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Train them young!

Raising a puppy to be a well-behaved pet is every pet parent’s dream. The key is to start the training as early as possible. Here are a few basic training tips for the same.

Mostly people get the puppy home at the age of two months. The age between two and three months is the best period for the puppy to learn new things. At this stage in a pup’s life, most of the vets would suggest not to take the puppy out of the house as they are not fully vaccinated, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t start training them at home. It is important for the puppy to learn few basics before taking the formal obedience command training.

Socialising:It is extremely important to socialise your puppy with as many people as possible including kids and old people. It is also necessary to introduce them to a variety of places, sounds, objects as well. You should try to make these experiences positive as much as possible. It will help the pup to be confident around people and in different situations.

  • Invite friends/relatives/neighbours to meet the pup at your home frequently.
  • Take the pup to friend’s/relative’s home.
  • Take the pup for short car rides.
  • Visit pet-friendly coffee shops.
  • Short walk in the building compound.
  • Introduce the puppy to other healthy and fully vaccinated pets (dogs and cats) of family/friends.

Food habits: It is advisable to make a timetable for the pup’s daily meal timings. You can decide the type of food and quantity as per the vet’s guidance but it is also important to maintain certain good food habits.

  • Feed the puppy in his bowl at a particular place in the house.
  • If the pup refuses to finish the food at one time, the remaining food should be taken away and give it back only during the next meal time. This will encourage the pup to finish the food whenever it is available.
  • If the puppy is being fussy about eating certain type of food, it is better not to give in to his stubbornness, by adding something else like meat, etc. It is fine if the pup misses one of his meals but with practice learns to respect the food he is given and finishes it.
  • Following a fixed food routine also helps them to get toilet trained faster.

Toilet training: The toilet training should be started as soon as the puppy gets home. You should fix a place in the house where you would want your puppy to free himself and patiently introduce him to that area. Sometimes it is also advisable to fix a place in each room if you have a bigger house to avoid accidents.

  • Observe your pup’s body language. Every puppy gives out some signals/indications that they wish to pee/poop, for example, sniffing the floor, excessive scratching, turning in circles, barking, etc.
  • When you start noticing these behaviours, give the pup access to the area where you want him to pee.
  • Keep an old newspaper/cloth which has the pup’s urine smell in the designated area.
  • Encourage the pup verbally or take him to that area. Do not lock the puppy inside the bathroom/toilet.
  • The most usual times when a pup would want to pee are after they wake up from sleep, after meals, after a play session of running/chasing toys, etc.
  • Observe the pup’s body routine for a week or 10 days and make notes of the usual times of the puppy’s pee and potty.

It will help you to take the puppy to the toilet area on appropriate times and avoid accidents.
Crate/restriction training: It is necessary for the puppy to learn some self control. You should teach your pup to be alone in the room/house for few hours every day, without any human company. It will help them to learn to be confident by themselves and also avoid development of any separation anxiety issues later in life.

  • Make this experience as positive as possible for the puppy by keeping them occupied while they are restrained. You can give them chew bones, stuffed kongs or anything else which they love to chew.
  • Start by restraining them for very short spans and then gradually increase the duration.

Leash training: Most of the vets would suggest not to take your pup out on the road for a walk before they are fully vaccinated. This doesn’t mean you can’t get them used to walking on the leash inside the house. It is advisable to introduce them to a collar and a leash to avoid any struggle when you actually have to walk them on the busy roads.

  • Get the pup used to wearing a puppy collar for few hours every day (for example, during meal/playtime).
  • It is normal for the puppy to start scratching on the neck or trying to bite the collar off.
  • Use a soft puppy collar and avoid any choke chains.
  • Get the puppy used to walking on the leash inside a building compound.
  • It’s important to teach them to walk on the leash without pulling.

Sleeping habits: Most of the puppies love to cuddle up to the pet parents and sleep on their beds. This behaviour seems cute while the pet is small but may not be practical for a full grown dog. It is necessary to get the pup used to certain habits from young age to avoid problems in the future.

  • Get your pup used to his own bed.
  • Don’t allow them to jump up on human beds.
  • Do not give in to the pup’s tantrums or whining/crying as it will only encourage them to do it more.
  • It’s fine to allow the pet on your bed once in a while but teach them to get off when asked.

Teething control: Teething is a normal process in a pup’s life. When young, pups love to bite on anything and everything which is accessible to them. Puppies of all breeds, even mix breeds go through the teething stage and this doesn’t mean that the puppy has any aggression issues.

  • Provide toys with different textures to keep the puppy occupied such as rubber, plastic, cloth etc.
  • Do not encourage the puppy to bite fingers, hands or legs.
  • Stop them from biting shoes, electric wires, remote controls, etc.
  • Puppy proof the house as much as possible.
  • Do not give them unsupervised access to a room with lots of furniture/electrical wires.
  • Encourage the puppy to bite on toys while playing instead of your hands/fingers.
  • Provide variety of chew bones, Kong toys, etc .

Socialising and training is a continuous process. There is never a fixed method or time for that but it is always better to start early. Happy Pet Parenting!

(Pooja Sathe-Gawande runs CRAZY K9 CAMPERS in Mumbai providing pets and pet parents unique opportunities to spend quality time together through weekend pet camps).

Groom them young!

Puppies are completely dependent on you for their growth, development and character building. Along with giving them a good diet and exercise, basic hygiene and grooming are also very important for his overall development. Here’s how to groom your pup healthy and beautiful.

Grooming isn’t just about making your puppy look good. Regular care removes dead hair, keeps the coat and skin healthy, and gives you the opportunity to keep a check on your pup’s general health.

General hygiene and grooming

Basic hygiene starts from the first day when your little puppy is brought

Sherlock

Sherlock

home. This comprises wiping around

the mouth and chin after meals with a moist towel and drying the area well. Similarly wipe around the belly and lower abdomen 2-3 times a day with a moist towel and dry well. This is to prevent dermatitis caused due to food remaining on the chin or urine around the belly, which leads to pimples, redness and irritation of the skin.

Puppies have very delicate sensitive skin and thus the type of shampoo or brush used is very important and depends on the coat type. Please seek guidance from a professional groomer or your vet regarding the dos and don’ts for your puppy’s specific skin type. For the first couple of months, your grooming schedule should comprise daily brushing of the coat and sponge baths only when required. Regular baths or professional grooming can begin from 2.5-3 months onwards. It is not advisable to bath your dog too often, as they lose the natural oil from their skin and predisposes them to a lot of skin conditions in the future. Thus a maximum of one bath per month is ideal for most breeds, especially with our weather conditions.

Make the first experience a happy one

I associate the puppy’s first grooming experience with that of a child’s first dentist appointment. If it scares them, they will fear and dread it the rest of their lives. However, if introduced at a young age and introduced correctly, it can be both a positive and rewarding experience. Love and patience are the keys to years of successful grooming sessions enjoyed by both you and your little one. The process is quite simple and acts as a bonding experience as it is important time spent together, building your relationship, trust and understanding.

Daily grooming routine

  • Pre-groom session: Encourage your pet to come to you for a quick cuddle and play with him for a few minutes to help him get rid of some of his excess energy.
  • The basics: Choose a raised platform with an anti-slip surface to groom your pup. Show your puppy his brush and comb and let him sniff and get familiar with it. During the grooming, if your pup tries to bite or play with the brush, turn away without letting go off him. Ignore negative behaviour but reward positive behaviour with treats and praises. Your pup should look forward to this time of the day as a good experience.
  • Brushing: Slowly start brushing his body while talking to him in a soothing tone and praising him for his good behaviour. This is when he starts relaxing and begins to enjoy the attention. After a few minutes, slowly proceed to brushing sensitive areas like the belly, ears, tail and legs.
  • Nail care: Touch the feet and examine the nails and toes. It is important your puppy gets used to having nails touched in case future nail clipping is required.
  • Ear care: Play with your puppy’s ears by touching them on the inside and outside. Reward him with lots of praises and a treat for good behaviour. This is very important, as many breeds require the hair to be plucked from the ears for basic hygiene purpose.
  • Dental care: Open your pup’s mouth and rub your finger along his teeth and gums. As they grow older, you could introduce a finger brush or puppy toothbrush and pet friendly toothpaste for their daily dental cleaning. This helps in surface cleaning and could prevent early formation of plaque and help in reducing odour from the mouth.
  • Post-grooming tactics: Always end the grooming session with a cuddle, walk or a game. This familiarity with close contact not only makes handling easy but also helps make veterinary examinations less stressful in the future.

Bathing tips

  • The setting: If a bath is required, when your puppy is small, a plastic tub would suffice but as they grow bigger, switch to a shower or a bath with an anti-slip mat so they don’t panic if they lose their footing.

    Dr. Nezhat

    Dr. Nezhat

  • Warm water: Make the environment warm and use lukewarm water for the bath as puppies tend to get very cold after a bath. Make drying arrangements ready before starting the bath.
  • Bathing: Wet the coat thoroughly and avoid getting water into your puppy’s eyes or ears. Offer praise and reassurance throughout the process and reward positive behaviour. If it’s the first time and your pup is nervous, ask a friend to stroke and reassure the puppy while you wash him up.
  • Shampooing: Use a puppy shampoo specific for your puppy’s coat texture. Initially always use it in dilution and lather well. Leave it on for a few minutes while massaging it well into the coat. Rinse off the shampoo thoroughly, as remains may cause itchiness and scaling later.
  • Drying: Stand back as your puppy gives himself a good shake!! Towel dry well and use a hair drier only during cold weather or if the puppy has a thick coat. When blow-drying your pup’s hair, make sure the dryer is on “Cool” setting as it can burn the skin easily. Also make sure not to use the dryer too close to the skin or directly on the eyes and ears. If your puppy shows fear towards the loud sound of the drier, try to keep him distracted with treats and keep talking to him in a reassuring tone. Run a cotton swab with your finger in his ears to dry any leftover water drops. Make sure the coat and feet are completely dry before letting him go outside.

While it is best to do a basic groom at home everyday, once a month you must take your pet for a professional groom so that your puppy’s coat texture and skin can be analysed by a professional who could guide you on how to proceed further with his skin care and maintain that perfect glossy coat. Remember ‘a clean dog is a happy dog!’

(Dr Nezhat Belgamvala runs PetStepin’ in Bengaluru. Established in 2009, PetStepin’ provides facilities like boarding, day-care, socialising, grooming, pet parties and more. For more details, visit: www.petstepin.com).

Caring for young dogs

Young dogs need a lot more calories than their older counterparts. But meeting this need is easy; just follow the guidelines in this article.

Caring for your breeding female dog

If your female dog is eating a good balanced diet, she will not need any extra food for the first five weeks after she’s mated. In the womb, most of the growth of developing puppies takes place during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy. So you should start increasing her daily feed intake by about 15% each week from about the fifth week onwards. By the time she is due to give birth, she may be eating 50% more food than usual. It may be difficult for her to eat large meals because of the pressure the puppies put on her stomach.

The last couple of days before giving birth, many female dogs loose interest in food. The day before she has her babies, her rectal temperature may drop slightly, and she may start looking for a place to give birth. It’s a good idea to give her a large, comfortable box early in the pregnancy, so she’ll be used to it and will probably want to give birth in it. Once she starts feeding her puppies, her energy (calorie) need will rise quite a bit. By the third to fourth week of lactation, she may require up to four times her normal quantity of food. Give her food in several meals, and make sure food is easily accessible to her at all times; bring the food to her so she doesn’t have to leave her pups. Remember that it’s very important for her to eat enough high-quality food, designed for lactation, so she can feed her fast-growing puppies. It’s also important that she has access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Raising motherless puppies

If you can’t find a suitable foster mother dog to feed orphaned puppies, you will need to feed them at less than six weeks of age on a suitable puppy-milk substitute. Or, if your female dog is not able to produce enough good milk, you will also need to use a milk substitute and give the puppies’ supplemental feedings. Puppies under one week old need to be fed 6 times a day, or every 4 hours, day and night. After they are two weeks old, you can reduce this feeding routine to 4 meals a day or every 6 hours. You will need to use either a syringe or a puppy feeding bottle.

Ask your vet to show you how to feed the puppies. By the time the puppies are about three weeks old, they can feed by lapping their milk substitute from a bowl, and will begin to nibble a little food, as well.

Puppies must be kept warm, but not too hot. You can use heat sources such as heating lamps, hot water bottles covered with towels or blankets, or heating pads covered with blankets. Just make sure it’s not too hot!

Puppies under 3 weeks of age need to be stimulated to pass urine and feces. Their mother would have licked them to clean them; you can simulate her behavior by stroking their rears with warm, damp cotton batting.

Weaning puppies

For the first few weeks of their lives, puppies feed on their mother’s milk, which is very rich in calories, protein, fat and calcium. At around 3-4 weeks of age, puppies can lap or nibble moist food from a bowl. Young puppies may need four or five meals a day. In the early stages of weaning, their mother’s milk is still an important part of the diet. But by 6 to 8 weeks, most puppies can be completely weaned, and are ready to leave their mother.

After weaning

  • Once weaned, your puppy will continue to grow very quickly, and will need about two to three times the energy intake (calories) of an adult dog of the same weight. The time for you to change the frequency and size of the feedings depends on the breed of your puppy. Small breeds reach their adult weight at six to nine months, whereas very large breeds such as Great Danes are not fully grown until they’re 18 to 24 months.
  • Larger breeds have two distinct phases of growth, and after they’ve turned 6 months, you should feed them an appropriate junior-dog diet. These diets have more calories than adult foods to meet your young dog’s needs for maturation, but fewer calories than puppy foods to reduce the risk of joint or hip problems later on.
  • If you’re feeding your puppies a special puppy diet, the label on the food package will tell you how much to feed puppies of various ages and sizes.
  • Do not overfeed your puppy as fat puppies are more likely to have weight problems and can develop joint and leg problems.
  • Your puppy’s feces should be well formed and firm. Feeding a highly digestible food will produce smaller amounts of wellformed feces.
  • Some puppies are particularly sensitive to changes in their diet, so make any such changes gradually, and resist the impulse to feed table scraps.
  • Puppies should be fed 4 times a day until they’re 4 months old, 3 times a day until they’re 6 months old, and then at least twice a day after that. This is especially important for very small and large breeds of dogs.
  • Puppies should have clean fresh water available to drink at all times. As the puppy gets older, you may find that giving him milk to drink causes diarrhea.