Puppies should have the chance to bond with their mother and litter mates before being separated, so you should obtain your puppy at 7–8 weeks of age. For the first 48 hours at home, you should provide your puppy with a quiet and calm environment where it can get to know everyone at its own pace. Introduce it to other animals in the family slowly on neutral ground (for example, if your older pet considers the back yard its 'territory', you shouldn't introduce a new puppy there). If you are anticipating conflict, it may be useful to introduce them through a screen door so that physical contact is not possible. Keeping them on opposite sides of the door may be necessary for a few days to allow them to familiarise themselves with each other before you can introduce them physically.
Find out from the breeder what, when and how much your puppy was being fed. A sudden change in diet can cause a gut upset, so you should feed the same thing that the breeder fed – at least initially. Once your puppy gets settled in, you can wean him or her over to a new diet if you wish. The main thing to remember when choosing a food for your puppy is that it must be food specifically made for puppies – not adult dog food. Puppy food is specifically formulated to meet the needs of a growing puppy. We recommend Royal Canin Junior food, which you can buy in the clinic. If you feed this, you do not need to provide any supplements. Wean your puppy onto new food over a period of about a week by first mixing 80% of the old food with 20% of the new food, then gradually increasing the percentage of the new food. Puppies should be fed four times daily until 2 months of age, three times daily until 4 months of age, and twice daily thereafter. Make sure your puppy always has free access to water.
The following are all part of a comprehensive preventative health care program for a puppy:
It is a rare puppy that cannot be toilet-trained effectively within a few weeks. The following advice will help you to speed up this process:
All of the same principles apply to teaching your puppy what it can and can't chew – and while your puppy is teething, it is important that he has something to chew.
See the Information Sheet on Desexing.
All dogs benefit from grooming, and the earlier you introduce this to your dog, the better he or she will tolerate it. It is best to use a brush specifically designed for dogs. Grooming is also a good way to pick up on any abnormalities in your dog. In long-haired breeds, hair can start to matt after even a few weeks, which can be uncomfortable and even painful. Your dog may require sedation to be able to remove these matts.
It is important that there is something in your dog's diet to keep the teeth clean from an early age, because once tartar has built up on the teeth the only way to remove it is using ultrasonic scaling under general anaesthesia (see Dental Health Information Sheet).
The ideal way to prevent tartar formation is to brush your pet's teeth at least every second day. If this is done from an early age, puppies can learn to tolerate this well. We understand that you may not be willing to do this, and there are other options. Royal Canin Dental food and Hill's t/d are complete and balanced, and can be used as part of the diet (at least every second day) from 6 months of age to abrade the teeth and prevent tartar formation. Raw chicken necks or bones are also effective.
As puppies mature, they encounter numerous unfamiliar stimuli that have the potential to cause fear and anxiety. By exposing them to these stimuli repeatedly and showing that there is no negative outcome, puppies learn to accept these things in their environment. This process is called habituation, and occurs between 3 and 12–16 weeks. Dogs that receive insufficient exposure to people, other animals and new environments during this time may develop irreversible fears, leading to timidity or aggression. Many young dogs will regress or become fearful again if they do not receive continued social interaction as they grow and develop.
Make a conscious effort to identify the types of stimuli your puppy is not being exposed to (such as children, elderly people, wheelchairs, other dogs/cats, city/country, car rides, planes, thunder, etc) and try to arrange for him to be exposed to them. Giving treats each time your puppy is exposed to a stimulus can further reinforce that it is not something to be afraid of. If your puppy does begin to show signs of fear when faced with something new, back off and try again later. Don't reassure the puppy, as this is positive reinforcement for the fearful behaviour.
Until 1 week after your puppy's final vaccination, he is not fully protected. Any contact with other dogs poses some risk of infection. However, because socialisation is such an important process, we need to weigh up the risks against the benefits. Having vaccinated dogs come to your home to meet your puppy and enrolling in puppy classes with other vaccinated puppies are two ways of minimising the risk.
See 'Teaching Commands Information Sheet' and 'Preventing Behaviour Problems' Information Sheet'
Here you can find information and advice about common problems and diseases. Please remember, though, that this information can't replace a visit to the vet!