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Puppy Health and Care Tips

Allow your puppy to find his paws when he arrives at his new home. This is a big change for your puppy and he'll need time to settle in to his new environment. Try not to overdo it with him for the first couple of days. Let him find his own way at his own pace. Keep an eye on him to make sure he's not in any danger. Try not to pick him up or encourage him to play too much for the first day or two.

Providing a Safe Place

We recommend a crate for your puppy. Some people see this as cruel or a prison. It really isn't. Your puppy needs a place to feel safe. This could be quite a stressful time for him and the safer he feels the better. Providing a crate gives him this safety. Cover the back top and sides with a dark blanket but leave the front of the crate open and uncovered. A small dark place will make him feel right at home in no time at all. Start by leaving the door open and then later progress to closing the door over night. If your puppy starts to cry or whine it's important not to feel tempted to comfort him. This will teach your puppy that he gets attention from crying and whining and will encourage him to do it all the more.

Leaving a radio on at low level is a good way of providing background noise for your puppy. Be patient, it could be a few nights before your puppy stops crying and whining but by being consistent this soon disappears.

Toilet Training and House Training

Don't forget to give your puppy regular toilet breaks. He's brand new and he cannot hold it in for very long, so take it in turns to get up early to take him outside to toilet. Stay with him until he does his business. When he starts to toilet, in a nice voice, say "go toilet" or "busy, busy" or "quick, quick". Being consistent with the word you choose and saying each time he toilets, will help him soon learn that this word means to go to the toilet. Stay with him outside until he has done his toileting. When he has done his business give him plenty of praise for the good that he has done.

There are mainly six times when you should accompany your puppy outside to toilet.

  • Before going to bed
  • As soon as he wakes up
  • After a nap during the day
  • After eating
  • After exuberant play
  • After you return home from an outing

If your puppy has an accident and toilets in the house there is no point taking him back to the scene of the crime. Showing him what he has done, shouting or smacking will not make him understand. It may just make him fearful of you. If he does have an accident, take him outside immediately. If he toilets again outside give him plenty of praise.

Puppy Nutrition

Water - It is important to make sure that there is plenty of clean fresh water on hand. Always make sure that the drinking bowl is cleaned every day, so as not to encourage bacteria, and that the water is replaced at minimum once per day.

The subject of nutrition is wide and varied. Many dog foods have been created to satisfy the needs of the owner. For example, complete dog food has been created to make the process of feeding easier for the human. What could be simpler than picking up a hand full of food and dropping it into the bowl? Our advice would be to research the food that is appropriate to the breed you have chosen. If you decide to go for a processed type of dog food then make sure that it is a good “quality” food. Remember, the most expensive brand does not necessarily mean that it is of good quality. Try to find a brand that has no, or low, additives. Many foods are packed with additives because they have to stay on the supermarket shelves for a long period of time. We all know what some additives and E numbers do to children, well it's no different for dogs too. There are many good quality foods out there but it is important to research the brand. Look at the ingredients on the packet or tin and look at the protein content. Remember that dogs are carnivores and they find it harder to process plant material than meat. The protein content on the packet or tin could also be made up of plant protein so research the different alternatives you have available for feeding.

Natural feeding is becoming more and more popular again. Prior to the advent of processed dog food we all fed naturally, there was no choice. Natural feeding is simply feeding your puppy or dog as nature intended with raw meat / bones, vegetables and fruit. There are many discussions on the pros and cons of feeding processed or natural, but a good place to start is to type BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) into your search engine and research the different types.
A good website to look at natural feeding is Honeys Real Dog Food.

Whichever method you decide on, it is important to find one that suits your puppy and try to stick to it if he settles into it. We recommend feeding your puppy three times a day until he is 12 months old. Then cut it back to twice per day from then on. There is much debate as to when to cut your dogs food back to twice per day but we feel that during the first 12 months your dog is still growing. He's going through his teenage years if you like (in human terms), and during this time he has his growth spurt. We feel that it is important to make sure he has the proper nutrition whilst he is going through this time. Although we recommend feeding three times per day for the first 12 months it is important to make sure that you are not over feeding or under feeding him. Research the amount of food per day that your dog will need. There are many factors that can influence this; breed, size, exercise regime etc... Talk to your vet if you are in any doubt and they will be able to advise you on the amount of food per day which best suits your dog.

Once you have decided which food you feel is appropriate for your puppy then leave the bowl down for about ten to fifteen minutes until he has finished eating. If there is any food left and he has moved away from the bowl then pick the bowl up. Don't leave it down for him. Leaving the bowl down for him to pick at in between feeding times could lead to an overweight dog. If he's eaten all he can, then pick it up. If he is leaving food every time he eats then you could cut the amount back a little. It is also important to take into consideration the amount of treats he is getting each day too. If you are feeding treats then remember that these also make up his daily amount. Some treats can be extremely high in sugar and can easily lead to an overweight dog if not regulated.

Puppy Vaccinations and Heath Checks

Puppy Vaccinations and Health ChecksIt is important to get your puppy vaccinated prior to taking him outside. Ask the breeder if they have had the first course of vaccinations. Don't guess. It is important to get your puppy vaccinated and it is also important not to over vaccinate him also. Once he has had the recommended course of vaccinations as prescribed by your vet then it is safe to take him outside for his walks. It is always advisable to get your vet to check him out for any obvious signs of ill health too. It's better to get him checked sooner rather than later so any problems can be quickly remedied, or you may have recourse from the breeder if there are any major problems.
We recommend that you simulate the examination process for your puppy a couple of times per week. Check his ears, paws, under his belly and around his rear end. This not only helps to quickly identify any problems which may occur but it also helps to condition him to being handled and for it to become second nature when someone touches his sensitive areas.


We do not recommend having your puppy neutered at a very young age. The age of neutering should be around 8 month old. Your dog should be at the age of sexual maturity before he or she is neutered. It is important that a bitch should have gone through her first season before you have her neutered.

Neutering is mainly a lifestyle choice for the human. Peace of mind that a bitch will not become pregnant if she escapes. If a male dog escapes and mates then the instinct is strong to keep escaping to mate again. There are some benefits of neutering to curb some behaviour problems, such as humping in male dogs, but ultimately the choice is with the owner.
You should also take into consideration if you intend to breed with your dog in later life. For example, if you intend to show your dog, or use him for agility or specific work then you may want to put him out for stud later in life.

Puppy Socialisation

It is important to start to socialise your puppy after a day or so of bringing him home. Expose him to different people and sounds, yet it's important not to overwhelm him. During the first sixteen weeks of his life, your puppy is learning to associate what he feels are good things and bad things. Try to socialise him with other dogs but try to find a calm dog that will not overwhelm him too much or become aggressive, as this could send him the wrong signal from an early age. Make the whole event of socialisation a positive process. You could use a treat from a stranger to make the meeting process an enjoyable event for him. Remember not to overdo the treating though or it could make him sick. The more different people who will stoke him, touch him and socialise with him the better. If he's had his vaccinations you can show him all of the different sights and sound that being outside has to offer.

Puppy Training

Some people may suggest waiting until your puppy is over eighteen weeks to begin puppy training, but we recommend you start to train him after a day or so of him settling into his new home. Gather the family together and agree on the house rules. If your puppy is not allowed on the furniture then make this a house rule that everyone sticks to. It's important that everyone be consistent with the house rules and training as possible. Puppies and dogs learn by association so the more consistent everyone is in training the better. If some are deviating from the plan then your puppy will become very confused and will stop listening to you as he cannot work out right from wrong. It's important not to punish your puppy. Never become physical. It is ok to tell him “No” but you should never smack him or rough handle him.

You can start to teach the basic commands as sit, stay, come and down. Try to use just one word for each command you choose. Stringing sentences together will have no meaning for him. So saying “come over here then” will just confuse him. Simply use the word "come". Make the training a positive experience. You can reward with praise or a toy or treats but whatever you choose make it a positive process. For instance, if you try the “come” command and you have decided to use a treat, give him the treat when he has actually come to you and not before. The association of being rewarded with a treat when he comes will soon fall into place. Again, do not over do it with the treats and remember that it makes up part of his daily food intake.

Puppy Training Classes or Home Training

Puppy training classes can be a good place to socialise your puppy. However it is important to find the right one to suit your needs and temperament of your puppy. For instance, if you have quite a boisterous puppy then it is not uncommon for the instructor to ask you to remove your puppy from the lesson because he is disrupting the class. This defeats the whole purpose of you going to classes in the first place! Find a class or programme that will accommodate your needs. You should have a clear and structured class with goals to aim for.

Contact your local Bark Busters trainer for puppy training programmes in your area.

Above all it is important to ensure that you and your family take the lead role in your puppy's life. Puppies and dogs have an innate natural instinct to leadership and if we don't show and guide our puppy with the correct leadership then it may not be long before he starts to try to take control of situations, which in many cases leads to disaster.

Bad Behaviour Prevention in Puppies

The following is aimed to give you some general advice on preventing bad behaviour and in some cases explains why the behaviour may be happening. It's important to say that all dogs and puppies are different and behaviour is greatly linked to your dog's individual personality, environment and home life. Your local Bark Busters trainer will be more than happy to advise you on any specific concerns you may have.

Note: The use of the word "correction" is meant that you should only use a vocal correction. You should never physically correct or reprimand your puppy.

Chewing: Chewing is natural for a puppy but you can limit the amount of chewing with the proper puppy management. Supply your puppy with safe chew toys such as the Kong™ or provide your puppy with a Buster Cube. This will stimulate his brain by providing mental stimulation. It is best to limit the space for a young pup, that way you control the environment and limit the amount of damage he is able to do. Also place all valuables up out of harm's way. Be patient and do not correct him unless you catch him in the act. Timing is crucial. If you don't catch him in the act then it is pointless correcting him as he won't associate the correction with the event. Consider crate training as described above.

Playful Biting: Freeze your hand movement and use your correction word. When he stops biting and begins to lick your hand, then you can offer plenty of praise. NEVER play rough hand games with your puppy. This will definitely encourage him to bite your hands.

Item Stealing: Use your correction word if you catch your puppy in the act of stealing. Don't chase him, crouch down and encourage him to come to you. When he does come, just love him, don't correct him. Limit temptation by always placing items up out of your puppy's reach.

Barking: Early puppy barking is a bad sign. Don't encourage any form of barking by saying, “What's that?”, “Who's here?” etc..., when there is a noise outside or when someone comes into the home. You could be setting yourself up for a big problem as he grows. Remember that councils can issue hefty fines for barking.

Digging: Digging can be quite a natural thing for dogs. Some dogs can hear things going on underground, such as water running through pipes or moles and other burrowing animals. They will also dig to bury bones and it's thought that dogs dig to make a small hollow to cool off or to make a bed. You could consider a digging pit, using something such as a wading pool filled with washed sand. You could bury food there for your puppy to find. Puppies and dogs much prefer to dig where they know they'll find something good and sand is softer and easier to dig.

Separation Anxiety: The reasons for separation anxiety can be complex but the most common causes by far generally stem from a lack of leadership, lack of general control and incorrect conditioning by owners. In these situations you should practice separation while you are home and correct any barking. Don't greet your dog immediately after you arrive home. Wait a few minutes until he has settled down and then greet and pet him. Exercise good leadership skills. We would always recommend that you talk to your local Bark Busters trainer in cases of separation anxiety.

Car Sickness: Begin with short trips, preferably not on a full stomach. Place him on the floor of the car on a rubber mat lined with newspaper on the top. This will help to stop the static electricity affecting your pup. Sometimes a very long journey will cure chronic car sickness.

Scratching and Barking at the Door: Correct him immediately with your correction word. If the behaviour becomes frantic, catch him in the act and correct from where you are. Try not to open the door to correct him. If he is fastened away on the other side of the door correct him through the door. Your puppy needs to know you have not deserted him and the correction through the door lets him know you are still there but do not approve of its behaviour.

All of the information contained on the page is for information purposes only. If you have any concerns about puppy training or behaviour then your local Bark Busters Trainer is always on hand to help. We offer different packages to suit your needs and would be happy to discuss things further with you. Click the “Find a Trainer” link at the top of the page to contact your local trainer.


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