Preparing for a puppy

Bringing a puppy in to your home and your family is a big responsibility – but one with plenty of rewards. In this section of the PawClub site, we provide you with help and guidance on selecting the perfect puppy for your family, preparing your family home and give you some ideas on what to expect in the first year with your new puppy.


Expert Q&A

Our expert vet team regularly takes questions from PawClub members and posts answers to the more common ones online.

Some questions you may be interested in are:

  • You need to decide on an area that you want your dog to go the toilet. This could be outside or on a puppy pee mat inside. This is the area that you want him to go when he is older. There are 4 times when he is most likely to go to the toilet: 1. Just after eating 2. Just after playing 3. Just after waking 4. Just after release from confinement e.g. if he has been locked in the laundry while you have been out. At these times you need to place him on a lead and collar and take him to the spot where you want him to go. Stay with him by holding the lead! You may need to wait 20-30 minutes. When he does go then reward him immediately with a food reward and praise. If you are doing this and he is not going on the spot but rather perhaps when you are inside again then set a timer to go off every 30 minutes or so to remind you to take him out for a chance to go to the toilet. When the timer goes off, place him on the collar and lead and take him to the spot. Again when he goes reward him with a treat and praise. Cease all punishment of him for going to the toilet in the wrong spot. Rubbing his nose in it will not help - you just need to clean it up. If you catch him in the act of going then distract him with a loud clap or similar. Do not punish him but rather take him outside to the spot and then reward him if he goes in the correct spot. If you punish him for urinating in front of you then he may learn not to urinate in front of you because he gets punished. Then he learns to urinate when you are not looking or not around or behind the couch etc. When you are not home confine him to a small area with or without access to the toileting spot. If he does not have access to the spot then provide some newspaper or similar as a toilet in one corner of the room and place his food, water and bedding in another corner. Be sure to clean up the urine inside the house with products called Animal Odour Eliminator, Urine-off or Biozet laundry detergent. Do not use other chemical cl

  • Puppies love to nip a lot in play and their young sharp teeth often hurt and scratch very easily. Aside from the pain factor, a nipping puppy that does not learn to curb this behaviour will often grow into a dog that uses his mouth for rough play. Dogs love to play tug of war and our natural instinct to pull away during nipping emphasises this type of play. By starting young, you can easily teach your puppy or young adult that mouthing is just not acceptable. Here are a couple of techniques to try:
    1. Try and reverse the instinct to pull away from your puppies mouthing and gently pushing into the mouth a little. This isn't designed to hurt your puppy just confuse his play. While the puppy is expecting the usual ‘tug' away, instead the game is broken and they learn that that type of play isn't rewarding.
    2. Simply get up and remove yourself from the puppy and cease interaction. Your puppy longs to get attention from you and if a behaviour removes this attention swiftly then they soon learn not to do this again.

  • Puppy skin is different to human skin, and the main difference is that puppies do not produce as much oil (or sebum) compared to people, and are therefore very sensitive to soapy human shampoos that are designed to strip the oils off. As a result, your puppy may develop dry, sensitive skin when human shampoos are used. Ideally, use a shampoo specially designed for puppies or dogs. Dog or puppy conditioners are also available to improve the appearance of their coat.

  • Rightaway! Dogs are never too young or too old to train!
    Effective training methods are taught by dog trainers at many dog obedience schools and puppy preschools at veterinary clinics. Lessons range from basic commands such as sit, stay, drop etc. to more advanced classes involving agility training and fun tricks.
    Harsh punishments such as hitting and rubbing noses into their poo and urine is often very ineffective and counter-productive; it makes training in the future even more difficult. Positive reinforcement, using treats and praise, is the cornerstone behind successful puppy training. Please ask your veterinarian or dog schools for more details on training classes.
    A successful training program will not only help you train your puppy quickly and effectively, but it will also enormously improve and develop the bond between you and your puppy!

  • Allowing a pup out in public before 12 weeks of age depends on the risk of infection from parvovirus and other diseases in your particular area. If the risk of parvovirus is low where you live then it is important to get your dog out and socialising before 12 weeks of age as this is a critical socialisation period in your dog’s life. It is important for a dog to try and meet as many different people and dogs as possible in non-confronting ways during this time.

  • The best diet you can give your puppy is actually premium brand puppy food and water only, once they have been weaned fully. Once your puppy has been fully weaned, they no longer require milk, so you do not have to give them puppy milk at all. The dry form of puppy and dog food is the most economical and is also better for your dog's teeth, compared to the canned foods.
    As much as we love to spoil our puppies with table scraps, treats and snacks, and make our own home-cooked meals for them, the nutritional balance in such diets is often not very good and it may lead to nutritional deficiencies in your puppy.
    All premium brands of pet foods have been carefully and scientifically prepared to ensure the best nutrition for your puppy, and it may seem bland to eat the same thing day-in and day-out, but rest assured that you are really doing the best for your puppy.
    Moreover, if you don't ever feed them human foods, they will not develop a taste for them, and thus may prevent future begging behaviour, obesity, vomiting and diarrhoea, anal gland problems etc. And they will be very happy with their dog food for the rest of their lives!

  • Use an appropriate puppy shampoo that is specially made for puppies or dogs. The water temperature should be the same water temperature that you would comfortably shower in.
    You can shampoo your pup just like you shampoo your own hair, and rinse it off after lathering.
    Alternatively, you can also fill a small bath with warm water and some shampoo and drench it over your puppy. If you have used a lot of shampoo, then a final rinse is recommended.
    Make sure you don't get any shampoo or water on your puppy's face, eyes and ears. Some shampoos can be irritating to eyes and water-logged ears can lead to ear infections in your dog.
    Towel-dry your puppy once it is all done. Leave-in puppy or dog conditioner can now be applied for a nicer shinier coat. In warmer climates, it is often not necessary to blow-dry your puppy. If you need to blow-dry your puppy, make sure the hairdryer is on low heat and is constantly moving, so that you don't accidentally burn your puppy's skin.

  • It's better to visit the dog first; to see it in person so you know what its nature is like first hand. If you don't mind what breed, you may be able to find a dog that suits you through a pound or rescue agency. If you're after a particular breed, you will need to seek out a breeder. Do your homework and use trusted breeders whenever possible.

  • They definitely can be, so do some checking before you buy a certain breed. It might take some time to discover whether or not you are allergic to a particular breed.

    You can be allergic to the shed dog skin, hair, saliva, or even their urine. Some of the reactions include nasal congestion, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes, skin rashes, headaches, fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and serious asthma attacks.

    One way to see if you - or your child - develop a reaction is to visit a breeder. Hug the dogs and rub your nose into their fur. Let them lick your bare skin, especially on your neck and inside your arms where the skin is sensitive.

  • There's no definitive answer to this question because almost any dog has the potential to get along well with kids. Saying that, certain breeds do have a reputation as naturally kid-friendly such as Labradors, beagles, terriers and collies.
    Ideally, you want an intelligent dog with a good temperament and medium energy level.
    You might also want to consider the age and size of both your kids and the dog. Toddlers can be knocked over by a gangly, awkward puppy. Bigger kids could accidentally do damage to a small dog.
    For more ideas and help in selecting the perect breed for you and your family, have a look at our puppy selector.

  • Any dog can have smelly ears, but especially floppy-ear breeds where the ear flap covers the ear canal and traps moisture inside. On the other hand it can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health disorder such as ear mites, a yeast infection or a bacterial infection. You should get your vet to do a check for you.
    You should also regularly clean your dog's ears. Here's the easy way to do it:
    1.Grab some vet-recommended dog ear cleaner, cotton balls or cotton pads, Q-tips and dog treats.
    2. Sit your dog in a comfortable setting, and sit right next to him or her so they can't back up and squirm away. You may need another set of hand sto help you do this.
    3. To get rid of the wax and gunk, dampen a large cotton ball or cotton pad with the canine ear cleaning solution and wipe the ear. Then do the same on the other ear.
    4. Then dampen the Q-tips with the ear cleaner to get rid of remaining ear wax from the nooks and crannies and the outer ear canal. Whatever you do, don't insert the Q tip into the ear canal - make sure that you can always see the tip of the Q tip; only use it for cleaning the outer parts of the ear.
    5. Offer praise and treats along the way to keep your dog in a buoyant mood and make ear cleaning something to look forward to.

  • Getting angry doesn't usually solve anything. You will get better results and bigger changes using positive reinforcement.

  • The most common reason is separation anxiety (SA). This simply means they are scared of being apart from their owner and alone. It can also be a result of pure boredom. So keep your dog entertained by placing some of their favourite toys around.

  • Most dogs are scared of unfamiliar objects/beings (including other species of animals) and loud sounds. Thorough socialisation when they are young can minimise this.

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