Dogs are such fun, sweet and interesting creatures; no wonder they’ve been our best pals for thousands of years, nuzzling their way into our homes as furry family members.
Dogs come in many shapes and sizes with hundreds of known breeds to choose from. They’re omnivorous, which just means they need to eat more than meat. Their hearing is 10 times more accurate than a human’s, and the average dog has a top running speed of about 19 mph!
Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not colorblind: they see color, just not as well as we do. Dogs even have special membranes in their eyes to help them see at night.
Where puppies come from
Dogs are only pregnant for about 60 days. An average dog litter is usually five or six puppies. Puppies are usually born within about 20 minutes of each other, but sometimes the entire birth can last many hours.
Right after being born, puppies need milk from their mother. They’ll continue to nurse until they’re about six weeks old, which is when they can begin eating dry dog food. It’s important for young pups to eat high-quality, nutritious puppy food that’s been slightly softened with water or puppy milk replacer. Creating a mushy food helps puppies chew and digest their food easily. Feeding three to four times a day for a few weeks is normal until they’re able to move on to dry puppy food.
At about seven weeks of age, puppies are fully weaned from their moms and begin to eat dry puppy food and drink fresh water a few times a day. It’s very important puppies eat food that’s specially formulated for them, because puppies need more protein and fat than adult dogs.
Most puppy food is at least 30% protein. Puppies also need high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which help them have healthy skin, shiny coats, as well as healthy eyes and brain development. They should not eat adult dog food until they’re about a year old. Large and giant breed dogs should eat puppy food a bit longer, up to 18 months or so.
Dry food is usually the best choice when pups transition to adult food because it’s inexpensive, contains the most meat protein, and is easy to digest. Moist food is also great, but it needs to be refrigerated because it goes bad quickly.
Start training. Early!
It’s important to begin training your puppy as soon as you bring him home. Crate training is a great way to make your puppy feel secure in his new home; comfortable small spaces mimicking a “wolf’s den” become protective for your pup. He’ll have a familiar place to go to during the day when life becomes overwhelming.
House-training is an important part of owning a puppy and should be done with kindness and patience. Puppies are eager to learn and will easily pick up a few basic commands, like "sit," "stay," and "come." Positive reinforcement such as giving treats for good behavior is the best way to help your puppy learn commands.
Although puppies are pretty easy to care for, they’re also a big responsibility. Make sure to find a good veterinarian and begin health care as soon as possible. This includes annual routine checkups, vaccinations, and prevention for fleas, ticks, and heartworms. It’s also important to spay or neuter your dog to prevent having puppies as soon as it’s old enough.
Since puppies need a series of vaccinations, they may be more susceptible to infectious diseases if they are exposed at a young age. Make sure to keep an eye on them for signs like diarrhea, vomiting, poor weight gain, lack of appetite, tiredness, coughing, or difficulty breathing. If your puppy shows any of these signs, take him/her to the veterinarian immediately.
It’s all child’s play
Socializing is very important for your pup’s overall health and well-being. Between the ages of two and four months, puppies begin to feel more sociable and are excited to meet new people and other four-legged friends. Taking them on frequent walks and to dog parks is a great way to get them used to new situations. You can even introduce your dog to new people and pals through socialization classes.