Puppies are usually purchased at about 8 weeks' old when fully weaned. Vaccinations are given at 8 and 10 weeks old and your puppy should not be 'walked' for a further week to enable immunity to have taken place.
The breeder is likely to give you advice about the food your puppy has been fed on but if you wish to change the diet, this is all right as long as you make the change slowly over a period of several days.
The new food can be added to the original diet and over the next few days you gradually increase the new food so there is less of the old diet and eventually your puppy will be only having the new one. If you go too quickly, your puppy may develop diarrhoea.
Socialisation and habituation should start before this time so carry your puppy out when possible to expose him to sounds like traffic, children etc.
To be a successful pet, your dog must be able to get on well with other puppies, dogs, children and adults as well as being able to cope with everyday experiences. However, as this doesn’t happen automatically, you have to socialise your puppy and expose it to noises and experiences that will enable it to have pleasant encounters. By socialisation I mean meeting and playing with other puppies, adult dogs, children and adult humans! The idea is that the more people your puppy meets and plays with, the more tolerant and friendly it will become.
Let me break this down further for you: The most common cause of fear and aggression is lack of socialisation – a dog doesn’t have to have been mistreated to become afraid of people or new experiences.
Dogs may be sick in the car through fear rather than simply by motion sickness. A frightened dog’s natural response if it can’t escape is aggression. Can you imagine not being able to have visitors to your house because your dog won’t let them in? When a 60 kilo gram dog comes in the our practice and has to be muzzled before we can actually take a look at it, my heart sinks with frustration as this could have been so easily prevented.
The sensitive, receptive period for puppies is when they learn to accept things around them, meaning they will not be afraid of them in later life. Anything encountered during this period will be tolerated and enjoyed. Puppies tire easily so encounters should always be short and sweet.
Remember until your puppy is vaccinated it must not be allowed to mix with unvaccinated dogs. Do not walk in areas where other dogs have been. Carry your puppy to and from the vets and don’t let it down on the waiting room floor until a week after the second vaccination.
So what can you do to start socialising your puppy right away?
Start at home by regularly playing a CD with a range of noises on quietly in the background. This is a great way to introduce sounds such as fireworks, door bells, telephones, vacuum cleaners and aeroplanes etc. This will help your puppy be more confident in noisy situations as you don’t want it to become terrified as a Harrier jet or Hercules emerges over the tree tops.
You can make up your own CD or buy one from our practice.
If your puppy comes running back to you or shows signs of being afraid, you should not comfort them, pick your puppy up or stroke it. I know this sounds harsh but coming back to you is security in itself and by comforting your puppy you are effectively saying 'there was something to be afraid of' when if left, your puppy is likely to think, ok I'll go back off and explore.
However, if you know something potentially frightening is about to happen, you can distract your puppy by playing with it so that before the noise occurs e.g. dust cart, motorbike etc. your puppy will be having an enjoyable experience with you and is more likely to ignore / tolerate the noise in the background.
Take your puppy to a variety of different places in towns and the countryside to experience traffic, crowds and animals such as cats, livestock and horses. Carry your puppy if necessary to avoid contact with other dogs or soiled areas.
Remember to keep your puppy on a lead to prevent it from learning to chase or harass other animals.
Puppies have sharp teeth …
What can you do if your puppy bites you during play? All puppies have sharp teeth and need to learn the ‘soft bite’ during play while still with their littermates. When bitten by a sibling, a yelp of astonished pain is made by the puppy and the play may well come to an abrupt end. If a puppy pushes its luck, further a low growl from the mother may be given as a warning to stop. In this way, puppies learn that a soft, inhibited bite will allow the game to continue without hurting the other puppy who will in turn give soft bits back as play ensues. Therefore, when your puppy bites you do exactly what its littermates or mother would do – you give one yelp and your puppy will realise that it has been too rough.
Make sure you have a selection of toys for your puppy to play with, otherwise you will find she plays with your things! Soft toys are ideal as their baby teeth.