Early days (bringing your puppy home)
Puppy ownership is a big responsibility and when you bring your new puppy home, it will require your help, support and attention.
Dog ownership brings with it responsibility but will prove to be an extremely rewarding and pleasurable experience. In time, with the correct training and care, your puppy will hopefully become a well adjusted adult who is a pleasure to own and a credit to you and the dog society at large.
Until puppies know how to behave and are reliably toilet trained it is better to keep them closely supervised or contained in a ‘dog proof’ environment, with no access to carpets, chemicals, exposed electrical wiring or expensive furniture. The puppy could be contained within a room by a child-gate, or in a puppy pen or large mesh crate, and taken out in the garden frequently under supervision. Make sure your garden is escape proof. If not only take your puppy there on its lead.
During the first few months, puppies really benefit from a good routine, so get into the habit of feeding your puppy at regular intervals. Take it outside immediately it wakes up, following its mealtimes, and every hour or two. Make sure that you schedule in ‘play times’, and ‘quiet times’ when you are present, but not interacting with it. Your puppy needs to learn to settle quietly as well as how to occupy itself with a chew or its toys, otherwise it will become demanding and expect you to interact with it all the time.
Out of bounds areas
It is strongly recommended that you keep your puppy away from the stairs and steep drops, as running up and down stairs can damage a puppy’s delicate growth plates, causing long term damage. Even jumping off chairs, sofas and beds can cause unnecessary damage, and puppies are best kept off these. You should also lift them in and out of cars, and be careful not to play fetch games on slippery floors, or encourage them to jump about or twist themselves, for the same reason.
Puppies chew while teething and during adolescence. Provide plenty of suitable chews and change them often. Teach your puppy what to chew and what to leave alone. Try not to leave your puppy in a place where it can damage your things or itself. Prevention is better than cure.
It is very important that your puppy has a range of appropriate toys to play with. Chew toys provide mental stimulation and help with relief of teething pain. Select toys for your puppy carefully – some may be too small and might choke your puppy whilst other items might splinter. You should also have toys that you can play with interactively with your puppy.
Young puppies should not be put out or left out on their own in a garden for any length of time. They quickly get bored and frustrated, and become destructive, noisy and potentially territorial. It is much better to go into the garden with your puppy at regular intervals, so that it is clear that it is being taken there for toileting purposes. Avoid leaving the back door open, because if your puppy can go in and out as it pleases, this can adversely affect its toilet training, as well as its recall response.
Puppies normally reach puberty any time from six months old and their elevated hormone levels can adversely affect their behaviour, so seek help if you are having any problems. This behaviour will not ‘automatically’ be resolved by neutering despite advice you may receive to the contrary. Try not to worry – it soon passes!
Bitches are normally ‘in season’ for three weeks and are fertile during this time. They should not be allowed to mix with male dogs. You can tell your bitch is in season when her vulva swells and she exudes a discharge which may be blood tinged. This should happen about every six months, throughout her life.
As male dogs reach puberty they start cocking their legs and you may observe an increased interest in other dogs, independence, mounting behaviour and ‘macho’ behaviour with dogs and/or people.
Food and water bowls
You will need separate (non-tip) bowls for water and food. These should be raised up off the floor for a dobermann. An adjustable stand or large flower pot to put the bowl in is ideal. Make sure fresh water is always available for your puppy.
Your puppy needs a comfortable bed, so buy a bed big enough for it to grow into, and stretch out in. There are many types of good bedding for your puppy.
Most puppies love snuggling into a piece of ‘vet bed’ or similar. This is a synthetic simulated sheepskin, which is hygienic, machine washable, totally non-allergic and relatively resistant to chewing. It can also help to prevent pressure sores. Buy two pieces so you use one while washing and drying the other.
Puppy crates, play pens and child-gates
Some dogs love having their own ‘four poster beds’ and many puppy owners find these useful for containing the puppy and keeping it safe and out of trouble when it is alone, rather like putting a baby in a cot or play pen.
When ordering a crate for your puppy, buy one big enough for it to lie in stretched out and standing up in when it is fully grown. Make sure that the mesh is not too big as puppies may get their mouths caught. Put some bedding inside and tie some toys in the far end of the crate so the puppy has to go in there to play with them. Gently place your puppy in there whenever it falls asleep. Leave occasional treats in the crate for the puppy to find, so the puppy learns to love going in there. Do not shut the door until your puppy is comfortable.
You can gradually increase the time the puppy stays in the crate, initially this should be whilst you are in the room.
Make sure it has recently emptied its bladder and bowels before it enters. Do not leave your puppy in the crate or puppy pen for more than a couple of hours during the daytime. Although most puppies are content to sleep in their crate overnight, they get very distressed if they have to foul near their beds, so you must be prepared to get out of your bed to let them out if they need to toilet during the night. If they have fouled inside the crate, you must clean it out immediately or the puppy will hate being in the crate.
Never use the crate as a punishment or you will teach your puppy to resent it. Always remove the puppy’s collar when in the crate in case it gets caught up on it.
Short coated dogs still need to be groomed regularly, especially when they are moulting as their short hairs can get stuck into everything! Use a rubber toothed brush or a short bristle brush, which massages the skin and works out the loose hair.
Always brush your puppy slowly and gently. Gradually introduce the concept of grooming in very short sessions. Dogs only need to be bathed when their coat is excessively dirty or it has rolled in something smelly. Over bathing will stop the essential oils in the dog’s coat from keeping the hair in good condition. Use a dog shampoo and put a non-slip mat down if using the bath. Towel drying your puppy is important and will get it used to being dried when it comes home wet from a walk.
Feeding your puppy
Puppies grow 20 times faster than adult dogs and so require a special diet to aid their physical development. A specially formulated growth food is recommended which needs to be fed at evenly spaced intervals to avoid over stretching their small stomachs.
Feed your puppy four meals a day up until the age of four months then reduce its feed to three meals a day until it is six months old. At six months change to two meals a day and keep it on this regime for the rest of its life.
It is better not to leave food down. There are many different feeding regimes to choose from. The most suitable diet should contain the required protein and vitamins your puppy needs, be easily digested and produce dark brown, firm, formed stools when your puppy toilets.
If your puppy produces soft or light stools or has wind or diarrhoea, then the diet may not suit your puppy or it might have some kind of digestive problem, so consult your vet for advice.
Stability in the diet will help maintain good digestion. Any change in diet should be made very gradually over at least a week.
Make sure that water is always available to your puppy. Never take its water bowl away.
Dry complete foods
There are a wide range of dry complete foods on the market and the quality varies widely. To get the best out of your puppy’s development choose a food specially designed for puppies and buy the best you can afford. The ‘premium’ dry puppy foods tend to have the best quality ingredients. Many are based on chicken and rice or corn, and suit most puppies really well.
Although these foods may appear more expensive to buy, you do not need to feed the large amounts you would with a lower grade food, so many of them actually work out to cost the same, if not less!
Semi-moist and tinned foods
As with complete dry foods, tinned foods and semi-moist foods can vary in quality. Again choose a good quality food with an easily digestible recipe i.e. chicken and rice and choose a specialist puppy food which is nutritionally complete. As before it is best to avoid changes in your puppy’s diet so if you find a product that works for your puppy, stick to it.
Puppies need the best possible diet whilst they are growing up, as even a slight imbalance may harm their development and growth. As it is very difficult to get this balance right, you are probably better off choosing from one of the tried and tested commercial diets.
Food sensitivities and intolerances
Some dogs are sensitive or intolerant to certain ingredients and additives and this can cause a variety of problems. Common symptoms include:
- · lethargy
- · aggressive or hyperactive behaviour
- · chronic skin and ear problems
- · light to mid-brown loose bulky stools or diarrhoea
- · slime and jelly being passed with the stools and flatulence
- · bloating and weight gain or loss
As with children, the most common food intolerances appear to be colourings, sugars, wheat, milk and soya. Obviously not all puppies are sensitive to these things, but if the symptoms keep re-occurring ask your vet for advice.
If you suspect a food intolerance you should avoid giving your puppy any foods or treats containing any suspect ingredients for a month or two, and then reintroduce each ingredient, one at a time, and watch for the return of any physical or behavioural changes.
Treating is a good way to reward your dog during training and encourage the behaviour you want. There are a wide variety of prepared and natural treats on the market which vary hugely in quality. Some commercial treats have lots of sugar, colourings, milk products and fat in them. Even ‘doggy chocolate’ or ‘low fat yoghurt drops’ can contain sugars or lactose (milk sugar) so always check the ingredients label.
All treats should be given sparingly, never more than 15% of the total calorie intake. If used regularly reduce the amount of main meal food your dog is receiving in order to avoid obesity. Some chew treats have proven ability to help prevent dental diseases, but again check the label to ensure you are getting a genuine product.
Real chocolate is poisonous to dogs and can cause liver damage and even be fatal, so never give your dog any chocolate, or leave any lying around for it to find and eat.
Some types of fruit are also toxic to dog’s. Grapes are an example as they can cause kidney failure if eaten.
Avoid giving your puppy any sweet biscuits or sugary treats which are bad for its teeth as well as its waistline and can cause sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’.
Puppy Feeding Top Tips
- · Clean fresh water should always be available
- · Owners should not refill half empty bowls. Ensure that fresh food is always provided at each meal time. This is particularly true in the hot weather when food left in bowls can attract flies and other insects.
- · Half full cans of dog food should be kept covered in the fridge, but allowed to stand until the food is up to room temperature before feeding.
- · There are two different types of dog food manufactured, “complete” and “complementary”, clearly marked on the label. A complete food can be fed as a sole source of nutrition and is available as both canned and dry food. A complementary food is designed to accompany the complete food and should not be used as the only source of daily nutrition.
- · Avoid feeding table scraps. This can upset the balance of nutrients provided by commercial prepared dog food.
- · Treats are a great way of bonding with your dog. Ensure that they are specially manufactured for dogs. Treats will contribute to the dog’s daily dietary intake and owners should take them into account with their daily feed quantity.
- · Puppies have high energy requirements, but small stomachs. Follow the feeding instructions on the packaging.
- · A healthy, fit dog is a happy dog! Owners should be able to feel their dog’s ribs, but not see them.
- · Owners should avoid any sudden change of their dog’s diet. A change from one food to another should be done gradually with the new food increased over a number of days until that is the only food fed. The same goes for a switch from one brand to another. Any sudden change may upset the dog’s digestive system.
A change in diet should be made very gradually over at least a week to avoid upset and you should try a new diet for at least 10 days before making any further changes.
Consult your vet if you have any concerns.
Toilet training should be quite a simple process, as long as you take the time and trouble to get into a good routine. Initially, you will have to build your routine around your puppy’s needs, and these are reliably predictable when they are very young.
Puppies need to urinate immediately after waking up, so you need to be there to take your puppy straight into the garden without any delay.
Eating its meal stimulates its digestive system, and puppies normally urinate within fifteen minutes of eating, and defecate within half an hour of eating. This might vary slightly with each individual.
Puppies have very poor bladder control, and need to urinate at least every hour or two. They can urinate spontaneously when they get excited, so take your puppy out frequently if it has been active, playing or exploring.
Repeat cue words like ‘wee wees’ and ‘poo poos’ or ‘be busy’ and ‘be clean’ while the puppy is actually urinating or defecating. Use different words for each action so that you will be able to prompt the puppy later on.
Always go with your puppy into the garden so you are there to reward and attach the cue words to the successful actions!
Fortunately, puppies are creatures of habit, so as long as you introduce the garden to your puppy as its toilet area early on, you should be able to avoid most of the common pitfalls.
Toilet training errors
There are many reasons why ‘toilet training’ might not go as smoothly as it could, so make sure you do not make any of the following mistakes…
- · Over-feeding.
- · Feeding an unsuitable diet or giving a variety of foods.
- · Not feeding at regular times.
- · Feeding too late in the evening which could cause overnight defecation.
- · Punishing the puppy for indoor toilet accidents. This can make the puppy scared of toileting in front of you and it will try and do its toileting in secret places.
- · Feeding the puppy salty foods which will make it thirsty and therefore drink more.
- · Using ammonia based cleaning compounds to clear up accidents. The ammonia smells similar to urine and the puppy will continue to urinate in the same place.
- · Expecting the puppy to tell you when it needs to go out. It is better to take them out at regular intervals. They will eventually learn how to tell you when they want to go out to the toilet.
- · Leaving the back door open for the puppy to come and go as it pleases. A puppy will think that the garden is an adventure playground, rather than a toilet area. Also, what is a puppy meant to do when the weather gets cold and it is faced with a closed door.
- · Leaving the puppy on its own too long, so that it is forced to go indoors.
- · Mistakenly associating the words ‘good girl’ or ‘good boy’ when they toilet, as opposed to the specific cue words.
- · Access to rugs or carpet, which are nice and absorbent – just like grass.
- · Laziness on your part and not taking the puppy out to toilet.
- · Leaving the puppy alone in the garden, so you are not there to reward it for going outdoors.
- · Submissive or excited urination on greeting. If this occurs, take your puppy outside before you greet it and tone down your greeting so it is less exciting or overwhelming.
- · It is unfair to expect your puppy to go right through the night when it is very young.
- · Sleeping the puppy in a crate or puppy pen can help with house training but you should let it out in the garden to relieve itself during the night.
Teaching your puppy to toilet out on a walk
Many owners are disappointed that their young puppy will not toilet when out on a walk, yet relieves itself the second it gets back home. This is because the puppy has been taught to toilet only at home. Being creatures of habit, they often wait until they have returned home before evacuating their bladder and bowels.
To break the habit get up earlier in the morning and take your puppy out on a walk before it has had its morning wee. You should encourage the puppy to go to the toilet. If you are unsuccessful and your puppy has not toileted then take it immediately into the garden on your return, or you risk it relieving itself indoors.
Puppies need much less exercise than fully-grown dogs. If you over-exercise a growing puppy you can overtire it and damage its developing joints, causing early arthritis. A good rule of thumb is a ratio of five minutes exercise for every month of age i.e. 15 minutes when three months old, 20 minutes when four months old etc. Take the puppy out up to twice a day until fully grown. Once they are fully grown they can go out for much longer.
It is important that puppies and dogs go out for exercise every day in a safe and secure area, or they may become frustrated. Time spent in the garden (however large) is no substitute for exploring new environments and socialising with other dogs. You should never exercise your dog on a full stomach as this can contribute to bloat. We always feed our dogs after they have been exercised but if this is not practical then allow at least an hour between being fed and exercising.
Choose a comfortable collar that is suitable for the size and age of puppy. Puppies grow rapidly and collars should be checked almost daily for condition and fit. These should not be so loose that they can slip over your puppy’s head or so tight that you cannot slip two fingers underneath.
Choose a lead that is suitable for the size of your puppy, not too long, too short or too heavy. A good rope lead is both strong and comfortable on your hands. Chain leads can hurt your hands, but may be useful if you have a puppy that likes to chew or carry its lead in its mouth. Nylon leads are strong, but can hurt your hands. Many people still prefer the traditional leather lead which requires to be oiled or saddle soaped to be kept clean and supple.
There are lots of devices (mostly harnesses and head collars) that claim to help stop dogs from pulling on the lead. Some of these rub, squeeze or pinch the dog, and tend not to be tolerated well, so shop around and make sure that your puppy is comfortable wearing it. You should allow your puppy time to become accustomed to any aid you decide on. However, if you ensure correct training from the start, your puppy should not pull on the lead.
Do not use a choke chain on a puppy until it is at least 9 months old as the muscles in the neck can be wrenched and therefore damaged.
Essential Puppy Training
Every puppy needs to be taught good manners and have constructive lessons in basic control. This includes responding to its name, how to greet and behave politely around people and dogs, coming back when called, walking nicely on the lead, sit, down and stay on command. The basic principle is if you wouldn’t let an adult dobermann behave in that manner then don’t let a puppy get away with it.
Puppies need to learn their place in the human pack. Dobermans will try to get away with cheeky, mischievous, boisterous behaviour and will push your weakness to the limit. Strong-willed puppies need to learn that they cannot have their own way all the time and what you want must come first. No dog should be controlled with physical force. Do not get into conflict with your dog. Even the most headstrong dog needs a leader and team mate they can work with. They will respect calm leadership and lots of praise. Be calm, offer clear instruction, rules and commands. It is important that you are consistant and that the whole family maintain the same rules
You should prevent adults and children becoming over enthusiastic with your puppy. Do not allow them to disturb its sleep patterns, over-tire it, or to play rough. If the puppy is mouthing or biting then divert its attention on to something else like a toy or treat. If it still persists in biting or mouthing, then walk away. If the puppy is over rough when playing, stop and walk away from the game.
Puppies love to lick faces as it mimics licking its mother and is a form of affection. If you don’t like it then don’t discipline the puppy or push it away as they don’t understand. Smile and give them something else to lick like your ear. Don’t push them away without giving them another form of affection.
Never smack a puppy across the face or nose. You will end up with a head shy animal and it is the fastest way to create a snappy dog. Emulate what it’s mother would do by giving it a warning growl and a don’t even think about it look.
It is important to make eye contact with your puppy regularly. Start by teaching your puppy by using food or a soft voice using a command like ‘watch me.’ If using food hold it up to your face between the eyes and the moment the dog looks at you praise and give it the food. Looking at you is a reassurance and is a means of diverting the dog’s attention from something. It is also necessary when training as no dog can be trained properly without checking in with their owner or trainer.
Dog training classes
Most owners can benefit from attending good training classes, and training in the company of other dogs is very useful because of the realistic distractions this involves. Ideally, you should start your classes as soon as your puppy’s vaccinations are complete.
There are lots of schools of thought on dog training and it is important that you find the right approach for you and your puppy. Go and visit several classes first (without your puppy) to make sure you have made the right choice.
Really important training tips:
- · Start as you mean to go on. If you are always consistent you will avoid confusing your puppy.
- · Puppies have a very short attention span so train for short spells on a regular basis.
- · Keep it short and keep it simple, but most of all, keep it fun!
- · Puppies respond better to cheerful voice tones, rather than to threatening orders.
- · Gentle play builds trust and a strong bond between you and your puppy as well as making training fun.
- · Patience is the KEY ingredient in dog training. If you try to rush things you will only get frustrated and confuse your puppy.
- · Keep it interesting: cultivate a range of different rewards incorporating play, fuss, praise, treats and toys. This will stop both of you from getting bored.
‘Home alone’ training
Your growing puppy will sleep a great deal, and this is the ideal time to get it used to being separated from you (and other pets) for short periods every day, so that it does not become over dependent on having constant company. If you do not get your puppy used to being left alone while you are in your home, it may suffer from ‘over-attachment’ and ‘separation anxiety’ when you go out. This can become a very serious problem, so put your puppy back in its sleeping quarters when it is tired, resting or sleeping.
Try not to return to your puppy when it is whining, crying, barking or misbehaving in any way, as you will be unwittingly rewarding the undesirable behaviour, which might make things worse in the long run. Either, wait until the behaviour has stopped, or create a noise diversion to distract the puppy and then enter the room. Do not greet the puppy straight away. Do something else first and then greet the puppy calmly and quietly. This prevents problems later on with attention seeking behaviour and over excited greetings.
Once your puppy is older, toilet trained and happy to be left on its own, you can leave it for gradually longer periods.
To prevent this, consider asking someone to come in to let your puppy out and to break up its day. Alternatively, take your puppy to someone who can look after it when you are gone for long periods.
You may be better off finding someone who can give your puppy individual attention, rather than placing it within a pack of dogs, where it could be overwhelmed and make it timid or defensive.
Don’t be afraid to ask
If you are experiencing difficulties seek advice from a vet or other suitable professional
Problems can be solved easier the earlier the advice is sought