Preparing for Your New Puppy or Kitten Part III: Nutrition and Training to Support Development

Puppy-meal-0224131-300x225Your puppy or kitten is at home now and the fun has just begun. If this addition to your family was unexpected, then you may want to take a brief step back and learn more about preparing for your new puppy or kitten with our previous posts: Overall Wellness & Daily Care Tips and Creating a Pet-Friendly Home.

Two important components for healthy development in the first year with your puppy or kitten include proper nutrition and training. Good nutrition and exercise are essential. There is an obesity crisis among dogs and cats resulting in medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and arthritis which can shorten the lifespan of your dog or cat. Obedience training is more important than you realize. Proper training saves lives and improves the quality of life for you and your pet by building and strengthening the bond you share.

Nutrition

Start with a high-quality food to promote healthy growth and development. Ask your veterinarian about the brand and type of food recommended for your puppy or kitten and the different nutritional stages of life.

  • Kittens require a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Canned food is best for cats so it’s ideal to introduce your kitten to wet foods.
  • Puppies need specially-formulated food, based on the breed and size, which includes essential omega-3 fatty acids to foster proper growth and development.

“Feeding your puppy the right amount of an appropriate diet during this critical stage of growth and development will help reduce genetic predispositions for some problems, like orthopedic disorders such as hip dysplasia. Obesity rates for dogs and cats have reached alarming levels, impacting the overall wellness and longevity of our pets. If we can give them a healthy start, they can enjoy a lifetime of health and happiness,” said Dr. Laura Weis, who owns Doylestown Veterinary Hospital with her husband Dr. Randy Weis.

Training

Providing your puppy with loving attention, leadership, house training and social situations to interact with other people and dogs will prepare him or her to begin formal training between the age of 8 and 12 weeks. Once your puppy starts receiving vaccinations, puppy preschool and other social activities can begin.

First, let’s settle the business of doing their business before discussing obedience training and learning advanced skills. Working with your puppy and kitten starts with potting training.

  • For your puppy: Start with an indoor potty spot and prepare with the proper training materials like newspaper and absorbent pee pads. When your puppy is ready to start outdoor training, schedule regular potty breaks outside during the early morning, after feeding times and before bed time. Positive reinforcement and consistency are the keys to successful house training.
  • For your kitten: Place a litter box in a confined area and introduce your kitten to the box. As training is consistently successful and your cat is given the freedom to roam, place the litter box in a permanent space that is easily accessible. Cats are notoriously neat, so clean the litter box daily. Keep the box away from household traffic and any potentially scary noises or other pets or people.

Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement so obedience and behavioral training strategies work well for them. Obedience and behavioral training focus on different outcomes.

  • Obedience – Teaches the dog verbal commands or hand signals that elicit a specific response such as down, sit and heel.
  • Behavioral – Prevents or stops unwanted behaviors like chewing, jumping or digging as well as address serious issues like running away or excessive barking.

There are several choices when it comes to formal dog training.

  • Owners can handle the training themselves with the help of books and dvds
  • Group classes for obedience training are led by a trainer and commonly offered at pet supply stores or through local pet organizations
  • Private training includes individual sessions with a trainer, either in your home or in a facility attending several daily sessions for a period of time

Diehl-with-Blitz-2-224x300No matter which type of training you choose, it ultimately comes back to you and the relationship you have with your dog. Training requires love, patience and trust.

Victoria Schade is a professional dog trainer and award-winning author of pet training books and videos. Her unique Doylestown shop, Life on the Leash, offers organic food and treats as well as toys, supplies and training. Her book Bonding with Your Dog takes an in-depth look at how the relationship between an owner and dog impacts training and results.

“Gentle, dog-friendly training is one of the easiest ways to begin to cement the bond with your new puppy. It will help you develop a common language with your new best friend, and will teach your puppy that you are a very fun person to be around,” added Victoria.

Make your bad kitty a good cat. Cats can be trained! Cats are smart animals, but they don’t respond to the same training strategies as dogs. Behavior modification strategies work much better for stopping unwanted behaviors like jumping on counters and dining tables or clawing at furniture. And believe it or not, cats can be taught to walk on a leash, obey basic commands and perform tricks.

  • Water/mist spray bottle training is not recommended because your cat might consider it a game which will reinforce the unwanted behavior, or frighten your cat resulting in aggressive behavior.
  • The discomfort when encountering double-sided tape on counters and furniture can discourage jumping or clawing furniture—and it works when you are not around.
  • Associating behaviors with verbal cues and noises, like using a clicker, along with a reward is effective.
  • Ultimately, praise, redirection, food rewards and focused playtime are the best training methods for cats—be patient and consistent.

If you’re looking for more information about training your cat, Dr. Weis suggests Cat Fancy’s Naughty No More: Change Unwanted Behavior through Positive Reinforcement by Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant. This book is a beginner’s guide with easy steps for training your cat using the clicker method and other positive techniques.

Doylestown Veterinary Hospital and Holiday House Pet Resort offer exceptional pet services, including complete medical care for dogs and cats, pet lodging, dog training, grooming salon and doggie daycare at our comprehensive facility located on 50 acres in Doylestown, PA.

Ask about our promotion of $50 off training at Holiday House Pet Resort when your puppy receives vaccinations at Doylestown Veterinary Hospital.