In this article, we discuss some of the most important points when it comes to owning a puppy. If you have any additional concerns, please contact any of our three locations. You may also wish to take a look at our Nurse Clinics.
General Health Check
We recommend getting your puppy used to sitting on a table and having their teeth, ears, paws and tail examined on a regular basis at home, by you and maybe some friends or family members, using lots of treats and rewards.
Hopefully this will mean they are more at ease when the vet needs to have a look at them on the consult table, making the whole experience less stressful.
Getting your puppy used to having their teeth and mouth examined also helps later on with teeth cleaning. We recommend starting this as soon as your puppy has all its adult teeth, as it is by far the best way to maintain good oral health and prevent a costly and traumatic dental procedure later in life. Talk to our nurse or see our section on oral health for help with teeth cleaning once your puppy is old enough.
The vaccine we give your puppy protects against several life threatening diseases including distemper, leptospirosis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and infectious canine hepatitis (also called adenovirus).
To prevent these distressing illnesses, our recommendation is to give the first vaccine at 8-9 weeks old and the second 21-28 days later at 12 weeks old. This time frame ensures your puppy achieves maximum immunity. In some breeds (for example Dobermans and Rottweilers) the vet may recommend a third vaccine at 16 weeks. You should discuss this with your veterinary surgeon.
If your puppy was vaccinated by the breeder’s veterinary practice, we will need to see the vaccination certificate so we can make sure we give the correct vaccine at the correct time.
Puppies should not be allowed contact with unknown (and potentially unvaccinated dogs) until 1 week after their 2nd vaccine. However, it is really important to socialise them from a young age, so you should allow them to play in the house or garden with friends’ dogs who you know are fully vaccinated and friendly.
Vaccines should be boosted every year; as well as maintaining immunity, this is the perfect opportunity for the vet to fully examine your dog and pick up any problems early on. We will do our best to send you a reminder each year, but it remains the owner’s responsibility to ensure booster vaccinations are kept up to date.
We advise using Advocate every month to prevent fleas, for a number of reasons:
- It is a spot-on treatment so it is easy to apply. Simply part the fur on the back of your dog’s neck and squeeze the contents of the Advocate pipette directly onto the skin. In bigger dogs, you may want to split the contents between a few spots of skin to ensure half of it doesn’t end up clogged in the fur.
- Advocate is very effective against both adult fleas and the larval stages, so it gets on top of the problem quickly and also acts effectively as a preventative.
- As well as fleas, Advocate is effective against lice, roundworms, ear mites, mange mites and lungworm (see below).
If there is a reason your puppy cannot have Advocate (for example they have previously had an adverse reaction), there are other products available, for example Stronghold spot-on, Seresto collar and Comfortis tablets. Talk to your vet or nurse about the best option for your puppy. However, none of these products protect against lungworm, which is why we usually recommend Advocate.
If you have a problem with a flea infestation, treat your puppy with an effective prescription strength product as described above. If you treat the house as well, the problem will be resolved much faster; see here for our advice on treating fleas in the house.
Hopefully using an effective prescription-strength flea product regularly will prevent a flea infestation occurring. However, if you do have problems, the quickest way to get rid of them is to treat ALL the animals in the house (particularly cats, which are often the source of the problem) and treat the house itself. We recommend an environmental spray, such as RIP or Indorex, which kills adult fleas for up to 2 months, and prevents reinfestation for up to 12 months. How you use the spray is very important; here are some guidelines:
- Take all animals out of the house before spraying
- Vacuum everywhere thoroughly, including carpets, sofas, animal beds, skirting boards etc. This will remove a lot of the flea eggs and the warmth and vibration from the vacuum encourage eggs to hatch, making them more susceptible to being killed by the spray
- Vacuuming also fluffs up the fibres of soft furnishings, which allows the spray to penetrate better
- Spray the Indorex or RIP spray everywhere according to manufacturer’s instructions, paying particular attention to areas the pets spend a lot of time e.g. their beds, rugs, around the sofas etc.
- Leave the mist to settle for at least half an hour
- Hoover again a few hours later and then on a daily basis if possible to pick up the flea eggs and larvae as they die.
The important thing when dealing with fleas is to be persistent! Their life cycle can be up to a year long, with eggs living in the carpets etc. for long periods of time. Vacuuming, regularly using flea treatment on all your pets and treating the house at the first sign of flea-trouble is the only way to prevent fleas from becoming a problem.
There are many types of intestinal worms, including roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms and pinworms. One of them (Toxocara canis) can be transmitted to humans and cause skin, eye, brain and organ dysfunction in rare cases. Children are particularly at risk because they are less fastidious about washing their hands.
If you are using Advocate monthly, you will be preventing many of the intestinal worms, but not all of them. Therefore we still recommend using an additional treatment to prevent the worms that Advocate is not effective against. You can use Panacur or Drontal depending on your puppy’s weight and age: Panacur comes in a paste, granules or a liquid, all of which can be added to your puppy’s food, Drontal comes as a tablet and is generally easier and more cost-effective as your puppy gets bigger.
We recommend that you worm your puppy every 2 weeks until they are 12 weeks old, then every month until they are 6 months old, then every 3 months throughout adulthood. Talk to a vet or nurse about the best option for your puppy. Occasionally we may recommend an alternative, e.g. Milbemax or Droncit.
Visit www.itsajungle.co.uk for more information on parasites and how to prevent them.
In recent years, Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum) has arrived in the UK from Europe. In rare cases, this parasite can cause lung problems and defects in the blood clotting mechanism,meaning dogs can have problems with excessive bleeding.
Lungworm is carried by slugs and snails so your dog can pick it up by licking them or the slimy trails they leave behind. Therefore puppies, with their inquisitive natures, are particularly at risk.
Tips for lungworm prevention:
- Use Advocate monthly (see the section on fleas for more details about Advocate)
- Discourage your puppy from playing with or eating slugs and snails
- Don’t leave toys and bowls unattended outside as they could easily get covered in slug/snail trails, which your puppy will accidently ingest next time they play with the toy or drink from the bowl.
Visit www.lungworm.co.uk for more information.
We recommend a good quality, complete, dry puppy food from brands such as Arden Grange, Burns, Eden and James Wellbeloved (this is by no means an exhaustive list – there are lots of good brands of dog food.
The main things to look for are natural ingredients, no additives or colourants, and a high protein content). You can add puppy wet food to the dry food if they are really fussy but if you can get them eating just dry food it is far better for their teeth. It’s also cheaper, more hygienic and more convenient to be on a complete dry food! Once you have found a brand your puppy is happy with and their stools are a normal consistency, stick with that brand and be careful when changing flavours to introduce them gradually because a sudden change may upset their tummies.
New puppies should be kept on the same food the breeder or rescue centre has been feeding them for at least a week after you take them on. It is too much of a disruption to take them away from their litter mates, mum and familiar surroundings, and change their diet all in one go. The exception to this is if the breeder was giving the puppy unusual mixtures of goat’s cheese/yogurt/Weetabix etc. You can wean your puppy off this over a period of a few days as the puppy is not benefiting from this kind of diet and it is an unnecessary hassle for you as a new owner.
We do not recommend a raw diet for any animal, especially puppies, for various medical reasons including the risk of foreign bodies and food-borne diseases such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. If you are considering a raw diet, please talk to a vet or vet nurse first. At the very least, we can give you pointers on how to make sure your dog gets the right balance of nutrients for growth, bone health etc.
How much to feed depends on the breed of your dog and its age, as well as the brand of food you choose. Follow the guidelines on the back of the food packet and talk to a vet if you think your puppy is not growing as it should, or is getting too podgy! Puppies should be fed 4 times daily until they are 12-16 weeks old, then 3 times daily until they are about 6 months old. We recommend twice daily feeding throughout adulthood, as once daily feeding is a lot for their digestion to cope with and also predisposes to obesity. At what age to swap your puppy onto an adult food depends on a number of factors including breed, weight gain, age of neutering, activity level etc. Talk to a nurse if you are unsure when to swap from a puppy to an adult food.
Remember dogs do not have to be fed from their bowl all the time. You can use their food as a reward when you are doing training sessions, out on walks to get them to come back to you, in Kongs to keep them occupied or simply thrown on the floor or across the garden so they use their natural scenting and hunting instincts to look for their food!
10 Fun Ways to Use a Kong Toy
- Fill with your dog’s usual kibble and moisten with some warm water or use wet food instead
- Create layers within the Kong using cheese, peanut butter, banana etc between layers of kibble/wet food. (Most dogs are absolutely fine eating small amounts of cheese as a treat, but bear in mind some have sensitive tummies and it can give them diarrhoea. It’s also very fattening if they have too much!)
- Add a little water with all other ingredients then freeze the Kong to provide hours of challenging fun
- Make ice cubes out of diluted fruit juices/chicken stock and put in a Kong so they rattle and slowly melt
- Try warming the Kong up with all its ingredients to increase its smell. This is a particularly useful way to encourage your puppy to be more interested in the Kong
- For greedy dogs that always finish their bowl of food in seconds then act hungry, always feed them from a Kong so they take longer to digest their food and therefore should not feel so hungry
- Cover the Kong with doggie dental toothpaste to promote good oral hygiene and fresh breath
- Play retrieve and catch games with your Kong; it is very durable and bouncy toy that you can scent with food to make it more appealing
- Hide your stuffed Kong in the garden while your dog is not looking then send them out to find it! Make it easy to start with by leaving a trail of treats leading up to the Kong until your dog understands the concept
- Wrap a stuffed Kong in newspaper or an envelope then give it to your dog so they can have fun tearing away the paper.
House Training Tips
Set rules and boundaries from day one. Just because it’s a cute little puppy doesn’t mean it can get away with anything it likes! Think about how you want your puppy to behave when it’s much bigger and older and train it appropriately from a young age.
Using a crate overnight and for daytime ‘time out’ sessions can be invaluable. It may feel cruel locking your puppy away, but they should see it as a safe, secure place for resting and eating, not as a punishment. Here are some guidelines for crate training:
- Always have a game with your pup then take it out for toileting before putting it in the crate so it goes in there to sleep
- If necessary provide stuffed Kong toys or dental chews to keep your puppy occupied and if it whines a little just ignore it; it should only be let out when it’s being quiet
- If your puppy is howling or barking excessively it may need more exercise/play time/toilet time before being put in the crate or it may be that a crate is just not suitable for your pup. Don’t give up without trying for a few days at least
- Our nurses are always happy to give advice on crate training and all other aspects of house training
- Begin leaving your puppy alone for short periods of time as early as 12 weeks old. Your pup needs to learn that it’s ok to be alone and that you always come back
- Always leave them with the radio or TV on and a treat or toy so they have something to focus on other than you being gone
- Start at just 5-10 minutes then gradually increase it by 5 minutes a week so it’s not a shock to their system, they’ll just get used to it being a normal occurrence.
Toilet Training Tips
- Always let your puppy out as soon as they’ve eaten/woken up/had a play session as this is when they are most likely to need to toilet
- Try to put a command as they go to the toilet so you can encourage this later on e.g. “Wee-wees” or “quick quick”
- Crate training or newspapers by the back door will help
- Bear in mind your puppy may be fussy about where they want to go to the toilet, some only like grass, some only like concrete/pavements
- Insist your puppy goes out even its raining – put a coat on them if necessary and go out with them if you usually go out. If you break your routine because of bad weather, your puppy will just have an accident in the house
Many dogs are scared of fireworks. Puppies born in spring and summer will have had no experience of fireworks until they are past the critical learning period (8-14 weeks), so they are even more likely to be sensitive to fireworks.
Therefore it is important to introduce all puppies to loud bangs in a controlled manner during the critical learning period. This can be done by playing firework CDs or rock-type music at low levels to begin with. Then increase the volume gradually over a period of weeks when the puppy is happy and contented. If they appear frightened at any point, go back to a volume level where they are not bothered for a few days, before trying to increase the volume again.
Exposure to other dogs, cats, people, objects and environments is incredibly important for puppies so they grow into friendly, well-mannered, confident dogs. See the checklist below of all the things we recommend getting your pup used to seeing and hearing.
Always make the experience a happy and rewarding time, not scary or overpowering.
We strongly recommend you enrol your puppy in training classes, even if it’s only so they get used to playing with other puppies nicely.
There are loads of different training options in the area; we recommend finding someone that uses purely reward-based methods (such as treats, toys and clickers) rather than any form of punishment-based technique (such as water pistols, rattle bottles, compressed air, shock collars and check-leads). As your puppy gets older you could consider more advanced training regimes such as the Good Citizen scheme, agility, search and rescue, flyball, gundog training and more! Our nurses (particularly Head Nurse Sian Gale) can give you up-to-date recommendations of local trainers – just pop in or give us a call.
Here are some links to local trainers to get you started. Please note we do not recommend any particular club; it is up to you to research which class is most appropriate for your puppy.
- Sussex County Dog Training (now has a branch at Old Clayton kennels in Washington, as well as their main centre in Aldingbourne)
- West Chiltington Cavaliers (not just for Cavaliers, all breeds welcome!)
- Train My Dog
And here are some of our favourite websites for puppy owners:
We recommend neutering females either before their first season (so at around 5-6 months), or 3 months after their first season. Here are some of the reasons to spay your bitch:
- Neutering your female at a young age dramatically reduces the risk of mammary tumours and pyometra (infected uterus), both of which can be life threatening
- Eliminates the risk of unwanted pregnancy or developing ‘false pregnancy’ after their season
- Avoids unwanted attention from male dogs and the mess and hassle of dealing with a season.
Male dogs can be castrated from 4 months old in most instances. This eliminates the risk of developing testicular cancer and reduces the risk of prostate disease. Neutering may also help reduce aggression towards other dogs and unwanted sexual behaviours in some instances, although there is often a behavioural aspect to these problems as well.
In some instances, for example in large breed male dogs, your vet may recommend neutering earlier or later. If there is a specific reason not to neuter your puppy, a hormonal implant may be an option – speak to your vet for advice.
Puppies need exercise little and often. It is important to practise getting them used to wearing a collar and lead from a young age around the home and garden, then from one week after their 2nd vaccination you can begin taking your puppy for short lead walks.
For large breed dogs as a guide we recommend:
- Initially 10 minutes three or four times a day until they are 4 months old
- Increase gradually so you are doing 20 minutes of lead walking 3-4 times daily by 6 months old
- Continue to increase gradually so you are doing 30 minutes per walk by 8 months, 40 minutes by 10 months, and 1 hour per walk by the time they are a year old.
Gradually increasing exercise in a controlled way is particularly important with large breed dogs as their growth plates do not fuse until they are at least 1 year old. Small breed dogs are usually classed as adults by 10 months old so they can be doing lots of exercise by this point, although the idea of starting with little and often and gradually increasing the length of each walk is the same as for larger breeds.
When introducing off-lead running and playing it is recommended you do this towards the end of a lead walk when they are tired and less likely to run off. It is advisable to try to find an enclosed area the first few times you let your puppy off the lead. Practising recalls in your garden and in the gardens of family and friends before going public is a good idea. There are also long lines (up to 30metres) you can buy to practise doing recalls in open spaces.
We strongly recommend insurance for your new puppy. There are a wide range of policies on the market nowadays and it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option, however, this may not offer the cover you need when your pet is ill.
You don’t want to be worrying about whether insurance will cover the treatment or not when you’re already worried about your dog’s health. Important things to look out for when doing your research include:
- Lifelong cover of every condition. For example, should your dog develop arthritis, diabetes or thyroid problems they will need treatment for the rest of their life, not just for a year
- The maximum limit of cover should be as high as possible. Some policies have a limit of £1000 or £2000 – this amount really isn’t going to last long should your dog need on-going treatment for problems such as arthritis, or a one-off major operation such as fracture repair or spinal surgery. Therefore it is preferable to find a policy that will either offer unlimited cover or a high maximum (e.g. £5000-8000) for the life of your dog
- Once you have taken out an insurance policy it is advisable to stick with that company on-going (rather than changing companies yearly looking for the best deal like you would with car insurance). This is because once your dog has suffered from a condition if you should then change companies they will exclude this condition meaning they will not pay out for any treatment towards it.
According to FSA regulations, we are not allowed to recommend any particular insurance company. However, we are allowed to tell you our experience in claiming from different companies. In our experience, some are very easy to deal with and pay out with no fuss most of the time; others will find any tiny reason not to pay.
Speak to one of our vets or nurses for more advice and see our insurance tips for advice on how to make the most of having insurance.
By law your dog must wear identification in public places usually in the form of a tag on its collar which MUST INCLUDE YOUR SURNAME AND ADDRESS.
Just a postcode is not acceptable and although a telephone number is not required by law it is advisable. Even for small dogs 3-4 lines of text can be printed on both sides of a tiny tag so there is no excuse. It is therefore important to get your puppy used to wearing a collar from a young age. Please ask at reception if you would like to order a tag.
In addition, we strongly recommend getting your puppy microchipped around the time of their 2nd vaccination and from 2016 it will be compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped. This involves inserting a small chip (about the size of a grain of rice) into the scruff of your puppy’s neck. Once chipped your details will be held in a national database so should your puppy ever get lost, they can be scanned and traced back to you via your contact details.