Puppy Wellness

Congratulations on your New Puppy!

Getting a new puppy is an exciting time for everybody in the family however it can be overwhelming for you and your new puppy as well. Here is some information to help you make the transition easier for everybody as well as help guide you in making educated decisions about your pet’s health care.

What to Expect the First Few Days

Your puppy may be tired or stressed from the changes occuring. They are likely away from their mother and litter mates for the first time. As exciting as it may be to bring puppy home for the first time, keep in mind that it can be overwhelming for such a tiny creature to go through these changes. Although everybody may want to ‘hello’ to the new puppy right away, it is important to wait a few days before letting any children in the household play with the puppy. Designate a quite space for your puppy to stay without a lot of traffic so that they can get used to their new environment. Introductions with other pets in the household should wait for another day.

Transitioning Food

If your puppy is going to be switching to a new brand of food, you will want to make the changes gradually as not to upset their delicate stomach. You can do this over the period of 10 days.

  • Day 1-3 – 25% new food mixed with 75% old food
  • Day 4-6 – 50% new food mixed with 50% old food
  • Day 7-9 – 75% new food mixed with 25% old food
  • Day 10 – your puppy should be on 100% of the new food..

If you notice any signs of gastric upset such as vomiting or diarrhea then call your veterinarian for advice. In some cases this can indicate that there is something else going on with your puppy.

We recommend Hills Science Diet, Royal Canine or Rayne prescription diets.
These prescription diets are especially formulated for your growing puppy according to the AAFCO recommendation.

Your puppy should be on this food until 8-12 months of age or until they reach their adult size. Always look at your dog’s body condition to tell if their diet is adequate, not their weight. Ask your veterinarian for help if are unsure.

Crate Training

Crate training is a wonderful thing for your puppy because it can provide safety, security and can aid with travel and house training. A crate can be a good place for your puppy to go when they are tired or overwhelmed. Their crate is like their ‘security blanket’ and it should be their own quiet place. The crate, when correctly and humanely used, has many advantages for both you and your dog:

You Can:

  • Enjoy peace of mind leaving your dog home alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed and that they are comfortable, protected and not developing any bad habits.
  • Housebreak your dog more quickly by establishing a routine for outdoor elimination and to prevent ‘accidents’ at night or when left alone
  • Effectively confine your dog at times when he may be underfoot such as meals, family activities, guests, etc.
  • Travel with your dog without risk of the driver being dangerously distracted or your dog getting loose or lost.

Your Dog Can:

  • Enjoy the privacy and security of a ‘den’ of which they can retreat to when tired, stressed, or ill.
  • Avoid much of the fear/confusion/punishment caused by your reaction to problem behaviours
  • More easily learn to control their bowels and to associate elimination with the outdoors
  • Be spared the loneliness and frustration of having to be isolated (basement, garage, outside) from comfortable indoor surroundings when being restricted.
  • Be conveniently included in family outtings instead of being left at home.

Crate Size
The crate should always be large enough to permit the dog to stretch out flat on his side without being cramped and to sit up without hitting his head on top. It is always better to use a crate a little too large rather than one a little too small. Measure the dog from the tip of the nose to the base (not tip) of the tail. Allow for growth by adding about 12 inches. A crate too large can be made smaller by adding a partition of wire, wood, or masonite. Remember that a crate too large for a young puppy defeats its purpose of providing security and promoting bowel control.

Since one of the main reasons for using a crate is to confine a dog without making him feel isolated or banished, it should be placed in, or as close to, a “people” area–kitchen, family room, etc. To provide even a greater sense of security and privacy, it should be put back in a corner. The crate helps to satisfy the ‘den instinct’ inherited from their ancestors.

A young puppy (8-16 weeks) should normally have no problem accepting a crate as his “own place.” Any complaining he might do at first is not caused by the crate, but by his learning to accept the controls of his new environment. Actually the crate will help him to adapt more easily and quickly to his new world.

Place the crate in a place where people congregate such as the kitchen. If possible it should be in a spot free from drafts and not too near a direct heat source. Use bedding that can be easily washed. Also, you might include some freshly worn unlaundered article of your clothing such as a tee shirt, old shirt, etc. Avoid putting newspaper in or under the crate, since its odor may encourage elimination. A puppy should not be fed in the crate and will only upset a bowl of water.

Make it clear to all family members that the crate is not a playhouse. It is meant to be a “special room” for the puppy, whose rights should be recognized and respected. You should, however, accustom the puppy from the start to letting you reach into the crate at any time so that he does not become overprotective of it.

Establish a “crate routine” immediately, closing the puppy in it at regular intervals during the day (his own chosen nap times can guide you) and whenever he must be left alone for up to 3-4 hours. Give him a chew toy for distraction and be sure to remove collar and tags which could get caught in an opening.

The puppy should be shown no attention while in the crate. Dogs tend to be much better psychologists than their owners–often training the owner, rather than the owner training the puppy. Any attention shown to the puppy will simply cause the puppy to believe that whining, crying, etc., is all that is needed for him to get more attention.

The puppy should be taken outside last thing every night before being put into the crate. Once he goes into the crate, he should stay there until first thing in the morning. IMMEDIATELY when the puppy is removed from the crate, he should be taken to the chosen area for his bowel eliminations.

Always feed the puppy early enough to allow ample time for bowel elimination after eating before placing the puppy in the crate. This can be up to one hour, depending on the dog. Simply clock the time after eating until the bowel movement occurs to determine this time interval for your particular puppy.

After the puppy is fully housetrained (usually 8-12 weeks of cage use), you simply can leave the door open (or take it off) and allow the puppy to come and go as he chooses. If the puppy becomes destructive during his growing phases, it is a simple matter again of confining him in the crate when he is not under your supervision.

Even if things do not go too smoothly at first-DON’T WEAKEN and DON’T WORRY! Be consistent, firm, and be very aware that you are doing your pet a real favor by preventing him from getting into trouble.

Using a crate to train your dog can be worthwhile. Misuse is cruel. Please follow instructions very carefully. Do not keep your dog in his crate more than is absolutely necessary. Once he is housetrained and can be trusted in your home without being destructive, either stop using the crate or simply leave the crate door open for your dog to come and go. It is advisable not to give your new dog free run of the house.

Some Rules

  • Do not leave your dog in his crate day and night.
  • Put your dog in his crate only after he’s relieved himself and been exercised. It’s your responsibility to ensure your dog has the opportunity to relieve himself when he needs to.
  • Take your dog outside often at first. Puppies should go out at least every three hours. Adult dogs, if not housetrained, should go out every five to seven hours.
  • Don’t let him out when he is barking, you do not want him to associate that barking will get him out of his crate. Never leave the puppy in a crate for longer than he can control himself or he may be forced to eliminate in the crate.
  • Gradually give your dog more freedom outside the crate but only when he’s ready for it. If he goofs, start over again. When he’s out of his crate, always leave the door open so he can go there to rest.
  • If he wets only at night, crate him only at night. If being left alone unsupervised is a problem, then this is the time to use the crate.
  • The crate must be very clean. Otherwise, you will teach your dog to be dirty. If he soils the crate, clean it thoroughly and clean the dog if necessary.
  • To prevent damage to your house by an anxious unattended dog, crate him when you go out and when you cannot monitor him.
  • Use the crate for “time outs” if your dog gets too exuberant or you begin to lose patience. But ensure that you make the crate a positive experience every time. Be neutral when you put your dog in the crate for a time out.
  • If the pup must be left for long periods during which he might eliminate, he should be confined to a larger area such as a dog proof room or pen, with paper left down for elimination.
  • During the daytime, once the puppy has relieved himself, a 2 month old puppy may have up to 3 hours control, a 3 month puppy up to 4 hours, and a 4 month old puppy up to 5 hours.
  • A crate is not an excuse to ignore your dog!

Is crate training practical for all dogs?
An occasional dog may not tolerate crate training, and may continue to show anxiety, or even eliminate when confined. These dogs may adapt better to other types of confinement such as a pen, dog run, small room, or barricaded area. Of course, if the dog is being left alone for longer than he can control (hold in) his elimination, it will be necessary to provide an area much larger than a crate, so that your dog has a location on which to eliminate, away from food and bedding.

Continued anxiety, destruction or vocalization when placed in the crate may indicate separation anxiety or other behavioural issues and you should contact your veterinarian or a professional dog trainer.

Puppies are CHEWING machines!!!

The inherited tendency to investigate the surroundings is very strong in the young dog. Your success preventing chewing problems depends on how effectively you can channel your pup’s tendency toward acceptable chews, rather than unacceptable items. Between the ages of three and six months, your puppy will begin to teethe. Just like babies, puppies chew to relieve some of the discomfort associated with the eruption of the permanent teeth. Puppies also chew to explore their environment as a form of play. It makes little difference to a puppy whether he chews on a toy or on a pair of your favorite shoes. He needs your help and direction in chewing on what is appropriate and what is not.

The two distinct periods when excessive chewing is likely to occur are during the teething period at three months of age, and during the time when the permanent teeth become set in the jaw between 6-12 months. Regardless of these times, the young puppy will continually attempt to investigate objects with his mouth. It is at this age that he or she must be taught what is acceptable to chew and what is not!

A common mistake people make frequently is to provide chewable objects that, in texture, resemble valued objects. The puppy cannot distinguish between rawhide chews, an old shoe, and a good shoe! If he or she learns that chewing any time leather product is acceptable, then all leather products become fair game.

Another concern often overlooked concerns the pup’s ingestion of harmful objects. We periodically have to surgically remove needles, bones, and small toys from the stomach of puppies.

Follow These Tips to Help Train Your Pup Properly:

  • Never leave a puppy unattended unless he’s RESTRICTED to a damage-proof area. We highly suggest airline-shipping crates for confinement during the first 4-8 weeks. This also helps greatly with housetraining.
  • Purchase a chew toy. Never allow products that can be swallowed or chewed into splinters. We do not recommend rawhide chew toys, other than CET Enzymatic Chews which help keep the teeth clean.
  • When the pup begins to chew something he shouldn’t, don’t correct him with a raised voice, just remove the object. IMMEDIATELY offer him one of his chews, but do not force it into his mouth. Simply place it before him and praise.
  • After he’s finished with the acceptable chew, spray the unacceptable item with rubbing alcohol, and put it into his mouth. Praise him when he spits it out. Repeat several times. ‘Bitter Apple’ spray can also be used. If he doesn’t spit it out, generously spray a cotton ball with the product and place it briefly in his mouth. Then follow with the unacceptable item. Give him some water to help clear the unpleasant taste.
  • Get into the habit of looking for trouble before it occurs.
  • If your pet chews or eats something, which you think could be potentially harmful, call the clinic for advice. There is a national hot line for antidotes for poisoning: 1 800-213-6680 or go to www.petpoisonhelpline.com


Housetraining is not only possible; it is also easy because of the natural instinct of dogs to relieve themselves away from their living quarters. The use of a pet crate makes the whole process go more smoothly. A pet crate has the additional advantage of protecting your home from the potential destructive behavior of a curious puppy, as well as minimizing chances of the puppy injuring himself.

Feed your puppy 3-4 meals of a high quality commercial pet food daily:
Consistency in feeding times makes the times of elimination more predictable. Make the last feeding no later than 6 p.m. Removing water at 8 p.m. may be helpful for the first month or two..

Select one toilet area for your puppy:
Take your puppy to the area at times it is most likely to need to eliminate right after sleeping, soon after eating, etc. In the beginning, it is advisable to take the puppy out every 2 hours if possible. Always provide the puppy the opportunity to go outside to eliminate just before being put back in the crate. Always take the puppy outside immediately after returning home before the excitement causes an accident. When you get to the area and your puppy begins to sniff around for the right spot, use a phrase such as “hurry up,” or “do your business.” Soon that phrase will result in elimination.

Praise your puppy immediately:
After he has eliminated in the right area. Even if you are doing everything right, accidents will happen. If you catch your puppy in the act, clap your hands to startle him and say “No!” Immediately take him to the area you have designated as a toilet area. If he then eliminates in the toilet area, praise him for doing a good job. If you find an accident, do not raise your voice, spank your puppy, or rub his nose in it. While you will certainly make him afraid, it won’t be because of the accident, but will only make it afraid of you.

Keep a record of elimination times:
Most all puppies will be “regular.” They will go at the same time every time after eating. Most puppies will eliminate within 5 minutes after eating. Once you have learned the specific time for your specific puppy, you will have a good idea at what time you should routinely take the puppy outside. This is particularly valuable to know during inclimate weather.

Use products that neutralize urine odor when cleaning up accidents:
We stock the products we feel best and can dispense them to you. Avoid products with ammonia, as it is a natural component found in urine and the smell may actually attract the puppy to urinate in that location.

Remember, BE PATIENT:
Housetraining should be complete by 4-6 months of age. But it is still advisable to keep the pet in the crate when you are away from home for several months to prevent possible destructive behaviors.

Obedience Training

Whatever the method you choose to train your puppy, the first step is to be absolutely sure that your puppy understands what is expected of him. It is important to CONSISTENLY praise your puppy for doing the right thing. Positive reinforcement is a much more powerful and safer tool than punishment. Once your puppy understands what you want him to do and he misbehaves, a mild reprimand is all that is needed; followed by showing the puppy the correct behavior and praising him. Ignoring or isolating the puppy after he misbehaves can also be useful. Improperly applied or excessive punishment often backfires. Many puppies become afraid of their owners or sometimes try to fight back aggressively because they don’t understand why they are being punished. Punishment after the fact does not work!

Get your puppy used to a collar and leash right away. These are essential to protect the dog throughout its life. When you are outside, try to walk along with your puppy, keeping the leash loose so that he does not get used to walking while pulling. If he lags behind or runs ahead, a few short gentle jerks on the leash are usually all that is needed to get him walking on a loose lead again. Some dogs may do better with a harness or halti.

Getting your puppy to look at you and pay attention will make teaching any kind of command much more successful. Encourage your puppy to make eye contact with you by saying his name and holding a food tidbit close to your face when your puppy looks at you, praise him for maintaining eye contact. Now that he’s looking at you, he’s ready to listen to a command.

Take a food tidbit and hold it in front of your puppy’s nose in a closed fist. Pass your fist toward the back of your puppy’s head as you say “Sit!” As his head goes up and back to follow the treat, he usually will automatically sit. Repeat this exercise regularly until your pet learns to sit as soon as the command is issued.

To teach your puppy to stay, stand in front of him and ask him to “Sit.” When he does, praise him but don’t give him a treat. Instead, say “Stay” as you step back and give him an open hand signal. Then immediately give him the treat. Repeat the process, increasing distance you step back from your puppy. Go only one step at a time.

Start by giving him the “stay “ command. Then, as you say, “Down,” take a food treat in your fist, place it at his nose, and pass it down to the floor. Your puppy will follow the treat and lie down. After your puppy consistently goes into the “down” position, you can teach your puppy to stay in this position just as he learned for ‘sit’.

When your puppy will sit or lie down and stay while you take ten steps away, he is ready to begin the “Come” command. Give your puppy the “Sit” and “Stay” command. Take five steps back, whistle, say your dog’s name and “Come” in an excited tone of voice. You may want to open your arms or make some other welcoming gesture to encourage him to come. When he gets to you, praise him and give him a treat. Follow with a “Sit. ”Repeat the command (taking only five steps) ten times, then increase the distance. Never call a puppy to scold him or do anything that he won’t like (such as giving medication or a bath). Responding to the “Come” command should always be a positive experience for the puppy.

Socializing your puppy

What Is Socialization?
Socialization means learning to be part of society. When we talk about socializing puppies, it means helping them learn to be comfortable as a pet within human society—a society that includes many different types of people, environments, buildings, sights, noises, smells, animals and other dogs.

Most young animals, including dogs, are naturally made to be able to get used to the everyday things they encounter in their environment—until they reach a certain age. When they reach that age, they are naturally made to become much more suspicious of things they haven’t yet experienced. Mother Nature is smart! This age-specific natural development lets a young puppy get comfortable with the everyday sights, sounds, people and animals that will be a part of his life. It ensures that he doesn’t spend his life jumping in fright at every blowing leaf or bird song. The later suspicion they develop in later puppyhood also ensures that he does react with a healthy dose of caution to new things that could truly be dangerous.

What Age Is Best for Puppy Socialization?
Puppies are most accepting of new experiences between 3 and 12 weeks old. After that age, they become much more cautious of anything they haven’t yet encountered. From about 12 to 18 weeks old the opportunity to easily socialize the puppy ends—and with each passing week it becomes harder to get the pup to accept and enjoy something that he’s initially wary of. After 18 weeks old, it’s extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, to teach a dog to like something new, or help him become comfortable with something he finds frightening.

Why Is Puppy Socialization Important?
Well-socialized puppies usually develop into safer, more relaxed and enjoyable pet dogs. This is because they’re more comfortable in a wider variety of situations than poorly socialized dogs, so they’re less likely to behave fearfully or aggressively when faced with something new. Poorly socialized dogs are much more likely to react with fear or aggression to unfamiliar people, dogs and experiences. Dogs who are relaxed about honking horns, cats, cyclists, veterinary examinations, crowds and long stairwells are easier and safer to live with than dogs who find these situations threatening. Well-socialized dogs also live much more relaxed, peaceful and happy lives than dogs who are constantly stressed out by their environment. Socialization isn’t an “all or nothing” project. You can socialize a puppy a bit, a lot, or a whole lot. The wider the range of experiences you expose him to, the better his chances are of being comfortable in a wide variety of situations as an adult.

How Does a Puppy Need to Be Socialized?
Socialization is a big project. It requires exposure to the types of people, animals, places, sounds and experiences that you expect your dog to be comfortable in later in life. Depending on the lifestyle you have planned for your dog, this might include the sight and sound of trains, garbage trucks, schoolyards of screaming children, crowds, cats, livestock or crying infants. While it’s impossible to expose a young puppy to absolutely everything he will ever encounter in life, the more bases that you cover during the peak socialization period of 3 to 12 weeks, the more likely the puppy will be able to generalize from his prior experiences and find something reassuringly familiar in a new situation. For any pet dog, it’s essential to get him used to the common types of people, dogs, sights, sounds and physical handling and grooming that will be a sure part of his daily life.

Do I Need to Do Anything Special When I Socialize My Puppy?
Yes! You need to make sure that the situation is not overwhelming for him, and that he becomes more comfortable—not more worried—each time you expose him to something. For instance, maybe you’ve planned a puppy party where a group of people will gather to help you socialize your puppy right at home. But some puppies can be overwhelmed by meeting a bunch of strangers all at once. Even though your intentions are good, if your puppy is cowering in the corner at his own party, then he’s not learning anything good about strangers! The rule of thumb with puppy socialization is to keep a close eye on your puppy’s reaction to whatever you expose him to so that you can tone things down if your pup seems at all frightened. Always follow up a socialization experience with praise, petting, a fun game or a special treat.

What If My Puppy Seems Frightened During Socialization?
Even though 3 to 12 weeks old is a time when puppies are most comfortable with new experiences, they might sometimes find a new experience frightening. Whenever this happens, it’s important to introduce your puppy to the scary situation much more gradually, and to make a big effort to do something your puppy loves during the situation or right afterwards. For example, if your puppy seems to be frightened while sitting on your lap in a schoolyard full of children, then sit further away from the action and offer your pup a delicious treat each time a scary noise or movement happens. Another solution is to go to a much quieter park where only a few children are playing, use praise and treats to help convince him it’s a great place to be, and then over days or even weeks of your socialization sessions, gradually approach a schoolyard again once he’s started to like the sights and sounds of active children.

Puppy Classes
One great way to help socialize a puppy is to attend puppy kindergarten classes. These are classes designed especially for puppy training and early socialization. In a typical puppy class, off-leash play and play-fighting helps socialize puppies with each other, teaches them to be gentle with their mouthing and biting, and gets them used to being handled by a variety of people. Some classes even include exposure to odd sights and sounds using props, CDs of sounds, and theatrics with costumes to accustom the puppies to a wide range of life experiences. Puppy classes also teach some basic obedience skills, so on top of the socialization component, you’ll learn how to ask your pup to comply with your requests and behave according to your expectations.

Vaccinations and Disease Risk During Early Socialization
Most young puppies aren’t fully protected against the diseases we vaccinated them for until they’ve had all of their puppy shots. This is mainly because the antibodies they get from their mother can interfere with the ability of the vaccine to have its full effect. Even though puppies’ immune systems are still developing during their early months, if we wait until a puppy has all of his shots before socializing him, we miss our chance to do it. He’ll simply be too old. The good news is that if you take some commonsense precautions while socializing your puppy, the risk of infection is quite small compared to the much larger risk of your puppy developing serious behavior problems with fear and aggression later in life.

Veterinarians specializing in behavior recom­mend that owners take advantage of every opportunity to socialize young puppies in environments like puppy classes, where the risk of illness can be minimized. They state that:

“Puppy socialization classes offer a safe and organized means of socializing puppies. Each puppy should have up-to-date vaccinations and be disease and parasite free before entering the class. Where possible, classes should be held on surfaces that are easily cleaned and disinfected (e.g., indoor environments). Visits to dog parks or other areas that aren’t sanitized or are highly trafficked by dogs of unknown vaccination or disease status should be avoided.”

The experts now agree that the risk of a puppy being given up or later euthanized for behavior problems is so huge that young puppies must be socialized before they are done with their vaccinations. The recommendation is to socialize puppies as safely as possible by exposing the puppy to people, places and other animals while not taking unnecessary risks. Well-run puppy classes—indoor classes where all the puppies have been vaccinated at least once—are a safe and smart way to socialize a puppy.

“In general, puppies can start puppy socialization classes as early as 7 to 8 weeks of age. Puppies should receive a minimum of one set of vac­cines at least 7 days prior to the first class and a first deworming. They should be kept up-to-date on vaccines throughout the class.”

Other Safe Ways to Safely Socialize a Puppy Who Is Not Fully Vaccinated

  • Drive to a busy mall and hang out with your pup on a mat at the entrance. Strangers will flock to you because they want to pet your puppy and they’ll willingly feed him the treats that you’ve brought with you.
  • Host a puppy party! Invite friends and family over, play some music, toss some streamers, and pass your pup around.
  • Bring your puppy to indoor Scouts meetings. Supervise the children interacting with him to make sure he’s not frightened by them and they’re being gentle.
  • Take your pup on car rides through different neighborhoods, drive-thrus, car washes, and out into the country where he’ll see and smell a variety of farm animals.
  • Arrange play sessions with other puppies and adult dogs who you know are healthy and friendly.
  • If your puppy is small enough, carry him around town and let strangers pet him and give him treats.

Download our Exposure Checklist for Socialization
Use this checklist to help keep track of what your puppy has been exposed to. Place a check mark in the box corresponding to the item your puppy was exposed to and at what age.