Puppy Care

"Happiness is a warm puppy." - Charles Schulz

Congratulations on your new puppy! For the rest of his or her life, your dog will trust you and depend on you for care and comfort. Raising a puppy is a demanding job and we are here to help you get your puppy off to a good start.

A. Diet

1. What to feed: Puppies require proper nutrition to grow strong and healthy. There are many wonderful quality diets that include the right amount of nutrients for your puppy. Just make sure that you are feeding a high-quality premium brand and you can be assured that your puppy is getting its needs met nutritionally.

2. How much to feed: The first few days in a new home are very stressful for a puppy and a sudden change in his or her diet could certainly aggravate the stress. Find out ahead of time what kind of food the puppy is already used to eating and begin feeding with it. Then, if you want to make a diet change, do it very gradually by adding in the new food and fading out the old diet little by little with each feeding. Start by feeding your puppy three times a day. Use the feeding guide printed on the food label as a starting point for the amount to feed. Typically the amounts suggested on the dog food bag are too high and you will have to closely monitor your puppy’s weight. Leave the food out for about 20 minutes at each feeding so the puppy will learn to eat everything in the bowl before you take it away. Don’t forget to provide a bowl of fresh, clean water for your puppy at all times too. Check with your veterinarian as to the appropriate age to switch to two meals a day as well as changing to an adult diet.

3. What not to feed: Once you find a diet that your dog likes and does well on, you shouldn’t change it. Dogs don’t need a variety of flavors and they can easily have some gastrointestinal distress from a sudden change in diet.

4. Safe options for chewing: Puppies explore the world much as toddlers do using their mouths to test things. It is important to supply your puppy with safe options to fulfill his or her chewing needs. Visit your local pet supply store and you will see a wide variety of toys available for your puppy. Many puppies will spend hours chewing on treats such as bully sticks or other chewy animal products. Make sure that your puppy’s toys and chews are readily available and anything that you do not want used as a chew toy is stored out of reach.

B. Health

1. Vaccinations: All puppies need a series of vaccinations starting at 8 weeks of age. Vaccinations protect against Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus. Puppies need booster vaccinations every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age and then one year later followed by every 3 years. A rabies vaccination is required by California state law to be given when your puppy is 16 weeks old, 1 year later, and every 3 years thereafter.

2. Deworming: Many puppies have intestinal parasites of some type, so the veterinarian will start your puppy on a deworming schedule. However, the basic deworming medication does not treat certain intestinal parasites, such as coccidia and giardia. At some point, you should bring in a fresh stool sample to be checked for parasites. You should also report to the veterinarian if you see any worms in the stool or if your puppy has loose bowel movements.

3. Physical Exam: When you schedule your puppy’s initial exam with a doctor we allow extra time simply because there is so much to cover. Be sure to bring any previous records of vaccinations and, if you can, bring in a fresh stool sample. At your first visit, the veterinarian will have a lot to tell you about puppy care. Don’t hesitate to ask questions at this time because your veterinarian is an excellent source of information about your puppy’s health and well-being. Please carry your puppy at all times because until he receives a full series of shots, your puppy is very vulnerable to deadly infectious diseases. In the exam room, the veterinarian will weigh your puppy, do a full physical exam, and give the necessary vaccinations. Your veterinarian will also discuss spaying or neutering, heartworm prevention, flea and tick control, dental care, and puppy training. It is natural to feel overwhelmed by all this information at once, so we will give you our Puppy Care Kit to take home that contains educational articles, brochures, and free product samples.

4. Vaccine reactions: After the hospital visit, it is normal for your puppy to be tired from the excitement and possibly a little sore from the vaccination. On a rare occasion, a puppy will have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. This can quickly become a life threatening crisis. Signs of an allergic reaction are sudden facial swelling, hives, vomiting, difficulty breathing, pale or gray gums and loss of consciousness. The onset of a vaccine reaction is rapid and your puppy should return to the veterinarian immediately for treatment. If your puppy is allergic to vaccines, next time the veterinarian will pre-medicate the puppy with antihistamine before giving the vaccination and carefully monitor the puppy for several hours in the hospital.

5. When to call the vet: Puppies are curious, energetic, and unpredictable. They always seem to be itching to chew on things from your fingers to anything they can get into their mouths, which can get them into trouble. A healthy puppy should not be listless, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, constipated or having diarrhea. If your puppy should all of a sudden be uninterested in food that too can be cause for concern. Call your veterinarian if you think your puppy is sick or not acting right. In case of an emergency, call first so that the hospital will be prepared to treat your puppy as soon as you arrive.

C. Grooming

1. Bathing and Brushing: Whenever exposing your puppy to a new situation (a bath or brushing for instance) always proceed slowly and make sure that it is a pleasant experience. Lots of praise and positive reinforcement are always a good idea. Just a minute or two a day spent brushing your puppy while feeding it a special treat will develop a dog who loves the attention.

2. Nail trims: A nail trim can be a traumatic event for a puppy. They often don't like to have their feet touched, so play with their paws for a while to get them used to having their feet handled. Then, slowly and carefully advance to the nail trim. Look for the hollow part on the underside of the nail. You should cut only the hollow part at the tip of the nail. There is a blood vein within the nail called the "quick" which can be seen if the pet has white nails. If you cut the quick, it will be very painful for the puppy and it will bleed. To stop the bleeding, you can apply some flour or cornstarch to the nail and apply pressure for a few minutes. Feel free to ask us for help. You can also make an appointment for a nail trim at our clinic.

D. Training

by Patricia A. Rohde, Professional Member APDT

1. Crating and housebreaking: When you first bring your puppy home have a crate and an exercise pen ready. This will give you two safe and secure areas for the puppy. The exercise pen can be used when you are home and not directly interacting with your puppy. Make sure that you have a water bowl and some safe toys in the pen. The crate should be used to keep the puppy safe at night and when you are not at home. You should also use the crate for short periods of time when you are at home to help the puppy get used to it. He or she will quickly learn that the crate is a safe and comforting den and will actually seek it out when they want some quiet time.

Take the puppy out of the crate or exercise pen when he is quiet and calm. If the puppy is barking and whining in the crate, try to wait until he is quiet and then let the puppy out. Always take the puppy outside immediately so that he has a chance to relieve himself. Go out with the puppy and use a cue word or phrase like “Hurry up” or “Go Potty.” This will help you later when you need the puppy to eliminate quickly. Very young puppies and small breed puppies tend to eliminate more frequently than large breed puppies. Learn your dog’s schedule. Most puppies need to eliminate first thing in the morning, after eating, after napping, and after play. Always make it a point to take the puppy out last thing in the evening before you go to bed. With very young puppies you may need to take them out in the middle of the night.

2. Bonding: Dogs are pack animals so bonding to the human “pack” is natural for your puppy. To strengthen the bond there are things you should do. If he is having a hard time sleeping when you first bring him home, try putting the crate next to your bed at night. This will also help you hear him if he wakes in the middle of the night and needs to be taken out to relieve himself. Play with the puppy several times a day, but keep your play and training sessions short. Play is a form of training. Your puppy will learn to bring toys to you. If he runs off with the toy, try putting the toy on a rope so you can control it. Keep the play close to you so you can reward it, control it and be the center of the game. Call your puppy’s name frequently and reward with the toy when he comes to you. Try different toys so you can determine your puppy’s favorite toy. Be sure to expose your puppy to different textures and different noises in toys. One way to increase bonding and start the training process is to hand feed him his daily ration of food. Have him do puppy sits, downs, stands, and coming on his name. You may use his daily rations throughout the day or if you prefer you may do it at his meal times. Use the food as a lure bringing the food close over his head to get a sit, down to the floor to get the down, straight out in front to get a stand. Call him by name and when he comes to you praise and reward him. You should practice training in different locations. Start with no distractions in the kitchen or hall. Then slowly increase distractions and locations of training. Put a leash on the puppy many times a day so he gets used to it. Do not pull or jerk the puppy but rather lead him with food. Take him in the backyard on a leash and practice training.

Always carry food with you and reward frequently for good behavior. End the session with play and remember to keep sessions short.

3. Obedience classes: Talk to your veterinarian about classes in your area. Ask your veterinarian when it’s appropriate to start an indoor puppy class. After you complete the puppy class it’s a good idea to continue obedience training. Many weekly obedience classes have levels such as puppy, beginning, intermediate and advanced classes. Some will also offer S.T.A.R. puppy testing and Canine Good Citizenship testing. Obedience classes will teach the basics (sit, down, stand, stay, come and loose leash walking) in different locations with lots of distractions.

Classes should be a fun, positive experience for you and your dog. With help and direction from an experienced trainer you will learn to understand your dog’s behavior. With gentle, positive training, your relationship with your puppy should continue to grow throughout his or her life.