Puppy socialisation and training

It is extremely important to socialise and train the puppy in his early days to ensure a happy and balanced relationship between him and his pet parents.

Period of socialisation…

Socialisation is a lengthy learning phase during which the puppy acquires all the behaviours needed for life in the pack. This stage begins at the age of six weeks and ends arbitrarily around the age of four months.

Imprinting the puppy…

The puppy is born into the world not knowing to which species he belongs. He has to identify with his species. He will acquire this information in a unique, almost irreversible learning process, which is called ‘imprinting’. A poorly imprinted animal is a lost cause for the species. This learning process occurs through games with his brothers and sisters and his mother. As an adult, this will enable him to recognise his sexual partner and to avoid rejection with other members of his own species.

If, however, a puppy is raised with other species (humans, cats, rabbits, even a stuffed animal), he may end up identifying with the species with which he lived. If there is a complete absence of other dogs between three and more or less sixteen weeks, the puppy will identify with the nearest species (human, cat, rabbit), or even a decoy (stuffed animal).

As an adult, this will lead to social preferences as well as courting behaviour and attempts to mate with the species he identifies with and aggressive behaviour towards his own species.

In order to avoid this type of situation, the puppy must be raised in a group, with his mother, until he is at least eight weeks old.

Socialising with other species…

Dogs are not programmed to interact socially with a foreign species (cat, human, rabbit). Hence, it is important for them to socialise with other species, especially with different types of people (men, women, children). This interaction must continue until after two months of age. The interactive presence of other species will lead to inter-specific socialisation and attachment that goes against predatory behaviour.

House-training a puppy…

Starting from the age of two months, that is, after the puppy’s first vaccinations, the puppy should be taken outside. He should be taken out every five to six hours when he first wakes up and after meals until the age of four months. At first, choose a place or even a newspaper that is saturated with the puppy’s own odour. In the beginning, as soon as the puppy relieves himself at the desired place, he should be systematically rewarded either through voice or by petting. The technique of using newspaper inside the house should be banished because the dog will associate this with the place of elimination and stick to it. Even if he goes out, he will wait until he goes back inside the house to take care of his needs. When out walking, never end the walk as soon as the dog has taken care of his needs, because he will quickly learn to associate needs with the end of the walk.

Training to obey by reward or punishment…

In order to be effective, the reward method must adhere to several principles. The reward should be significant for the dog. In other words, the pet parent should praise the dog through contact and abundant caresses and speak to him warmly. It should be exceptional in nature, such as giving unusual treats.

As for punishment, in order to be effective, it should be used when the dog is caught in the act and should be given out at the same time. It must be unpleasant in nature for the dog and must be meted out systematically for every punishable act, which is sometimes very difficult since the pet parents do not always catch the dog in the act. Punishment after-the-fact will cause anxiety and will aggravate the situation. Punishment can be direct, for example, grabbing the dog by the skin of his neck, which replicates the maternal behaviour and shaking him by lifting him up slightly. Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to give the dog a slap of the hand. It is also possible to punish a dog from a distance by throwing a non-dangerous object that will make noise at him.

Learning by reward requires more time than punishment, but on the other hand, it sticks longer. When punishing a dog, it is necessary to recognise the submission position because at that very instant, punishment must immediately stop.

Teaching obedience is easy…

Dogs must be taught to come when they are called and the ideal age to start is four to five months. Some dogs do not come when they are called. They come to within a few meters of their pet parent and stop. As soon as the pet parent approaches the dog to catch him, the dog runs away again. Do not become annoyed and certainly do not punish him or he will associate punishment with having come back to you. On the contrary, when he comes back, you should praise him, pet him and above all, you should not immediately put him back on the leash. Instead, let him go back to playing. If every time he is called, it means putting the leash on and going back inside, it will be a punishment for him.

The need to be “detached”…

When a puppy is brought into a home, he becomes attached to a person and vice versa. By the age of four to five months, you must prompt separation. If this is not done, as soon as the puppy is separated from the person to whom he is attached, he will become panicked and distressed. Start ignoring him 30 minutes prior to departure. When you return, if the dog jumps all over you, push him away and do not respond. As soon as he is calm, then act happy to see him and pet him. If he has caused damage, act as though you do not see him, even though you may want to punish him.

Rules of living in the house…

He must eat alone. He should not be allowed to beg at the table, but he should have the right to be present when his owners eat. He should not be allowed to jump up on beds or sofa without permission from his pet parents. His sleeping area should be located in a quiet spot where he can rest. If he nips at hands, you should stop him from doing so and firmly push him away. You should also avoid tug-of-war type games (with a toy, a piece of stick, a rag) because this encourages biting, which is far from desirable for a future companion animal. You should not pet a puppy on demand. As with play, it is up to you to decide when to play and to initiate contact and petting.


Puppy nutrition

When it comes to staying fit and trim, some dogs need more help than others. Senior dogs, especially, need the help of the people in their lives to keep them on the path to slimness. This is because older dogs are less active and, like middle-age people, their metabolism changes and they tend to gain weight. Here are a few exercise and nutrition tips to help keep your dog trim.

Exercise tips

No matter how old he is, when a dog is active and stimulated it’s good for his overall well-being: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Take it easy. This is the key to exercising your older dog. Walking is ideal for your senior dog because it keeps his muscles toned and his joints moving. If he hasn’t been active recently, start gradually with short walks. The length of a walk is dependent on the dog’s condition, age, and breed—and on the weather outside. For many senior dogs, a typical walk could consist of a five-minute warm-up followed by a fifteen-minute walk (start moderately and slowly build up to a brisker pace). After the walk, let your dog cool down for about five minutes. And remember, for a senior dog who’s out of shape, two brief walks a day are better than one long walk.

Get in the game. Playing with your dog is a great way to get him moving. But keep things light: when playing fetch, don’t throw the ball as far as you did when he was younger. Keep the tosses short so he doesn’t overexert himself. Play sessions can take place indoors as well as outdoors. So, if the weather is too harsh for your senior dog, bring your game play indoors where both of you can be comfortable.

Things to do after exercising. After a healthy dose of exercise, wait thirty minutes before feeding him. If he’s tired, make sure your dog has a comfortable place to rest, such as an orthopaedic bed. Chances are the exercise will make him thirsty, so offer small amounts of water frequently, instead of allowing him to gulp a large bowl of water all at once.

Nutrition tips

As in humans, a dog’s metabolism and activity level slows down as he ages. And, like us, his diet should be modified to meet those changes. But when should you switch your dog’s food—and what should you look for in a senior diet?

Make sure he’s getting the right kind of protein. Many people think that senior dogs need a low-protein diet, but protein requirements don’t necessarily decrease with age if the dog is healthy. Senior dogs need high-quality, highly digestible protein to help maintain strong, healthy muscles.

Watch those calories. You know what happens to people when they reach a certain age: all those calories they gobble up start to make themselves known in the most unflattering ways. Here’s an instance where dogs and their owners are very similar. Older dogs are less active, so they don’t burn off calories like they did when they were energetic pups. That’s why senior dogs need fewer calories than younger dogs.

Fiber keeps the world moving. There are several reasons why fiber is important. First of all, fiber creates a feeling of fullness—which means your dog will feel satisfied without having to eat very large amounts of food and the calories it contains. Fiber also optimizes stool quality and helps keep him regular.


Puppy nutrition

As the pet parent of a new puppy, you’ll want him to grow up fit and healthy, and reach his full genetic potential. It’s not hard to help him do this; all you have to do is provide your puppy with the correct diet right from the start. Here are some of the things you should know about feeding your puppy and the food he needs to grow up strong and healthy:

Why nutrition is important?

First, your puppy will need a very digestible diet so his body can absorb all the nutrients that he needs. Second, it’s important that he really enjoys his food, so he’ll eat all of it. So it really matters what you feed your puppy. In fact, he needs special nutrition with just the right amounts of protein, fats, minerals and vitamins. After all, weight for weight, a puppy needs up to two and a half times as many calories as an adult dog does. A puppy’s diet must also be balanced so he receives the right amount of nutrients. And the food should be sufficiently concentrated to allow him to take in all the needed nutrients with a small amount of food.

Weaning puppies

Puppies are normally weaned from their mother’s milk onto solid foods when they’re 3-4 weeks old. You should give them their food in small portions 3 or 4 times a day. If you’re buying from a breeder, your puppy should have been weaned onto a solid diet by the time you take him home at the age of eight to twelve weeks. ‘Pedigree weaning’ food will be right choice for weaning puppies in India.

When you bring your puppy home

Changing homes and leaving his mother is stressful for a puppy. It could cause an upset stomach. If this happens, take him off solid food for two meals, and just give him small quantities of water to drink. Then, gradually introduce boiled rice and scrambled eggs over 24 hours, before you reintroduce his normal puppy food again. If, however, the diarrhoea or vomiting continues for more than 24 hours, or becomes more severe, phone your vet. Once your puppy has settled in, you’ll likely want to change his diet to the type or brand of food you’ve decided on. Make sure you replace the original food with the new food gradually, over a period of 3-5 days.

The benefits of prepared foods

Proper nutrition is necessary for your puppy’s health. Some dog owners prepare homemade foods for their pets. But it’s difficult even for an experienced breeder to get the nutritional balance just right. The best idea is to get your puppy used to eating prepared foods from the very start. The advantages of prepared foods like Pedigree are:

  • They meet all the nutritional requirements: they’re balanced, with the proper amounts of protein, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins, and easily digestible.
  • They don’t require any food supplements. Just don’t forget to put down a bowl of fresh water.
  • They are convenient to use and can be stored for long periods.

Which type of food should you choose?

There are two main types of complete dog food: moist in cans and pouches, and dry in packages. Both types are made from meat, poultry or fish based ingredients and grains, and provide balanced nutrition, with all the necessary nutrients. Dry foods have certain economic and practical advantages: they’re more economical, they don’t need to be stored in the refrigerator, and they’ll keep for a day in the bowl. Moist foods, on the other hand, provide your dog with a highly enjoyable eating experience.

Two stages of development: puppy and young dog

All dogs go through two stages of development: puppy and young dog. These are both very important periods in a dog’s development, as they determine what kind of adult the dog will be. Puppies are very active and grow rapidly. That’s why they need special food that will meet their energy requirements. What’s most important to keep in mind is that dogs of different breeds reach maturity at different times. Dogs of the toy or small breeds stop growing at around 9 to 12 months (use Pedigree small breed puppy), while dogs of the large breeds continue to develop up to 18 to 24 months (use Pedigree Large breed puppy). But we can generalize by saying that for all breeds (Pedigree puppy), the initial stage–when a puppy reaches half of its adult weight–ends at between five and six months. Proper nutrition allows for the puppy to reach his full genetic potential. If he’s overfed, a puppy can develop bone anomalies, which are more common in puppies of the large and giant breeds.

Puppy housebreaking

A storm hits, a stranger comes to the door or another dog enters your home: suddenly your dog, who was housetrained as a puppy, forgets peeing protocol and makes a mess in your house. It’s a scenario that can test the patience of even the most loving dog owner. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to give your dog a refresher course on proper bathroom pettiquette.

Why your dog has ‘accidents’

Your dog doesn’t pee or poop inside the house out of spite or to get attention. The reasons why he might be behaving this way, are because he:

  • Is ill or has an infection
  • Is marking his territory.
  • Is showing submission.
  • Is suffering from separation anxiety.
  • Is overly excited.
  • Is frightened.
  • Wasn’t taken outside in time.
  • Was unsupervised or left alone too long.
  • Wasn’t trained properly to tell you when he ‘has to go.’

A clean start

If your dog has accidents, you should first take him to the vet to rule out any underlying health conditions. Next, it’s time to clean the old ‘accident areas’ in your home. The best way to clean pee stains is to use a half and half mixture of white vinegar and water. Don’t use products containing ammonia, as they only intensify the smell of urine – which may encourage your dog to pee there again.

You should designate an area outside as your dog’s ‘bathroom spot.’ After cleaning up an accident in the house, leave the rags in this spot. The smell will help your dog identify this area as his official ‘washroom.’

Know when he’s ‘got to go’

The most important thing you have to do when ‘retraining your dog’ is recognise when he has to go to the ‘bathroom.’ When dogs have to pee, they give off signals like sniffing around or circling. As soon as you spot these signals, take him outside on his leash. If he eliminates outside, praise and reward him immediately – not when you get home.

Tips for keeping your home pee free

  • Keep an eye on your dog. Look out for his bathroom signals and don’t give him an opportunity to pee in the house. You may want to keep him tethered on a long leash or use baby gates.
  • If you can’t watch your dog at all times, confine him to an area that he won’t want to mess. It should be just big enough for him to easily stand, turn around and lie down in. You also might want to consider crate training your dog.
  • Keep your dog on a schedule. Take him out at the same time every day – such as first thing in the morning or right after work. Also, feeding your dog on a set schedule will make his bathroom times more predicable.
  • Only take him for a walk or play with him after he’s eliminated in his bathroom spot.
  • If you catch your dog going in the house, startle him by making a noise. Then take him directly to his bathroom spot. Don’t punish him by scolding him or rubbing his nose in the area. It’s important to remember that dogs don’t understand punishment after the fact – even if it’s only a few seconds later.
Dog Training

Making your puppy feel ‘at home’

This is when life really gets exciting… the day you bring home your new baby puppy. Here is how to make the transition away from his mother, keeping his feeling and grief in mind.


Preparation for the D-Day

To make this separation little easier for your puppy, try to arrange with your breeder to allow you to visitTraining your puppy a couple of times before you fi nally collect him. A few days before you bring your puppy home, give your breeder a small cloth or towel, which can be placed with the mother and other siblings. You can take it home with the puppy as it will contain their smell for a number of days.

If your puppy
makes a mistake

  • Never shout at or tell your puppy off. Your puppy cannot do anything wrong, at least not deliberately. There is no need to shout ‘No’ to your puppy as he will not understand this, it may only get him stressed. If he is stressed he is not likely to learn and is likely to make more mistakes.
  • Take him gently out of the situation.
  • Never grab or shake your puppy by the scruff. Wild or domestic dogs only grab their prey by the scruff in an attempt to harm by shaking and breaking his neck. A mother will not do this to her puppies. If you do grab your puppy by the scruff it may be sending the message that you mean him harm. This could have a devastating effect on your relationship with your puppy.
  • Stoke him gently and slowly. If you find it difficult to stroke gently and slowly, using the back of your hand may help. Your puppy is just beginning his life with you. Keeping things slow and calm; respecting one another; communicating and understanding your dog’s body language; meeting your puppy’s needs; and allowing him to make choices, explore and use his senses are the keys to having a happy puppy and an enjoyable relationship together.

Allow the puppy to have this cloth as much as he likes and to sleep with it. It may be dirty and smelly but to your puppy it will be a comfort and you can throw it away or wash it after a few days when he is more settled.

When you collect your puppy, try to have another person with you who can sit in the back of your car with the puppy, especially if you have a long distance to cover, and stop a few times in safe places to allow the puppy to relieve himself and drink some water if he needs.

Your puppy may be a little worried and cry or bark, especially if this is his fi rst time in a car or away from his mother and siblings. He may or may not settle on the journey, so try to be patient with him; after all, this will be a very traumatic time for your puppy.

Exploring his new home

Once you get your puppy home, take him out into your garden area immediately so he can relieve himself. Allow him to walk around and explore the area – he will need to check things out. Open the door into your house and allow him to go in when he is ready and check that out too.

Speak softly to him and walk very slowly with him so you do not frighten him with quick movements and keep everything calm. Show your puppy where his bed is and where his water and toys are.

Try not to leave your puppy alone during the fi rst week, give him adjustment time and time to bond with you. If you need to go out for any length of time, take the puppy with you if it is safe to do so, or have someone else stay with your puppy for the time you are away.

Activities in the first few days

Allow your puppy to become involved in your daily routine so long as he is calm. Keep all activities calm. Fast, excited high activity may only cause your puppy’s adrenalin to rise. This adrenalin may take up to six days to come back down to normal, providing nothing else happens in the puppy’s life during that time. This means your puppy will be unable to relax and enjoy the rest and sleep needed. Your puppy should be resting or sleeping at least 18–20 hours per day. If your puppy is unable to do this, perhaps look at calming things down a little in his life and be careful not to overdo the exercise.

Symptoms of a puppy that has too much activity in his life may be destructive behaviour, biting ankles, chasing anything that moves, inability to settle, barking, training diffi culties and many more.

Give comfy bedding

Bedding should be warm, dry and comfortable for your puppy. There are many suitable and comfortable dog beds in the market, you will need to fi nd one that suits your puppy. Be aware that puppies will chew, so using bedding that can be chewed without too much damage to the bedding may be most suitable. A good stock of old blankets from charity shops can be used, chewed and thrown away or replaced when fi nished with.

You may want to have two beds for your puppy. One in the living area where he can settle during the day and one for night time, next to your own bed so the puppy knows you are around and you can be there if he needs you or needs to be taken out in the night to relieve himself. You can also reassure him if he is feeling upset or lonely in the night. With a bit of time, patience and understanding your puppy should settle within a few days.

It may also help your puppy to settle at night if you place a few of his toys with him and also a quality chew or a kong stuffed with nice soft foods he likes. Kongs are very calming for a puppy. It may help him settle more easily. Make sure he also has fresh water near his bed.

(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying, and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifi cations over the years such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience veterinary nursing. She is a regular radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socialising groups for dogs with social problems.)

Puppy health woes: prevention is better than cure

Pooch babies are prone to diseases, infections or defects, which can prove fatal. Responsible pet parenting calls for regular care and observation, which can go a long way in preventing diseases in our puppies. Here are a few common puppy health diseases, which can be easily averted by expanding our awareness aura…to make our cute little angels healthy and happy.

Neonatal anoxia and HypoxiaNewborn pup will either have fast breathing, fast heart rate or very shallow breathing. Compression of umbilical cord during passage through the birth canal causes physiological hypoxia (rise in carbon dioxide).Causes: False swallowing of amniotic fluid by the puppy especially when mother does not clean the puppy properly. It can also occur due to prolonged anaesthesia, posterior presentation of pup, injection of oxytocin at the premature stage of fetus, umbilical cord knotting and premature birth.Prevention: By cleaning the laryngeal junction using bulb syringe, vigorous rubbing of thorax, and stimulating the respiration.Treatment: Through respiratory stimulants by placing the pup in an incubator and inducing oxygen.

Haemolytic Syndrome

Puppy Health Symptoms: Its signs appear within 24-48 hrs of birth, which include weakness in some puppies from the same litter. Prevention: Further breeding of mothers of effected puppies should be avoided, irrespective of male dogs blood group.

Puppy Health Treatment: Keeping diseased puppies away from the mother. The affected puppies are kept in an incubator under medical supervision.

Water puppy syndrome (WPS)

Symptoms: Affected puppies weigh up to twice their expected weight, which results in stillbirths.

Causes: A foetus in a uterine horn fi lled with a large amount of hemorrhagic fl uid, or the after effects of a virus, the mother got during pregnancy.

Prevention: Vaccination in case of suspicion of the virus and avoiding repeated cross breeding which has already resulted in affected litters.

Treatment: No treatment, they usually die within 36 hours.

Toxic Milk Syndrome

This is an infection or bacterial poisoning of one or more puppies during feeding and the puppies affected by it whine continuously, have purplish ‘caulifl ower anus’ whereas the mother shows signs of vaginitis and painful teats. This leads to diarrhoea and enteritis in puppies and they pass straw yellow coloured faeces with a sour odour.

Causes: Haematogenous infection of milk by acute bacterial infection. Prevention: Not breeding the female dogs with recurrent mastitis.

Treatment: By reducing suckling (separate mother and litter every 3 hours), premature drying-off of the mother and artificial feeding of puppies and antibiotic treatment to the mother.

Neonatal Septicaemia

Affected pup shows the signs of isolation, apathy, and continuous whining.

Causes: Immuno-suppression (viral infection, absence of colostrums), umbilical infection, and toxic milk syndrome. Predisposing factors are maternal infections (mastitis, buccodental infections, pyoderma, metritis) and infections, which pass up the umbilicus originating from the bedding.

Prevention: By controlling nursing hygiene, disinfection of umbilical cord, bottle-feeding and separation of puppies from mother in case of maternal infection.

Treatment: Symptomatic treatment of puppies in septic shock apart from broadspectrum antibiotic therapy.

Fading Puppy Syndrome (FPS)

FPS leads to premature death before 2 weeks of age. The pup shows signs of asymptomatic disease at birth, with gradual fading away within 4-5 days.

Causes: Attributed to various causes like toxic milk syndrome, distemper, immune immaturity, etc.

Prevention: By managing the risk factors in the whelping areas, monitoring the colostrums ingestion and daily body weight gain.

Treatment: By gradual warming of hypothermic puppies (avoid infrared lamps which tend to worsen dehydration), placing affected puppies in an incubator at a temperature adjusted to 30 degrees C.

Swimming Puppy Syndrome (SPS)

SPS causes malfunctioning of motor development causing splayed fore limbs or hind limbs or tortoise like posture. Either signs are present at birth, or become obvious at about the second or third week of age, when puppies learn how to walk.

Causes: Nutritional defi ciency in mother’s food and environmental factors like slippery fl oor and over crowding. It occurs mostly in small breeds like Dachshund, Yorkshire, English Cocker Spaniel, or breeds with large thorax and short limbs like Pekingese, Cavalier King Charles, Basset Hound, French and English Bulldogs.

Treatment: By physiotherapy for 10 minutes for 4-5 times a day. Almost 90% puppies recover from this condition. Place the puppies on rough floor and stimulate the paws pads with toothbrush. Your vet might advise Vit- E and Selenium in the mother’s diet as well.

Parvo virus infection

This is one of the most common fatal infections seen in puppies in India. Symptoms: Infected pup fi rst goes off the food and become dull and starts vomiting lead to dehydration and blood stained diarrhoea and if not treated at the right time they die. This infection spreads like a infectious wave through infected stool, saliva, urine to the other puppies.

Prevention: Go through a ‘witness parvo test’ for quick diagnosis of parvo virus in the unvaccinated pup.

(Dr. R. T. Sharma is a renowned veterinary surgeon and president of PAWS (Pet Animal Welfare Society). He is also associated with RSPCA, London and Animal Welfare Board of India.

– by Dr. R. T. Sharma

The mental and physical development of a puppy

The first few weeks in the life of a pup are very important as this is the time for his mental and physical development.

First two weeks in a pup’s life – totally dependentDuring the neonatal period (first two weeks) of a pup’s life, the majority of his time is spent sleeping deeply and suckling his mother. The mother spends a lot of time licking her puppies to clean them, stimulate them to suckle, urinate and defecate as the puppy cannot do this without her help. He cannot regulate his own body temperature, so he gets cold very easily. However, he overcomes this by crawling around to fi nd the warmth of his mother, his littermates or from artifi cial heating whenever he feels cold. The puppy is totally dependent on his mother for survival.The pup’s eyes begin to open at around 10-14 days, he will have doubled in weight and will be a little more active. Some puppies will have chosen a favourite teat and may not allow other siblings to suckle from it. The mother continues to feed and clean her puppies at this time and they are still completely dependent on her. Puppies don’t need too much human intervention or interaction at this stage. Best to leave most of it to the professional (the puppies’ mother)!Next 2-4 weeks – the transition startsThe transitional period takes place during 2-4 weeks, when the pup’s ears begin opening and they will be aware of sounds around them. The senses such as smell, taste, hearing, and sight have improved and he can wag his tail, bark, growl and play with his littermates. He will now be able to urinate and defecate by himself and will probably go outside the nest to eliminate. Teeth will also start appearing. He will be balancing on his feet and beginning to walk. His EEG (electroencephalograph) now starts to show that environmental factors stimulate his brain and he can now start to regulate his own body temperature.Puppies begin to get a little adventurous as they wander off from each other and explore outside the sleeping area. Now, his surrounding environment has a great impact in the formation of his brain and this is the most critical period of his life. The images and environment around him form the building blocks of the future of his mind that will infl uence him for the rest of his life. All his life experiences at this stage must be positive in order to prevent developing phobias and behaviour problems.The puppy will begin to nurse from his mother on his own and she will begin to leave the pups for longer periods of time. At around three weeks, the puppy should be introduced to semi-solid food for the fi rst time. The puppy may even start jumping up at his mother, licking her mouth to stimulate her to regurgitate food for him. Access to fresh water should also be available for the puppies at this stage, but nothing too deep that could put the puppy at risk of falling in and drowning.

He will be learning to interact with his littermates and his mother and simply learning to be a dog through this interaction. This is very important for his future welfare and temperament development. His mother will be teaching her puppy how to behave and her own behaviour will be imprinted on the puppy. She will discipline her puppy and teach him bite inhibition.

Everything the puppy experiences and all his environmental infl uences during these fi rst few weeks of life have a signifi cant impact on the puppy’s development and the fi nal form and structure of his mind.

After 4 weeks – shaping is behaviour

From four weeks of age, a puppy is conscious of what part of his body is being touched. Breeders need to regularly handle each puppy, very gently and calmly turning them over and checking them, touching different parts of the body, such as feet, ears, and teeth, etc. In this way, the breeder will be exposing the puppy to minor stress, which will help him build up his coping skills for stress levels he may encounter later in life. This is good for the development of the pup’s mind and also infl uences the adrenal-pituitary system which will help him later in life.

All experiences at this stage must be positive. Breeders should allow people of all ages, including small children, to frequently and gently handle the puppy and he should also be exposed to as many different situations indoor and outdoor in a careful, calm way, which help stimulate and develop the pup’s mind. Exposure to different situations should be handled carefully and with a positive association so that the pup may not develop fear. The puppy will become habituated to his normal surroundings, which will prevent him from becoming fearful or spooked by everything around him.

The socialisation period between 4- 12 weeks is another critical and most sensitive time in the puppy’s life. His communication facilities will have developed to almost that of an adult dog by the time he is four weeks old. Now, he can show calming signals, use body language to communicate, bark, growl, chase, play and carry objects in his mouth. He will leave the sleeping area to urinate and will have clearly established a place for eliminating. This is the beginning of his house training.

His senses have matured so that he can smell, hear, and touch adequately. The male puppy will behave in a masculine way due to a surge of male hormone. By the time, the puppy is fi ve weeks old, the mother will still want to clean him and she will now feed him while standing, but will begin to walk away from her puppy from time to time as he tries to feed. This is to teach the puppy, there is now a change from depending totally on his mother to becoming a little more independent.

Learning about communication through maternal discipline is essential for the development of the pup’s mind and his future survival. This discipline and play with his mother and littermates are vital, if he is to grow up as a well-balanced dog. Breeders should never give their puppies before this period of discipline with their mother is completed. If he misses out on this vital learning period and he has not learnt to interact or communicate with other dogs, he will grow up with developmental and behaviour problems as he will not have learned how to be a mature adult dog and problems may develop later on.

At 10 weeks – time to go to new homes

A good age for puppies to go to their new homes is around ten weeks old, provided the puppies have a good mother who is taking care of them At this stage, puppies should have passed their fi rst fear period and ready to settle into their new homes, families, vets and environment, etc, before the next fear period comes at around eighteen weeks old.

A puppy will find the first few nights in his new home very frightening. He may need a little help to settle by keeping him close to you for the first few nights. He should be on four small feeds a day and exercise is not necessary at this stage as he will get plenty of that just playing and exploring his new home.

(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifi cations over the years such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience in veterinary nursing. She is a regular radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socializing groups for dogs with social problems.)

-by Nicole Mackie

Living in harmony with your puppy

‘Living in harmony with your puppy’ by Nicole Mackie unfolds the vast world of puppy parenting. This book walks with all pet lovers right from finding the right breed to each and every aspect related to pooch care, nurturing and training. A great start for understanding his needs. It is an information rich book to build and experience a great relationship of trust and understanding with your dogs.

This book is an outcome of Nicole Mackie’s 14+ years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying and sharing her life with dogs. Her in-depth knowledge in canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience in veterinary nursing has helped many in bringing up their canine chaps in a smart way.

Socialisation of your puppy

Socialisation is the term we use to describe how a dog learns to relate to people, other dogs and his environment. Your dog will keep on learning throughout his whole life, but puppyhood is the time when experiences—good or bad—have the biggest impact on him. These experiences are critical to your puppy’s future, and will have a long-lasting effect on his behaviour throughout his life. When you get a puppy, make sure you have time to invest in an intensive socialisation programme during his early weeks with you. Socialising your puppy is very important, and a worthwhile investment in your own and your puppy’s future, as you’re laying the foundation for the dog’s behaviour later on in life. In this case, it’s very true that prevention is much better than cure. Also, socialising your puppy is great fun, and serves as an excellent chance for you to get to know him really well.

Let’s take a look at how you can socialise your puppy:

When to start Start socialising your puppy as soon as you get him. Don’t worry about his vaccination programme being a hindrance to socialisation. Using your imagination, you can still start socialising your puppy without compromising his vaccinations. How? You can do much of the early socialisation in your home. Also, you can minimise the risk of your puppy contracting an infectious disease by carrying him when he’s outside your home.

Situations where your puppy will need to be comfortable

Think of all the situations and environments that your puppy will need to be comfortable in: riding in the car, meeting the mailman, having contact with the children next door (and children in general), walking along the street, tolerating large trucks and cars, large animals such as cows and buffaloes, etc. vacuum cleaners, and washing machines – just to name a few. You are basically aiming at preparing your puppy for all eventualities so that whenever he encounters anyone or anything new, he’ll greet it with inquisitiveness rather than fear or aggression. Expose your puppy to all sights and sounds gradually, and allow him to explore and learn for himself; for example, switch on the vacuum cleaner in another room to avoid startling him with a sudden loud noise, and let him go find it. Make sure that when he finds the vacuum cleaner, this is a rewarding rather than a threatening experience. You can easily do this by placing a piece of food next to the vacuum cleaner. If your puppy is quite shy and frightened, you can start off by placing a snack next to the switched-off vacuum cleaner, and then work your way towards your puppy tolerating it when the machine is switched on.

It’s essential that your dog be completely comfortable being with people and children. So introduce him to all sorts of different people. Let him meet people of all descriptions: bearded, thin, overweight, tall, wearing hats or glasses, carrying bags, pushing bicycles, etc.

It is, however, important that children be taught the rules of handling puppies; an adult should always supervise children and dogs. Dogs may actually see children as a different species than adults, because they move, speak and react differently than adults. Start slowly by spending time in and around children’s parks where your puppy will learn the sight and sound of children playing. Start by having just a few children around your puppy, then build up to a larger number.

It is, of course, unrealistic and even impossible to expose your young dog to everything he’s likely to meet in the future. However, if you can teach him that new experiences are pleasant, he will grow up learning that unknown things and situations are something to explore, rather than to be fearful of. But don’t be surprised if your previously confident puppy starts to show apprehension towards objects he was fine with during his juvenile period (at approximately 14 months of age, depending on the breed), since this can be normal in some dogs at this age. If this happens, it’s important that you carry on with your socialisation programme by regularly re-exposing the young dog to novel experiences.

Interacting with other dogs

It’s also essential that your puppy learns to interact with other dogs correctly. Puppies, like all young animals, love to play, and games play a vital role in a dog’s development. Dogs develop their canine communication skills through playing with other dogs as puppies. Through playing, dogs learn the behaviour of not biting. When puppies play physical games, they soon learn that a littermate or adult dog will not tolerate sharp teeth pulling on ears or neck. If a puppy “bites” another dog too hard, he will get a quick reprimand, with the other dog stopping the game for a brief moment. A puppy soon learns to limit the strength of his “bites,” and will stop biting too hard when he’s playing with other dogs.

You and your family should continue teaching your puppy not to bite. Whenever your puppy uses his teeth on your skin, you should respond with a sharp yelp of pain (even if it doesn’t hurt!), as this will teach your puppy to learn that touching human skin with his teeth is not allowed, no matter how gentle he is. Also, the game you and your puppy were playing should stop for a moment, which will help your puppy quickly learn that to continue having fun he must not “bite” you.

Infant puppy care

It is a pathetic situation to see puppies dying without reason after prolonged stressful management of breeding and whelping. To avoid such a mishap, here are tips to ensure that your puppy leads a long and healthy life.


Understanding of development of body and its function during early infant period of puppy is essential for all breeders and dog lovers, who often face problem in the management of neonatal puppies. Mortality of puppies can be as high as 30% with 65% of death occurring during the first week of life. Puppies who die immediately after birth are often called “fading puppy syndrome”. A “fader” is a puppy apparently healthy at birth but failing to survive beyond two weeks of age. Even though causes for puppy loss may be many like congenital defects, nutritional diseases (of dam or puppy), abnormally low birth weight, trauma/stress during birth process, maternal neglect, infectious disease, etc, the most common reason is due to neglected and improper management of puppy during the illness.

Puppies are born in a very care-dependent state with poorly developed body systems. Their organs develop during early period of puppy life. They are born with closed eyes and ear canal, with no ability to maintain their own body temperature. They can’t react or move away from external stimuli and even elimination of urine and motion needs lick stimuli from mother over the perineal region. They start gaining these functions progressively only from three weeks onwards.

Conditions like reduced blood sugar (hypoglycemia), reduced body temperature (hypothermia) and reduced water content of body (dehydration) are the most common high risk conditions that cause death during first two weeks of life. Puppies are usually born with very less fat body store (1% of body weight in new born puppies, 10% in two weeks puppies and more than 20% of body weight in adults) and glycogen (energy stored in liver), which can only supply energy for 12 hours during fasting. In contrast, adult dogs can undergo weeks of starvation without developing hypoglycemia. Depletion of glycogen and fat stores occurs rapidly due to inadequate intake of food. Causes include insufficient milk production (both in quality and quantity) by the mother, premature birth, dominance by other puppies, low birth weight and parasites, infection and other causes, which prevent puppy to nurse normally.

As the newborn puppies cannot regulate their own body temperature, they depend on optimal environmental temperature during the first two weeks of life. Once a puppy’s rectal temperature drops below 34.50C (94F), he becomes less active and nurses ineffectively, bowel movements stops and digestion no longer occurs and puppy becomes motionless at 32.50C (90F).

Apart from environmental temperature, other conditions like insufficient milk intake by the puppy due to disease, inability to reach the mother’s teats, inadequate production of milk, infected milk and disease of mother may also contribute to hypothermia in puppy. Orphan puppies suffer more due to this condition. Increased environmental temperature, reduced intake and diarrhoea also result in dehydration.

All the conditions namely hypoglycemia, hypothermia and dehydration are interrelated, occurrence of one condition may lead to onset of other conditions. Management of these critical conditions by the owner or/and with the help of his vet can save the puppy.


The main treatment goals are to regain body temperature, maintain normal blood glucose level and hydrate the puppy. These can be achieved by the following procedures. Chilled puppies should be rewarmed to 34.50C (94F) after administration of 10% glucose solution or baby food or honey (energy source) at doses of 1 ml/100gm of body weight every two hours orally, if the puppy has suction reflex or through stomach tube (infant feeding tube size 5 or 6 can be used). In delayed critical case, subcutaneous injection of mixture of equal amount of 5% glucose solution and ringers lactate solution (97ºC) at the dose rate of 1ml/30gms of body weight can be given (repeated as needed) till he starts suckling on his own. Puppy should be warmed slowly and progressively over a period of 1 to 3 hours by warm water heating blanket or with poultry incubator (98F). Core warming of body can also be effected by giving enema with preheated (97-98F) normal saline solution which will also help in evacuation of constipated motion and also help in rehydration of energy through absorption of water by the large intestinal wall. Motionless puppies with reduced respiratory rate (less than 20/minute) and discoloured mucous membrane should be kept in oxygen chamber till he recovers.

Since the acid concentration of the stomach in puppy is less (pH > 3) than adult, infection through oral route is very common. To treat the condition suitable antibiotics with minimum side effects on the vital organs as prescribed by the vet should be given.

Preventive measures:

  • Maintenance of optimal temp, ventilation and humidity (60%) in whelping area.
  • Monitoring colostrums and milk intake by the individual puppy.
  • Treating infection of mother (uterine/mammary infection).
  • Measurement of daily body weight gain in puppies.

It is an important tool to measure the food intake and general health of the puppy. Body weight of individual puppy should be recorded within 24 hours after and then daily for first four weeks of life. Normal puppy gains 5% of the current body weight daily for the first four weeks. The puppy’s body weight often doubles by 10 days after birth and triples by third week. Between one and two months of age, daily weight gain may reach 3gms/kg of adult body weight.

Consistent monitoring and timely treatment should help in reducing the loss of puppies in breeding.

(Dr. R. Jayaprakash, M.V.Sc., PhD, FFAO (USA) completed his B.V.Sc. during 1981 and worked as Govt Veterinary Surgeon and zoo vet till he joined as Assistant Professor in1991 at Madras Veterinary College. He did his M.V.Sc. in Surgery and PhD in 1997. He is in small animal practice for last 18 years. He underwent fellowship training in USA on Surgical management. Now he is working as Associate Professor of surgery. He is also sitting Secretary for Small Animal Practitioner Association of Chennai. He can be contacted at: JP Pet Speciality Hospital, Chennai –600 020, Ph: 044-24411909/09444385393.)