Your first visit to the vet with your new puppy is one of the most important visits you will have. Dr. Donworth believes in spending a lot of time with new puppy owners to set you on the right path to having a healthy, happy, well behaved family dog. here is an outline of what will be discussed at that visit, and also a reference for owners after that visit.
Housebreaking/ Potty Training
This is always the first question owners have with a new puppy! It is important to do this right from the beginning. Crate training is the most effective way to teach a puppy not to urinate or defecate in the house. It is so effective because puppies are 'pre-programmed' not to soil their sleeping area. You need to use a crate that is small enough so that if the puppy makes a mess, he/she cannot avoid it. You want a puppy 'bedroom', not a puppy 'apartment'. You can buy crates that have a divider included, so the crate can be made bigger as the pup grows. Try to avoid the full plastic walled travel crates, see through wire crates are preferable.
The puppy is put in the crate at night, during the day when no one is home, and also during the day when people are home but no one is paying direct attention to the pup. The puppy is not allowed free access to any part of the house. This will change as the pup gets older and the potty training improves.
When you are home you take the puppy out every few hours to urinate and defecate. You praise him/her when they do. You also take them out last thing at night and first thing in the morning, before leaving the house, and after you get back home. If you have to take your puppy out during the night, keep it all 'business', no cuddle time or games, otherwise you may find your puppy waking you up in the middle of the night just for attention, not to use the bathroom.
By following these steps, you try to make sure that the puppy is outside whenever he/she has to pee or poop. Eventually, going outside becomes a habit. If you know your pup needs to go to the bathroom, but they get distracted outside and won’t go, bring them back in and put them in the crate for a few minutes. This will remind them they need to go! Remember that your puppy will need to have a bowel movement about 20 minutes after they eat a big meal.
Do not use puppy training pads or newspapers. While this is easier in the short term, in the long term all it does is teach the pup to urinate and defecate in the house, which is the exact opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
Training and Discipline
It is important to start basic obedience when the dog is still a young puppy. A family pet should NEVER EVER under ANY circumstances put their teeth on human skin, even in play. This is the most important lesson of all. All puppies bite! It does not make them a 'bad' dog, but it is important to teach them not to do it. We will show you training techniques to solve this problem.
Your puppy should accept you handling them on every part of their body. Practice every day by opening their mouths and putting your fingers gently on the tongue (this makes giving pills easy later) , put your finger tip in the top of their ear canals (this makes giving ear medication easier), and play with their toes on all 4 paws (this makes nail trimming MUCH easier).
All puppies can learn basic commands from 6 weeks old. "sit" is an easy place to start! Training them from a young age teaches them how to learn. If you are not sure how to train your dog, we can recommend several local training clubs/classes.
Exposing your puppy to lots of different people/situations/children is critical. Let them play with other dogs that you know are fully vaccinated and not aggressive. Avoid dog parks until they have had their full series of puppy vaccinations.
Dogs need a lot of exercise, even the little ones! Get them walking well, without pulling, on a leash from day one. Remember they need a good long walk every single day, no matter what the weather. The only exception to this is extreme heat in the summer. A lot of behavior problems can be avoided by giving your dog enough exercise. Walking is an important 'pack' type behavior, it fulfills their need to patrol their territory and teaches them to pay attention to you as the pack leader. Running around the back yard is great, but it does not replace the need for a walk.
Feed puppies a high quality dog food, specifically formulated for growing dogs. Feed young puppies (6-9 weeks) 4 times a day. The frequency of feedings can be reduced as they get older. By about 16 weeks they can be fed twice daily. Most puppies are growing so fast they need a lot of calories., but once they have stopped growing you must not allow them to 'free feed'. Feed them a measured amount of food and do not allow them to get overweight. Check the label on the bag of food for feeding guidelines. Avoid table scraps and human food. Do not change the diet suddenly or your dog could develop GI inflammation resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. Avoid raw food diets, as there is a risk of infection with bacteria such as salmonella and e-coli.
To prevent fleas and heartworms in your dog, you must give them a preventative once a month, year round. When you come in with your puppy, we will get him/her started on a parasite prevention program. There are several different options , e.g. topical vs. oral administration, combination vs. individual treatments. Parasite prevention is essential for the long term health of your pet.
Spaying and Neutering
We recommend that any pet that is not going to be used in a professional breeding program be spayed or neutered. This prevents many health and behavioral problems. Most dogs have the surgery performed between 4 and 6 months of age. The exception to this recommendation is with larger pure breed dogs, most notably Labrador and golden retrievers. It is discussed in one of our blog pots.
Pet health insurance is becoming more and more popular with pet owners. It means that decisions on medical diagnostics and treatment can be made on the basis of what is best for your pet, and less about finances. We will provide you with more information on the different companies that offer pet insurance when you come to the clinic. We strongly advise getting veterinary insurance for your dog.
All dogs should be microchipped. It is a quick, easy procedure that places a small microchip about the size of a grain of rice under the dogs skin. It is a permanent form of identification, and if your dog is lost without their collar or tags, they can be scanned at any vets office/ rescue facility/ humane society and the microchip number is linked to your contact information on an online database.