Puppy Health and Wellness
Updated: May 7
Let's face it, When we see a puppy we go a little crazy. Our voice changes to that of a thirteen year old boy going through puberty and for some reason we can’t seem to stop. We tell them how cute they are and let them do anything they want such as lick our face and bite our fingers with those tiny, sharp, shard of glass feeling teeth. Sometimes they even piddle on us and we say “ oh its okay, hes a puppy.” I don't care if you are a 250 lb lumber jack, a ten year old, or a very successful middle aged business woman. All of us baby talk when see a puppy. It is inevitable. We give puppies extra love, attention, and treat them like princesses/princes. To say the least, puppy's are always SPOILED!!
When it comes to grooming, puppies have no idea what it is were about to do. It's all new to them and because of that they are naturally scared of just about everything a grooming shop, vet, or trainer has to offer. Between the ages of zero to sixteen weeks old for a puppy is a crucial time in canine socialization and development. That is when puppies learn the most. You should take home a puppy at seven to eight weeks old and no earlier, they should have already had a set of shots. After bringing home your ball of cuteness you should get the second, and third set of shots before bringing them to a grooming salon. However, you should have already started training at home. If you have a long haired puppy you are going to want to avoid bathing him until your first visit at the groomers. If your doggy has a potty accident and you absolutely have to bathe him then make sure he is completely dried and brushed out after words. To many puppies first visit end up being full shave downs due to matting and that doesn't make for a great first experience. You want to pick a groomer that is going to work with you and your new pet to make sure you get off to the right start. So when calling around, the cheapest groomer isn't always the worst and the most expensive isn't always the best. In general, you pay for quality, but when looking for a groomer, pick the one that takes the time to explain over the phone which tools are needed for your breed specific. A good groomer will take the time to help educated you properly on your new puppies grooming needs. It's easier on puppies to see only one groomer for the first year of their life. Any puppy should be on a 4 week schedule for the first year to get accustomed to grooming. The difference between a puppy that gets groomed every four weeks and one that gets groomed every four months is one thinks its a way of life, the other thinks its being punished.
Starting your puppy on a good grooming schedule helps everyone involved. Your groomer, your vet, and yourself. It's important for your puppy not to be moved around from salon to salon because training a puppy to like grooming isn't as easy as you would think. They try to avoid just about everything, and getting used to one person's routine helps tremendously in the long run. Puppies need extra breaks, extra attention, and we have to take it slower with them to not make a fear imprint. Most groomers will spend the extra time with them so before making your first appointment, ask what they do to help puppies get used to grooming. I personally spread it out over their first 3 visits making them only 2 weeks apart. I ask the owner to bring treats, and a toy. The first visit is just a nail trim and a brush out to check if they have knots and to teach, you, the owner how to brush properly at home, so the first visit is a one-on-one with me, you and your pet. The second visit is a full bath and blow dry and brush out, where you leave your pet with me for a few hours and they get some cuddles and lovin as well. At this appointment I introduce the clipper and any thing else that makes noise to see how they are going to react to a full hair cut. At the third appointment I give a full haircut, starting with the small necessary things first like trimming the face, feet, and potty areas. If I feel like the pet is okay to proceed then I go for the full body cut. Sometimes they need an extra visit before they are ready for it. Occasionally i’ll have a puppy be so well behaved we do everything at the first visit, it’s usually the puppy whose parents are working with them at home on a steady basis. This process should be started no later than twelve weeks old. Every groomer has their own version of this but don’t be afraid to ask over the phone before scheduling your pets first appointment how they go about grooming puppies. After the first three visits are up, I schedule their pet for every four weeks for the rest of the year. Most dogs at the end of that year are very well behaved for the entire grooming process, love coming to see me, and feel safe under my care which is what's most important to me.
In the first four weeks you have your puppy before he has his first appointment at the groomers the ball is in your court. Your in charge of giving him his first grooming experience and its crucial to take it easy but making sure it's thorough. This is the fear imprint stage and can set the course for the rest of his grooming appointments. A lot of puppies view grooming tools as a toy and will try to lick, bite, and chew on anything your using. Start by offering him a treat and sitting him in your lap while watching TV. First your going to get him used to being handled and touched, not just held and cuddled. Stick your fingers in and out of his mouth, ears, pads and feet. Grab his paws and play a game with him. Not letting go until he stops pulling then give him a treat when he stops pulling and let go. (Dogs can count so only one treat is necessary, if you give him a handful he will expect a handful each time.)You can also introduce brushing by lightly using a slicker comb on his rear end and slowly moving up to his head. If your puppy to no avail is trying desperately to get away or eat the brush, have a family member hold a spoonful of peanut butter in front of him while your brushing. It’s okay to take breaks, just don’t take breaks when puppy is being difficult or he will associate it with and learn that that behavior will get you to stop. Now continuing everything we learned above, during this next week were going to introduce a little more brushing and add in loud sounds such as a clipper. You can take the blade off of any clipper or trimmer and just gently rub the back end of it over the dog's body. Avoiding the head for now as that's the place most dogs are afraid of. Start using a metal comb to check your doggy for knots, and matt's. If any knots are present you can break them up with the end of the comb and then use the slicker brush. Please never take scissors to your puppy. This next week you can start introducing brushing/ combing as an everyday thing. Brushing should be done for about five to twenty minutes a day depending on your pets coat length. While still doing everything we have previously learned you can start introducing the clipper to his head. He needs to get used to the sound so he's not so spooked by it at the groomer. If you have a blow dryer at home that has a cool setting you can sit him in your lap and turn it on low and start at his rear and make your way up gradually letting it get louder and louder. If he is freaking out, stop, and let a groomer handle these ones. Drying is the most important thing a groomer needs to do. It makes or breaks a haircut, so if he's scared we can help him become accustomed to it, and if the clipper around his head is freaking him out then we will get him used to that too.
It’s tempting to bathe your new puppy but if they are tangled or matted, the water will make the mats instantly tighter. Not all puppies are great for baths their first few times so it's really easy to accidentally leave shampoo on them which can make them itchy and create hot spots. Do not use human or baby shampoo on any pet. Always buy a pet specific brand. I know a lot of pups have potty accidents there first few months, so if that happens to you, and you end up bathing, pat dry with a towel and then brush out completely when 100% dry. Starting a puppy out for a life long of discipline so soon sounds harsh, after all they are just a puppy! I promise its not, It’s okay. You have to be consistent and stern. Puppies don’t need a grace period before starting training, in fact you should start in the car on the way home from the breeder or shelter. Puppies will have plenty of play time, love time, and cuddle time throughout their “puppyhood” but could you imagine not teaching your puppy manners until they are out of the puppy stage? I couldn't either because they would run the house. For the most part you want to get a head start on training because dogs love learning and are eager to please their owners.
Training sessions should be broken up into five minute increments three to four times a day. Start with the basics like potty training, sit, and stay. Puppies classes are great and Petco and Petsmart offer great positive training classes for puppies to learn basic manners and socialization. To help with potty training try walking your pet on a leash to the same spot every single time. Even if you have a doggy door or backyard. On average puppies should go out every two hours, after they wake up, and before and after a play session. Give lots of praise when they go potty outside. Dogs learn better when it's something they are already doing. Always give positive praise and ignore negative behavior by avoiding reinforcements. If your pup starts to go potty inside, take them outside to finish and then quietly clean it up. Puppies don’t learn the word no when we use it for everything. Like no chewing, no potty, no jumping, so it's best to just keep NO out of your puppies vocabulary. Puppies require a lot of items when you first get them, here is a list of everything you need for your new puppy and why. Enjoy your new puppy and the joys that is puppy breath!
Kennel: Dogs are den animals and love having a safe place to go where they feel enclosed and comfortable. Never use the kennel as a punishment. Having a kennel around the house and kennel training are necessary to help your pet get used to being confined when at a groomer, boarding facility, and at the vet. Accidents happen with pets all the time where they need to be confined to a kennel for short or even long periods of time, having them already trained to like their kennel is a plus. Always get a kennel that will fit your pet fully grown however when they are puppies use the divider to make it just big enough to sit, stand, and turn around, this will limit them going potty where they sleep.
Collar and Leash: A tight fitting collar with identification on it with a correct address, and phone number. A leash to help with potty training and taking your doggy places. Never bring your pet to a groomer or vet without a leash. Even if your pet is friendly and awesome not all pets are and vets and groomers still have to see aggressive dogs. Its accident prevention if you ask me. If you have a long haired dog, Round leather collars work great at helping the hair not mat up so easily. You can combine tags and collar into one buy ordering a collar with your information directly on the collar itself. Seresto collars are a great addition to their regular collars. Seresto collars are for flea and tick prevention and last up to 8 months! You can set up a recurring order on Chewy.com and have it auto shipped to you once every 8 months so you never forget.
Bowls/ Feeders: It's tempting to get a gravity feeder for your pet so they always have food available however most pets will overeat when given the opportunity, so opt out and get regular stainless steel bowls since they carry less bacteria and only feed the recommended amount for your dogs weight as described on the back of the food bag of your choice. For big dogs always keep food on the floor rather than a platform as this helps them slow down their feedings and reduces the risk of bloat which is a serious condition that mostly affects deep chested dogs. Slow feeders are always recommended but not all dogs with use one.
KONG EVERYTHING! Seriously, you'll thank me later. Kong products are amazing for so many reasons, besides being nearly indestructible you can fill it with peanut butter and freeze it or serve it as is for hours of distractions. They also sell treats designed for the shape a kong comes in. They have balls, squeakers, and toys all as equally awesome as the next. Chewing on them help clean teeth and for puppies who want to chew on everything it's a serious #shoesaver
Toys: Balls, rope toys, dental chews, and squeakers are some of the basics. I usually stay clear of the plush toys just because most dogs chew them up with in 5 minutes. Squeakers drive me insane so my dog only has one and it's an outdoor toy. Rope toys are great for keeping up with healthy teeth, think of it as doggy floss. Balls are excellent to play fetch with just make sure the ball is of an appropriate size for your pet. Dental chews can come in food form or just rubber sticks with grooves made for cleaning teeth. Both of those options are great!
Grooming Tools/ Products: For a long haired dog, a slicker brush and a metal comb. For a short haired puppy, a Kong Zoom Groom Brush (brush against the grain and OUTSIDE!) For all doggy's, Pride and Grooms shampoos and conditioners are some of my favorite products, Tropiclean toothpaste and toothbrush set, ear cleaner, cotton balls, and paw balm.
High Quality Food/ Treats: My personal favorite is CANIDAE, not only is it affordable but they are a family owned business who really cares about the animals they feed. They use probiotics and vitamins in a sprinkle they put on the food after it's been cooked so none of the nutrients get cooked out of their food. Getting your pet on a good quality food will dramatically contribute to your pets overall health for his entire life. For treats I love the Wellness brand for puppy treats because the contain DHA which is great for brain development. A good general rule for picking out treats is choosing a treat that looks like real food such as freeze dried fruits, vegetables, and meats along with jerky. I stopped buying my dog treats and started giving him green beans, carrots, strawberries, bananas, broccoli, and pretty much anything that is safe for a dog to eat.
Vaccines and General Care: Banfield Pet Hospitals offer amazing wellness plans for pets through their entire lifetime. They have affordable plans where you pay monthly and everything is included, all of their vaccines, de-worming, dental cleanings, heart guard, flea and tick treatments, and even getting spayed and neutered. Since getting a pet is so expensive they really help cut the cost down by paying monthly you avoid the lump sum it costs to initially get a pet. I also highly recommend pet insurance for accident and illness. Since we never know when an accident or illness will strike especially with puppies it's a good idea to have your pet covered. For example, depending on the area you live, if a dog swallows a chicken bone, that can cost anywhere from 500$ to 2,000 depending on the extent in which a vet would have to go to remove it. Pet insurance often covers 80% to 90% of that cost. Research insurance for pets and pick one that best suits your family.
Things to Avoid
Rawhide: Rawhide doesn't digest properly in a pets digestive tract often staying in their stomach for longer than normal and makes them feel full which in turn they end up not eating their real balanced diet. Rawhide has no nutritional value. Instead try bully sticks, Kong toys, or antlers for chewers.
Bones: Cooked and uncooked its best to stay clear of bones. Depending on the way the bone was made and how your pet breaks it down, shards can easily get stuck in the digestive tract often resulting in a vet visit to remove the blockage. Shoot for antlers (sometimes dogs chew these and make them really sharp, throw away at that point and get a new one), hooves, Himalayan cheese chews, or just strong chew toys like the Kong brand toys.
Human Products: Never use human products on your pet unless directed by your vet. Baby wipes, baby shampoo, regular shampoo, and lotions are all very common things people tend to use on their pet however they were not intended to be used on a pet and can create a world of allergic reactions. Any pet store should anything you need meant for dogs.