New Parent Starter Pack: What You Need to Know About the First Year With Your Fur Baby

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You’ve managed the first few weeks with your adorable new puppy and are on your way to becoming a fully-fledged fur parent. Well done! But now that you’ve passed those crucial early milestones we tackled in part one of the New Parent Starter Pack, what does the next 12 months look like?

As a fur parent myself, I’d argue the first year with your pup is the most important. This is when you start socialising them with other dogs and children, adjusting them to their own sleep schedule and when they’ll start to reinforce the behaviours you’re teaching them, both at home and out and about in the big world.

So how do you make sure they have everything they need to live a long and full life as part of your family? We spoke to veterinarian, Dr Ben Schuster, who’s the resident pet expert at Budget Direct Pet Insurance to share all of the best expert-approved tips and tricks you need for navigating the all-important first year:

How Do I Adjust Them to Sleeping Alone at Night?

Making sure that your puppy isn’t disrupting your own sleep during the night and sleeping contently themselves is an art in itself. Resisting the urge to plop them in your bed and comfort them when they’re crying is also harder than you might think.

This is where I fell over when it came to training our (almost) five year old miniature dachshund Maple and now it’s safe to say she owns the bed more often than I’d like to admit despite being, well, tiny. Thankfully, Dr Ben has some tricks up his sleeve to ensure your entire family is having a restful night.

“Firstly, create a dedicated sleeping area of their own with comfortable blankets, soft toys, and an item that has the scent of the pup’s mother and litter on it,” he said.

“Setting up a puppy crate can become the perfect way to create a secure environment for sleeping. Other items like a hot water bottle, long-lasting chews, and even canine pheromone collars can help to settle a new puppy at night-time.”

What About Socialising Them?

After adjusting your pup to your home, and having them vaccinated, the next phase is taking them out in the world on walks, to the park and if they’re lucky, even to the beach. A big part of this will involve socialising them to get them used to meeting and interacting with other fur friends as well as children who will probably want to give them a big.

The advice we received from our puppy school was the sooner you start socialising your dog, the better and it’s a great extension of the ‘puppy play’ they might participate in during classes. So Maple frequented the dog park a lot as a pup despite preferring to hang out with her human owners.

It’s a good place to prepare them for the unexpected and will help them to get used to noises and distractions. This advice was seconded by Dr Ben, who said the best way to make sure your puppy adjust to others well is interaction and exposure from a young age.

“All pups go through a ‘critical socialisation period’ from one to four months old during which they develop key social skills,” he explained.

“You should aim to safely expose your pup to as many new settings, people, and animals during this timeframe. If your puppy is interacting with children, always make sure this is done under supervision and give your pup a safe space to retreat if they feel overwhelmed.”

How Often Should I Be Taking Them to the Vet?

Just like us humans, puppies need regular visits to the vet for check-ups, but you’ll probably find that the first 12 months of a dog’s life is almost always when they’ll visit the vet the most frequently.

“Initially, most pups will receive a puppy check-up and need three core vaccinations to ensure they’re protected against common canine illnesses, as well as preventative care against parasites,” Dr Ben said.

“They’ll often then have another check-up closer to six months to discuss development and plan desexing, and then an additional vet visit at around a year old as they mature into adulthood and require a booster vaccination.”

When it comes to desexing, Dr Ben said this should be discussed with your vet as each individual breed has different development. “This means the procedure won’t always be done at the same age for every dog,” he said.

“Additionally, many dogs may end up with retained puppy teeth that may need to be removed, or conditions like umbilical hernias that are often fixed at the same time as desexing.”

What About Pet Insurance?

The first 12 months with your pup is usually the time when you’ll consider taking out pet insurance. We all want our dogs to live long and happy lives, which Dr Ben said may unfortunately include unexpected trips to the vet, so you might also want to consider if pet insurance is right for you.

“Pet insurance can be incredibly helpful in assisting with certain veterinary costs, especially for unpredictable and unexpected incidents, which puppies can be prone to,” he said.

“Puppies love to get up to mischief, particularly eating unusual items or accidentally injuring themselves during play, so it can be valuable to have pet insurance in these situations.”

Budget Direct offers Pet Insurance with 15% off your first year’s premium when you buy online (T&Cs apply). Find out what they cover and if it’s right for you by heading to their website.

Any Last Words of Advice?

The fact that you’re here reading this article shows that you’re already a loving pet parent. So when it comes to any final advice, Dr Ben said patience is key and don’t expect immediate results when it comes to training and adjusting your fur baby to your home.

“Training a puppy and helping them adapt to a new environment can take months for some puppies to fully settle in,” he said.

“Try and keep a balance between giving them attention and praise, while also allowing them to become independent and comfortable on their own to avoid becoming over-attached.”

As for me, I’d say enjoy this period because there’s no love quite like the love from a four-legged friend. They’ll love you fiercely, want to spend all of their time with you and give you lots of laughs along the way. They are part of the family now, after all.

To find out more about the first year with a fur baby, visit part one of our new parent starter pack. For more information on pet insurance, visit Budget Direct Pet Insurance.

Budget Direct Pet Insurance issued by Auto & General Insurance Company Limited. Read PDS and TMD available at budgetdirect.com.au to decide if product suits you. Terms, Conditions and Exclusions apply. Subject to meeting underwriting criteria.