So you’ve got a new puppy and now you’re wondering what to do with it. Taking pictures and cuddling with your puppy are not the only responsibilities you will have and happy, healthy, obedient dogs need care and training from puppyhood onwards. Here’s a summary of the ABC’s of puppyhood.
Socializing with other dogs
Socializing with dogs you know are healthy is strongly encouraged, even before your puppy is fully vaccinated. This means dogs that are up to date on vaccines and doing well. Play dates with family or friends’ dogs (or cats) are a great, safe, way to socialize your puppy in the critical socialization period that starts at 8 weeks old and lasts until 16 weeks old.
Puppies under 4 months old should be fed 3 times a day to prevent hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Very small dogs, like Yorkies and Bichons, should be fed 4 times a day until 4 months old and at least 3 times a day until 6 months. After 4 months most medium to large breed dogs can be fed twice a day. After 6 months all sized dogs can be fed twice a day. Using the instructions on the bag for feeding quantity is a good guideline. If you notice your puppy is too skinny or too fat then feed a bit more or less and adjust your feeding quantity at least once a month for puppies.
Most dry dog food is specifically formulated to be able to provide dogs with all their nutritional needs in one compact, easy-to-use, package. A puppy food that says on the bag that it is made for puppies, or all life stages, is recommended for dogs up to 12 months old. At 12 months you can switch to adult dog food. In the Pacific islands we often cannot buy any commercial dog foods. You can also feed them a mixture of food including leftover food, raw bones, cooked rice, meat and vegetables. Dogs can also eat pawpaws, bananas and other fruit. Meat and rice alone is not a balanced diet for growing puppies – dogs on a meat-only diet can develop rickets with deformed, easily fractured bones. Do not feed onions, chocolate, grapes or sultanas, as these are all toxic to dogs.
The key to successful toilet training is to prevent your pup from having accidents and knowing when your puppy has to go to the bathroom is a good start. Important bathroom times are first thing in the morning, right before bed and 15-20 minutes after eating. The rule of thumb is the number of months old your puppy is = how long they can hold on for (ie. 2 months old has to go outside every 2 hours). Watching for your puppy’s bathroom signals is a good clue to an impending accident. These clues usually consist of sniffing at the ground or pawing at the door, but every puppy is a little different. Some puppies won’t be able to hold on through the night, others will. Setting an alarm to wake up a half hour before the accident typically takes place and taking them outside or to the puppy pad is a good strategy. Puppy pads or old newspapers can be a useful tool for toilet training. The idea is that the smell will be on the pad and they will think it is the toilet area. For this reason if your puppy has had any accidents inside the house it is very important to clean them up well to eliminate the smell and prevent repeat accidents in the same spot. For punishing accidents you must catch your puppy in the act. You can move them to the pee pad and scold them, only if you catch them within the first 5-10 seconds of making the mess. Rubbing their nose in their mess an hour after they have made it will not work – they simply will not understand.
Training a puppy well requires time and patience but you will be rewarded with obedient behavior for many happy years to come!
By Dr. Karin O’Connor from Port Vila Vet Clinic