little bundles can be and even how quickly they learn routines and acceptable behaviors.  But no matter what you are given, making good smart choices from the beginning has a HUGE impact on how your relationship with your dog will be going forward.  Here are a few tidbits that I think are most important!  These tips are also very accurate for adopting an adult dog into your family.



  1. Someone needs to be on “puppy watch” at ALL TIMES in the beginning.  This is for potty training and other “poor puppy choices” (destruction!) alike.  Use a long lead and hand it off to whoever is in charge.  This will prevent MANY mistakes as well as help those not in charge get a break!  Being in charge means you are watching for subtle signs of needing to potty so you can learn to communicate.

  2. Crate train!  This is where the puppy goes when no one is available for #1!  There are LOTS of great resources about why and how crate training works.  Do it!

  3. Start a routine for feeding and potty breaks.  This helps everyone!

  4. DON’T set a routine for big goodbyes and hellos!  We treat A LOT of separation anxiety and I think most of this stems from our own behaviors and routines. Pets pick up on the subtle cues of being left.  Every morning they see the same routine unfold.  This can start the build up of anxiety from the time they hear the alarm go off.  Try to vary YOUR routine to prevent this.  Also make good-byes and hellos calm.  When you get home, let the pup out, reward a potty outside and go about your business.  Making a big hoopla about the return home can increase separation anxiety.

  5. Go to a puppy class.  For you. (But bring the puppy too!)  Try to get the entire family involved!

  6. Establish the rules you will have for a lifetime right from the start.  It’s not fair to allow a puppy on furniture and then think at a some magic size or age that it’s no longer ok.  Work as a family to set the rules and stick to them!

  7. REWARD ALL GOOD BEHAVIOR!  - and try to ignore most of the bad.  A good goal is to have 10 positive interactions (rubs, obedience commands for treats, fetch, etc) for each time you have to make a correction.

  8. Expose young puppies to a variety of noises and experiences.  I even encourage playing thunderstorm noises on YouTube if it’s not storm season.  Vacuum, bang pots and pans and have friends over.  Expose them to cats, car rides and even balloons! Obviously, don’t overwhelm your pup, but try to think about the wide variety of events they will be exposed to in the future.

  9. Acclimate your pup to physical touch/examinations.  While I don’t really encourage playing with your pups mouth, I do think your pup should be used to an overall body exam.  You can treat it like a massage.  This usually works best when a puppy is tired after a long play session or stroll.  Inspect ears, feet, toenails, belly and everywhere else! I encourage people to either start working on nail trims very young or even just pretend by flicking the toenail with your finger so they get accustomed to the sensation.  This type of activity helps US a great deal as the puppy is used to being touched.

  10. Microchip your pet!  If a lost pet is taken to a shelter or a vet clinic, the first thing they will do is scan the pet for a microchip in hopes of reuniting it with its family.

  11. Establish a relationship with a veterinary clinic that is focused on helping you raise a healthy and happy pet.  We cherish the opportunity to teach new pets that we are really just a “treat factory” while being an educational institution for the person at the other end of the leash!  We are committed to helping you with the ups and downs of puppyhood!  Working on having a positive experience at the vet as a puppy will definitely help us manage the medical issues that inevitably will occur over the lifetime of your pet.

  12. Don’t hesitate to ask for help! Another favorite piece of advice for puppy owners is if you have questions, call us at the clinic.  We have almost all been through this personally and obviously have met a lot of puppies with a myriad of issues and concerns.  But it doesn’t stop there.  If you don’t like the answer you get, hang up, call back again and talk to someone else and ask the same question!  What works for one human and one dog may be entirely different than what works for another pair!  We are here to help!  We know that setting the right foundation is the key to the human-animal bond we adore!



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