Not that kind of shot! Vaccination is as important for puppies as it is for new humans. According to the South African Veterinary Association there are four core diseases that our furry friends need to be vaccinated against:
- Canine distemper
- Canine adenovirus infections
- Canine parvovirus infection
These vaccines are very important in managing the health of your dog and are prescribed from weeks 8 to 15 of a puppy's life. After that it's recommended to have your dog vaccinated after its first birthday and then once every three years. With that said, find yourself an awesome vet who has a passion for animals (shout out to Silverfields Vet in the West Rand for being awesome), and they can guide you through the vaccination process. Having a good vet is key to having a happy, healthy mutt.
Puppy Proofing Your Home
Puppies are known to tear anything and everything to shreds. Sorry to break it to you, but you can't leave your socks on the floor any more. Secure entrances and exits to the home – nobody wants to go looking for a puppy at 2 AM on a Monday morning. Crating is a great way to train your puppy to become somewhat independent and to keep them safe at night when you're getting your much deserved beauty sleep. House training is important too, so read up and teach your doggo to not go toilet in the house! There are different methods suited to your specific environment, such as training your dog to do its business on newspaper, moving the paper closer and closer to the door and eventually out of the house. With that said, it's good to designate a specific spot for your pooch. Put a dog bed or crate in this spot and accustom your new pet to this area by placing his or her food and water there as well.
Routine goes hand in hand with house-training your puppy. Dogs are pack animals and will fall into rank and file if you take charge. A great way to instil routine into the new member of your family is to set a time in the morning when you get out of bed. Take the puppy outside at this time to go do his or her business. After a while the doggo will get used to this and end up nagging you out of bed when you want to sleep in. This also applies to feeding time. Try and feed your puppy around the same time every day.
Just like humans have different types of metabolism, so do different breeds of dog. Read up about your breed and ask your vet to recommend a diet... the last thing you want is to feed your dog a brand of dog food that's not meshing well with the dog's requirements. Often it's cheaper and healthier to cook for your dog – might sound silly, but if you make the food in bulk once a month it can make life a lot easier. Besides, who wouldn't want a healthy little mutt running around? An important factor is to note what dogs can and can't eat, like chocolate is pretty much poison, but sweet potato is good for them.
There are lots of dog food brands that claim to have all the right ingredients for puppy health but not all of them get the balance right. When taking your puppy to the vet for his first check-up, speak to them about the best food options. A food that is specially formulated for mini, medium and large breeds and provides antioxidants, such as Vitamins C and E, helps your puppy build a strong, healthy immune system. For example, Hill’s Science Plan contains these antioxidants, as well as high levels of DHA, a vital fatty acid to support a healthy brain and learning abilities in puppies. The ingredients are easily digested, which helps your puppy to absorb more nutrients from the food.
Rule of thumb is to take your new pupper to the park after 16 weeks from birth. This gives the vaccination time to do its thing and for the dog's immune system to become stronger on its own. Once your doggo has reached this milestone, have a look at the top dog parks we've mentioned below - we're sure your furry friend will make a couple of buddies at these spots for sure! Oh, and invest in a good leash - nothing that will sit uncomfortably or choke the dog.
Johannesburg Botanical Garden
Also known as "Emmarentia dam" (which it rightfully is), the Johannesburg Botanical Garden boasts 81 hectares of flora fit for a royal puppy or three. There's ample shade and great spots to lay down a blanket and chill with your furry friend. Bring a bowl of water along as it's not recommended that your dog should drink out of the dam... in fact, keep your puppy away from the dam – it's too busy with runners, ducks and cyclists anyway. The top part of the park (the entrance closest to Beyers Naude Drive) is dedicated to dogs, so it'd be your best bet to hang out there.
A stone's throw away from the Cradle Of Human Kind lies a safe space for dogs to run free, kick it with the cool kids and make new friends. With 22 hectares of awesomeness, your dog will feel right at home at Walkhaven. There are two dams for the dogs to swim in, various hiking trails, braai and picnic facilities that have been spread out to avoid congestion, and loads of maintained space in which to walk, picnic, play and enjoy a day out. The best part is that dogs are not required to be on a leash – in fact, the facility prefers them to run around and play freely. Just be sure to clean up after your dog (poo bags are available in the bar and on the deck area). The park also has a little pub and grub area which serves cold beer and hot pizza, and the restrooms are serviced regularly and remarkably clean. Check the link below to find out about the entrance fee.
James & Ethel Gray Park
Pretty laid back and relaxed, James & Ethel Gray Park is a great place to take your new puppy as it's not as busy as those mentioned above. The park is patrolled by local security and managed and monitored by the Melrose Rates Payers' Association, owing to a clean and safe environment. Be sure to take your leash with as we're not too sure about leash laws here – we've seen doggies off their leashes but can't confirm whether this is the rule.
Wherever possible it's better to adopt than to buy... well, it's always better to adopt. Have a look at our pet adoption article and find a pet best-suited for you and your family. You can also contact your local SPCA.
By Shawn Greyling