Caring For Your Puppy By Hazel Sheppard V.N. Pet Health Counsellor
Taking on a new puppy is a very exciting and memorable time, as you are welcoming a new member to the family. With the correct care and attention this new companion will be a joy to be with over the coming years. We hope that this booklet will help you and your new puppy form a strong bond and provide you with some useful information. The information in this booklet may be slightly different to that given to you by friends and family, or from the advice given in some of the books you may have already bought. Please remember that the knowledge of the best way to incorporate your puppy into the household is constantly being updated and books written pre 1990 may already be somewhat out-of-date. Also, the regimes used by your parents for the family dog when you were a child may not be along current lines of thinking. But most importantly, remember that your new dog is an individual, not a carboncopy of the dog down the street, and although guidelines can be given, they are just that, to give an idea of the methods that work for most dogs. If something you’ve read doesn’t seem to work for your puppy, don’t blame the dog, it’s probably just not the right technique for him or her. Try variations along the same lines, and if you get stuck, don’t hesitate to contact us at the surgery. Adapt techniques to what works for your dog, but please, don’t ever use physical punishment. It may work, but this is only because the dog is scared of you, and it may well permanently damage the bond you have with your new companion.
The first few days… Settling your puppy in can be very time consuming. Use the following checklist to ensure you have done everything possible to make your puppy’s transition to it’s new home a pleasant experience. 1) Look at things from your dog’s point of view. This is probably the most important factor. If you can do this, and understand how your puppy feels you will be able to interpret how they behave. Imagine how you would feel, suddenly taken away from your mother, brothers and sisters and taken to a place you’ve never seen, with people you don’t know, and nothing you recognise. How would you feel…? Excited, apprehensive or just scared? 2) Sleep. The change from the familiar sights and smells of the breeder’s home to a strange new environment is very stressful for young puppies and this will make them very tired. For the first day your puppy may do nothing but sleep. This will depend largely on how far you have traveled to bring him home, but if the puppy wants to sleep, let it. You should already have prepared a sleeping area for your new addition, whether it is a single blanket, a soft
fleecy bed, or a puppy-training cage, is irrelevant. What is important is that this place is out of the way of the general hustle and bustle of home life, so that your dog can get some peace without being disturbed if that is what it wants. You should put your puppy in this place every times it falls asleep and it will then get to learn that this is it’s quiet place and to go there when it wants to be left alone. (Please note: If you are using a puppy training cage, which we strongly recommend, you should never close the door fully until the dog is used to this bed area and enters it comfortably and of it’s own accord.) 3) Meeting the Family. Everyone in the family will be desperate to see and play with their new puppy. This is fine if the puppy is alert and in a playful mood, but if he is at all tired he should be allowed to rest with no distractions. Children should be taught never to wake a puppy that is sleeping (the same applies for adult dogs as a half-awake canine may defend first, and look at who it is defending against later). Initially, children should interact with the new puppy one at a time, as a small pup may be overwhelmed by too much attention and become fearful. Children should also be taught that it is never funny to push, pull, or poke any part of the dog with hands or other objects. Children under the age of 8 and dogs should never be left alone together unattended. 4) Refreshment. As soon as you get your puppy home offer it a drink of fresh water. Show it where the water bowl is normally kept, and for the first few days it may be beneficial to have an extra bowl near the bedding area for puppies who seem a little fearful about their new environment. Offer your puppy small amounts of food on a regular basis, but do not worry if this is often refused over the first few days. 5) Who am I? No doubt you will have named your puppy within the first few hours of his arrival, or even beforehand! The first week is the time to teach your puppy it’s new name. You can do this in two ways; by using the dog’s name before any sort of interaction, i.e. before feeding, playing, etc, and by saying the dog’s name and giving it a training reward if it looks at you. By using both of these methods your puppy will know it’s name by day 3 or 4, provided you do not try to teach it any other commands at this time, or use ‘NO’ too often. Puppies that are constantly being told what not to do may think they are called ‘NO’ or ‘LEAVE’. Once your puppy knows it’s name well, you can begin to teach other commands.
Feeding All puppies should be fed a diet nutritionally balanced for growth. The breeder of your puppy will probably have provided you with a diet sheet. You should stay with this recommendation for the first week, while your puppy settles in, as with all the other things going on in it’s life any change in diet may cause an upset tummy at this stage. You may find that your puppy has diarrhoea within this time, even if you keep the food the same. This is not unusual, and is often due to the stress of a new environment, but it should not be ignored. To correct this gastric upset you should feed your puppy a bland diet for a few days. This may be chicken, rice, potato, fish, egg, etc, that you cook yourself, or you can collect a prepared food from your veterinary surgery for convenience. If the diarrhoea does not resolve within 48 hours, or the symptoms get worse, you should seek veterinary attention. Once your puppy has settled in you can decide what food you want to feed your puppy. As a general guide, you ‘get what you pay for’; the better quality diets are more expensive so you should choose the best your pocket can afford. To help keep costs reasonable it is advisable to either feed a dry diet on it’s own, or mix dry food with a tinned formulation. The diet we recommend is Hills Science Plan, this comes in a ‘Growth’ formulation for puppies, and there is even a special formulation growth food for large breeds. You should feed your young puppy (under 16 weeks) four times a day as their small stomachs will not be able to cope with large meals. You can drop this to three feeds a day at
4 months of age, and then down to two meals at between 6 months and 9 months of age, depending on the breed size (large breeds mature later than small breeds). The quantity fed at each meal will depend largely on your individual dog. Use the feeding guide supplied with the food as a starting point, but remember it is only a guide and you will probably need to adjust the amounts depending on your dog’s weight gain. It is important that puppies do not become overweight, as a fat puppy will be an obese adult unless something is done while it is still growing. Obese animals are less healthy than their slender counterparts. If you are concerned that your pet is too fat, or too thin, please come in to the surgery for advice.
Socialisation Many dog owners are now aware of the concept of socialisation. Put simply, socialisation is the process of exposing the puppy, in a controlled manner, to everything it will experience later in life. The reason for doing this is that young pups, particularly between the age of 6 and 12 weeks are extremely curious and are more likely to accept strange occurrences than an adult dog. By exposing your puppy to these things at a young age you will form a confident, out-going dog. Puppies that are not socialised, or are insufficiently socialised may become fearful adults, and this can unfortunately lead to a form of aggression. Socialisation is performed by you taking your puppy out into the big wide world, and giving them as many pleasant experiences as possible. One week after the first vaccination you can take your puppy to ‘clean areas’ on a lead, and carry it elsewhere, and it can come into contact with other vaccinated dogs. To help you with this process, socialisation courses (called Puppy Playschool) are held at the St. Anne’s Road Veterinary Surgery and are run by local dog trainer Wendy Hanson, assisted by Nicole Pescott, Veterinary Nurse. Puppies can attend these sessions just a few days after their first vaccination. For further details contact Sarah on (01323) 640011, or Wendy on 07074 644635.
Vaccination – See Vaccination leaflet Worming Parasite control is very important for young puppies. Most puppies are born with roundworm – this is often because the mother will carry an inactive larval stage of roundworm that only becomes active when she becomes pregnant. Even if she has been wormed regularly, it is possible for her to pass this parasite onto her young while they are developing, and after they are born. Hopefully your puppy will have been wormed at least once, preferably twice, before you collected him, and you should continue this regime of regular worming at 8, 10 and 12 weeks, then at monthly intervals, until the puppy is six month of age. We recommend the use of Panacur Granules, Paste or Suspension. Once the dog has reached the age of three months, you should also worm your pet against tapeworm every three months. Dogs should be wormed preventatively throughout life, every three months using Drontal Plus or Milbemax worming tablets.
Toys and Play
Your puppy should have access to two different types of toys. Interactive toys – these are the ones that your dog is only allowed to play with when you are playing with him, i.e. tug ropes and fetch items (balls, dumbbells, etc). These toys are used for short bursts of energetic play, and when the game is over they should be put somewhere that the puppy cannot
‘help himself’ to them. Some people will tell you that you should never play ‘tug’ games with large breeds, and if these types of games are played you must make sure you always ‘win’, otherwise you will have a ‘dominant dog’. In the author’s experience this is simply not the case. The important factor is that you ‘win’ more often than the dog (after all, if you always ‘win’ where’s the fun for the puppy?), and that when play becomes too boisterous it is stopped – this puts you in control of play at all times. Non-interactive toys – these are the items that your puppy can play with safely on their own. These are mainly chewing toys. The author highly recommends Nylabones, Kongs, Boomer Balls, and cotton rope chew toys for relieving your puppy’s boredom. Make sure that the toy you chose is the appropriate size for you dog. Too large and the puppy will not be able to chew it sufficiently, and may become bored with it. Too small, and it may become a choking hazard. If the puppy is able to bite pieces out of the toy it should not be left unattended with the item. Remember that puppies need to chew, and you will therefore need to provide something for this exercise at all times. Left without this provision they will soon find other ways to occupy themselves!
Collars and Leads Put a collar on your puppy as soon as possible, but initially only do so for short periods so that they can get used to it. If you have a pup that really doesn’t like it’s collar, only put it on when there are other things going on to distract him, i.e. at feeding time, or during interactive play. The puppy will then get used to the collar, as it will always be associated with nice experiences. Only attach a lead when your puppy is happy to wear its collar all the time, as the extra weight will feel strange at first. Initially let the puppy drag the lead on the floor with no restraint. Once he is happy to do this and is not worried by the lead you can pick it up and try to apply direction. Try not to pull the puppy along as this may put him off the lead, it is better to lure him to the place you want him to go with a food reward. If your puppy is trying to pull you the way he wants to go, change direction and call him to you. This will help to teach him that pulling on the lead is not effective. It is a legal requirement for your dog to wear visible identification (i.e. a dog tag) at all times, this includes in the home, as this is the commonest place dogs stray from. An engraved identity tag is the best option, as the cheaper ‘barrel’ tags seemed to get lost on a regular basis. A quality nylon lead with a strong clip is our recommendation. The collar should also have a reliable clasp or buckle, and should be tightened sufficiently that is will not pull over the dog’s head, but you should still be able to get two fingers under it for comfort. You will need to constantly check this as your dog grows, and adjust his collar accordingly. Choke chains should be avoided, and half-check collars and extending leads should be used with care, by experienced operators. Haltis and harnesses can be used for those puppies that have learnt to pull, and cannot be trained out of the habit.
Identichipping Although dog tags are essential, they too can become lost. It is therefore worth considering a back up. Identichipping is the placement of a small microchip, beneath the skin between the shoulder blades. This ‘chip’ will have a coded number that is unique for your pet. Once implanted this ‘chip’ number is registered at a national database. If a stray animal is found with an identichip the owners records can be accessed quickly and the pet reunited with its family promptly, this reduces the stress for both pet and owner. This microchip can be placed at any time, during a consultation, or while the dog is under a general anaesthetic for another reason (i.e. when neutered), by your veterinary surgeon or qualified veterinary nurse. All dogs who wish to travel under the PETS travel scheme must be identichipped.
Young puppies, under the age of 5 months (or 9 months in giant breeds) do not need to be taken for regular exercise. They will perform all the activity they require during play sessions and training classes. If you have a particularly energetic puppy that you feel requires a ‘walk’, you should take them out for no longer than 20 minutes at a time, but this can be done 3-4 times a day if necessary. Walks of long duration should be avoided as damage can be done
to growing bones and joints, particularly in large breeds, and puppies can be easily overtired.
Although it is natural to want to spend as much time as possible with your new puppy, you must remember that you are likely to have to leave your dog in the home alone on occasion. The duration of this period of time will obviously vary greatly depending on your lifestyle, but you should always consider the possibility that your circumstances may change, and you should therefore try to train your pet to be happy to be left for a period of 3 hours on average. It is important that you do this gradually, as a puppy that is suddenly left in isolation for a long period will become very stressed – often leading to a behavioural condition known as separation anxiety. To avoid this you should begin to leave your puppy on it’s own for short periods of time as soon as you feel it has settled into the household. The time to start this process will vary with each puppy, as some are more insecure than others. Increase the time the puppy is left for on each occasion, but if the dog becomes at all stressed, you should reduce the time for the next session and return before it shows signs of apprehension.
House-training The techniques used for house training have changed considerably in the last few years. It is now thought to be most effective to train puppies to go directly onto the surface they will have access to as adults (i.e. grass or concrete) rather than training to paper first. The thought behind this is that if a puppy is trained to go on paper it will than have to be retrained to use grass (or concrete) at a later date, hence you have to train the dog twice. Paper can, of course, still be used to limit damage to carpets, etc, as accidents will inevitably happen. The theory behind house training is relatively simple, avoid accidents as much as possible by maximising access to the outdoors. The fewer accidents you have the quicker the puppy will learn the right thing to do. Sounds easy, but in practice nothing is ever straightforward. Here are a few tips to help you get it right: 1 Take the puppy outside after every meal, drink, playtime or sleep. 2 Take the puppy outside at least every hour throughout the day, more frequently if possible. 3 Praise the puppy whenever he ‘performs’ outside (i.e. in the right place) and use a command while he is going (i.e. be quick, toilets, etc.) 4 Never reprimand the puppy when he has an accident inside. If you catch him going, simply pick him up (this will usually stop the flow!) and take him outside. If you reprimand the puppy while he is going in the house, he will simply learn not to do it in front of you, and you may just find little packages left behind the sofa instead. If you discover the accident after it has occurred there is no point in reprimanding as the puppy will not know why you are shouting at him. And ‘rubbing his nose in it’ doesn’t help either. Many people say that the puppy knows he has done something wrong, but this is usually just a response to your anger. They do not know why you are angry and therefore do no learn from the experience, except perhaps to not want your contact when you come into the room. All accidents should be cleared up when the puppy is otherwise occupied, and using an ammonia-free solution, as this will ensure you do not draw his attention to that area. 5 The use of a puppy-training cage can be advantageous, but it is important that the puppy is acclimatised to the cage before shutting him in, and is still allowed frequent opportunities to go to the toilet. 6 It can also be really useful to get up in the night to take the puppy out rather than let him have an accident, and will often speed up the process of house-training. This action is vital if you are using a training cage as you cannot expect a small puppy to ‘hold on’ all night.
Obedience Training It is important that you begin obedience training, i.e. sits, stays, etc, as soon as possible, no matter what the breed. You should not wait until the dog is 6 months old and then expect it to start learning. The younger the puppy is the more receptive it is to new ideas. Training classes are held by Wendy Hanson immediately following the socialisation course, and are specifically for young puppies. Information on these courses can be obtained from Wendy on
(01323) 644635 But remember that socialisation must be continued as well, and it is therefore often beneficial to continue to expose your puppy to a larger group of dogs. Also it is important that your dog listens to commands amidst distractions, and this situation can be duplicated in a training class.
Flea Control – See separate leaflet. Neutering – See separate leaflet. Insurance
With the increasing cost of veterinary care, and advancements in veterinary medicine making the level of care better than ever, it has become essential to have your dog insured against accidents and illness. With the backing of a good pet insurance policy, you can be sure that you can always get the best care for your pet no matter what the cost. We are unable to make recommendations for insurance companies, however, we would advise you to look at a number of policies to get the most suitable for you and your dog. There are many companies available and they all vary in the cover they provide. Beware; the cheaper policies often do not provide adequate cover. If your puppy had his initial vaccination with us, you will have received a ‘4 weeks free’ cover note from our recommended insurance company, and we strongly recommend you continue this policy after the trial period has expired. The insurance company will contact you to offer you an extended period of cover.
Handling It is vitally important that you get your puppy used to being handled, gently but firmly. This will not only make it easy for you to treat your pet and make consultations with the veterinary surgeon less stressful, but will ensure you catch any problems early.
On a daily basis; 1
Look at your dog’s eyes. They should be clear and bright, any discharge or cloudiness should be discussed with your veterinary practice. 2 Look in your dog’s ears. They should be clean and pink. If they are red or waxy or discharging talk to your veterinary practice. 3 Look at your dog’s nose. It should be clean and moist. Any dryness or discharge should be reported to your vet. Look in your dog’s mouth. In the young puppy (between four and six months) check that the baby teeth are falling out and the new adult ones are growing through. If an adult tooth is appearing and the baby tooth has not yet fallen out you should speak to your veterinary practice for advice. Check the mouth for foreign bodies, e.g. bits of wood or food that have become stuck between teeth on in the roof of the mouth. Stroke your dog. This gives you an opportunity to check his skin and fur. Look for signs of fleas, or any other skin irritation. Red inflamed skin, or any abnormal lumps and bumps should be checked by your vet. Check the feet and claws. Look and feel between pads and toes after every walk, and remove any lumps of dirt or stones, as these can cause extreme irritation to the animal. In the summer and autumn examine feet closely for grass seeds, as these small foreign bodies can puncture the skin and become lodged in the leg.
Twice a week; 1 2
Groom your pet. Use the appropriate tool – this may be a hound glove, brush or comb. In longhaired animals is may be necessary to groom on a daily basis. Arrange for your pet to be clipped by a professional groomer if this is necessary. Brush your dog’s teeth. Early preventative dental care can ensure your pet does not need dental treatment performed under a general anaesthetic later in life. The sooner
you start, the quicker your dog will accept this procedure. Do not force your dog to do this, make it into a game, and ensure you reward your dog when he is behaving. Check your dog’s nails for excessive growth. Clip them if necessary, or make arrangements for an appointment at your veterinary practice if you are unable to do this yourself.
Many thanks to Wendy Hanson and her puppies, ‘Chailea’ and ‘Grace’, for their help in making this booklet. We hope you have found this booklet useful. If you have any questions about puppies do not hesitate to contact the surgery on (01323) 640011.