New Puppy Basics
Name & Identification
- Choose a short name because it is easier for your puppy to recognize, but be creative and have fun with it!
- Your puppy will learn his name if you use it consistently.
- Your puppy’s identification tag should have your name and phone number on it. Microchipping, a procedure that injects a tiny computer chip with a unique number code just beneath your pet’s skin, is another way to identify you as your puppy’s owner. Microchipping is safe and will last your pet’s lifetime.
Supplies on Hand
- Collar & leash: This should be snug around your puppy’s neck but still allow 1-2 fingers to fit in-between. Adjust it as your puppy grows. We recommend a six-foot leash; this gives him room to move but still gives you control of him.
- Food & water dishes: Ceramic or stainless steel are the best materials since they are durable and can be washed daily.
- Grooming aids: Ask your veterinarian what dog brush, shampoo, and nail clippers they would recommend for your dog. Some coat types may require professional grooming.
- Bedding: Choose bedding that is washable and comfortable for your pet to sleep on. The first few nights your puppy may be lonesome or afraid. Put a radio on low or a ticking clock next to his bedding to help soothe him to sleep. Try a plush pet toy; it will mimic a littermate.
- Crate: Use this as your puppy’s safe quiet haven when you are not supervising him. Since your puppy may be spending quite some time in here, make sure positive things are associated with it. Never use his crate for punishment. You can purchase different sized crates to accommodate your puppy’s growth or you can purchase one based on his adult size. If you choose a crate fit for your puppy’s adult size, make sure you partition it so he does not have enough room to sleep on one side and soil the other. Keep soft bedding and favorite toys in it, and leave the door open when you are around so he can go in it if he chooses to.
- Baby gate: Some dogs do not handle crates well; in this situation, a baby gate keeping your puppy in a designated area may be necessary.
- Toys: Chew toys prevent your puppy from ruining your furniture and shoes. Do not leave anything out you do not want to be chewed. Playing fetch is great exercise for your puppy. Avoid games that will encourage him to fight or chase with people; these teach him aggressive behaviors.
- Eyes: Should be bright and clear.
- Ears: Should be clean, odorless, and free of redness.
- Nose: Should be clean and without discharge or sores.
- Mouth: Gums should be pink, teeth clean and without tartar, breath should not smell bad, lips and mouth free of sores or growths.
- Coat: Should be shiny and clean.
- Weight: Puppies that are healthy and active are rarely overweight. This can change when they become older; ask the animal hospital for nutritional advice on how to keep his weight healthy.
- Bathroom habits: Contact your veterinarian if your dog’s urine or stool changes in amount or quality!
- It is important to feed your dog the correct food throughout his life in order to maintain good health, vitality, and longevity.
- The first year is especially important because this is when they are developing and growing the most. Make sure you feed your newest arrival puppy food and not adult dog food. Puppy foods also come in different sizes based on how large your puppy will be when he becomes an adult: small, medium, and large breed. If you do not know what category your puppy belongs to, ask your animal hospital. There also are senior diet foods available when your dog lives to be 7 years and older.
- Besides age, you should also consider your dog’s health and activity level. There are specially designed foods for several health issues and activity levels.
- If you wish to change your dog’s food, the transition must be done gradually.
- Treats provide rewards for your dog and entertainment for you. You can purchase treats that are healthy, and try and give the treats in chunks and not all at once.
- Dangerous foods include: chocolate; turkey, chicken, or rib bones; onions; grapes or raisins; and dairy products!
- A healthy puppy certainly has a lot of energy – make sure he has an opportunity to go for long walks with you, play with other dogs, play ball with people, enjoy a chew toy, or practice obedience skills. If he does not get to use his energy in these positive ways, he will use his energy for other, naughty things.
- Walking your dog throughout his life is important for several reasons: it prevents obesity and reduces heart and joint disease; teaches him to behave nicely around other people and pets; maintains house training and reduces misbehaviors like digging, chewing, or barking; gives you quality time with him; and reduces separation anxiety when you leave.
- Just like humans, dogs get health problems as they age. And just like humans, having good nutrition and exercise will reduce the chance of getting these age associated health problems. Do not let your dog become obese as he ages, for his sake and yours.
- Grooming allows you quality time with your dog and also lets you monitor his health.
- Use a pet brush or comb, and brush in the direction of hair growth.
- While brushing, check for fleas, ticks, or any lumps, injuries, or infections.
- Dogs with long hair or thick coats should be brushed daily. Smooth-coated dogs require it less frequently. It is best to groom when your dog is in a relaxed mood.
- Expose your puppy early on if a professional grooming will be necessary.
- You do not want to bathe your dog more than is necessary. This is to avoid a dry coat, and skin and ear infections. Ask your veterinarian how often is needed.
- Fill the sink or tub with lukewarm water to the dog’s chest level. Turn off the running water before you bring your dog near so he will not be scared. Before you begin the bath, comb out any tangles or knots and stick cotton in his ears to keep water out. Next, immerse your dog in the water and quickly work in mild dog shampoo while trying to avoid the eyes. Rinse him clean, towel dry, and comb again. To avoid drafts, keep your dog indoors until his coat is dry.
- By the time your puppy is 5-6 months old, all of his baby teeth should be replaced by adult teeth. Most of his baby teeth will be swallowed. If there are some baby teeth that have not fallen out by 6 months old, your veterinarian may have to remove them (usually scheduled during a neuter or spay).
- Report any broken teeth to your vet right away.
- Purchase a dental kit on your next visit to the animal clinic. Toothpaste and toothbrushes are available as well as dental treats. We will instruct you on how to properly start cleaning your puppy’s teeth. DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE.
- Daily brushing is recommended, with an examination every 6 months to a year. This prevents periodontal disease.
- Consult with the animal hospital about proper ear cleaning solutions. We will instruct you on how to clean the ears. They should be cleaned if the ears have debris, redness, or an odor, or after being in water (baths, lakes, rivers, etc.). At home, use cotton balls and NEVER SWABSTICKS.
- Many dogs do not normally need regular ear cleaning, however, you should frequently check for any of the above situations. If they continue and your dog is scratching or shaking his head, he may have ear mites or an ear infection. Tell your veterinarian.
- Keeping the nails short is important because if they become long, they can catch and rip. Torn toenails are painful and in some situations may require veterinary care.
- Only a nail trimmer designed for dogs should be used. There are blood vessels and nerves running in part of the nail and if you have never trimmed a pet’s nails before, ask the animal clinic how to properly trim them. If your dog has dark nails, you will not be able to see the vessels and nerves.
- First get your puppy’s toes used to being played with, and then begin trimming them every two weeks. Since rate of nail growth and activity level varies among adult dogs, frequency of trimmings may be every 2 weeks to twice a year. Indoor dogs will need trimmings more than active, outdoor dogs.
- Remember to trim the dewclaws (a fifth toe on the front or back feet of some dogs). They can grow into the skin if not trimmed.
- Although your puppy may seem very difficult at times, remember that it is normal for him to bark, nip, and jump. Your goal is to civilize him to be gentle, friendly, and a pleasure to have around.
- Sit: Keeps the dog controlled and focused on you.
- Down: This is the most submissive posture.
- Come: Encourages your dog to run toward your cheerful voice.
- Heel: Dog stays next to your leg. You are leading him; he is not leading you.
- Stay: The dog should not move until you say otherwise.
- A reward can be praise, a touch of your hand, or a little treat.
- Consistently say: Your puppy’s name + the command word + Good dog!
- Consider puppy class. Contact your animal hospital for local information.
You as a Leader
- When you become the leader, your puppy may throw a “temper-tantrum.” Like a young child, his whining and squirming do not mean you are hurting him. It may be difficult, but you must remain the boss. Letting your puppy do whatever he pleases will only lead to troubling behavior when he is older, and this can be especially hard if he is a large breed.
- Dogs are very social creatures, and so they instinctively try to establish social hierarchies. You can show your puppy you are the leader, the “alpha,” by holding him firmly but gently in certain positions. CONTACT YOUR ANIMAL HOSPITAL FOR SAFE AND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO DO THIS.
- Sometimes you may need a little help. Puppy obedience classes, books, and specially designed leashes can assist you in teaching your puppy that humans are the dominant members of the family. —Contact us for our recommendations.
- Get your puppy used to having his toes, mouth, and ears touched. Doing this now will help when you or a professional groomer cleans him, and it will help you and your veterinarian as well.
- Make sure other people around your puppy also establish themselves as leaders, and have them follow the same actions you do. If your puppy is getting mixed commands, he will be confused.
- Never hit your puppy. It is easier for us to remember a bad action than a good one, but the most success in modifying behavior comes with praising and not punishing. You need to show CONSISTENCY, LEADERSHIP, LOVE, and PATIENCE. Eventually the dog you had in mind the first day you laid eyes on him will be revealed.
The best age to begin housebreaking your puppy is when he is 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 weeks old. At this age, you can teach your puppy where to go to the bathroom before he has established his own preferences. If your puppy is older than this, you can still housebreak him – although it may take a little longer.
6-8 times a day: Take your puppy outdoors to eliminate six to eight times a day. This is best after he wakes up, is finished with play sessions, and 15-30 minutes after meals. Go to the same spot every time; the previous odors will stimulate him to urinate or defecate. Be patient; many puppies need 15-20 minutes before they go to the bathroom. Stay with the puppy the entire time so you know for sure whether or not he has eliminated. Housebreaking problems result when one brings the puppy in before he has done his duty. Also, do not distract your puppy by enticing him to play; let him focus on the reason he is outside in his “spot.”
Use a key phrase: Repeating “go potty” or “take care of business” every time your puppy goes to the bathroom will help him learn that this phrase means it is time to eliminate.
Reward immediately: Once your puppy eliminates outdoors, immediately reward him through praise, playing, or giving him a treat. You must reward him right away – he will not learn to eliminate outdoors if you wait to get inside to reward him, rather he will think that you are rewarding him for coming inside.
Supervision: This is important to do when your puppy is indoors as well as outdoors. Find a room in your house that allows you to watch him as much as possible. You can also leash the puppy or place a bell on his collar to help you keep track of him. This will help you catch your puppy if he starts to eliminate indoors.
Indoor elimination: If you do catch your puppy getting ready to eliminate inside, catch his attention without hitting him. Instead, shake a can filled with pennies, stomp your foot, or firmly say “outside!”. The puppy will likely stop what he is doing, and you can then take him outdoors to eliminate. If it is too late and your puppy has already finished his business inside, do not rub his nose in it. Being mean to him does not do any good because the misbehavior has already occurred and may actually cause him to avoid you the next time he has to go because of what happened the last time. Next time, try and catch him before he is finished.
Clean soiled areas: Ask the animal clinic for safe and effective cleaning agents that remove inside odors and stains. It is important to clean soiled areas completely, otherwise your puppy may return to the same location and soil it again.
In a crate: When your puppy will be unsupervised, put him in a small puppy-proof area such as a crate. If you choose to buy a crate that will be large enough for his adult size, partition it to avoid having your puppy soil one end and sleep in the other. Make sure to take him outdoors to eliminate at least every four hours – his bladder and bowel capacities are limited!
Establish regular food intervals: Do not leave food out all day. If you feed your puppy at set times every day and remove the food bowl after 20 minutes, your puppy’s body will create regular intervals at which he will need to eliminate.
Get a leash: Get your puppy used to wearing a collar and leash indoors as well as outdoors. Once he is used to it, make walks a part of his daily routine. Take him to his bathroom spot before the walk begins; this way he will associate elimination with the reward of a walk immediately afterwards.
STICK WITH IT! Most puppies are housebroken by 14 to 20 weeks of age. However, a pet may take longer for several reasons.
Consult your vet if you are having difficulties.
Puppy-Proofing Your Home
Puppies are naturally inquisitive, which means they may get into dangerous situations. Here are some tips on how you can make your house safer for the new arrival.
That’s shocking: Chewing is a normal behavior for your puppy, which means he will chew on almost anything. Provide chew toys for him so he does not go after furniture, shoes, and other things that are not meant to be destroyed, and avoid leaving out anything you do not want to be chewed. In addition, electrical wires should be tacked to the wall or wound up, or use a pet-repellent spray. Keep dangling blind and curtain cords out of his reach as well.
They’d die for some chocolate: Chocolate is toxic to our pets because it contains theobromine and caffeine, which are powerful stimulants that their bodies cannot handle. Sweets, cakes, and cookies can also upset a young animal’s gastrointestinal tract and lead to diarrhea and vomiting, which can be serious.
Also avoid… Never give turkey, chicken, or rib bones as a treat. They can splinter and cause serious injury. Onions are dangerous and can cause anemia. Grapes and raisins may seem harmless, but they are associated with renal failure. Dogs love milk, but dairy products can cause diarrhea in lactose-intolerant dogs.
Trash talk: Get covered trash cans, or put your kitchen and bathroom trash in the garage or somewhere high enough that your puppy cannot reach.
Cleaning killers: Keep all dangerous chemicals locked up. Cleaning agents, bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, drain cleaner, oven cleaner, paint, gasoline, and rat poison are just a few to put away.
Check the antifreeze: Antifreeze is attractive to pets because of its sweet taste and odor. Keep it locked up and wipe any spills. Window-washing solution also contains antifreeze.
Cozy up: Always use a fireplace screen.
The heat is on: Watch out for hot irons, coffee pots, and space heaters. Puppies and kittens will suddenly be able to jump to new heights.
A dip tip: Keep covers on hot tubs and swimming pools. Also keep your toilet lids down. Kittens and young puppies can fall in and not be able to get out, and you do not want your puppy to get in the habit of drinking from the toilet!
Pretty poisonous: Household and garden plants may be pretty, but if chewed on by your pet, can be deadly as well. Poisonous plants include amaryllis, azaleas, boxwood, daffodil, dieffenbachia, elephant ear, eucalyptus, foxglove, hydrangea, ivy, Jerusalem Cherry, lilies, oleander, philodendron, plant bulbs, pyracantha, spider plants, tomato, and yew.
‘Tis the season: Mistletoe and poinsettias are also poisonous! In addition, keep holly and Christmas tree tinsel out of reach.
Keep off the grass: If you treat your lawn with chemicals, keep pets away.
It fit yesterday: Puppies grow rapidly, so make sure you adjust collars and harnesses to accommodate your pet’s growth.
It’s not a toy: Do not leave plastic bags out. Curious young animals can suffocate.
Odds and ends: Keep materials that could be swallowed out of reach. Some things include string, sewing supplies, balloons, dental floss, rubber bands and other office supplies, twist-ties, and yes, even pantyhose. Because what goes in must come out – often by way of surgery.
Bathroom advice: Keep bathroom supplies, such as cosmetics, shampoos, lotions, and pills away from your pet.
TYLENOL AND IBUPROFEN CAN BE VERY TOXIC TO DOGS. NEVER GIVE YOUR DOG ANY HUMAN MEDICATION WITHOUT CONSULTING A VET FIRST.
Spaying & Neutering
An ovariohysterectomy (removal of the ovaries and uterus) is recommended at approximately 6 months of age (before her first heat cycle). In immature females, the spay is usually quicker and less hemorrhagic, so the risk of complications is reduced.
- no risk of life-threatening uterine infections
- no risk of cancers and other problems associated with the uterus and/or ovaries
- great reduction of mammary cancer (if done prior to first heat cycle)
- eliminating unwanted heats (which last approximately 3 weeks long and often involve blood-tinged stains on carpets and furniture) and unpleasant behaviors
- eliminating unwanted pregnancies
- helping control the pet population
Neutering (removal of the testicles) is recommended at 6 months of age.
- reducing cancer and/or abnormal aggression in dogs with retained testicle(s)
- reducing the urge to mark (urinate on) surfaces and the desire to roam
- reducing aggressive behaviors
- helping control the pet population
Aggressive tendencies are strongly influenced by the dog’s male hormones. Intact males act aggressively toward other dogs and people because they are trying to protect and control their territory. This “territory” may be your property, his toys, a female in heat, a bowl of food, etc. Neutering a dog at an early age may reduce aggressiveness, and castration is recommended for older aggressive dogs (although success is less certain).
Breeding is a huge responsibility! Before conception even takes place, you must have plans for each and every puppy. Breeding should be done to maintain and improve breed characteristics and to reduce genetic defects. You should only breed if you know the puppies will be healthy, have sound temperaments, and have loving homes that will provide proper care throughout the puppy’s lifetime. There are already too many unwanted dogs in this world. As dog lovers, let us try to resolve rather than aggravate this unfortunate situation.
Is your dog healthy? Whether you have a male or female dog, the soon-to-be parent must be free of parasites, have no infections or health conditions, be the correct breed weight, and be physically fit. An exam should be scheduled before breeding is to take place to check your dog’s health.
Does your dog have genetic defects? You should review the history of your dog’s parents and grandparents. In addition, make sure the dog chosen to breed with yours is healthy and free of hereditary problems. You NEVER should breed if there are undesirable traits that could be passed on. Some defects can be severely debilitating and involve continued treatment and/or surgery. Some defects include hernias (umbilical/inguinal), eye and knee problems, hip dysplasia, and cartilage defects in the joints.
Are you aware of the quality? Pedigree breeds have certain characteristics that are desirable, such as coat color and pattern. Although the puppies may not be purchased for winning prizes at dog shows, quality still is important for the puppies’ overall health. For example, a Great Dane blue merle color pattern is more prone to hernias, deafness, and unforeseen future problems. Some of these qualities may be subtle, and so professional consultation would be necessary.
Does your dog have the correct temperament? Years of careful selection when breeding have given us the behaviors that are characteristic of breeds. For example, a retriever that does not retrieve or a pointer that does not point should not be bred. In addition, other less obvious characteristics, such as intelligence or friendliness to strangers, should not be overlooked.
Are you over-optimistic? Many first-time breeders assume breeding will be a fun, profitable experience. And while sometimes it certainly can be, one must not forget that breeding requires a huge amount of time and energy during the pregnancy, birth, and nursing period. Heartache can also arise if puppies or the mother are lost during a complicated pregnancy. Costs for stud fees, veterinary care, food for the mother and puppies, and not to mention the time you dedicate to the process can result in very little, if any profit. Owners of male dogs also face challenges; after a male has been bred even once, he may be difficult to control afterwards.
When you become aware that dog breeding should not be taken lightly and that there is a huge responsibility involved for a successful litter, then you will be able to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy the dog breeding process.
Other Health Concerns
- Intestinal Parasites
- Bring in a stool sample.
- Fleas & Ticks
- Ear Mites
- Demodectic Mange
- Go to Parasites link to learn more.
- Dog ears are deep and curved and so dirt, wax, and excess moisture can accumulate. Make sure to regularly check ears for debris, redness, pain, odor, and shaking of the head. Ear infections are caused by a variety of situations, and so you need to see a veterinarian for treatment.
- Some ways to reduce ear infections include frequently checking the ears, using an ear cleanser designed for dogs, and cleaning them after going into water.
- It is quite common for us to see cases of a torn toenail; a result of the nail being too long. When the nails are not trimmed regularly, they can easily catch on objects and rip away from the toe. There are blood vessels and nerves running through part of the nail, and so a torn toenail can be painful for your dog.
- Call the animal hospital if your dog has a ripped toenail.
- When plaque is not removed, it turns into a hard substance that inflames the gums called tartar. If tartar continues to build up, it will destroy the gums, leading to tooth loss and bacteria entering the bloodstream. Bacteria in the bloodstream is dangerous because now the bacteria is able to spread to vital organs, such as the heart, liver, or kidneys.
- Risk factors include poor oral hygiene, age, and breed (dogs with small mouths often have tooth overcrowding and misalignment).
- Symptoms may include bleeding gums, yellow-brown tartar buildup, tooth loss, bad breath, pain when not eating, and change in chewing or eating habits.
- Periodontal disease can be prevented by daily brushing, regular dental checkups, and giving only recommended foods. Consult your veterinarian on how to properly brush your dog’s teeth or if your pet has any of the above symptoms.
- Anal glands are small sacs found underneath the muscle on both sides of the anus. Their purpose is for dogs and cats to “scent mark” their territory when they defecate. The “scent” stored in the glands is a dark, very smelly fluid (these are the same glands skunks use for defense). Bowel movement pressure and muscle contractions cause the sacs to empty out normally. Anal glands become filled when: there is a buildup of fluid; bacteria have entered and cause pus and blood; or when an infection occurs next to the anus and bursts.
- Symptoms of filled anal glands may include: dragging of the rear; excessive licking under the tail; sore or swollen areas under the tail; and sticky or bloody drainage from under the tail.
- Your veterinarian will have to express the anal glands.
Age Associated Health Problems
- In general, there is an increase in health problems associated with older dogs. These include weak hips and knees, arthritis, heart and lung complications, and diabetes. Being overweight has a large influence on these problems. You cannot control whether or not your dog ages, but you can prevent him from gaining too much weight.
- Proper nutrition and exercise will achieve an ideal weight for your breed of dog. Ask your veterinarian about what food is recommended, how to portion the meals, and other tips on how to reduce age associated health problems.
The material on this website is intended to give clients some ideas on how to provide the best care for their pets. It is NOT intended to take the place of visiting an animal hospital. Remember, your animal hospital has well-trained staff with an educational background and personal experience necessary to answer any question you may have. Your pet is unique, and only when your bring him to your veterinarian will you know what behavior strategies, immunizations, and treatments will be best for him.
Small animal veterinary clinic in Grand Forks, ND dedicated to compassionate care for a healthy, happy life.
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