By now, my readers are well on their way to a well socialized, good mannered and adequately immunized kitten. Now it’s time to shine the spotlight on puppies. Having a puppy around the house can be such a joy. It’s hard not to love a lab or golden retriever or a tiny poodle with their innocent expressions and cuddle-soft fur. Here’s my take on keeping that new baby healthy, and ensuring that the next 10-15 years are joyful.
To that end, get the job of housebreaking over as fast as possible. Crate training is the most effective method of housebreaking. And dogs, being den animals, love their crates when used appropriately. The principle is that dogs don’t want to soil where they sleep so they learn to hold it. Get a crate for an adult size dog, then partition it so a pup can stretch out to be comfortable but not get away from any mess he makes. Expand the partition as he grows. Remember to take a pup out the same door to the same spot (not right by your front door!) on a leash and collar and give him a verbal command to entice him to urinate or defecate. “Go potty” or some other one or two word command tells the pup what you want him to do. Then reinforce that action by both positive praise and a food reward. Constant repetition will quickly train a pup where he should eliminate. And remember, pups need to urinate at two key times: when they awaken and when they finish an activity. Knowing that, you can optimize your chances of getting the timing right and success by keying into those behaviors. Also, eating stimulates the gastrointestinal tract so by adopting a meal-feeding schedule, owners can regulate their animal’s needs to have a BM.
Many puppies are born with parasites. Pups can get intestinal worms from their moms (dams) either through the placenta or through mother’s milk. Some worms are visible to the naked eye while others are only seen microscopically. For that reason, it is important to have every pup dewormed routinely and a fecal analysis performed. Some parasites can be passed to humans so a stool check is paramount to be sure a new pup doesn’t spread disease.
Puppies are routinely given three or four Distemper vaccines starting at six weeks of age. When we speak of Distemper shots, we mean combination boosters which include four or five virus types which shift a pup’s immune system into protective gear. Often these vaccines are neutralized by the dam’s maternal antibodies so they need to be given until that protection fades, around four months old. Vaccines are also given for Rabies and Lyme disease. These can be started as early as three months. With the safety of these vaccines and the prevalence of both diseases in our area, every dog should be inoculated.
While it’s the vet’s job to ensure a pup is healthy, the onus falls on his owner to socialize him. I’ve mentioned before that animals of any species require socialization, and in the dog, that is optimized before four to five months of age. Handle for grooming! Plucking ears, washing eyes, trimming the face, cutting nails must be part of routine handling. Some breeds like the Havanese or Shi Tzu are high maintenance animals and should be accustomed to grooming early on. Owners of large breed dogs should be able to control their pets on lead without fearing for their rotator cuffs. Teach a dog to walk next to you on a leash, not ahead. Head harnesses accomplish this easily and are the number one choice of behaviorists for controlling domineering dogs.
It is very common for puppies to get motion sick so early, frequent car rides help minimize this problem. And thunderstorms often plague pets. There is no guaranteed cure, but I’m a big believer in preventing this by raising a lot of ruckus so pups think noise is normal. Whichever breed you choose, acclimating him or her into your home early on will ensure many enjoyable years.
Celeste Conn, VMD
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