Puppy Behavior and Training – Handling and Food Bowl Exercises


 What are handling exercises, and why might they be useful?

Exercises that use gentle and positive handling can help to increase the enjoyment and decrease any fear associated with handling and restraint. In addition, they provide a means for achieving a relaxed state, which might then be used if the dog begins to get excited or aroused. Verbal and physical exercises can and should also be used to help achieve a relaxed state. While the physical contact and attention you provide may be sufficiently reinforcing for most puppies, food treats can also be paired with handling to mark and reward the desirable response.

One important principle to always keep in mind is that the hand should always be an indication that something good is about to happen (e.g., the hand is a friend). This means that physical punishment and forceful handling must be avoided.


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Training Your Puppy to Come, Wait, and Follow



How can I get my puppy to come when called?

Teaching a puppy to “come” on command is a very difficult but important task.

Start early because a puppy that will come when called is safer! In addition, most young puppies do not like to stray too far from their owners. All it takes is a kneeling owner and a happy “come” command, and your young puppy may willingly approach (without the need for any food or toy prompt). Similarly, most young puppies will automatically come and follow as you walk away.

However, by 3 to 4 months of age, as puppies become a little more independent and exploratory, more appealing rewards may be needed. The two most important rules about teaching your puppy to come to you are to set up the puppy for success (so that you never fail) and to ensure that each training session is simple, fun and pleasurable.

“Never call your puppy to you for discipline!”

Start by backing away from your puppy 1 to 3 feet and wiggle a food treat or a favored toy (prompt) in front of its nose. At the same time say the puppy’s name and “come.” Use a happy inviting tone of voice. When your puppy comes to you, praise it lavishly and give the treat or toy. Then repeat. Start by only moving short distances, and then gradually have the puppy come further to reach you. Reinforce this task by calling your puppy multiple times daily, giving a pat or a food treat and sending it on its way. Try to avoid only calling the puppy to you to bring it inside, to put it in its crate or to otherwise end something fun. Be sure to spend time calling the puppy over and then releasing it; this will help the puppy learn that by coming to you, good things happen. Remember it is critical to succeed with every training session. Stay close to the puppy, make certain that there are no distractions and proceed slowly.

Over time, the puppy should be very slowly taught to come from progressively farther distances and in environments with a greater number of distractions. If there is any chance that the puppy might escape or disobey, have the puppy wear a long remote leash (which can be left dangling as the puppy wanders and investigates). Then if the puppy does not immediately obey the “come” command, a gentle tug of the leash can be used to get the puppy’s attention, and a repeated command in an upbeat, happy voice (along with a food or toy prompt) should ensure that the “come” command is successful and rewarding.

How can I teach my new puppy to “wait” or “follow”?

Teaching a puppy to “wait” or “follow” are extensions of the other tasks you should have already taught. To teach your puppy to follow at your side (heel), use a food treat, place it by your thigh and entice the puppy both vocally and with the food to “heel.” As the puppy follows its nose to stay near the treat, it will also be learning to heel

For dogs that constantly walk ahead or pull, teaching your dog to follow should begin in a location where there are few distractions, such as in your backyard. To ensure success you should keep a leash or leash and head collar on your dog. Begin with a “sit-stay” command, and give a reward. Start to walk forward and encourage your dog to follow or heel as above, using a food reward held by your thigh. Be certain to allow only a few inches of slack on the leash so that if your dog tries to run past you, you can pull up and forward on the leash so that the puppy returns to your side. Once the puppy is back in the proper position (by your side for “heel” or behind you for “follow”), provide a little slack in the leash and begin to walk forward again. Continue walking with verbal reinforcement and occasional food rewards given as the dog follows. Each time the dog begins to pass you or pull ahead, pull up and forward on the leash and release as the dog backs up.

“Training sessions should begin when there are no external stimuli outdoors.”

Although the dog could be made to sit each time it pulls forward, the goal is to have the dog return to your side. In fact, what your puppy is learning is that if he wants to walk forward he will only succeed if he keeps the leash slack. Another method to keep the dog walking by your side or behind is to turn and walk in the other direction. Remember to reward or praise as long as the leash remains loose. If the dog “puts on the brakes” and will not follow, all you need to do is release the tension and verbally encourage the dog to follow. Once you have the dog successfully heeling in the yard with no distractions, you can proceed to the front yard and the street, at first with no distractions, until good control is achieved ( see Teaching Loose Leash Walks, Backing Up, and Turning Away, Training Products – Collars and Harnesses, Training Products – Head Halter Training, Training Products – Head Halter Training – Synopsis, and Training Products – To Choke or Not to Choke) all on our website at www.snelgrovevet.com under the Pet Health tab.

How can I teach my dog to wait?

dog-trainingAlthough much the same as “stay,” this command is important for the dog that might otherwise bound out the front door, lunge forward to greet people and other dogs, or run across a busy street. Begin with “sit-stay” training, until the dog responds well in situations where there are few distractions such as indoors or in your backyard. Next, find a situation where the dog might try to pull ahead, such as at the front door, so that you can begin to teach the “wait” command. Training sessions should begin when there are no external stimuli outdoors (other dogs, people) that might increase your dog’s motivation to run out the door. Use a leash or leash and head collar to ensure control. Begin with a “sit-stay” by the front door. While standing between your dog and the door, and with only a few inches of slack on the leash, give the wait command and open the door. If the dog remains in place for a few seconds, begin to walk out the door and allow your dog to follow. Then repeat, with longer waits at each training session. If however, when you open the door or begin to walk out, your dog runs ahead of you, you should pull up on the leash, have your dog sit, release, give the “wait” command and repeat until successful. Once your dog will successfully wait for a few seconds and follow you out the door, gradually increase the waiting time, and then try with distractions (dogs or people on the front walk). This training should also be tried as you walk across the street (having him ‘wait’ while you look both ways at the street before proceeding to cross), or before your dog is allowed to greet new people or dogs it meets.


Debra Horwitz, DVM, DACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, DACVB, DECAWBM
© Copyright 2013 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.


House Training your Puppy

How long will it take to housetrain my puppy?

All it requires are a few basic rules to house-train puppies within a short amount of time, sometimes as little as a few days to a few weeks. This does not mean that the puppy will be able to be trusted to wander throughout the home without eliminating. What the puppy should quickly learn is where it should eliminate, and the consequences of eliminating indoors when the owner is supervising. However, anytime your puppy is unsupervised and eliminates indoors, this can further delay successful housetraining since the puppy will have learned that there are alternate indoor elimination areas that can be used without untoward consequence.

“The goal of housetraining is to encouragehouse_training
and reinforce desirable elimination.”

The goal of housetraining is to encourage and reinforce desirable elimination. Do not focus on trying to teach your puppy where it is not allowed to eliminate, as there are literally hundreds of locations in your home where your puppy might have to be deterred.


What site should I choose?

It is advisable to select a site that has an easy and direct access to the outdoors. Puppies may more easily learn where to eliminate if a single location is used. Over time, the location, the substrate (surface underfoot) and the small amounts of residual odor help to establish a more regular habit of returning to the area. If you do not have immediate access to the outdoors (e.g. high rise living) or if your schedule requires that you leave your pet longer than it can control itself, you might need to train your pet to an indoor litter area. If this is your best option, you can follow the same procedures outlined below, but will instead take your pet to its litter area, rather than to the outdoors. Paper training, discussed below, is another option. However, it may be more difficult to train your pet to eliminate at one site (e.g. indoor litter) and also expect it to eliminate in other sites (e.g. outdoors).


How do I housetrain my puppy?

To housetrain a puppy quickly and efficiently, follow the steps below:

A.  Puppies have a strong urge to eliminate after sleeping, playing, feeding and drinking. Take your puppy to its selected elimination area within 30 minutes of each of these activities.

“…most puppies need to eliminate every 3 to 4 hours during the daytime.”

In addition, although some puppies can control themselves through the entire night, most puppies need to eliminate every 3 to 4 hours during the daytime. With each passing month, you can expect your puppy to control itself a little longer between elimination times. The puppy should be taken to its elimination area, given a word or two of verbal encouragement (e.g. ‘Hurry up’) and as soon as elimination is completed, lavishly praised and patted. A few tasty food treats can also be given the first few times the puppy eliminates in the right spot, and then intermittently thereafter. This teaches the puppy the proper place to eliminate, and that elimination in that location is associated with rewards. Some puppies may learn to eliminate when they hear the cue words (‘Hurry up’).

B.  If you take your puppy to the elimination site and your puppy is only interested in playing and investigating the environment, take the puppy indoors after about 10 minutes and strictly supervise him until you can try again, approximately each half hour. Always accompany your puppy outdoors so that you can be certain that it has eliminated. When you first start house training, be certain to reward elimination immediately upon completion and not when the puppy comes back indoors.

C.  When indoors, your puppy must be supervised so that you can see when it needs to eliminate and immediately take it outdoors to its elimination area. One of the best techniques is to leave a remote lead attached. Should pre-elimination signs (circling, squatting, sneaking-off, heading to the door) occur, immediately take the dog to its elimination site, give the cue words, and reward the puppy when it eliminates. If the puppy begins to eliminate indoors you must be supervising so that you can immediately interrupt the behavior, such as with a verbal reprimand or shaker can.

“…the goal is to train the puppy where to eliminate though supervision and rewards.”

Then take the puppy outdoors to complete elimination at the proper site. Rather than use punishment to deter undesirable elimination, the goal is to train the puppy where to eliminate though supervision and rewards. Watch the puppy closely for signs it needs to eliminate and soon the puppy will learn to exhibit these signs to get your attention that it needs to go outdoors.

D.  When you are not available to supervise, the puppy should be confined to its confinement area (see our handout on ‘Crate Training in Dogs’). Be certain that your puppy has eliminated, and has had sufficient play and exercise before any lengthy confinement. Establish a daily routine that helps your puppy learn when it is time to play, eat, exercise, sleep, and eliminate (see our handout on ‘Training Dogs – Enrichment, Predictability and Scheduling’). If the confinement area is small enough, such as a pen or crate, many puppies will have sufficient control to keep this area clean. This means that when you come to release the puppy from confinement, it must be taken directly to its elimination area. Puppies will generally avoid soiling their crate if they use their crates as a sleeping or play area. However, puppies that are anxious or distressed about being confined to the crate are likely to soil. In addition, if the area is too large the puppy may soil in a portion of the confinement area. If the puppy needs to be left for longer than it can control itself, it should be confined to a small room or pen where paper is spread over the floor for elimination except for a corner that contains the puppy’s bed and feeding area. Once the puppy starts to limit its elimination to some selected areas of the paper, unused areas can be taken up. For owners that intend to continue to use paper for training, the puppy should be supervised when released from confinement, and returned to the paper (and reinforced) for elimination.


Why does my puppy refuse to eliminate in my presence, even when outdoors?

Puppies that are disciplined and punished for indoor elimination rather than reinforced for outdoor elimination may soon begin to fear to eliminate whenever you are present, regardless of the location. These puppies do not associate the punishment with indoor elimination; they associate the punishment with the presence of the owners. For some puppies, standing quietly off to the side may allow them time to eliminate. It is best if you can be close by, but each puppy is an individual and some may need more space than others before feeling comfortable enough to eliminate.


What do I do if I find some stool or urine in an inappropriate spot?

There is no point in punishing or even pointing out the problem to the puppy. Only if the puppy is in the act of elimination will it understand the consequences (rewards or punishment). In fact, it is not the puppy that has erred; it is the owner who has erred by not properly supervising. Put the puppy elsewhere, clean up the mess and vow to supervise the puppy more closely in the future.


How can I teach my puppy to signal that it needs to go out to eliminate?

By regularly taking the dog outdoors, through the same door, to the same site, and providing rewards for proper elimination, the puppy should soon learn to head for the door each time it has to eliminate. If you recognize the signs of impending elimination and praise the puppy whenever it heads for the doorway, the behavior can be further encouraged. Puppies that have been interrupted or reprimanded on one or more occasions as they begin to eliminate indoors, may begin to try to sneak away, whine or show some form of anxiety when they feel the urge to eliminate but cannot escape from the owner’s sight. If you can pick up on these cues, and take the puppy directly to the outdoors for elimination and reward, the puppy may consistently begin to show these signals when he or she needs to eliminate, and may even begin to take you to the exit door.

“Some puppies can be taught to ring a bell or bark to let you know it needs to go outside.”

Further into the process, some puppies can be taught to ring a bell or bark to let you know it needs to go outside to eliminate. For either of these to be effective, you first must constantly supervise your puppy so you can see the signs of a full bladder or bowel (restlessness, agitation) and quickly take them to the exit location, ring the bell or get them to bark and go outside. Over time the puppy should learn that the signal would get the door open. However, do not rely on signaling until it reliably happens or the puppy will end up eliminating indoors instead.


When will I be able to trust my puppy to wander loose throughout the home?

Generally you will want your dog to have been error free around the house for about a month before you can begin to decrease your confinement and supervision. The first time you leave the puppy unsupervised should be just after taking the dog outdoors for elimination. Gradually increase the length of time that your dog is allowed to roam through the home without supervision while you are home. If the dog has been able to go unsupervised for a couple of hours without an “accident”, it might then be possible to begin going out for short periods of time. Of course, if the dog still investigates and chews, then confinement and supervision may still be necessary.

If you would like further information about house-training your puppy, take a look on our website’s Pet Health section at www.snelgrovevet.com or give us a call at Snelgrove Vet Services, Brampton, ON. CANADA – 905-846-3316.


Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB
© Copyright 2009 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.


Preparing Your Puppy for a Lifetime of Good Hygiene

Who wants a dirty dog? Clean dogs are usually healthy dogs, but practicing good hygiene takes practice! If the “practice” starts during puppy-hood, chances are keeping your dog clean throughout his life will be easy.

Why is hygiene a concern?








In the wild, dogs maintain their own hygiene without human intervention, but this level of cleanliness is seldom adequate for human interaction. While most dogs aren’t offended by the smell of their canine friends, humans are. And while dirty feet in the forest aren’t a problem, muddy paws on the living room carpet are a big no-no.

Humans and dogs have different ideas about what counts as “dirty” so the regimen we impose on our pets may be contrary to their nature. Dogs don’t instinctively brush their teeth or take a bath, so we must orient them as pups to the hygiene requirements of domestic life with humans.

How do I get my dog used to being brushed?

Pups usually respond positively to a gradual introduction of brushing. First, get your pup accustomed to your touch. Hold your pup while rubbing your hands gently, but firmly, down his back in slow strokes which are more calming than brisk ones. Rub his tummy, legs, and feet. Then rub his neck and ears. Speak quietly to your pup as you massage him. Repeat 5 minute sessions several times a day. When your pup readily lets you touch him, try using a soft bristle brush.

If at any point your dog resists, squirms, or cries, stop at once but do not release him. Continue to hold him and talk to him until he calms down.  When he quiets down, reward him with praise or a treat and resume brushing.

How do I get my dog used to taking a bath?

Bathing should be a relaxing experience. As newborns, pups enjoy being licked by their mothers, so let’s take a few pointers from mama dogs. First, make sure the water is warmed to body temperature (like mother’s saliva). Mama dog doesn’t splash her pup, so neither should we. Gently pour water over the pup starting with the torso and moving to the feet. Use a damp cloth to wash the face without getting water in the pup’s eyes. You may apply an approved ophthalmic lubricant to the eyes to protect them from irritation. Use an approved puppy shampoo and gently lather the coat with firm, slow strokes. Rinse the pup with warm water making sure all the suds are removed. Never use human shampoo nor dish soap, it’s drying to the skin and can cause itchiness.

“Bathing should be a relaxing experience.”

If you bathe your dog in the bathroom, introduce her to the tub or shower prior to the actual washing. Place her in the tub or shower without turning on the water, speak to her calmly and offer a treat to encourage positive feelings about the bathroom.  A non-slip mat will make her feel more secure in the slick tub or shower.

How do I dry my dog while keeping it positive?

Wet dogs shake, so if you don’t want a shower yourself, step back when your dog exits the tub or shower. Use a towel with slow, firm movements to dry your dog. You can then replace the wet towel with a warmed from the dryer towel to further dry off. To introduce your dog to an electric hair dryer, place it on the floor and let her investigate for a bit. Then place the dog a distance away from the dryer and turn it on low/cool setting. Gradually approach her with the dryer angled away from her face. Increase the heat setting when she feels secure. Pets should always be dried completely to avoid ‘hot-spots’ (moist pyoderma)

How do I get my dog used to clipping/grooming?

Whether you groom your dog at home or seek the help of a professional, the experience can be scary for pups. The sight, sound, smell, and sensation of electric clippers can be frightful.  Use the hair dryer introduction process for the clippers.  When the pup tolerates the sight and sound of the clippers, turn them off before touching them to his coat. Let him feel the weight of the clippers as you gently move them along the growth pattern of the fur. Finally, turn the clippers on and trim a little hair. Keep initial grooming sessions brief.

How do I get my dog used to having his teeth brushed?

Although dogs clean some tartar from their teeth by chewing dry food, they simply cannot do enough to deter periodontal disease in the long run. Human intervention is required to postpone health complications (e.g. heart disease, kidney failure) related to poor dental health. As with most aspects of canine hygiene, brushing teeth doesn’t come naturally for pups.

“Human intervention is required to postpone
health complications related to poor dental health.”

The first step involves acclimatizing the pup to having his mouth handled. Begin by gently rubbing your pup’s muzzle several times a day followed by raising his lips and rubbing his gums with your fingers.  Next, cover your finger with gauze or a damp face cloth and rub his gums along the tooth line. Then introduce a toothbrush and toothpaste.

Use a toothbrush and toothpaste approved for dogs. Pups don’t swish and spit, so toothpaste must be safe when swallowed. Human toothpaste can upset a pup’s stomach. Using a small amount of your dog’s toothpaste, brush the teeth next to the gum line in back and forth strokes (not up and down). Do the incisors (the small teeth along the front) first, then the left and right sides. Open the dog’s mouth and brush the inner surface (tongue side) of the teeth. The tongue helps clean this side of the teeth, so minor brushing should suffice. Eating usually keeps the chewing surfaces of the teeth clean, so brushing here may not be needed at all.  Brush your dog’s teeth 2-3 times a week.

What else to we need to practice?

You’ll also want to get your dog used to nail trimming and ear cleaning – please see the articles on these topics for in-depth information on our website’s Pet Health section.

Good hygiene takes practice, but starting early will make keeping your pup clean easier for his entire life.

Lynn Buzhardt, DVM
© Copyright 2015 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

Puppy – Recommendations for New Owners





Congratulations on your new puppy. Owning a dog can be an extremely rewarding experience, but it is also a large responsibility that lasts the entire lifetime of the puppy. We hope this handout will give you the information needed to make some excellent decisions regarding the care of your puppy. Our website has many detailed fact sheets on many of the subjects that are briefly mentioned in this handout. Go to http://www.snelgrovevet.com and click on the Pet Health tab.

If you have questions concerning any subject related to your puppy’s health, please feel free to call our hospital. Our entire professional staff is available to help you.

When should my puppy visit the veterinarian?

Most puppies will begin going to the veterinarian at two to three weeks of age for an initial health-check and de-worming and then at six to eight weeks of age to begin immunizations, heartworm and flea preventive treatments, receive behavior and training advice and get permanently identified with a microchip. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s recommended exam schedule to ensure that your puppy receives proper protection and that you receive timely and appropriate advice.

When should my puppy be vaccinated?

There are many fatal diseases of dogs. Fortunately, we have the ability to prevent several of these by vaccinating your puppy. In order to be effective, these vaccines must be given as a series of injections. Ideally, they are given at about 6 to 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age, but the recommended vaccines and schedule of injections may vary depending on your pet’s individual needs.

“Core vaccination schedule will protect your puppy from several common diseases…”

The core vaccination schedule will protect your puppy from several common diseases: distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, bordatella, leptospirosis and rabies. The first three are generally included in one injection that is given at 6 to 8, 12, and 16 weeks old. Some puppies will receive an additional booster vaccination at 20 weeks of age. Rabies vaccines are given at 12 to 16 weeks of age.

Why does my puppy need more than one vaccination?

When the puppy nurses its mother, it receives a temporary form of immunity through the colostrum, the milk that is produced in the first days after delivery of the puppies. Colostrum contains high levels of maternal antibodies that can provide passive protection against diseases that the mother has been exposed to, either naturally or by vaccination. This passive immunity is of benefit during the first few weeks of the puppy’s life, but at some point, its levels decline and the puppy must be able to develop its own active long-lasting immunity. Vaccinations are used to provide this long-lasting protection.

As long as the mother’s antibodies are present, vaccinations are unable to stimulate the puppy’s immune system because the mother’s antibodies neutralize the vaccine.

Many factors determine when the puppy will be able to respond to vaccinations. These include the level of immunity in the mother at the time of birth, how many antibodies the nursing puppy absorbed, and the general health of the puppy. Since we do not know when an individual puppy will lose its short-term maternal immunity, we give a series of vaccinations. The goal is for at least two of these to fall into the time-frame when the puppy has lost immunity from its mother but has not yet been exposed to disease. A single vaccination, even if effective, is not likely to stimulate long-term immunity, which is critically important.

Rabies vaccine is an exception to this, since one injection given at the proper time is enough to produce long-term immunity due to the lack of maternal antibody interference.

How can I provide permanent identification for my dog?

The most widely recommend pet identification device is the microchip. This tiny device is implanted with a needle much like administering an injection. A special scanner can detect these chips; veterinary hospitals, humane societies, and animal shelters across the country have these scanners. A national registry assists in the identification and return of microchipped pets throughout the United States and Canada.

The microchip can be quickly and painlessly implanted during any regular veterinary appointment. Ideally, you should have your puppy identified with this permanent form of identification at its first puppy visit.

Do all puppies have worms?


Intestinal parasites are very common in puppies. Puppies can become infected with some types of intestinal worms before they are born or later through their mother’s milk. The microscopic examination of a stool sample will usually help us to determine the presence of most intestinal parasites. We recommend this exam for all puppies, especially during their first few veterinary office visits.

“We recommend the routine use of a deworming medication that is safe and effective against several of the common worms…”

Even if we do not get a stool sample, we recommend the routine use of a deworming medication that is safe and effective against several of the common worms of the dog. We do this because our deworming medication has little, if any, side effects and because your puppy does not pass worm eggs every day so the stool sample may not detect worms that are present but not shedding eggs. Additionally, some of these internal parasites can be transmitted to humans.  It is important that the deworming is repeated because it only kills the adult worms.

“Within three to four weeks, the larval stages of the intestinal parasites will become adults and need to be removed.”

Within three to four weeks, the larval stages of the intestinal parasites will become adults and need to be removed. Dogs remain susceptible to re-infection with hookworms, whipworms and roundworms throughout their life. Periodic deworming throughout the dog’s life is recommended.

Tapeworms are another common intestinal parasite. Tapeworms require an intermediate host, meaning that tapeworms are not passed from dog to dog. Depending on the type of tapeworm, puppies become infected with them when they swallow fleas or when they eat contaminated raw meat or infected mice, birds or rabbits.

Dogs infected with tapeworms will intermittently pass small segments of the worms in their stool. The segments are white in color and look like grains of rice or cucumber seeds. They are about an eighth of an inch (1/8 inch or 3 mm) long and may be seen crawling on the surface of the stool. They may also stick to the hair under the tail. If that occurs, they will dry out, shrink to about half their size, and become golden or light brown in color. If you observe tapeworm segments on your dog’s stool, please collect them and bring them into the clinic for identification so that we can provide the appropriate drug for treatment.


What can be done about fleas on my puppy?

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of the flea life cycle is spent off the dog. The egg, larva, and pupa feed and develop in the environment. Therefore, flea control must include treatment of the environment as well as the pet. Many of the flea control products that are safe on adult dogs are not safe for puppies less than two to three months of age. Be sure that any flea product you use is labeled safe for puppies.

What are heartworms?

Heartworms are parasites that affect the bloodstream, especially during warm and humid seasons when mosquitoes are most prevalent. They live in the dog’s bloodstream and cause major damage to the heart and lungs and often result in death. Heartworms are transmitted by the bite of mosquitoes. Heartworm preventives are dosed according to your dog’s weight. As the weight increases, the dosage should also increase. They are very safe and effective if used as directed. Many of these products also protect your dog against certain intestinal parasites and external parasites such as fleas.

What are ear mites?

Ear mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal of dogs and cats. The most common sign of ear mite infection is violent and persistent scratching of the ears. Sometimes the ears will appear dirty because of a black material in the ear canal. The tiny mites can be seen with magnification, either directly in the ear with an otoscope, or by examining a sample of the ear discharge under a microscope. Ear mites spend the vast majority of their lives within the protection of the ear canal and transmission requires direct contact with an infected animal. Ear mites are more common in cats than in dogs.

In dogs, ear infections are the most common cause of a dark discharge in the ear canals. It is important that we examine your puppy to differentiate between infection and ear mites.

There are lots of choices of dog foods. What should I feed my puppy?

Diet is extremely important during the growing months of a dog’s life. We recommend a NAME-BRAND FOOD made by a national dog food company (not a generic or local brand) and a diet MADE FOR PUPPIES. This should be fed until your puppy is about twelve to eighteen months of age, depending on its breed and size. You should only buy brands that have been certified by an independent organization as complete and balanced. In Canada, look for foods approved by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) or foods that are labeled as having undergone rigid testing with food trials. For optimal brain and eye development, the puppy food should contain high levels of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid.

We tend to recommended Purina Essential Care, Hill’s Healthy Advantage and Royal Canin Development to name a few. You can talk to any of our staff members to help you make an informed food choice. All of these foods are available on our webstore and many are equivalently priced to those in pet retail stores.

Feeding a dry or canned of puppy food is acceptable as long as the label states that the food is intended for growth and/or development and is “complete and balanced.”  This means that the food is nutritionally complete and meets the needs of growth and development.


Each of the types of food has advantages and disadvantages. Dry food is definitely the most inexpensive. It can be left in the dog’s bowl without spoilage for longer periods of time than canned or moist foods. Canned foods can be a good choice to feed your dog, but is considerably more expensive than other forms of food. Canned foods contain a high percentage of water, and their texture, odor, and taste are very appealing. However, canned food will dry out or spoil if left out for prolonged periods of time. Canned food is generally more suitable for meal feeding rather than free choice feeding.

Table or people foods are not usually recommended for pets. Because they are usually very tasty, dogs will often begin to refuse their well-balanced dog food in favor of table food. If you choose to give your puppy table food, be sure that at least ninety percent of its diet is from a quality commercial puppy food.

We enjoy a variety of things to eat in our diet. However, most dogs actually prefer not to change from one food to another unless they are trained to do so by the way you feed them. Do not feel guilty if your dog is happy eating the same food day after day, week after week.

“Commercials for dog food can be very misleading.”

Commercials for dog food can be very misleading. If you watch carefully, you will notice that commercials often promote dog food based on TASTE, SHAPE OR CONSISTENCY. Nutrition is rarely mentioned. Most of the “gourmet” foods are marketed to appeal to owners who want the best for their dogs; however, they do not offer the dog any nutritional advantage over a good quality dry food, and they are far more expensive. If you read the labels of many of the gourmet foods, they will list ingredients in the way we want to read them. Many times listing ingredients based on initial weight, not dry-weight, as it is actually used. Things like blueberries, cranberries and other such ingredients may actually be in minute amounts.


How often should I feed my puppy?

There are several “right” ways to feed puppies.

“Meal feeding means that the puppy is fed at specific times of the day.”

The most popular method is commonly called “meal feeding”. This means that the puppy is fed at specific times of the day. A measured amount of food should be offered four times per day for five to twelve week old puppies. What is not eaten within thirty minutes is taken up. If the food is eaten within three to four minutes, the quantity is probably not sufficient. Puppies fed in this manner generally begin to cut back on one of those meals by three to four months of age and perhaps another one later. Usually the puppy will appear less hungry at one of its meals; if this occurs for several days in a row, it is time to discontinue that meal. Two meals per day is the optimal feeding schedule for adult dogs.

“Free choice feeding,” means that food is available at all times. This works well with dry foods and for some dogs. However, other dogs tend to overeat and become overweight or obese. If there is weight gain after the optimal size is reached at around twelve to eighteen months of age, this method of feeding should be discontinued.

What is normal play behavior of a healthy puppy?

It is very important that you provide stimulating play for your puppy, especially during the first week in its new home.

“Running, chasing and fetching are important play behaviors in puppies and are necessary for proper muscular development.”

Running, chasing and fetching are important play behaviors in puppies and are necessary for proper muscular development. Chewing and biting are common ways for puppies to investigate new things. Your puppy will be less likely to use family members or their possessions for these activities if you provide adequate puppy-safe toys. The best toys are lightweight, pliable and durable, without attachments such as eyes that can be bitten off and swallowed. Any toy that is small enough to be swallowed should be avoided. We can help you choose the safest toys for your new puppy.

How should I discipline a puppy?

Disciplining a young puppy may be necessary if its behavior threatens people or property, but harsh or physical punishment should be avoided. Hand clapping and using shaker cans or horns can be intimidating enough to inhibit most undesirable behaviors. However, remote punishment is preferred. Remote punishment consists of using something that appears unrelated to the punisher to stop the problem behavior. Examples include using spray bottles, throwing objects in the direction of the puppy to startle (but not hit) it, and making loud noises. Remote punishment is preferred because the puppy associates interruption or punishment with the undesirable act and not with you.

How do I housebreak my new puppy?


Housebreaking should begin as soon as your puppy enters his new home. How long the training must continue depends on both the puppy and you. Some pups are housebroken faster than others. Your dog wants to please you. But a puppy’s memory is short, so your patience is important. A home with a poorly trained puppy is not a happy home for you or the puppy.

The simplest way to housebreak a puppy is to use “crate-training”. The puppy’s bed may be a box or crate, open at one end and slightly larger than the puppy. If the crate is too large, the puppy may defecate or urinate in a corner of the crate rather than go outside when training occurs. If the crate is smaller, the puppy will more likely do its “business” outside rather than soil its bed. You may place a box or other space-occupying object in the back of the crate to make it smaller and remove it as the puppy grows in size. Enclose the bed or crate in a small area, such as a laundry room. Cover this area with newspapers to be used at night, or when your pup is left unsupervised.

Another common housebreaking tool is creating a “scent post.” A scent post is naturally created when your puppy urinates and defecates in any place. This is one of the reasons puppies will return to the area of an “accident” in the house and repeatedly urinate or defecate in that area. The solution is to locate the scent post in the place you want it.

To create a scent post, take the puppy to the area in the yard where you want them defecate and urinate. Leave a small amount of feces in this area. The first thing in the morning, the puppy should be scooted to the scent post. This is so he can learn his way to the door and the scent post. Let him sniff about. The moment he has relieved himself, pat him on the head and immediately bring him into the house. Do not let him play about. The toilet period and play period should be definitely separated in the puppy’s routine.

After relieving himself, the puppy should be fed. In a short while, the puppy will become uneasy and walk in circles sniffing at the floor. The puppy should then be scooted and coaxed to the scent post as quickly as possible. This routine should be repeated every hour or two throughout the day, especially after meals and naps.

When the puppy is taken out to play, it is wise to leave the house by another door and avoid taking him near his scent post. Never play with your pup until after he has been taken out and has eliminated.

There will of course be some “accidents” in the house during the first few weeks. We do not recommend scolding or otherwise verbally punishing your pet. Scolding him even 5 minutes after the offense is too late – the puppy will only associate the scolding with your presence at the same time as the “accident”, not your displeasure at the mishap. Keep in mind it is far more effective to reward good behavior than to scold unwanted behaviors. Any soiled areas in the house must be scrubbed thoroughly until all odors are gone. Your veterinarian will recommend cleaning products that will help neutralize any scent from urination or defecation.

Positive reinforcement of proper urine and bowel habits is just as important as properly applied discipline. When your puppy urinates or defecates in the correct place, spend several minutes stroking and praising him.

How do I ensure that my puppy is well socialized?


The socialization period for dogs generally occurs between four and twelve weeks of age. During that time, the puppy is very impressionable to social influences. If it has good experiences with men, women, children, cats, other dogs, and so forth, it is likely to accept them throughout life. If the experiences are absent or unpleasant, it may become apprehensive or adverse to any of them. Therefore, during the period of socialization, we encourage you to expose your dog to as many types of social events and influences as possible. Puppy “kindergarten” and puppy training classes are ideal opportunities to socialize your pup.

My puppy seems to be constantly chewing. Why does this occur?

Chewing is a normal puppy behavior. Almost all of a puppy’s 28 baby teeth are present by about 4 weeks of age. They begin to fall out at about 3 ½ to 4 months of age and are replaced by the 42 adult (permanent) teeth by about 6-7 months of age. Therefore, chewing is a puppy characteristic that you can expect until at least 6-7 months of age, if not longer. It is important that you do what you can to direct your puppy’s chewing toward acceptable objects. You should provide puppy-safe items such as nylon chew bones and other chew toys so other objects are spared. Avoid hard rubber or plastic toys as they can break teeth, and avoid bones since they can fragment and become obstructed in the intestinal tract.

My puppy has episodes of hiccuping and a strange odor to its breath. Is this normal?

“Puppies experience episodes of hiccuping…”

Yes. Many puppies experience episodes of hiccuping that may last several minutes when they are young. This is normal and only lasts a few weeks or months. All puppies have a characteristic odor to their breath that is commonly called “puppy breath”. Some of the distinctive odor is caused by teething. This odor is normal and will last only until the puppy matures in a few months.

How should I trim my puppy’s toenails?

Puppies have very sharp toenails. When the puppy is young, you can use your fingernail or toenail clippers to trim off the sharp tips. As the puppy gets older, you will need to use nail trimmers made for dogs. If you take too much off the nail, you will cut into the “quick” and bleeding and pain will occur. If this happens, neither you nor your dog will want to do this again. Some guidelines for nail trimming include:

  • If your dog has clear or white nails, you can often see the pink of the quick through the nail. If you avoid the pink area, you should be safely away from the quick.
  • If your dog has black nails, you will not be able to see the quick so only cut 1/32″ (1 mm) of the nail at a time until the dog begins to get sensitive. The sensitivity will usually occur before you cut into the blood vessel. With black nails, it is likely that you will get too close on at least one nail. With some nails, you can have an assistant use a flashlight to illuminate the side of the nail to determine where the quick is, and use that as a guide.
  • If your dog has some clear and some black nails, use the average clear nail as a guide for cutting the black ones.

    “When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers.”

  • When cutting nails, use sharp trimmers. Dull trimmers tend to crush the nail and cause pain even if you are not in the quick.
  • You should always have styptic powder (a clotting substance) available. This is sold at your veterinarian’s office and in pet stores under several trade names, but it will be labeled for use in trimming nails.

Why should I have my female dog spayed?

“Spaying is the surgical removal of the uterus and the ovaries…”

Spaying is the surgical removal of the uterus and the ovaries, and eliminates the dog’s estrus cycles. In an intact dog, these heat periods (estrus) result in about 2-3 weeks of vaginal bleeding and discharge approximately every 6 months. During this time, male dogs are attracted from blocks away and, in fact, seem to appear out of thin air when a female is in heat!  Male dogs will go over, around, and through doors or fences to reach a female in heat. Apart from the risk of unplanned pregnancies, it is well documented that intact female dogs have a significant risk of developing breast cancer and/or uterine infections. Spaying before the dog experiences her first estrus cycle has 3 benefits: it eliminates the risk of unplanned pregnancy and helps control the problem of dog overpopulation; it eliminates any possibility of uterine disease; and it virtually eliminates any chance of developing breast cancer. If you do not plan to breed your dog, we strongly recommend spaying before 6-7 months of age.

Why should I have my male dog neutered?

Intact male dogs are attracted to a female dog in heat and will climb over or go through fences to find her. Intact male dogs tend to be more territorial towards other male dogs. Intact male dogs are prone to develop prostatic disease as they age and testicular cancer is relatively common in intact male dogs.

“Neutering or castration is the surgical removal of the testicles…”

Neutering or castration is the surgical removal of the testicles, and will prevent or decrease these problems, as well as being an effective method of controlling the problem of overpopulation. The surgery can be performed any time after the dog is six months old.


If I choose to breed my female dog, how old should she be?

If you plan to breed your dog, she should have at least one or two heat periods first. She will then be more physically mature allowing her to be a better mother. We do not recommend breeding after five years of age unless she has been bred prior to that. Having her first litter after five years of age increases the risk of complications during the pregnancy or delivery. For more information, see the series of fact sheets on ‘Breeding of dogs’ on our website at http://www.snelgrovevet.com. Click on the Pet Health tab and search breeding

Are there any emergency tips I should know?

There are several emergency situations that you may encounter. For details on First Aid and Emergencies in dogs, see the separate fact sheets “Canine Emergencies” and “Canine First Aid”on our website at http://www.snelgrovevet.com.

“With any emergency, CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY for emergency instructions, and take the pup to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible.”

General first aid information until you arrive at your veterinarian’s office:

1.  In any emergency situation, keep the pet as quiet as possible and try to conserve heat by covering it with bedding or newspapers.

2.  Before attempting to administer any form of first aid, muzzle the dog. In an emergency, a leash or piece of rope can be looped around the dog’s muzzle to prevent biting.

3.  If the pet is bleeding from a wound, attempt to stop the bleeding by covering the wound with a clean absorbent bandage and applying direct pressure directly over the wound.

4.  For burns and scalds, flush with cool water; cover any open areas with a clean dressing.

5.  For an eye injury, look for and remove any foreign material such as grass or dirt by flushing with an eyewash or contact lens solution.

6.  For heat stroke, cool the puppy as quickly as possible using cool water, and transport the pup to the veterinary clinic while it is still wet.

7.  If necessary, apply the A, B, C of first aid:

A          Airway

B         Breathing

C       Cardiac function

Airway – Anything that obstructs the airway prevents oxygen entering the lungs. Do your best to clear the mouth and throat of any obstruction such as vomitus, saliva or foreign bodies such as grass, sticks or balls. Be careful; your pet may bite you in panic.

Breathing If your dog is unconscious and does not appear to be breathing, try gently pumping the chest with the palm of your hand, at the same time feeling just behind the elbow to detect a heartbeat or pulse. Close the muzzle with your hand and blow into the nostrils. This is best accomplished by covering the pet’s nose with your mouth. Be careful. Injured pets may bite you out of fear. If you are unsure about the health or vaccination status of the injured pet, avoid contact with bodily fluids and blood.

Cardiac function – If you are unable to detect a heartbeat or pulse or if appears weak and slow, try pressing on the chest with your palm. Five (5) chest compressions followed by one to two (1-2) deep breaths is a simple form of animal cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Ernest Ward, DVM
© Copyright 2011 Lifelearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.