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Dog Puppy Care - Everything you need to know about caring for your puppy

How will proper puppy care impact the life of my dog?

It's huge. I mean, how you start out an animal's life is arguably the most important part. Not only from the vaccine side and medical side, where we prevent various diseases, which are very important, but I think just as important with the training side. Teaching them discipline, teaching them what they can and can't do, and how to do things properly. So, puppy care is a really, really big deal.

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

Why is it important to start good puppy care on day one?

Well, because your life with that puppy begins on day one. Think about it this way. When a puppy comes to you for the first time, they’ve obviously left their original setting and every single thing in their life just got turned upside down and it's brand new. Who you are, how you're going to treat them, how your children may treat them, what is to be expected, behavior issues, etc. Can they go in this room or on the carpet or just the hard floor? Are they inside? Are they outside? Can they sleep in a bed? They have to learn all of those things from day one.

From the medical side, it's important on day one to begin proper puppy care because you want to start with a clean slate. Addressing medical issues, parasite prevention, vaccination status, heartworm preventatives—these are all imperative to start at a very early age so you don't end up trying to fight an uphill battle and dealing with a problem later on down the road.

How soon should I bring my puppy in to see a veterinarian for the first time?

Most breeders provide a 72-hour window or guarantee that from the time of you picking up and purchasing the animal, they will give you three days to get it checked out by a veterinarian. There are some cases in which those animals may have underlying health issues, congenital birth defects, or something like that. You may not want to keep them. I know that sounds kind of harsh, but that's what the three-day guarantee is for.

Again, referring back to the previous question I just answered, you just want to get a good rapport established with your veterinarian and begin whatever proper medical care is due at that early age.

What are the most common health problems in puppies?

The most common things we see are intestinal worms and parvovirus. Skin issues can be present as well—they are probably about the third or fourth most common thing we see. Hernias (such as umbilical hernias) can be a big deal for young puppies. Very, very rare congenital heart murmurs can be found as well as fontanelles—or soft spots—on the head. These are all things that can be picked up on the first examination with your veterinarian. Again, these ailments are among the reasons why it's important to start veterinary care early.

What are some signs and symptoms of illness in your puppy?

So, let's think of the things that I just said happen commonly. Intestinal worms. What does that normally look like? It can be anywhere from diarrhea to lethargy to maybe even vomiting. Parvovirus. What does that look like? Again, you’re likely to see vomiting or diarrhea, sometimes with blood in it. Those are the most common issues. In the case of the hernias, you just have to see them and/or feel them.

Depending on what disease process we're talking about, the signs and symptoms can be different, but I think vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy are probably the most common signs of issues that you will see in very young dogs.

What are the signs of a healthy, thriving puppy?

The exact opposite of everything I just said. Good body posture and position, tail flagging up, happy to see you, very bright and alert. Let's be honest, most six, eight, 10-week-old puppies, should get excited when you call them and want to come to you. If you call them and they want to go sulk in a corner or they just kind of look at you and don't want to do anything, that might be a sign right there.

Could it be personality? Yes, it could be, but more times than not, a young puppy that is not excitable and able to be roused and playful and that kind of thing, there is usually something going on behind the scenes there.

FAQ - What Are the Necessary Vaccines and Vaccine Schedules for Puppies

Dr. Broussard The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

What vaccinations does my puppy need?

Well, most vaccinations for puppies come in a combination, and the big ones that most people are familiar with and are probably still the most important are distemper virus and parvovirus. That doesn't mean that those are the only two that your dog needs because there are other things like coronavirus, not the same one, a different canine coronavirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis. Those are all things that can be included as well. But distemper and parvo are probably the two most common that we still do see from time to time in practice on young, unvaccinated puppies. So, I think those are the most important ones.

What are core vaccines?

The core vaccines are probably most of the ones I just mentioned. Core vaccines are the ones that should be given to every puppy regardless of their lifestyle, regardless of what your intentions with that dog are. And I'll explain a little bit better. So core, again, parvo, distemper. Every dog should get those ones.

At the same time, there are things called non-core vaccines, and those are a little bit more dependent on what your dog's lifestyle is. Two examples I can think of right out of the gate, one is leptospirosis. Leptospirosis is usually a bacterial disease picked up from rodents. Well, if your dog's never out in the field or in places where rodents seem to frequent, you might argue that that one's non-core. Do I give it to my dogs? Yeah, but they're outside hunting with me quite a bit.

Another one is Lyme disease. Depending on where you live and how outdoorsy, so to speak, your dogs are, maybe that's not a core vaccine. The only way they get exposed to Lyme is if they're exposed to a tick who carries it and that's in certain regions of the country and outdoors, so that would be considered a non-core vaccine.

How often does my puppy need to go to the veterinarian for puppy vaccinations?

For starters, the first set of vaccines...I would normally give a puppy between the six and eight-week range for the first set. When they are young and they nurse and they get colostrum from their mothers, the antibodies that they receive from their mom usually last in the 9 to 10 weeks. I'd probably say 10 weeks would be my answer, range before those antibodies start to wane. We don't know that for certain, and it's not really feasible to get a blood sample and send off antibody titers on a six or seven or eight-week-old puppy. So, we normally start them early, just in case they didn't get adequate antibodies.

The second part of that question was how often do they need to be seen for vaccines? I don't give vaccines in puppies any closer than three weeks apart. So, if they had one at, let's just say, seven weeks, the next one I would recommend doing is at 10 weeks. The next one after that would be 13 weeks, no sooner than that. If it's a week or so later because of your schedule or something, that's fine. You just don't want them any closer together than that.

And my rule of thumb at the end of the day is I want them to have a minimum of two sets of vaccines after 10 weeks. That's because, by then, those maternal antibodies are gone. They're making their own antibodies to your vaccine, and they need to see it at least twice to get an adequate response with antibody production.

Are there any risks associated with vaccinations?

Yeah, unfortunately, the honest answer is yes, of course, there is. I mean, you're putting a foreign substance into a living creature. Animals are going to react differently, no different than people might do. So, yes. It's hard to predict which vaccine they're going to react to because, again, every animal is different, but the most common ones that we'll see reactions to are things like rabies and sometimes lepto that I mentioned earlier.

You know that old expression, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I am one of those guys that really like to vaccinate my own dogs, because I would much rather take that rare chance of them having a vaccine reaction but know that they're protected, because I can tell you, as a veterinarian, I've seen too many puppies die of parvovirus right in front of me that could have been prevented with adequate vaccination.

Does my puppy need vaccinations even if I keep them inside?

Yeah. We don't live in a bubble. Even in this world of coronavirus, we don't live in a bubble. We are going to be exposed to airborne pathogens, things like that.

Parvo, for example. If your dog never goes outside, not to say that's great, but okay if that's your choice, but parvo can still find its way inside. Why? You go outside. What happens if you are around another dog and there are viral particles on that dog? Maybe they have a bowel movement or had a bowel movement that you didn't see, you step in it, it's on your shoes... something like that. If that viral particle makes its way back into your house, well, guess who's going to find it? Your dog will. Is it as common in indoor dogs? No, of course not, but it's still possible. And once again, as I said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially when you're dealing with potentially fatal viruses like parvo.

What if I miss one of my puppy's vaccinations?

Again, I kind of briefly alluded to this, but it’s not a big deal. You don't want to be months late. Again, keep in mind, guys, we were talking about puppy vaccinations. We're talking about animals that have next to no immune system. So, you want to get them up and running on schedule as best you can.

But if you are late, as I mentioned earlier, a week or even a couple of weeks, I mean, hey, life happens. I get it. But I would make every effort to try to get them back on schedule as soon as you can. What I mean by that is just because you missed a week or two, and don't think, "Oh, that's it. He's not ..." No. Just pick up where you left off.

Your veterinarian will tell you how often they need to be seen or if and when it needs to be boostered again. But if you do miss them, just call the office, get them back in, and make sure they're protected moving forward.

When should I start training my puppy?

Kind of on day one. No, not literally on day one. I'm being silly, but early. Start with the very, very basics. For example, when you feed the dog, try to encourage them to sit every time as you're putting the food down. Hold the food up high and then say, "Sit, sit, sit" and push their rear end down. That's a simple thing that you can do, and don't reward them or treat them until they stay. It might be for a microsecond that they sit but expect that of them. Make them sit first and then give them the reward.

As they get a little bit older, ask them to sit and then put their bowl down, and with my own dogs, I hold them there. I don't release them until they've sat for a few seconds, and then I'll usually snap and release them.

But my point is, these kinds of small behaviors can start very early. You don't want to be too strict with them. You want to let them be a puppy, but you do want to start laying down the guidelines. It's just like a child. They do better when there's structure and expectations. They really do. If you just let them run wild, you have to correct them later. They don't know why you're correcting them or what they could have done differently. Show them the right way from an early age, as it just makes for such a better well-rounded puppy right out of the gate.

What will my vet be looking for when examining my puppy for the first time?

A lot of the things we mentioned earlier. I mean, some of the things I pay most attention to, for one, is the stool sample, looking for worms. I do put my hands on them and check for hernias, as we mentioned earlier. I listen to their heart and lungs to check for heart murmurs. That's another very, very important one. I check out their skin and coat, as these are very easy to examine with a good physical exam. Just flipping through their fur, make sure there are no fleas, parasites, or staph infections. Those are probably the main things we're looking for on that first exam.

Dog Puppy Care - FAQ

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

How much biting and chewing is normal puppy behavior?

A lot. Let's face it. They are going to bite and chew a lot. Some breeds and some dogs do it more than others and that's fine, but you've got to think about part of it is they're teething. We all know that babies teethe and chew a lot and drool, and their gums hurt and that kind of thing. Puppies do the same thing. They do it a lot more rapidly. The average dog will start to lose teeth (and, therefore, start to grow their new permanent teeth) as early as about four months. And usually by about six to maybe seven at the latest, all their permanent teeth are in.

You've got to think about this in reference to the chewing. They're not doing it just to be disruptive. They might do it because they're bored, but they're probably doing it because their teeth hurt and it feels good to chew on those things. So they're all going to do it to some degree. You just have to prepare accordingly for it and give them the right chew toys and things like that, which we'll cover in a second.

My puppy cries at night. What should I do?

Earplugs? No, I'm kidding. Not earplugs. But you can. I've done that before, too. The first few nights of a new puppy coming home are going to be the hardest. I'll tell you that right now. Unless you have an exceptional dog, the first four nights are usually a living hell. Let's just be honest. I am a big fan of kennel or crate training.

And for me, what that looks like is when I go to bed, I'm the last one to go to bed at my house, so I stay with the dog. I take them outside. And the last thing before it's lights out is I put them in the kennel. I personally do not put food and water overnight. I'm not eating at night when I'm sleeping, nor do they need to eat at night when they're sleeping. It just makes a mess. So I put them in there with no food or water. I'll put a nice bed in there for them. And if I really am kind of worried about how they're going to behave, I might even cover it with a blanket, so it stays nice and dark and cozy in there for them.

It's kind of like raising a child. There are people that will wake up every time the child goes, "Eh," and run to them and pick them up to take them to their bed. You can do that with a dog too, but you're going to be creating a monster. So I normally will kind of let them cry it out within reason, but I will let them do that the first couple of nights. If you stick to your guns, trust me, they will figure it out. The kennel becomes a comfort zone for them. It's just those first few nights. They're away from home. They're away from their mother, their siblings. They're not sure what's happening. I get it. But if you do give in and put them in bed with you, that's fine, but you better get ready to do that for the next 15 years or so. So, that's my advice on that one.

Why is my puppy so aggressive?

Well, hopefully it's not true aggression that this question would be geared towards. I have seen puppies that are aggressive at a very early age and that's a little bit disturbing. More times than not, it's just playing. They're trying to find themselves in the pack. They're trying to find out who's the alpha and who’s not. What can they get away with? They're learning how to interact with dogs. And if you've ever watched a pack of dogs, wolves, any canine species, that's how they are. It's what they do. So the playfulness/aggressiveness is okay for them to do those things in moderation, as long as it's in play.

If it becomes growling, snarling, pulling and as if they have to have the last word, that's a problem, and that needs to be addressed straight away. I'm not a trainer so I'm not going to stand here and try to give you this long, drawn out process on how to do it.

But one thing you might want to do is consult with a trainer and see the right methodology on how to break that or steer that energy elsewhere to where it becomes productive and not leading down a not so good road.

How can I get my puppy to calm down?

The million dollar question, exercise is probably the best bet. Think about a puppy. They play hard for an hour or two just like a child. You look at them and you think, "Oh my God, where did all this energy come from?" But then right after that it's lights out and they're going to be asleep for an hour or two.

So with that being said, the best bet with a puppy? Play with him. Give him an outlet for that energy. Take him for long walks. Play fetch if they're old enough to do that yet. Anything that's going to use energy, use their mind, that's that's what they're bred to do. You know, they're pack animals. They’re normally roaming around with other dogs all day long or sleeping. That's not going to change just because you got them and brought them into your home. So they still need those basic essentials.

Let them be a dog. Let them explore. Take them for walks, do those things to burn off some of that energy. And I will tell you one other thing, too, as far as training goes, the best time to train them is right after you've done that so their energy level is not so high. They’re in a better mental state where they're more relaxed and much more amenable to learning new things.

Is it okay to punish my puppy?

I'm going to say yes and I'm saying this while I tip toe walking on eggshells, because I don't want to rub anybody the wrong way. Dogs need discipline no different than a child needs discipline, so yes. If I stuck with a short answer, I would simply say yes, but I feel like I have to explain.

If you catch them in the act of doing something undesirable, such as messing in your house, chewing on your favorite shoes, fighting with another animal, trying to bite you too hard, or anything like that, it requires correction in moderation. It doesn't mean you have to go smacking them around. A lot of times it's just a loud noise. And most dogs when they hear that and they stop, that's correcting in itself for probably 80% of puppies. Have I at times tapped mine on the nose if they're really not getting a message, if they're not responding to an auditory stimulus or something like that? Yes, I have. Is it okay? I think it is in moderation.

Again I am not advocating going around smacking your dog. But they do need correction. They need discipline and they do better when they know what's expected of them exactly like a child would be. If caught in the act, yes. If you were trying to correct them for something that happened maybe while you were at work, it might've happened hours ago, nah, you're wasting your time. And I have learned the hard way, do not even bother because they will have no idea what you're correcting them for. And then it just becomes a thing where, oh my goodness, now they're fearful of you because you're just this big old guy that just comes in and starts spanking them for no known reason. So if you catch them in the act, yes, punish in moderation, otherwise let it go. Deal with it the next time you see that behavior happen.

When should my puppy start obedience training and can they go before getting all vaccinations?

Depends on what kind of obedience training you're talking about, first off. So I will tell you that obedience training that you're going to do at home? As soon as possible and, again, in moderation. You know, with a six week old puppy, you don't put them through bootcamp. Let them be a puppy. If you're going to give them a treat, why not have him on a tabletop like this, hold the treat up high so they're looking at you, and then say, "Sit. Sit." And watch their rear end drop to the ground. If they're not, hold it up higher. Go above their head so they're going to follow that treat and then they're going to sit. It's a natural response. So that kind of training, heck yeah. I'd do it from day one.

Other small training, like every time I feed my dogs, I put the food down. I make them sit or at least stay and I'll put the food down. I do not let them attack the food bowl. It's by design. I want them to know that they’re going to do what I'm asking them to do. It doesn't hurt. I'm not being mean in any way, shape, or form. But they do kind of learn that they have to do things my way and not their way all the time. And you would be amazed at how many things that spills over to. I mean, keep in mind, I'm a veterinarian. So I see dogs walk into exam rooms all the time. A dog that is well-disciplined even if they don't know 50 tricks, that's fine. But even if they know discipline, they know to sit, they know to stay, they know to heel, those kinds of things—that is such a big advantage for us and for the owners.

It just makes for better dogs when they have discipline like that. So I implore you that even if it's small things, train when you can in moderation. Don't do it for 30 minutes a day. Do it for three or four minutes a day and stop. They’re still puppies. Make it fun. When it's not fun and they're losing interest, stop. Do it again the next day and you'd be much better off for it.

When is it safe to socialize my puppy?

I'd do it early. The only caveat I'll give you is to make sure if you're socializing with other dogs, I strongly encourage you to do that in the right setting. I don't like taking them to places where there's a lot of other dog traffic, especially dogs that you do not know. So your big chain pet stores that let you bring pets in there—I’m not a big fan of doing that with puppies. Dog parks, groomers, boarding facilities,I will try to find any other alternative when they're puppies. When they're not fully vaccinated, I try to stay away from those kinds of activities for obvious reasons. You don't know what those dogs have or where they've been or what symptoms they may have.

Now if you have friends or family members or perhaps even have other dogs yourself, and they're healthy, and you know that, knock it out. Let them socialize. Let them be a dog.

I currently have a four month old puppy right now and I have a one year old and a seven year old dog. They are best of buds. They do everything together and that's fantastic. The little four-month-old is learning so many things from other dogs, I'm not even having to show him anything. He just follows what the others do and he's learning how to be a dog. That's okay. But of course, I know that those other two are perfectly healthy and vaccinated. In that kind of situation, do it early and often. If not, hold back, and then before you start doing trainers and other things, I would wait until they're fully vaccinated, which in most dogs is closer to, say, four months.

How do I socialize my puppy and other pets and people?

Just exposure early and often is the best way. I don't have a formula. Every dog is different. But it's just exposure. Start with a leash so you have them under control. You don't know how those other animals are going to react. So do it in a controlled setting where they're both leashed, but start small.

If one or both of the dogs are either acting aggressively or perhaps the other way, being very fearful, do it very matter of factly. Just take them for a walk and let them get close to each other, but keep on walking. And then as they get comfortable and they realize it's no big deal, maybe then you make another pass and they get a little closer. Or maybe you stop and talk with the owner. Try to mimic a normal day-to-day situation that you might run into.

Start early. Do it often. If you can implement any of this, trust me, you will be happier for it, and you're going to have a much better, well-rounded dog when it comes right down to it.

Dog Puppy Care - FAQ2 - Preparing for Adopting a Puppy

Dr. Broussard
The Waggin' Train Veterinary Clinic

What is the most important thing to know about raising a puppy?

Well, probably the most important thing is just common sense and knowing it's going to take time. If you want to do this the right way, it's going to take time. It might not be a tone of time, but it's going to take a little bit of devotion and effort every day, to be quite honest. It might only be a few minutes a day, but it will take patience and having the proper setup to prepare for bringing a young, untrained puppy into the household.

What should I consider before adopting or buying a puppy?

I think the most important thing to consider is what breed of dog you're looking to get. And to be even more clear about that, what kind of dog is going to fit into your lifestyle? With some people, it's quite easy. Maybe you're a duck hunter and you know, hey, I want a Labrador Retriever and you know exactly what they're all about and how they work and their drive and that's great. But a lot of people tend to make the mistake of wanting a puppy because they're cute, especially when they're a puppy.

What I would implore you to do is look into the history of what that breed was, I don't want to say created for. If you live in a one or two bedroom apartment, a Border Collie or a Blue Heeler is probably not going to be the breed for you. They're very high-energy working-type dogs. They need a job to do. If you don't give them a job, they are more than happy to make their job eating your sofa or your carpet or they're going to find something to do with all that energy they have and it may not be to your liking.

So my best advice is plan ahead, look into the history of the breed, their temperament, their energy level, all those things, and make sure you're picking a breed that fits not only what they look like. That part is easy but you want to pick a breed that fits your lifestyle and what's going to mold best into your lifestyle.

What should I look for in a puppy?

When I'm choosing a puppy, I like to see a vibrant, interactive, confident puppy. When you're looking at a litter of puppies, which one comes up to you? In the case of a young six, eight week old puppy, you should be able to bend down, make noise and they want to attack you because they want attention. Take note if there's one kind of hanging out in the corner and just like real sheepish and shy or submissive or won't come to you, or God forbid if he's already showing you his teeth or just growling and unsure. I get that you're a stranger, but a puppy shouldn't be responding to you that way. So that makes a big difference and the flip side of that is what I was alluding to.

I like a dog that's very confident and outgoing. I want one inquisitive, who's going to come check me out—one that’s friendly, not aggressive, but I want one that is also very comfortable in their own skin. So that's what I'm looking for personally...regardless of the breed, that's what I'm looking for.

How can I puppy proof my house?

Think about what a dog could get into. You’ve got to think of it from that aspect and perspective, like the viewpoint from being a couple of inches off the ground like that of a young puppy. They're going to see what's in front of them. They're going to find food on the floor. They're going to find trash cans that they can reach up and knock over. They're going to find anything they can get their mouth on and try to chew it. So you might want to invest in a nice kennel or crate—some place that you can put them in. And not as punishment, but let that be their normal domicile when you're not there. So at night, when you have company over, when you're not home directly supervising, the kennel should be a good and comfortable place for them to go.

You might also want to consider depending on where you live and how it's laid out, maybe some baby gates that will prevent them from going to various areas of the house. Those are probably the most basic common sense things I would think that you would need to do first.

Is it possible to care for a puppy while working full time?

Yeah, it is. I do it quite often, so it is. I have the benefit of being able to take my puppy to work. Some people don't. But yes, it definitely can be done. That’s why it's important to have a safe and secure place where you can kennel your puppy throughout the day.

If you have the ability to go home and check on them over lunch, even better. That's better for them, but that's basically what it takes. Give them the chance to use the bathroom just before you leave, put them in their proper bedding with things they can't chew up, destroy, choke on, etc. Try to check on them once if not twice during the day to let them out, clean up, and just to make sure they're not getting themselves into anything that they shouldn't.

How long can the puppy be left alone?

It depends on if they're inside or outside and what their situation is. If they’re outdoors in a kennel where they have shade, food, and water, they’ll be fine for quite a while.It’s very easy to let them stay in that kind of a surrounding for a day. I do it almost daily with my own dogs, dogs that live indoors.

From a temperature standpoint, they can handle all day by themselves. The problem comes in with the water, what if they spill their bowl or those kinds of accidents? Do they need to eat throughout the day? A lot of smaller, toy size breeds need to eat more than just between 8:00 and 5:00 or 6:00 PM. And then you have to consider the elimination side or bathroom breaks. You're probably going to walk into a mess if they've been alone for any more than four or five hours, depending on the breed of puppy.

My rule of thumb that I was always told years ago was that puppies can hold their bladder for one hour longer than their age in months. That's theoretical and there’s no exact science behind that, but that's what I was told by behaviorists and it holds pretty true to form most times.

If you still have any other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (337) 223-9581, you can email us, or you can reach out on Facebook if you'd like. But please do reach out, we'll try and get back to you as fast as we can.

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