[dropcap]M[/dropcap]aking the decision to welcome a pet into your home isn’t one to be taken lightly. First up you need to consider the type of pet that would suit your family situation and lifestyle. Never buy a pet on impulse. Many animals are relinquished to shelters because they do not fit in with the owners’ lifestyles.
With the myriad of different sizes, physical appearances and temperaments in dogs, you need to do your homework before choosing a breed. Some breeds drool, need daily grooming or shed coats throughout the year. Others require extensive exercise or may be prone to various medical conditions. “Ask yourself why you want to get a dog, as not all breeds are suitable for all purposes,” says Dr Hurly. “Perhaps you are looking for a guard dog, an alert dog, a dog for the children, a dog for sport or obedience training, or a calm companion for say an elderly couple.”
Finding the right breeder
Selecting a registered and reputable breeder will give you peace of mind. The breeders profiled in Animaltalk and Southern Africa’s Dog Directory 2016 are good resources for finding the correct person from which to purchase your pet. Ask for contactable references. Ask to meet the puppy’s parents, especially the dam, but preferably the sire as well, so you can gauge the temperament of the parents.
Preparing your home
Sam Walpole, a qualified trainer and accredited behaviourist, says that puppy proofing your home is essential as youngsters are curious! “They use their mouths, noses and paws to experience novel items,” explains Sam. “They do not come pre-programmed to know what is safe and what is legal to investigate, play with or destroy.” Get down to your puppy’s level and make sure all electric cords, breakables, household cleaners, pesticides, small objects and rubbish bins are out of reach. If you have a swimming pool, it must be covered. Also research the plants in your home and garden. Some flora may be toxic for pets and should be removed.
Getting ready for your puppy
Before you pick up your new pet, purchase the items required and set up a place in your home for the new family member. It is better to start off in one room and get puppy used to that area first before moving on to other areas of the home over a few days.
Soft bed and blankets
- Water and food bowls
- Collar (correct size) with identification, and a lead
- Harness (optional)
- Safe dog toys and chews
- Pet first aid kit
- Grooming kit
- Dog toothbrush and toothpaste
- Travel crate
- Optional extra: child’s playpen or baby gate
Good nutrition will be the first important decision you will need to make. Nutrition plays a crucial role in the first year of your new puppy’s life. The energy requirements of these bundles of joy are massive, especially in large breed dogs. Protein requirements follow a similar pattern to energy needs. Fat is important as it contributes to the energy density of food and essential fatty acids.
The decision of what food is best must be based on science and not on advertising. Choose a reputable manufacturer and follow your vet’s advice. You do not have to stick to the same food as the breeder, especially if it is not of good quality.
Chewing is natural for teething puppies. If you don’t want your new Nikes chewed to bits, hide them away and give your puppy or kitten safe toys to chew! Watch out for toys with small plastic parts like eyes, noses and buttons.
Stock up on some ‘pee pee pads’, absorbent pads which you place on the floor. Unlike newspaper, these pads seal in the liquid and protect the floor below.
Picking up your new pet
Very soon the day will arrive when the breeder will call you to collect your new pet. If you have children, rather let them wait at home to meet the new addition. Take along another adult to help you in the car. Remember to collect the puppy’s vaccination card. This is to certify that the animal has received one or two vaccines and deworming by the breeder’s vet.
First day home
Head directly home. “Keep introductions low key and quiet,” recommends Sam Walpole. “If you have a big family, allow one person in at a time and supervise the children.” Place a collar on your puppy and start calling him by his new name. Spend some play and bonding time with your new pet. Any exploring should be under your watchful eye. Puppies sleep – a lot. So if your little one wants to rest, allow him to do so in his new bed, away from the bustle of the family.
Socialising your puppy
The aim of puppy classes is to foster responsible pet ownership through education classes which you attend with your puppy between the ages of eight and 16 weeks. It’s during this time that owners should expose them to unfamiliar people, dogs, objects, environments and situations in a pleasant manner without causing fear. These skills make for a social and well-adapted dog in adulthood and can prevent many behaviour problems later on in life.
When adoption’s an option
You are generally spoilt for choice at shelters. There are usually dogs and cats of all ages – from puppies and kittens to young animals and older pets who would love a forever home. If you choose a dog, little may be known about the parents, so you will need to rely on the expertise of the shelter staff in determining the average adult size of the pup you choose.
Different shelters have different adoption processes. You will probably have to undergo a home check. You will be asked to pay an adoption fee, which should include vaccinations, deworming and sterilisation. Some shelters also require the owner to pay for mandatory microchipping.
Text: Gina Hartoog