Everything You Need To Know About Puppies
Whether you are thinking about adopting a puppy, have reserved a puppy or have recently welcomed one into your home, within this guide you will find useful and important information, tips and advice on how to keep your puppy safe, healthy and well cared for. It is a huge step and decision adopting a puppy or dog. Before you step into the delightful world of rescuing a furry companion for life into your home, we advise reading our guide: Embarking on your Adoption journey – Are you ready to Adopt? which we hope will help you make the right decision for you and potentially your furry friend.
It really is incredible and magical seeing how quickly puppies develop, learn and grow. From not being able to hear or see for up to the first three weeks of their lives, to their sudden awakening to their senses and exploring beyond the safety of their mothers. By eight weeks puppies are becoming more and more independent, training can even begin at this stage and they really are mini adults. Such a lot taking place in such a small body in such a short amount of time.
Here at Benafim Dogs, between us over the years, we have looked after many, many, many puppies. Some rescued with their mum’s, some sadly without. We hope sharing our experiences and knowledge gained along the journey, caring for litters or puppies abandoned on their own, will help you with your long, happy and loving life with your puppy!
Preparing to Bring Your Puppy Home
Life will be very different once your puppy is home, in a good way of course! We suggest some initial preparation to make things easier and less chaotic for when the day, you have been so greatly anticipating, finally arrives.
Puppy Proof Your Home
Look at your home and each room from the height of a puppy. Everything at puppy height will be interesting for your puppy. Ensure there is nothing breakable or chewable within your puppy’s reach for the initial settling in process.
We would suggest removing anything that your puppy may want to get their paws onto and their teeth into. This can be anything from phone chargers and television remotes to rugs and shoes. Your puppy may be the best behaved puppy in the world of puppies (fingers crossed) but better to be extra cautious during the first few weeks!
Stair gates can be useful if you want to block off access to a particular area of the house including upstairs.
Thoroughly check your garden for any holes or gaps in the fences or gates where your new dog may be able to escape from. If you have a pond or an area with open water ensure your puppy doesn’t have access to this at first. It is always recommended during the settling in process to not leave your dog alone in the garden.
Collar, lead and I.D tag
Ensure you have a secure collar that is tight enough for your puppy not to be able to slip out of it as well as a lead and an I.D tag with your details on it.
It is advisable to walk your puppy with a lead attached to their collar and a slip lead or a lead attached to their collar and another to their harness.
Poo Bags – your new best friend and your absolute must have for when walking your puppy outside of your home.
Car dog seat belt or carrier
A dog seat belt that clips into the normal seat belt fastening in your car is a good and simple way to ensure your dog is safe when travelling in the car. Simply attach the seat belt lead to their harness and not to their collar. You may want to sit on the back sit with your puppy safely attached to keep them calm during the journey. Alternatively you may want to put them in a crate.
Your puppy will be chipped and be registered to their previous address. You must register your dog’s chip to your address prior to their arrival.
Ensure prior to welcoming your puppy you register and your local vet and have their number for emergencies. It is always advisable to take your new family member to the vets within the first few weeks for a health check.
Please visit our guide on Welcoming Your New Family Member for general advice on welcoming your adopted dog into your home.
The Best Age to Welcome Your Puppy into Your Home
We know how exciting it is to adopt a puppy or a dog. The wait and the anticipation to finally be able to bring your bundle of joy home with you. It is important however, not to bring a puppy home too soon. Of course depending on the situation, it sometimes can’t be avoided. Perhaps the puppy was abandoned without it’s mummy or the mummy is rejecting her puppies.
In an ideal world and taking into account the opinions of most veterinarians, the recommended age to bring your puppy home is between 8 to 10 weeks old (this will also tie in with your puppies vaccination schedule).
Bringing home a puppy who is too young can affect negatively the behaviors your dog will have for the rest of his life – and not necessarily in a good way.
Puppies should not be separated from their mothers too early. Most puppy’s will begin to switch from milk and incorporate solid food anywhere from 3 to 5 weeks old.
During this process puppies will learn how to eat happily on their own and until they have learnt to do this should remain with their Mum’s. Puppies that are prevented from feeding from their mum’s for food and for comfort can display insecure behaviours later in life.
This is a period when puppies at between 3 to 5 weeks old become more aware of the world around them. They start to learn from their siblings and Mum appropriate behaviours on how to play and also how to communicate with one another.
They also learn very basic impulse control and bite inhibition from the feedback of their siblings and mother.
Research has shown that puppies removed from their litters very early are more likely to display problems in behaviour and temperament when they’re grown, including being fearful, aggressive, or anxious; guarding their food and toys; and being highly reactive and more difficult to train.
On the other hand, puppies that stay with their litter for too long may start to develop dominant or submissive behaviours that can also lead to problems.
Following the initial primary socialisation period, puppies from the age of between 6 and 12 to 14 weeks of age will learn behaviours they will keep as adult dogs. During this time, puppies are discovering the world around theme world around them and this is when puppies should be exposed to as many new people, animals and environments as possible but of course safely.
Ensuring your puppy is socialised at this age will have a huge effect on their behaviour, confidence, and attachments throughout their lifetime. We look at socialisation further on in this guide.
Meeting Your Puppy
In rescue the reality is no situation is ideal for a puppy or their parents. More often than not, we won’t know the father or fathers (yes a litter can have more than one father) and sadly if the puppies are abandoned without the mother, we won’t know either parent.
Seven weeks of age is considered to be the ideal age to determine the personality of a puppy. Where possible we would always recommend either meeting the litter and seeing how the siblings interact with each other (you will at this stage be able to see their unique personalities shining through – yes there is always the cheeky one, the most confident, the shyer one, the mummy’s boy/girl).
It is equally as important to see how each puppy is away from their siblings. Just because they act one way with their siblings doesn’t mean this will be the case when they are on their own. Take each puppy to one side – stroke them, interact with them, play with them, see how they respond to you.
A dominant puppy may object to being stroked, want to get off your lap, take the toy away but not play with you; a less dominant puppy may resist cuddles initially but will settle in to them, will enjoy interactive play and will not object to being stroked. A shy puppy may shiver when stroked, pee on your lap if cuddled and run away from a toy when attempting to play with them.
If you can’t meet your puppy ahead of their arrival, we strongly suggest requesting regular updates with videos and photos and ensure you ask to see them with the litter and on their own.
Determining The Size Of Your Puppy
Puppies grow, they don’t stay small for long. One day they are little balls of fluffy cuteness and then overnight it seems, they are grown adults and faithful, loyal companions. Puppies are officially considered adult dogs once they reach one year old but they continue to grow in height and size while their bones are still developing, which takes anywhere from 6 to 24 months.
One of the most common questions asked by adopters is how big the puppy will be when fully grown, this isn’t actually the easiest question to answer.
Guessing the adult size of a puppy of unknown origins is tricky business, to say the least. Many experienced shelter workers and more than a few veterinarians are pretty good at it, but the reality is no answer is guaranteed to be one hundred percent accurate.
If you know what breeds went into the mix, you can get some sense of size. The problem is that some young pups are so mixed up that it’s anyone’s guess.
In general, an adult average sized dog at 12 months old weighs about 2 1/2 times their weight at 14 weeks or twice their weight at 4 months of age. But these are generalised estimates that don’t take some other factors into account such as breed, if parents are known, whether the dog is neutered and the gender of the dog.
Some will look at the size of a puppy’s paws: Big dogs start out with relatively big puppy paws. But, be warned, nothing is foolproof!
Your Puppy’s Arrival
It is of course an extremely exciting time when you adopt a puppy or new dog and of course it is natural to want to take time off work and spend every moment with them. However it is advisable to create a normal routine for your dog to settle into, not one that is false and non sustainable as this will create problems further down the line. Your puppy needs a routine to help them feel safe and secure and building a routine for your puppy, and creating “rules” lets them know what to expect and makes sure all the humans do, too.
Show your dog how life will really be so they are not surprised when they are left for a few hours at a time. Start as you mean to go on.
Remember you are taking your puppy away from the only world they have ever known. Everything is new, perhaps for the first time they will be apart from their Mum, their siblings and in a totally new environment with different smells, noises, people, other animals…… It can be a scary experience for even the most confident of puppies. Establishing a schedule with a known routine gives your puppy something to expect—and reduces the surprises that raise the normal stress of the transition to their new home.
Provide a calm and safe space for your dog, create a realistic schedule you will stick to, for feeding, exercising and caring for your puppy.
Playtime And Toys
Oh the exciting part. So, so, so much fun to be had with your puppy. Now you need to watch out for your puppy bowing at you, yes indeed, bowing. Front legs and front part of the body lowered to the ground with the back end sticking in the air is a sure sign your puppy wants to play!
Playtime is always fun when your puppy is involved. Apart from being a good form of exercise, it also helps your furry friend develop their social skills and bond with you.
Different types of puppy play:
Object play: It’s always so cute to see our puppies chase after a ball or chew on their toys. This type of playtime habit is called object play. While it’s mostly a solo habit, you can engage your puppy by throwing their toys at a distance or as part of training basic commands.
Motion Play: Many puppies have an irresistible amount of energy in their little bodies. Sometimes, they just jump into play without any invitation. When you see your puppy jumping, pouncing, or rolling in the grass by themselves, your puppy is engaging in motion play.
Self Play: You may see your puppy chase their tail or pounce at an imaginary object. Self play is a way for your puppy to have fun when there’s no one else around.
Bad Play: Unlike the other play behaviours, bad play can be harmful to involve. It includes rough playing or bullying tactics that can cause pain and other injuries. You should never blame the puppy for their bad play habits. Since they’re young, they may not understand that their bites and rough play is hurtful. If your puppy bites at you hard or causes another puppy to yelp, end the session as soon as possible with a firm “No”. Let the puppies relax in another room and resume playtime later.
But where do you start with toys? What is a good investment and what isn’t worth it? We absolutely love the Kong puppy range as well as the Nylabone puppy range. From safe chews, bones for teething to squeeky toys and bouncy balls, there is something for the most enthusiast of biters and the most energetic of players.
Now admittedly the test we did recently with 5 ‘indestructible dog toys’ was with adult dogs from Benafim Dog Shelter, but don’t rule out these toys for your puppy. 5 Best Indestructible Dog Toys – Reviewed By Our Shelter Dogs!
Food and Water
Food, glorious food. Dogs are scavengers by nature – this reminds of some humans we know – ha! Dogs now being domesticated have their food provided so do not need to scavenge but they retain the instinct not to waste anything. This may include food left on a low table, food dropped on the floor, left ever food by a bin in the park. Your puppy will try and eat it. Keep all food out of reach of your puppy, we would also recommend having a secure lid on your bin or moving it somewhere your puppy does not have access to, to ensure they are not tempted to try and gain access.
When you bring your puppy home for the first time ensure you have separate bowls for food and water and place these in an area that allows your dog to feel safe to eat and drink. You will need to show your puppy where their water is and ensure they drink enough throughout the day. Growing puppies need around 1/2 cup of water every couple of hours depending on their age and size, so keep a close eye on any young pups to ensure they are spending adequate time at the water bowl.
If your puppy doesn’t have enough water to drink, they can quickly become dehydrated. Dehydration is extremely dangerous for your puppy and can lead to serious health complications, so it’s important to be certain they have access to enough clean water. The easiest way to check for dehydration is to grab the skin on your dog’s neck and stretch it out. If the skin doesn’t snap back into place, your dog could be dealing with dehydration. Always speak to your vet if you are worried about your puppy.
Feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of 4 months, and then reduce their feed to three meals a day until they are 6 months old. They can then move to two meals a day, and stay on this routine for the rest of their life.
Many puppies gulp down their food with such enthusiasm and speed this can leave them bloated, full of wind, and uncomfortable. Interactive feeders and slow feeding bowls are a great way to slow down your puppy’s eating and also a great way to keep them busy! Our shelter dogs recently reviewed some fantastic Slow Feeding Dog Bowls and interactive feeders.
Choosing what to feed your puppy is a big decision, we all want what is best for our furry family members and with so many differentiating opinions on the best food for your puppy it can be a mind field. Walk down the dog food aisle of any supermarket or pet shop and you may become quickly overwhelmed. When did it get so complicated? Back in the day, dog food options were far more limited, and even responsible dog owners didn’t worry too much about what was in their puppy’s food.
Importantly puppies need to eat a puppy designed diet to ensure they are getting the right nutrients to grow healthily. All puppies are different so if you are unsure about whether your puppy is on the right diet and feeding frequency, we would recommend you speak to your veterinary.
Dog Bed – Calm Area
It is important to provide a safe and comfortable area for your dog to feel safe and secure but also part of your home and family. We suggest providing a dog bed, blankets and a crate in living areas as well as a quiet area for your new family member to be able to settle and get some well deserved sleep and peace. A place that is just for your puppy, a place where all the fun things happen – where treats magically appear, special dog chews arrive and the best dog toys live.
If you are consistent you can eventually train your dog to go to this area on cue. This can be really helpful for your dog and for you. For example, if your dog is noise reactive, you can place them in their safe place to assist in lowering their stress levels. By showing them that they can find peace, quiet and safety away from the situation they aren’t comfortable with.
You should avoid doing anything that could be perceived as a negative event for your dog in this calm area. For instance don’t go and clip their nails or clean their ears in their calm space. Don’t allow strangers to invade their area and don’t disturb them whilst they are calm and/ or sleeping. Keep this area positive!
We recently reviewed some fantastic dog beds at Benafim Dogs – the good news is they come in all sizes and as you can see from the picture below – Max seems to love one of the them and is perfect for sharing!
Puppies have little bladders and will need to pee often. This could literally be every few minutes with an eight week old puppy. An eight week old puppy will also need to do a poo within about 30 minutes of eating – the number of poos will depend on how often they eat and their activity levels. As puppies tend to be fed little and often this means that you can expect to make lots of toilet trips, day and night.
Our guide on House Training A Puppy contains useful advice and guidance on how to toilet train your dog.
If you have a garden, you can start potty training your puppy to go outside.
If you don’t have a garden, choose a spot in the house for your puppy to start potty training a puppy. You can protect the area by covering it in newspaper or puppy pads, which will absorb wee. The sooner you can get your puppy to the right place at the right time, the quicker they will learn where their ‘toilet spot’ is.
When you start toilet training, give your puppy lots of opportunities to go to the toilet. This should include when they wake up, have finished eating and before you want to go to bed. As young puppies – like babies – generally sleep, eat and sleep again, you’ll be making lots of trips to the garden or the toilet spot in the house.
Choose some command words to encourage them to go the toilet – ‘Do a poo’ or ‘Do a wee’ and say this to them when you take them into the garden or toilet spot. They won’t know what this means at first, but if you reward them with lots of praise after they have been to the toilet, they will learn to associate your words with going to the toilet.
You might think that the best way to keep your puppy healthy is to keep them active all the time. Of course this is part of keeping your gorgeous puppy healthy but they also need sleep and at this stage of their life good sleep is crucial for their development. Your puppy’s brain and little body is working really hard all the time as they are developing and learning so many new things every single day. Without sufficient sleep your puppy may be at risk of health problems and even disabilities.
Newborn puppies as expected sleep a lot, in fact up to about 22 hours a day. Once they get to 3 months this will have reduced but they will still need up to 15 hours a day. Regular naps enable them to recharge their little bodies and keep going with all the fun there is to be had for a puppy. Encourage your puppy to take a few daytime naps, in particular after lunch or intense play time.
Helping Your Puppy Sleep Through The Night
Puppies are like babies and it can take a while before they will sleep comfortably through the night. Make sure your puppy burns off all the energy before their night sleep. Spend time with your puppy to tire them out so they are ready to sleep. Avoid high energy games right before bed as this will likely excite them. Instead, settle them down with a small chew to help them relax and drift off to sleep.
Provide a quiet place for your puppy and try not to distract them with loud talking or TV noises. Create their place to sleep. Set up a cozy and warm bed for your puppy, this may include a teddy to snuggle up to. This will help in the initial settling in process which can be difficult for a puppy coming from sleeping snuggled up either close to Mum or their siblings.
All puppies cry and it is their way of telling you something. It may be that your puppy is feeling anxious. After all your puppy has been used to sleeping with his or her mum and siblings and they are now having to get used to sleeping on their own.
Or they may be telling you they need to go to the toilet. If your puppy cries during the night, take them out to the garden or to their toilet spot. When they go, calmly praise them (you don’t want to make them think it’s playtime) and then settle them back into their bed again. Sometimes just offering your hand for your dog to sniff if they wake and cry is enough for them to settle back down to sleep.
Your puppy may also whine for your attention. You should soon learn which sounds you need to respond to and which to ignore. Be patient – which of course can be hard when you’re feeling exhausted.
How to Get Your Puppy To Sleep in Their Bed
Whilst it is so incredibly tempting to let your puppy snuggle up next to you in your bed or on the sofa, It is recommended to get your puppy used to sleeping on their own as soon as possible. There will be times you can’t be there to soothe your puppy to sleep and it is healthy for their development to be able to sleep and feel safe independent of you.
- Use command words – such as ‘Time for bed’
- Reward your puppy for staying in their bed.
- If they leave their bed, calmly put them back again, using your command words, and praise them for staying put.
- If they cry, your puppy may need to go to the toilet. Take them to the garden or their toilet spot. Then then take them back to their bed, using your command words.
- By using praise and reward you are positively reinforcing your puppy’s good behaviour. This is the best and kindest way for helping a puppy to learn.
We have mixed views on the use of crates. As a general rule we would not use crates to put puppies or dogs in as we feel this is the lazy training option and deprives dogs from being able to move freely and carry out some of their basic needs.
We can however see the benefits of a dog knowing what a crate is and not being scared of one, especially when a dog needs to travel or has to stay at the vets. But we do not suggest a crate be used as a way to contain your dog for long periods of time or as an alternative to house training a dog.
We encourage the use of a crate as an alternative to a dog bed and always suggest leaving the door open for your puppy to be able to freely move should they need to.
- Start by placing a nice comfy bed and some treats in the crate. Then let your puppy find them and enter the crate of their own accord. Continue with the treats – and lots of praise.
- After a couple of days, once your puppy seems happy to be in the crate you can start feeding them in there.
- At this point, you can begin getting them used to the door being closed. At first do this just until they have finished eating, slowly increasing the amount of time that the door remains closed.
Once your puppy is happy being in the crate for 10 minutes after finishing eating, they should be ready to be left for longer.
- If your puppy becomes upset about being in the crate, or loses interest in their food, go back a few steps. Gradually build the time up to the point where they are happy in their crate.
Ouch, yes teething can be really painful for a puppy, just like it is for a baby. The worst stage of teething will be between 4 to 6 months of age.
Puppies are born without teeth. At 2 to 4 weeks of age, a puppy’s 28 baby teeth will start to come in. Around 12 to 16 weeks old, those baby teeth or milk teeth fall out, and by the time pups are 6 months old, they should have a set of 42 adult teeth. You know your dog is teething when you begin to notice excessive drooling, excessive chewing, pawing at the mouth, and bloody residue left behind on chewed items.
Providing things for your puppy to chew on can help soothe them during the teething process. Toys made of a hard rubber material, such as Kongs, which you can also fill with something tasty, or Nylabones can be soothing and distracting for your puppy. Have a selection of chew toys, and rotate them often. This will maintain their novelty and ensure that your puppy is interested in the chew toy you have provided rather than your TV remote or expensive shoes!
Cold chews can be very soothing and are something you can make at home to store in the freezer. Ice cubes or homemade chews such as a frozen carrot or banana is a great tasty and soothing treat for your teething puppy.
You can begin training your puppy at 8 weeks old. At this age they absorb information so quickly and their character is very pliable. At this age puppies should not have developed bad habits, they of course are inquisitive and are wanting to explore everything there is to explore. This of course works in your favour and really helps with training and helps ensure the future stability and welfare of your puppy.
Puppies have a very short attention span. Any training should be initially limited to five minutes. Any longer your puppy will become distracted and physically will not be capable of remaining in the “stay” position for instance, for more than a few seconds. Don’t push your puppy or tire them out. Remain positive and enthusiastic in your training and keep it fun.
Puppies are innocent of all their actions. Think of your puppy as a two year old toddler. They don’t know guilt or have aim to harm anyone or anything. Any puppy action is driven by instinct and the desire to fit in.
In the following guide we look at four of the basic commands to teach your puppy: Sit, Stay, Down and Come: Teach Your Dog 4 Basic Commands
This is very very common with puppies. Not only are puppies teething, they are also exploring the world around them with all of their senses and one of these if through taste and the use of their teeth.
From day one avoid playing any games which involve mouthing, meaning teeth on skin. If your puppy tries to get attention from you by play biting just ignore get up and walk away.
If you respond by engaging and playing with your puppy, you are telling your puppy this is okay and that using their teeth on you to get attention is the right way to behave.
It is really recommended to stop this immediately and teach your puppy play biting is not good behaviour.
Exercising Your Puppy
When Can I Take My Puppy Outside?
Your puppy needs to develop it’s immune system and also receive it’s vaccinations prior to venturing outside into the real world. As a general guideline this is normally at around 16 weeks when your puppy has had their vaccines and two weeks have passed since the final one. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with a clear vaccination schedule for your puppy.
There are lots of fun ways to keep your puppy entertained inside until they are safe to discover all the fun there is to be had outside. It is however important to note that once your puppy is fully vaccinated and protected from illnesses such as parvovirus, this does not mean they are physically ready to go on long walks or lengthy play sessions in the garden.
Recommended Amount of Exercise
Your puppy will have bursts of energy and of course depending on their breed, size, personality and their energy levels, this will vary. As a general rule however, take your puppy’s age in months and then multiply it by five to work out how many minutes your puppy can walk for each session. This is based on an average of two walks per day. For example, a four-month-old puppy can be walked for 20 minutes, twice a day, while a seven-month-old puppy can be walked for 35 minutes, twice a day.
Lead Walking Training
Introducing a Collar
First things first, introduce a loose fitting collar onto your puppy. Let them get used to this in short bursts and under supervision. Think back to the first time you put a watch on, it felt strange and bulky and you were aware of wearing it. Over time of course you got used to wearing a watch until you no longer noticed.
This is how a puppy or dog will feel the first time you put a collar on. It will feel strange and they may even try and remove it. During the initial ‘introducing a collar’ sessions, play with your puppy or dog, distract them, make the sessions fun and give them treats.
Your dog should associate collar wearing with good things, fun, play and treats.
Gradually increase the collar wearing time until you can leave the collar on for a whole day without taking it off. By this stage your puppy will, in the same way you stopped noticing wearing a watch, will not notice they are wearing a collar.
Introducing a Lead
Attach the lead to the collar and let go. Let the lead drag behind your puppy, do not pick it up or immediately try to walk them with it. Your puppy may try and chase the lead, may try and bite it or may refuse to move.
Teach your puppy a cue. This cue to your dog will, once learnt, mean ‘food is coming’. You can choose any word (for instance “yes”), some prefer to click their tongue or make a sound. Whatever you choose, stick to it.
Gradually move around the room with the lead and collar on your puppy and encourage them to follow you. Use your cue. As soon as your puppy reacts and either turns to you or looks at you, give them a treat, kisses and praise. Repeat this process until you notice your puppy will be looking at you and coming to you looking for the treats and praise from you.
As your puppy comes towards you take a couple of steps away from them and then when they reach you, reward them with a treat.
Repeat this process several times until your puppy upon hearing your cue comes to you and then walks a few paces with you resulting in receiving a treat.
The aim is this process is for your puppy to get used to the feel of a lead on them, to walk with it dragging behind them and to associate your cue with treats.
Go as slowly as your puppy feels comfortable with, before moving onto the next step. Remember puppies have a short attention span so keep sessions short and fun, do not wait until your puppy is exhausted to stop.
Time to Start Walking Your Dog on a Lead
We recommend starting this process inside where there are less distractions such as smells and noise.
Gently guide your puppy around the home holding the lead loosely so that they follow you and stay close. If they start pulling on the lead stop.
Do not follow your puppy to where they want to go. Going to where they want to go is rewarding them. Stop and stand still. Eventually your puppy will stop pulling and return to your side. Repeat this process every time your puppy lunges or pulls forward. They will soon learn the fun stops when they pull.
Move to Outside
Once outside it is time to start teaching your puppy to walk to heel.
Get into a start position. Hold the lead in your left hand and treats in your right hand. Use the treats to encourage your puppy to be on your right side facing the same direction as you. The lead should cross your body and be held loosely with your left hand only. Give your puppy a treat. If they move away, encourage your dog back to your right side and give another treat. Give them another treat for remaining by your side.
In the start position let your dog sniff the treats in your hand. Remember the cue word or noise you introduced earlier to encourage your puppy to follow you? It is time to use the cue again. Take one step forward as they begin to walk with you give a treat. Remember stick to the same word or noise as your cue.
Keep repeating but by increasing step by step. Every time your puppy moves away from you stop. Use a treat to encourage them to come back to you. Do not pull on the lead.
Once you have mastered a few steps you can build continue to build on these. Remember not to over tire your puppy and stick to the same cue word and be consistent, patient and enjoy.
Puppy socialisation is so important for the welfare of your puppy and their development. Once they have had their vaccines and it is safe to venture out into the big wide world we would absolutely recommend taking your puppy out.
It’s very important that your puppy interacts with lots of new people and animals, as well as takes part in varied experiences in their early stages so they can work out the right way to behave and feel comfortable in differerent situations.
If your puppy isn’t correctly socialised, they can develop phobias and behavioural problems that can be very hard to fix down the track. You should encourage their curiosity and respond positively when they tackle a new experience. If your puppy responds with fear to a new person or animal, it’s important that you don’t make a big deal of it or remove them from the situation briskly. This will only reinforce negativity and lay the foundations for a fearful response in future. If you see your puppy relax and respond warmly to a new experience, reward them with praise.
We would encourage you to expose your puppy to the following:
People & animals; Children of all ages; People with hats, glasses, facial hair, walking sticks; People on motorbikes, bicycles, scooters; Places (countryside and towns); Parks and beaches; Veterinary clinics; Other people’s homes; Grooming and Bath time; Car journeys; Lead training; Loud noises – vacuums, fireworks, traffic, hair dryer, microwave, music, large crowds; Rain and thunderstorms; Water; Wearing a harness to name a few.
Grooming and Bath time
Dog vaccinations play a critical role in protecting your dog from many dangerous and even fatal diseases. The law requires all dogs to be vaccinated for rabies but there are other vaccines that can protect your dog from serious illnesses and diseases.
Dogs are vaccinated against these four main diseases:
- Canine parvovirus
This mainly affects puppies between six weeks and six months of age but can affect dogs who haven’t been vaccinated or had their boosters. Parvovirus is caught by contact with poo from infected dogs and because the virus can survive in the environment for up to nine months, an infected area can be dangerous for non vaccinated dogs for a long period of time.
The most common symptoms are severe vomiting and diarrhoea, which can contain a lot of blood. Puppies quickly become dehydrated and are more susceptible to other infections.
There is no specific treatment however a puppy showing signs of parvivirus should immediately be taken to the vets where there will most likely be put on a drip, given antibiotics and medication to prevent vomiting.
A sick puppy can become seriously ill very quickly, sadly without any treatment about 80% of dogs with parvovirus will die. The good news is around 85% of dogs who receive treatment will survive.
- Canine distemper virus
This can affect dogs of all ages, sadly dogs with severe symptoms will often die, whereas those who are only affected mildly will recover but may go onto have neurological problems later on in life.
The distemper virus is spread by bodily secretions and is more commonly spread by direct contact with an infected animal. Unlike Parvovirus, distemper doesn’t last long in the environment.
The main symptoms relating to distemper are fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, coughing and a discharge from the eyes and mouth.
In the same way as Parvovirus, there is no specific treatment however you will need to take your dog immediately to the vets where they can be given intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and other medications.
This is a disease caused by a bacterium. The main source of infection is via infected urine or contaminated water, so dogs are at risk if they swim or drink from stagnant water especially in areas with a high number of rats.
This disease affects many different species, with different strains associated with different host species. In the UK the two major strains of lepto are carried by dogs and rats; however it can also cause weil’s disease in humans.
Leptospirosis can cause fever, lethargy, thirst, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and jaundice. In severe infections dogs develop kidney and/or liver failure and will sadly often die.
The treatment for Leptospirosis includes intravenous fluids, antibiotics and well as other medication.
Fortunately less severely affected dogs can recover, but will carry the bacteria for many months afterwards, and their urine is an infection risk both to other animals and to humans. Leptospirosis in humans can be fatal.
- Infectious canine hepatitis ICH
Canine Hepatitis is spread by contact with saliva, poo, blood or nasal discharge from infected dogs. The urine of an infected dog can be infectious for up to a year, and the virus can survive in the environment for many months.
There are two versions of the Hepatitis virus – one causes a kennel cough type infection, the other causes hepatitis which is an infection of the liver.
Dogs with hepatitis will display some or all of symptoms of lethargy, coughing, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, jaundice and abdominal pain. The symptoms can be very similar to those of parvovirus.
Unfortunately there is no specific treatment but the symptoms themselves can be treated and fortunately most dogs will recover.
Treating internal and external dog parasites
There are many different products to control and get rid of fleas however many of these should not be used on dogs under 4 months of age. Please ensure you check with your veterinary before you treat your puppy.
For on going preventative flea treatment we would recommend from 8 weeks of age using a recommended treatment by your veterinary on a monthly basis.
Don’t worry if your puppy has or gets worms. Intestinal parasites are common in puppies. Puppies can become infected with parasites even before they are born or later through the mother’s milk. A simple microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually determine whether a puppy has internal worms/parasites.
Throughout their lifetime, dogs are susceptible to hookworms and roundworms. Deworming products are safe for puppies and regular deworming throughout your dogs life is recommended.
Tapeworms are the most common intestinal parasite of dogs. The eggs of the tapeworm live inside fleas. Puppies become infected with these worms when fleas are accidentally ingested upon licking or chewing the skin. The flea is digested within the dog’s intestine and the tapeworm hatches, anchoring itself to the intestinal lining. Therefore, exposure to fleas may result in a new infection that can occur in as little as two weeks.
Dogs infected with tapeworms will pass small segments of the worms in their stool. These segments are white in color and look like grains of rice. They may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool. They may also stick to the hair under the tail.
Look out for the following symptoms in your puppy if you suspect they have worms:
Tapeworms: Rice or spaghetti-like worms in feces and “scooting” its bottom on the ground
Hookworms: Pale gums
Heartworms are parasites that can live in your dog’s heart and cause major damage to the heart and lungs. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes, so your dog does not have to be in contact with another dog to be exposed. Fortunately there is medication that will protect your dog from heartworms which we advise you to speak to your veterinary about.
Ticks are horrible little parasites that feed on humans and animals. They are more common in warmer months, which means our dogs are at risk of picking them up between late spring and autumn.
Ticks can be surprisingly hard to spot on your pet until they get quite big, which is why it’s important to check them regularly. It’s best to remove ticks as soon as possible after they latch on to reduce the risk of them passing on a disease.
When they first attach, a tick may be the size of a small pinhead but, as they suck blood, they can grow to the size of a match head and may look like a bluish-grey, pink or purple lump.
If you look closer, you should be able to see their legs. As they feed on a dog’s blood they can grow up to about 1 cm.
Ticks are dangerous as they can carry disease including Lyme disease which they can spread to both humans and our pets through biting.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection and can make your pet lethargic, give them swollen joints and other symptoms.
There’s no one way to completely stop your pet from getting ticks, but there’s a lot you can do to reduce the risk. Some flea treatments and collars repel ticks, but we advise you speak to your vet to find the right treatment for your puppy.
Illness in Puppies
Young puppies are susceptible to illnesses and diseases that can be very serious, most of which are entirely preventable. This is why puppy vaccinations are so important. However, puppy vaccinations alone will not prevent all illnesses. The key to preventing illness is being diligent in monitoring your puppy’s behaviour for symptoms. If you observe any of the following symptoms in your puppy, contact your vet immediately:
- Lack of appetite
- Poor weight gain
- Swollen or painful abdomen
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing or coughing
- Pale gums
- Swollen, red eyes or eye discharge
- Nasal discharge
- Inability to pass urine or stool
Checking Your Puppy For A Temperature
The only way to accurately know if your puppy has a temperature is by using a rectal thermometer. But, knowing how to feel a dog’s temperature quickly when you don’t have a thermometer can make a big difference. Here is how:
- Check their ears and paws: Healthy dogs generally have just a slightly higher normal temperature than humans. A dog with a temperature usually has very hot ears and paws. You can assess their temperature by using sensitive body parts such as your like your cheeks or the back of your hands and hold on their paws or ears. If they feel warmer than you they may have a temperature.
It is unusual for the left and right ear to be different temperatures. If one ear is warmer than the other, this is usually a sign of an ear infection, rather than a temperature. Try putting your thumb right outside the entrance of your dog’s ear to see if it feels hot.
- Check their nose :If your dog has a hot nose lined with greenish or yellowish nasal discharge, it’s likely they have a temperature.
A normal dog can have a fluctuating temperature and level of wetness – it’s a myth that dog noses are always cold and wet. In fact, the nose often becomes dry from common situations, such as lying in the sun, sleeping near the radiator, exercising, or when the dog is dehydrated.
- Feel your dog’s armpits and groin area: These areas are usually swollen and hot when your dog has an infection and temperature. You can use the back of your hands to feel for heat in the lymph nodes in the armpits and groin area. The armpit and groin areas of the dog have a lot of exposed skin with very little fur, feeling for heat in these areas can be done easily.
- Examine your dog’s gums:. Your dog’s gums may feel warm and dry if they have a fever. Another important sign to watch for here is their gums appearing redder than usual, especially a bright brick red. This can be a sign of high fever, or even septicemia.
In a dog without dental disease, the gums should be moist, shiny, and a similar pink color to our own gums. Lift up the dog’s lip behind the upper canine tooth, and place the tip of your forefinger against the gum to assess temperature and moistness.
If you are concerned about your puppy, please contact your veterinary.
Bathing Your Puppy
Shampooing your puppy with even the gentlest of shampoo formulas can be disruptive to the natural balance of your puppy’s skin and fur. Giving your puppy a bath too often will also reduce the natural waterproofing ability the fur develops as the puppy matures.
There exists a balanced environment of healthy bacteria directly under the fur that helps to keep your puppy’s skin at exactly the right level of acidity. Shampooing your puppy too much changes this balance and can reduce your puppy’s natural resistance to skin infections.
During the first few months of your pup’s life, the soft baby fur coat is replaced by an adult coat. Most puppies will have grown into their adult fur between six and twelve months of age.
The oils in the dog’s skin give an adult coat of fur the benefit of waterproofing. This helps to keep your dog both warmer and more comfortable when swimming or going out on rainy days. Shampooing too much will strip natural oils allowing any water to go straight through your dog’s coat all the way down to the skin.
Of course there are times when it will be necessary to bathe your puppy. As a general rule, you should not bathe your puppy more than once a week during their first three months. Between 3 and 6 months you can bathe your puppy once a month. From six months of age you really only need to bathe your dog a couple of times per year or as needed.
Cutting Your Puppy’s Nails
You will very quickly discover that your puppy has sharp nails. You can start cutting their nails from six weeks of age. This may be necessary especially if your puppy hasn’t yet had their vaccines and is not going outside onto concrete areas/hard surfaces which act as a natural nail file.
Even if there isn’t much there to cut, by starting to cut your puppy’s nails young it will get them accustomed to the routine and will make it easier for you as they get older.
Before you get the nail clippers out, have a good look at your puppy’s nails. Puppy nails are different to humans int hat they have tissue growing in part of the claw which is known as the quick. If you accidentally cut the quick, it will bleed a lot and hurt your puppy. If your puppy has light coloured nails you will be able to see the quick.
Hold your puppy’s paw gently but firmly and trim the tip of each nail one at a time. Go slowly and keep talking to your puppy to keep them calm. If you can see the quick through your puppy’s nails, cut just below the pink line. If you can’t see the quick then the general rule of thumb is to trim just below where the nail starts to curve. If you’re worried, start by trimming a little at a time initially.
If by accident you do cut the quick no lasting damage will be done. It will be painful for your puppy so comfort them and reassure them and hold a compress firmly on the paw to stop bleeding.
Our doggies at the shelter recently reviewed various nail clippers, check out their review to see what they thought: The Best Dog Nail Clippers
Sterilising Your Puppy
We absolutely recommend sterilising your puppy. There are always many different opinions on when to carry out this procedure and we would advise you to speak to your veterinary for advice. At Benafim Dogs all of our dogs are sterilised and would do this at about 6 months of age, circumstances of course can vary.
Delaying sterliising your dog past sexual maturity can lead to increased incidences of mammary tumors in females, and testicular cancer in males.
The surgery is quick and younger dogs in general do recover very quickly – often are running around the next day as though nothing has happened. We absolutely love all puppies and dogs, but also believe that there are currently too many who end up in shelter situations, endless litters of abandoned puppies, abandoned dogs, ill treated dogs because of failures to control the dog population.
Enjoy Your Puppy
Of course there is so much to consider when deciding to adopt a puppy. If this is the first dog you are welcoming into your family there is also a lot to learn.
We may be slightly biased but there really is something so incredibly special about adopting a puppy or an older dog for that matter. Not only will you learn a lot about yourself but your furry family addition will teach you so much too and you will help them in return.
The bond and the love; the fun and the rewarding nature of such a special and precious relationship will help you get through the initial few sleepless nights or the toilet training adventure.
We wish you and your puppy all the happiness in the world, have fun, treasure your relationship and above all – have fun!