Getting a new puppy can be fun and exciting, but it also comes with a lot of added responsibility. We can help you adjust to this new addition to your family with a few basic guidelines.
Vaccinations have become a controversial subject over the past couple of years. Although there are always some risks to vaccinating your puppy, we feel that the benefits far out weigh the risks. Many of the diseases that dogs are vaccinated against can be fatal if your puppy becomes infected. A few of the most important vaccines we recommend are those against Canine Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Parvovirus (a combination vaccine, DHPPa). Other highly recommended vaccines for our area are Leptospirosis, Kennel Cough (Bordetella) and Lyme. Rabies is required by state law regardless of whether or not your puppy will be strictly indoors or confined to a fenced in yard at all times. Here are a few guidelines for vaccinating your puppy.
• Distemper- given every 2 to 4 weeks until at least 14 weeks of age (minimum of 2 shots), boosted at 1 year old, then good for 3 years
• Rabies- given at 3 months old, if boosted within 9-12 months of first vaccine then it will be good for 3 years in Massachusetts (each state has its own guidelines)
• Leptospirosis- 2 shot series given 2-4 weeks apart, then given once yearly (must be 8 weeks old) (recommended for the majority of dogs due to this disease being zoonotic)
• Kennel Cough- given once yearly (some kennels require every six months)- needed for boarding, training, and grooming
• Lyme Disease- 2 shot series given 2-4 weeks apart, then given once yearly (must be 8 weeks old)
• Canine Influenza- 2 shot series given 2-4 weeks apart, then given once yearly (must be 7 weeks old)
Heartworm, Fleas, Ticks, and Other Unwanted Guests:
Heartworm disease is caused by bites from infected mosquitos. There are several different brands of heartworm medication, we can help you to decide which would be best for your pup. The majority of these medications are given once a month and will also provide some protection against intestinal parasites. It is recommended that you give your dog heartworm medication year round.
There are many different flea and tick preventatives on the market. We carry many different options. Some people prefer topical medications, some prefer collars, and others prefer to give an oral medication. Each dog is individual and while one medication may work great for one dog, it may not work as well for another. We can help you decide what may work best for your family’s lifestyle. Most flea and tick treatments can be used on puppies as young as 6-8 weeks old, except Bravecto which is for dogs over 6 months of age.
Intestinal parasites are very common in puppies, even the most well bred puppies can have them. We highly recommend bringing a fecal sample with you to your puppy’s first appointment so it can be tested for various intestinal parasites. The unwanted guests can commonly cause diarrhea and excess gas, sometimes even vomiting. Most are easily treated with a short course of medication. Because some parasites are zoonotic (they can be spread to humans), the CDC recommends giving your pets a broad spectrum dewormer annually.
Proper nutrition is very important to a growing puppy. Just like children, they need to eat right in order to grow up to be healthy adults. While roly-poly puppies can be quite cute, they tend to turn into fat adults. Keeping your puppy trim is very important; obesity can lead to many problems as an adult such as diabetes and joint problems. Keeping your dog in peak physical condition will help him to lead a long, healthy life.
Feed a high quality, proven puppy food- Iams, Eukanuba, Purina, Hills Science Diet, and Royal Canin are all excellent foods and many of them have different puppy foods for different sized dogs. Feed your puppy three times a day- at 4-6 months old you can start dropping down to 2 times a day. Read the back of the bag- every food has a different calorie content, as a starting point, read the charts to find out how much your puppy should be eating each day, then divide that into the proper number of meals. Every dog is different- not every dog needs the same amount of calories, monitor their weight to determine the proper amount of food.
Over the years there have been many “fad” diets introduced to the pet food market. Unless directed by a veterinarian, using diets with novel proteins or grain-free diets are not recommended. Using these diets can put your puppy’s health at risk. Novel proteins are used when it is suspected that your dog may have a food allergy. By using these novel protein in healthy, non-allergic dogs, there is a risk that over time they may develop allergies to them which means that if your dog does develop a food allergy later in life, you are going to be even more limited in what your feeding options are.
Raw diets are another alternative diet that many breeders recommend. Feeding a raw diet is not as simple as putting a raw chicken and some veggies in a bowl for your dog. Like people, dogs need a variety of vitamins and minerals, it is very difficult to make your own diets for your dog, there is a science to creating a balanced diet for your dog and there are veterinary nutritionists who can help you do this if your dog truly requires a specialized diet. Another risk of feeding a raw diet is that they can cause infections from bacteria like e. Coli and Salmonella, which are human health hazards. There have been studies that show that Salmonella can be cultured from bowls even after running it through the dishwasher, it has also been cultured from the mouths of dogs who are fed raw diets. Due to these hazards, the benefits rarely outweigh the risks to your pet and family.
Grain-free diets have an even greater health risk for your puppy. It has been discovered over the past few years that there is something about the grain-free diets that can cause severe heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs. The reason behind it is not clear at this time, there are currently many studies in process trying to find the cause. If caught early enough, the damage to the heart muscle may be reversible with medication, however, many dogs are very good at hiding illness and it may be too late by the time the problem is discovered. This can be fatal in even very young dogs.
House Training and Crate Training:
House training can be the easiest thing or the hardest thing you do with your puppy. Some puppies hardly need any training at all while others may make you think they are never going to learn. The most important part of house training is consistency. If you are not consistent with your actions, the puppy won’t be consistent with their’s. Some puppies have very clear signs for when they need to go out, while others don’t show any signs at all. The key is to develop a routine, try to determine what your puppy’s signs are, and reward your puppy for proper potty habits. Here are a few tips:
• Give your puppy undivided attention- If you are unable to give your puppy undivided attention, keep him confined to one area, don’t allow him to sneak off and go potty in the house when you are not looking- crates can be very useful for this. The reason crate training works is because dogs have a natural tendency to have a den, and they don’t want to soil their den. If your puppy is eliminating in the confined space, the space is likely too big for him. Also, the puppies that take the longest to house break are the ones that have too much freedom. Housebreaking is a series of small steps, until your pet sees your entire home as his/her den.
• Praise, praise, and more praise- reward him every time he asks to go out and when he goes potty outside.
• Don’t Punish- if he does have an accident, yelling will not fix the problem, especially after the fact. Instead, take him out and praise him if he goes potty. Correcting your puppy only works if you catch him in the act.
• Develop a routine- take your puppy out when you first get up, right after meals, and right before bed. Make sure you take him out before he gets to the point he can’t hold it any longer, set him up for success.
Basic Obedience Training:
Training classes can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your puppy. Many training groups offer puppy kindergarten classes. These usually include puppy playtime plus a shorter training session. These are great because they allow your puppy to socialize with other puppies in a controlled environment. Training classes can also be wonderful support groups. Raising a puppy can be very frustrating at times and it can help to know you are not alone. You may find someone else who had some of the same problems you are having, they may have some new ideas on how to deal with these problems.
• Convenience- there are many different training centers around. Ask your friends and neighbors where they have gone. Try to find one that fits your schedule well. If you are always in a hurry to get in and out, you won’t enjoy it and your puppy won’t either.
• Nothing in life is free- make your puppy work for all treats. There are several different toys on the market that you can hide treats in so your puppy has to work to get them out.
• Be a Canine Good Citizen- having a well behaved dog not only makes your life easier, but also gives non-dog people less to complain about. Maybe your dog will be the one who turns the neighborhood dog- hater into a dog-lover!
• A tired puppy is a good puppy- Make sure your puppy gets plenty of physical and mental exercise.
• Have Fun! If you are not having fun, your puppy won’t have fun. If it’s not fun, your puppy won’t want to do it, and neither will you. Always end a training session with your puppy’s favorite game as a reward for a job well done.
• A place of his own- make sure your puppy has a place to call his own. Some puppies love crates, some would prefer a bed in a corner (some, on the couch), whatever he prefers, make this his place to get away to and have some time to himself.
Mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise. Puppies need to be challenged mentally. Playing games that require some thought help to develop smart dogs.
• Play hide and seek- this is a fun way to train your dog to come when called, the whole family can get involved! Everyone can hide in different rooms then, take turns calling your puppy, he will have a blast trying to find everyone. Remember to have lots of treats on hand and give lots of praise when he finds you!
• Get your dog a job- take a competitive obedience class, join an agility group, take tracking lessons, if you have a hunting breed, take him to hunt trials, even just training your dog to get the paper in the morning will give him something to look forward to each day.
• Go for a walk- walking a dog on a leash can actually be more tiring for them than running loose in the back yard. Walking on a leash is not only a physical activity, but also a mental activity. They are forced to think about what they are supposed to be doing.
Dogs are social animals. Puppyhood is a great time to introduce your puppy to other dogs and other people. Being well socialized as a puppy can help your puppy grow into a well-adjusted adult. This is especially important if you have a shy puppy. The older your puppy gets, the harder it is to change behavioral traits.
• Go shopping- taking your puppy to dog friendly stores can be a great way to socialize him. Most of the people your puppy will meet at these stores are animal lovers and will provide lots of positive reinforcement.
• Join a play group- introducing your puppy to other dogs at a young age will help him to be more tolerant of other dogs when he is older. Just make sure your puppy is fully vaccinated before exposing him to too many dogs!
• A night on the town- taking your dog for walks in populated areas can help him to get used to being around many different types of people. Not everybody likes dogs and your puppy needs to learn how to behave like a good citizen and not give these people more reasons not to like them. Remember to bring lots of treats to reward good behavior!
All puppies have their little behavioral problems. Some like to chew everything in sight, some have trouble with play biting, and some are just down right crazy. This is the time to correct these problems. What may seem cute now may not be so cute when your little 15 pound puppy is now a 75 pound adult. Some of these problems can become dangerous and costly. By working on changing your puppy’s behavior now, you can have a long happy life with a well-behaved dog.
• Redirect problem chewing- Give your puppy plenty of puppy safe chew toys to redirect his chewing from your shoes to an acceptable toy.
• Take a deep breath- if you get frustrated, your puppy will feel it. If your puppy is having trouble, take a break; forcing your puppy to do something it is not ready to do will only hurt your relationship.
• Soothe with cold- teething puppies are like teething children, their gums hurt and chewing helps to ease the pain. Try freezing some of his favorite chew toys, frozen baby carrots also make a great treat.
• Pick your battles to win the war- sometimes you have to settle for something less than perfect. It is better to reward the partial attempt than it is to punish your puppy for not going all the way. Rewarding little steps towards the desired behavior will get you there faster.
• Yelp- if you have a play biter, discourage this behavior by yelling “ow!” loudly, this simulates another puppy in the litter yelping, it tells the puppy he is playing too roughly, or redirect the biting to an appropriate chew toy.