Just like staff on an OB ward, where everyone (well, men excepted) should have experienced childbirth so they can empathize, so it is good for a veterinarian to have practical experience with the kinds of patients they treat.
I have enthusiastically embraced this credo since a child, when an over-tolerant parent allowed me to keep dogs, cats, hamsters and other pocket pets. I’d have brought the pony home, too, but she put her foot down. I cared for parrots, rabbits, goats and a pig on the side.
So it is inevitable that at some point I must join the ranks of those who acquire a puppy.
Oh my goodness. It is much more pleasant to give than to receive, especially when it’s advice.
Pick out puppy – Must be outgoing without bowling over kids in one bound. Not timid or withdrawn. Vet check ASAP. Yep, even me. General physical exam incomplete without auscultation heart, testing for fecal parasites, review of previous vaccinations, flea and heartworm control. Microchip. Mine.
Add food – Looking for quality ingredients and to address general needs of breed. Small bites for tiny breeds, lower calcium and protein for large breed puppies. (If you push their growth they are more likely to develop bone disorders. Large and giant breed puppies will develop more slowly. Patience. They’ll get there.)
Add water – Always fresh, clean, always available. Toilet bowl not acceptable. Chlorinated swimming pool not desirable. Lixit or drip dishes not good – may not fully slake thirst – just think if you always had to drink through a straw.
Add house training – This is my Waterloo. I hate housebreaking a dog. My general rule of thumb: Take your puppy outside for a potty break after every nap, after every meal and after every 30 minutes of play. I use a crate at night, which is safe, secure and feels cozy to the dog. For my own puppy I have modified the rule about playtime to every 20 minutes. He seems to have a small bladder. I take him out every time he stands up. When he starts to army crawl because he wants something across the room, I’ll know he’s got it.
Add obedience training – If you have trained your dog so well that they no longer stand up in the house for fear of being sent outside to “go potty,” you will be slower to move into this phase. But I highly recommend training your pet to walk on a leash, even indoors; to sit; and in general abide by the home rules. Your child shouldn’t run at people who visit, nor scratch their legs or jump up on them or knock them down. Your child shouldn’t bite other people. Neither should your dog.
Add love – By this time you have spent hours with your dog. You have laughed, cried and played together for innumerable hours. You have cleaned up enough messes for a lifetime. You have lost as much sleep as if you had a newborn infant. By lengthy observation your puppy has come to understand you, to know which trick or look brings treats or pets. By lengthy observation, you will know whether your garden hoses will live to a ripe old age and if the leftover meatloaf gives him explosive diarrhea. By lengthy observation, at the end of the first six months of your puppy’s life, your puppy will have trained you to be exactly the owner he/she was hoping for.
Christine McFadden holds a license to practice veterinary medicine and surgery. She has cared for the family pets of Merced at Valley Animal Hospital for more than 30 years. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.