Puppies have a critical socialization period between the ages of 5 to 8 weeks in which they are more able to learn and adapt to new situations. This is the best time to start teaching them proper house-training habits and basic commands. Once they have received most of their puppy vaccinations, they can get involved in puppy classes and can be exposed to as many people, pets and different situations as possible in order to make them become well adjusted adults. This exposure may put them at increased risk of developing infections; however, keeping vaccines up to date according to your veterinarian's recommendations will keep this risk to a minimum. Also, periodic fecal analysis will ensure that they are not picking up intestinal parasites from their playmates.
Young puppies should be taken outside to eliminate approximately every 1 to 2 hours. It is better to get into good habits than try to correct bad ones. Your puppy should always be taken to the same part of the yard to eliminate and kept on a leash. During this time do not play with the puppy until s/he has had 5 to 10 minutes to do his/her business. When the puppy does do so, use a command such as 'go potty' or 'hurry up', which will be quite helpful when the dog is an adult and you are standing outside in 10 degree weather waiting for Fido to eliminate. The best correction for inappropriate elimination in the house is to clean it up without letting your dog see you. Only correct him/her if you can catch the puppy 'in the act'. At this time, try to startle your puppy with a sharp 'NO' or by making a loud noise (such as a magazine on a table). You should NEVER hit your puppy or rub his/her nose in the feces or urine.
When the puppy is not being directly supervised, he should go into the crate to help with housebreaking and to prevent the puppy from getting into substances that may be harmful to him/her. This is a good time to start teaching your puppy basic commands, such as 'sit'. Every time the puppy goes into or out of the crate s/he should sit and get a reward (sometimes small treats, others–praise only). The puppy should always be fed in the crate and asked to sit before meals, going outside, or getting out of the crate. Crate time should be a positive experience. Blankets should be kept in the crate for comfort. Toys such as Kongs (with peanut butter or biscuit pieces), can be given to your pet when s/he is in the crate. The puppy should be placed in the crate for multiple short periods of time during the day to minimize the chance of separation anxiety being associated with the crate later on. Any time you are not home or when you are asleep at night, the puppy should be placed into the crate. During crate time, whining and barking should be ignored as long as the puppy has been out recently and is safe. During the evening, it is a good idea to take him/her out one time then ignore any barking after that. If it is possible, water should be provided at all times.
When owners are home, the puppy's accidents often occur when the pet is not directly supervised – often sneaking off into another room. One can minimize these accidents by keeping a short leash (6 ft) on your puppy's collar attached to you. In this way, s/he cannot sneak off unsupervised. Another method is to keep a bell on your puppy to be better aware of his/her whereabouts. The bell may also help you to keep in tune to the 'clues' puppies give when they want to go out. These include whining, sniffing the floor, circling or pacing to and from a door. Remember, these training tools do not have to be used forever, but getting your puppy into good habits when she or he is young can go a long way to enjoying your dog as an adult.
Puppies have a desire to chew for 2 reasons; first, young puppies are teething and chewing is a natural part of this process. Second, chewing is part of playing and social development when interacting with other dogs. This behavior needs to be directed to appropriate objects so as not to cause harm to the owner, household items or the puppy him/herself. A sharp 'no' , removing the hands from the puppy's sight and then encouraging with praise when the puppy is sitting quietly is a generally good method of behavior modification. This procedure should be repeated if the puppy returns to biting while being praised. Consistency from all household members is very important. No family members should allow rough play with their hands as this can be confusing for the puppy that should be learning that hands are not for biting. Another method that works well for some dogs is to replace the hand with an acceptable chew toy in addition to the above mentioned correction. Consistency and patience are the most important factors in success. Remember, whatever habits a dog adopts as a puppy, they will continue when s/he is a much larger and stronger dog!
When choosing toys for your dog to chew on, there is one general rule to follow; if it is too hard for you to chew on, it is too hard for your dog as well. Our jaws can move up, down and side to side, but the jaw of a dog can only move up and down. What will give is their tooth, and it will crack. It can be painful to crack a tooth especially if nerves are exposed. Kong toys (or other rubber toys) and stuffed animals can be good, as long as the puppy can't rip them apart.
Jumping up on people is a bad behavior that should be stopped at an early age, when the puppy is small and before it becomes a habit. This is especially a problem with children or elderly adults who can easily get hurt. If the puppy is on a leash, a simple 'Spot, sit!' with an abrupt tug on the leash downward should suffice. This may need to be repeated several times. The dog should only be rewarded when sitting quietly (with a small treat or petting). If s/he is not on a leash, gently but effectively bumping him/her off with your knees and giving the command 'Spot, sit' is needed. If the puppy continues to jump, s/he should be placed in a sitting position and immediately given a reward/praise.
Many adult dogs do not like to be groomed. However, if you begin grooming on a weekly basis while your dog is still young, he will become accustomed to it. Pick a spot that is your 'grooming area'. Smaller dogs do well when placed on a higher surface, such as a table or a washer. Try to keep each grooming session short and as positive as possible.
1. Clean out the ears with a mild cleanser. You can begin by simply playing with your puppy's ears by touching them and rubbing them, getting him/her used to their ears being touched.
2. Brush the coat, especially the difficult areas, such as the back legs and behind the ears.
3. Brush the teeth. You can begin by just using your finger, with no toothpaste, and rub your finger across their teeth, getting them used to the sensation. Once they seem to tolerate this, you can upgrade to a finger toothbrush or piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. When they learn to tolerate this, you can use dog toothpaste. Remember, we (as humans) spit after brushing, as to not swallow fluoride; however, because we can not teach our dogs to spit, it is important to use dog toothpaste that is specially formulated for dogs, with the appropriate amount of ingredients.
4. Clip the toenails. You can begin by FREQUENTLY playing with the puppy's feet, getting them used to their feet being touched. We can instruct you on how to best accomplish this at home. "Quick stop" can be purchased at a pet store in case of mild bleeding. You can also use cooking flour to stop bleeding from the nail.
5. Clean around the eyes with a warm wet washcloth if your dog is prone to eye discharge.
6. Bathing should be done no more than once a month. However, puppies may require frequent spot baths to keep them clean. A puppy or tearless baby shampoo works best.
Spaying and Neutering
For cats and dogs that will not be used for breeding, it is recommended to have them spayed (female) or neutered/castrated (male) at around 6 months of age because of its numerous health benefits.
For a female, the health benefits are vast. The more heats that a female goes through, the higher their risk is to developing a mammary tumor. These tumors can be benign or malignant, but if you can minimize the number of heats they experience, the chances of malignancy will be greatly decreased. If a female is spayed before her first heat cycle, there is only a 0.5% risk of developing mammary gland tumors as compared to an intact dog. There is 8% risk when spaying after the first heat, and 26% risk after the second heat. There is no decrease in risk of developing mammary tumors after 2.5 years. There is risk, though for developing tumors on their uterus or ovaries when un-spayed. Un-spayed cats and dogs can also develop an infection in their uterus called a Pyometra (literally meaning a pus filled uterus) that can be life-threatening and can only be corrected surgically. Lastly, a great reason to spay your female dog is to prevent her from bleeding on your furniture and carpets.
Neutering your male dog is equally as important. Male dogs can develop testicular cancer, and prostate enlargement. These both are completely prevented by neutering. Also, spaying and neutering may decrease aggressive tendencies in both your female and male dogs.
Remember that your pet is required to have pre-anesthetic blood-work done in order to be anesthetized. This ensures that their organ systems can handle the anesthesia. The blood panel evaluates kidney, liver and pancreatic function, as well as a CBC (checking red and white blood cell counts, screening for infection or inflammation). This blood-work can be done at their last booster of vaccines in order to minimize your trips to the hospital.
Fecal analysis is an important part of each wellness visit to the hospital. Puppies have a higher susceptibility to intestinal parasites, and can sometimes even acquire them from their mom. A puppy generally obtains parasites by oral/fecal contamination, which can occur if a puppy is exposed to dog feces. It is best to limit your puppy's exposure to other dogs until their vaccinations are complete. We recommend that you bring a fecal sample at EACH puppy visit, even if there are no parasites seen on the first visit. A fecal sample is screened for parasite eggs, but the parasites are not always in a state of shedding, therefore a negative fecal sample does not always equate to parasite-free. It can sometimes take anywhere from days to weeks for eggs to be shed, so we recommend checking a fecal sample each time they come to the hospital during their puppy vaccination series. This is also important because many dog parasites are zoonotic, which means they can be passed to humans.
In addition to checking for the most common intestinal parasites in dogs (including roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms and coccidia), we also recommend checking for giardia, which is a protozoa that can cause loose stool and vomiting.
Click the image below to look at parasite prevalence maps for your local area!
Flea and Tick Prevention
Fleas and ticks are prevalent in New Jersey, therefore we urge pet owners to take the proper precautions to protect their dogs against them. We recommend the product Frontline™ Plus, which is a once a month topical treatment. Frontline™ starts killing fleas and ticks as soon as they come into contact with your pet, and also keeps future fleas from biting by killing flea eggs and larva before they mature. It can even be used on kittens and puppies as early as 8 weeks of age. It is important that you do not apply Frontline 3 days before or 3 days after a bath because Frontline™ is spread through the oil glands in your pet's skin.
Fleas can cause skin irritation and in severe cases, anemia (from losing so much blood to the flea). There are a variety of tick-borne diseases that dogs can get from ticks, the most common being Lyme disease. We see an average of 1 dog per week positive for Lyme. Preventing potentially life-threatening diseases is the most important benefit from flea and tick prevention.
Heartworm disease is also a risk in New Jersey, as it is spread through mosquitoes. Heartworm disease can affect your cat or dog, so it is important to treat preventatively against this potentially deadly disease. Once a dog is infected with heartworms, treatment can be difficult and expensive. When used as directed, HEARTGARD Plus™ is highly effective in preventing heartworm disease in dogs and puppies as young as 6 weeks old.
In addition to heartworms, your puppy is also at risk for hookworms and roundworms; intestinal parasites that can cause dangerous diseases in pets, and can be passed to people. That's why it is important to provide your dog or puppy with a monthly deworming. HEARTGARD Plus™ also treats and controls hookworms and roundworms – making it the only Real-Beef Chewable that prevents heartworm disease and provides broad protection against other parasites that can threaten your pet.
Vaccines are a large part of your puppy's initial visits. They may have had a few shots from the breeder or pet store before arriving in your care. Vaccines are almost always given in a series, which involves anywhere from 2-4 boosters. Dogs and cats receive passive immunity from their mothers at birth, but this immunity wears off as they age. Vaccines create active immunity and take over where mom left off. Giving multiple boosters creates a cumulative effect on the puppy's immunity. These vaccines are usually started between 6-8 weeks of age. Starting before 6 weeks is unadvisable because while mom's immunity is still present in the puppy, it can block the vaccine, thus making it ineffective. Remember, a vaccinated puppy is a happy, healthy puppy!
There are multiple vaccines available for your puppy. Not all vaccines are indicated for all dogs, so it is best to constantly re-assess the risks that your dog has. We recommend that your dog receive vaccines for what they have risk of getting. Distemper and Rabies are what we call 'core' vaccines, or vaccines that all dogs have risk for. Bordetella, Lyme and Leptospirosis are 'elective' vaccines, and are recommended when there is risk.
The distemper vaccine (abbreviated DA2PP) is a combination vaccine containing five major components; distemper, adenovirus #1 and #2, parainfluenza, and parvovirus. Distemper is a disease that is characterized by diarrhea, fever, seizures, skin lesions and lethargy. It is highly contagious and can be fatal if gone untreated. Adenovirus #1 is characterized by fever, diarrhea, kidney, liver and eye damage, and can cause infectious hepatitis. Adenovirus #2 can cause respiratory disease. Parainfluenza can cause mild fever, nasal discharge, reddened tonsils, and a harsh cough. In healthy dogs, it causes mild infection, but in immune-compromised patients, it can be severe. Parvovirus is an intestinal virus that affects the intestinal lining, lymphoid tissue and bone marrow. It is characterized by diarrhea, vomiting, severe dehydration and a decrease in white blood cell counts. It is spread through direct contact with other dog feces and urine and can be life threatening.
This is the only vaccine in NJ that is required by law. It is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. It affects the brain and central nervous system, and is characterized by aggression or withdrawal, and results in death. Once symptoms develop in an infected animal or human, the virus is always fatal.
Leptospirosis (or Lepto) is a zoonotic disease, which means it can be transmitted to humans. It is caused by the bacterium Leptospira and is transmitted via skin or mucous membranes contact with urine or urine-contaminated food or water. Stagnant water often can be a good reservoir for this bacterium. If your dog has exposure to stagnant water (a lake, or if water pools in your backyard) and you have wild animals around, they are at risk for contracting Lepto. This bacteria is very dangerous, and can cause acute liver and kidney failure and ultimately death. In people, transmission is similar as with dogs; contact with tissues of infected animals or surface waters contaminated by urine from infected animals. The disease varies from sub-clinical to severe and can be fatal when renal or hepatic failure occurs. The most common signs are fever, headaches, rash and flu-like symptoms. Please contact your general practitioner for more information on its effects on humans.
Bordetella is a highly contagious upper respiratory disease that causes kennel cough and sometimes pneumonia. Bordetella is part of the routine vaccination protocol for a puppy due to high socialization rates when young, however it is optional as an adult. If you feel that your dog will ever be boarded in a kennel, have contact with other dogs at a grooming facility or go to a dog park, then the Bordetella vaccine is recommended. If your dog never enters any of these categories, then it can be discontinued as an adult.
One of the newer canine vaccines, like bordetella, this upper respiratory infection is highly contagious. We recommend this vaccine if your pet spends time around other dogs, i.e,. at the kennel for boarding or at the dog park.
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It is a tick-borne disease and is characterized by lameness, fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. In more severe cases, it can even cause kidney disease or death.
Common Items that can Harm Your Dog
- Grapes and Raisins - can cause kidney disease
- Chocolate - can cause hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, and in extreme amounts, seizures and death
- Onions - can cause hemolytic anemia
- Macadamia nuts - may cause vomiting, weakness and depression
- Xylitol - commonly found in gum, can cause weakness, hypoglycemia, liver failure and seizures
- Household plants - many household plants can be toxic to your dog, so it is best to limit their exposure to all plants
- Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) - can cause renal failure
- Rat poison- causes bleeding disorders
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - such as Tylenol (acetaminophen), Ibuprofen and Naproxen can cause kidney and liver damage, and also stomach ulceration
- Batteries - can cause ulceration of tissue, and also foreign body obstructions
Frequently Asked Questions
- When will my dog's teeth fall out?
Generally, your puppy's teeth should start to fall out around 3-4 months. They will continue to fall out until about 6-7 months. You may find them on the ground, or your puppy may even swallow them, either situation being fine.
- Am I feeding my puppy enough?
To know whether you are feeding your puppy enough, you should do 2 things: follow the feeding instructions on the back of your dog-food bag for your puppy's weight, and also monitor the growth of your puppy and make sure that they continue to gain weight, but not too much weight. This is something that will require your attention over time. You should be able to feel your dog's ribcage, but not see the ribs. Also, after their ribs, you should see a slight tuck in their waist. These things will let you know that your dog is an appropriate weight.
- How do dogs get worms? How do I know if my dog has worms? Can I get them?
Your puppy can get intestinal parasites (worms) from oral-fecal contamination of another infected animal. There are a few ways you may know your puppy has worms, but the best way to know for sure is to run a fecal analysis (remember, some parasites do not shed eggs immediately, so it is important to check a fecal sample at EACH puppy visit). You may also see worm segments in your puppy's stool. They can look like grains of rice, or thin spaghetti. If your puppy has a bloated stomach or has loose stool, s/he may have parasites, but be sure to let a doctor know, as there are other causes of loose stool. And lastly, yes, there are some parasites that humans can get. Be sure to wash your hands frequently, especially following a walk.
- When can I start puppy training?
It is best to ask the trainer that you are planning to use how many vaccines they require before starting training. At Princeton Animal Hospital, though, we recommend waiting until their entire puppy series is completed (including their Rabies). To be on the safe side, it is best to wait to make sure that their immune system is ready to handle new stresses and other dogs that may possibly be sick.
- Can I bathe my dog? How often, and what shampoo should I use?
It is best to only bathe your dog if it is needed. So, believe it or not, if your dog does not get dirty or smelly, then you could conceivably never bathe your dog! If you do bathe your dog, though, you should refrain from bathing more frequently than once every 2 weeks, unless they are jumping in mud puddles, or truly get filthy more frequently. Bathing too much can dry and irritate the skin. It is best to use a mild or oatmeal based shampoo.
- How often should I take him out?
When your dog is a puppy, it is best to take them out FREQUENTLY. The most important times include, but not limited to, first thing in the morning, after every nap, shortly after a meal, and prior to any crating, including right before bedtime. Try to give a lot of praise when your puppy goes outside, and say no when they go in the house (although do not scold the puppy if you find an accident and do not know when it was done, because they may not be able to associate why they are being scolded. Try to only do this when you catch them in the act).
Important Telephone Numbers
Boarding for Dogs
Bed and Biscuit (908) 874-7748
Golden Grange (609) 324-3647
Amber Beech(215) 493-2201
Windy Hill(609) 259-2540
All Good Dogs(609) 497-1511
P.S. With Love(609) 689-3585
Personal Touch(609) 897-9243
Professional Pet Sitter(609) 393-7476
Noah's Ark(609) 371-2380
Camp Bow Wow(609) 689-3547
Flowers Mills(215) 752-1010
Dan Gentile(609) 689-3585
The Dog Training Co(609) 987-1117
On Good Behavior(609) 897-9243
Bark Busters(609) 393-7476
Heavenly Hounds TrainingWebsite
Pet Smart(609) 520-9200
Dapper Dogs(609) 921-2161
Bed and Biscuit(908) 874-7748
The Pet Station(609) 921-8335
Canine Grooming Gallery(609) 466-3613