The following information is given in good faith and just represents a personal view on some things, written down for you to help with a head start on looking after your puppy. Our puppies can leave their mum at 8 weeks old.
Taking the puppy home
The first few days in his new home away from his litter mates and with strange people can be quite traumatic for a little puppy. It is a big change, and it is best if you can let the puppy settle in at his own pace and give him time to adjust rather than overwhelming it with too much love, attention and handling that very first day. This particularly applies if you have children, as they will of course want to play with the new addition to the household.
Provide your puppy with a cosy bed in a quiet corner of the house, and give him space to run and exercise himself and make sure that wherever he is he has fresh water available at all times. If you don’t already have another dog, the first night will probably be rather unpleasant, as the puppy will probably cry all night. You are better off not to go and cuddle him – the sooner he learns to be by himself the better & you will be able to get on with things when he has settled in.
When your puppy is outside, make sure he has some shelter from rain and heat, and his outside run is fenced securely so he can not escape and get himself into trouble. Check that he can not get himself stuck anywhere, as he will try and crawl into all sorts of places.
Do not show the puppy around too much in the first weeks, just let him settle in at home first. That experience alone will be quite hard for your puppy, so you are best to leave him to it and minimise any further stress.
When you take your puppy home, it should have 3 meals per day. By the time it reaches four months of age, you can cut the meals down to 2 a day until he is 12 months old, by which time one single big meal a day will be perfectly sufficient.
Up until 12 months of age, feed your puppy a quality ‘Puppy’ dog food. Modern puppy mixes, for example ‘Supercoat Puppy’ or ‘Optimum’, have been designed to meet fully the nutritional needs of your puppy, and you should not have to feed much else. You can of course give your dog some left over dinner or a bit of meat, but keep this in small proportion to the kibble to ensure your puppy receives a balanced diet. Up until 12 weeks of age, you can soften the Puppy food a little by soaking it with water.
Do not feed your dog cooked chicken or chop bones, when cooked those bones are brittle and can cause major problems in his intestines if you are unlucky. Raw chicken bones are ok to feed, and raw bones, such as brisket bones are very good for puppy’s teeth, so you should let him have one regularly.
Do not feed your puppy really fatty foods, chocolate, onions, grapes, sultanas or cows milk as this can cause serious problems with his digestive tract in the long run. You can feed a bit of natural yoghurt or a special “Puppy Milk” formulation available from your supermarket if you like.
Avoid feeding too much meat too – dry food is a fine diet for a dog these days. If fed a lot of meat, dogs’ diets have excess phosphorus and are calcium deficient. If you do end up feeding your puppy a lot of raw meat and not so much kibble, you need to correct the phosphorus imbalance, and puppies should receive calcium powder or tablets until 12 months of age when the most active growth has stopped. Your veterinarian or pet shop will be able to provide calcium supplements.
To ensure your puppy will not leave food around and become a fussy eater, it is best to only leave the bowl out for 15 mins at a time. If by that time your puppy hasn’t eaten his meal, remove the food until the next mealtime. It will soon learn that it should eat what is offered when it is offered. This is certainly not a matter of cruelty, but education, and it will ensure your puppy eats fresh food and the food can’t become spoilt by sitting around for long periods on hot days.
The 4 diseases dogs need vaccinating against are Distemper, Hepatitis, Pavo Virus and Kennel Cough.
Your puppy will have its first temporary vaccination at 6 weeks of age. It will need a second vaccination at 10-12 weeks of age. Until then it is imperative you do not expose the puppy to situations where it has a higher risk of picking up the above diseases – this includes letting him play on lawns which has been used by other dogs or been soiled by birds. The first vaccination is not enough to protect your puppy from those diseases, and only after about 1 week after the second vaccination is it ok to assume that the puppy is now safe.
Throughout the dog’s life yearly booster vaccinations will be necessary, discuss this with your Veterinarian.
If you already have a dog, make sure the dog’s vaccinations are up to date and he hasn’t had any diseases in the last 6 weeks before you introduce him to the puppy.
Worming and Heartworm Prevention
Puppies should be wormed with a recommended wormer every 2 weeks until 12 weeks of age and thereafter every 3 months is usually adequate. Drontal tablets are ok to use, or any other product your veterinarian may recommend.
Pups should be started on preventative therapy for heartworm by 12 weeks of age. You can choose between daily and monthly tablets, or a yearly vaccination once the dog has reached full mature weight, which I have found to be the most economical solution and the most convenient.
Fleas and ticks
You need to regularly treat your dog with a flea and insect killer – your veterinarian will advise you on your options. I have used Frontline successfully, it is a pour-on you have to use once a month or so. I have never had any fleas on the dogs since I started using this product.
If you live in an area where there is the danger the dog could pick up a paralysis tick, you need to be very vigilant! Paralysis ticks can kill your dog, and it is not always possible to save a dog once it has started to show symptoms.
There are various products on the market which protect against ticks, although I have found that none of them protect your dog 100%. You can either use tick collars (they smell rather unpleasant unfortunately and you have to take them off if your dog wants to go for a swim), there is of course Frontline, which you should use for fleas and mites anyway, but you will have to apply it every second week to be effective against ticks.
Despite those products, you will still need to check your dogs for ticks, preferably daily. If you find a tick that has just attached, remove it with tweezers and destroy it. The paralysis poison only becomes a problem after a few days, so if you find ticks early and remove them your puppy should be fine. Double check with your veterinarian on the latest information about ticks.
Your puppy will loose its baby teeth at 4-6 months. They will naturally try and chew things during teething, so you are best off to always provide a toy or rawhide bone, which the puppy is allowed to chew on (rather than your shoes).
This is usually done at around 6 months of age. Unless you have bought a dog specifically for breeding purposes, you should undertake this procedure, as it will ensure a longer life and better health for your puppy. This goes for males as well as females, but particularly females who can suffer ovarian cysts and other troubles if not desexed but not bred. Even experienced breeders will tell you that they desex their females after their active breeding life is over, to ensure a healthy long life for the bitches.
Your puppy of course will be awfully cute and cuddly, and will try to get spoilt as much as it can. Do not fall for its tricks! A spoilt dog will never be a good companion, and you are well advised to keep the puppy in its place from the very start. A dog needs to know its place in the pecking order or ‘pack’ if you like, and you need to be the Alpha dog at all times. Only if a dog knows the rules it ought to live by, will it be a happy and content dog.
First of all you need to housetrain your puppy. Make sure you watch your puppy, and when you see it sit down and start to piddle, put him on some newpaper, or a piece of astroturf (or outside on the lawn is even better) and wait until he has a pee there. He will understand what you want soon enough if you watch him all the time.
Of course, you should also make sure that whenever the puppy finished a big feed or has woken up from a long sleep, you take it outside, wait until he has done his business, and praise a lot. He will soon work out that outside is the place you want him to do his thing.
Before you start to teach him anything else, it is advisable to have your puppy used to a collar and lead. When you start to introduce a collar, use a soft collar, not a choke chain collar (these are dangerous as puppies can hang themselves and suffocate) and supervise the puppy to start with while you let him get used to the collar. Do not leave him unsupervised, and make sure that there are no dangerous places where the puppy can get caught on his collar.
You can start to introduce a leash soon afterwards. You may want to use praise and food treats to make him realise that if he follows you around while you have the lead on him will mean a reward for him. If he doesn’t follow you, make sure you check him and tell him sternly what is expected of him. He will soon work it out.
It is a good idea to take your puppy to a basic obedience training class when he approaches 9 months old. These classes give you a good drill of the exercises you can do to make your dog a well behaved companion and you should practise with your puppy for 10 minutes each day.
Exercises such as Come, Sit, Down, Stay are very good practise. Many areas have a dog obedience club, and the introductory course may be a session once a week for about 2 months, with some homework for you. I strongly recommend that you do attend such a class. It is important for your puppy to socialise with other dogs and humans, and those dog obedience classes are a fantastic opportunity for it.
Take your puppy in the car for a drive too, whenever you feel like it, so that he learns to stay in his place and enjoy a ride. My first puppy used to get rather carsick and have a little spew after a longer trip, but once he was a bit older became a very fine traveller. It might be wise to make the trips short to start with while your puppy is still little, so you don’t have to clean up a mess. Perhaps place him in a washing basked or cage in the car for his first few trips.