Caitlin UltimoHealth / Wellness

Puppy Survival Kit

Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.

Nothing’s cuter than puppies—their adorable little puppy dog eyes, rambunctious personalities and cute puppy kisses. If I am being 100% honest, I decided to become a veterinarian so that I had an excuse to play and be with puppies and kittens all day, and boy did my career choice not disappoint! As much as I love and adore the cuteness and mischievousness of puppies, I do deal with a fair share of stressful situations and health issues with these little guys. Whenever clients bring in a new family member, I give them the “puppy talk” to get them ready for this fun new adventure. Not only is it important to be prepared for dog crate training, teaching dog commands and wellness care for your new puppy, but knowing and being prepared for possible puppy emergencies is helpful in avoiding unnecessary trips to your veterinarian. Let’s get started.

Your New Puppy Survival Kit

Find a trainer. You can start training and teaching simple dog commands as early as 8 weeks old. It is always better to have a professional trainer show you the proper tools and methods to work with your puppy. As dogs get older, they develop habits and become more difficult to train. I love using Wellness Soft Puppy Bites Lamb & Salmon Recipe Dog Treats for positive dog training.

• Crate training. The easiest way to housebreak your puppy is through crate training. I love the Frisco Fold & Carry Double Door Dog Crate. To ensure a positive dog training experience, it helps to introduce your puppy to a new crate gradually.

• Indestructible toys. Puppies chew and tear apart everything in sight. Choose puppy toys that are indestructible, and avoid plush toys with stuffing or noisemakers inside. I like Nylabone Puppy Chew Teething Keys.

• Secure your home. Put away your garbage, make sure your puppy can’t get near the toilet paper, and pick up anything from the floor that is not a toy for your puppy. Puppies eat everything, and expensive, lifesaving surgery to remove a foreign body is not uncommon in puppyhood. I promise this one small tip could save you a lot of stress and money.

• Get them comfortable. Play with your puppy’s paws and nails, clean their ears weekly (ask your veterinarian to show you how), and use a dog toothbrush set to get them used to having you clean their teeth at a young age. Puppies that are used to a basic pet grooming routine will be more comfortable with the process when they are older.

• Baths. Bathe your puppy every week or 2 to get them used to bathing and grooming.

• Stay informed. Learn about parasite control and place your puppy on monthly flea, tick and heartworm preventions.

• Get your pet vaccinated. Make sure your puppy is on a vaccination protocol recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Discuss with your veterinarian what is needed for your puppy based upon sex, age, lifestyle and where you live.

• Pet insurance. I highly recommend pet insurance!

Puppies are the BEST! They are fun, adorable, lovable and totally entertaining. I hope these tips help you get started on your journey of becoming a pet parent. Although puppyhood is hard and can be stressful at times, it goes by in the blink of an eye. So don’t forget to take lots of pictures! All the hard work and dedication in the beginning will be worth the lifetime of love. As always, pet health and well-being is my top priority, and I appreciate all the dedication and love that pet parents give to their own pets.