Daily Puppy Care

Daily Puppy Care

Your new puppy has arrived and has been christened with the fitting name “Baxter”. It just seemed to fit that fluffy little morsel of puppydom. The kids are over the moon with puppy joy and you seem to be making great strides in becoming rather an accomplished dog owner. It’s time to start putting together the resources that are going to make life with Baxter simpler, healthier and better for the whole family. Dogs require their own little support system just like kids do.

As the days pass, burning questions arise:

  • How do I find a great veterinarian?
  • What about when it’s time to have Baxter groomed?
  • What about my puppy’s socialization?
  • Safe Toys??? HELP!!!

How to Find a Great Veterinarian

Because your relationship with Baxter’s veterinarian will likely be a long one, you’ll want to find a doctor who is a good fit for not only your new puppy but, also a great fit for you as well. After all, since Baxter can’t talk, you’ll be doing most of the communicating with his caregiver. Most importantly, you want a skilled practitioner. I’ve worked with many wonderful vets in my long and varied career in dogs. The best of them were veterinarians who had been out of school for some years and had enough experience to know when an issue was serious and worth looking into further.

Perhaps just as important? The vets that knew when my concerns were minor and were confident enough to keep me steered on the right path medically. Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate the ones who were also a bit more conservative in their approach in regards to my pocketbook, while still giving excellent care to my beloved pets.

What to avoid in a Veterinarian?

As I said, I’ve worked with some really great veterinarians over the years but I’ve also worked with more than a few who were a disappointment in any number of ways. Some simply lacked a real love for dogs. That is the most important quality I look for. After wisdom and great instincts medically, I want a doctor who really loves dogs, who really cares about my dogs.

Some veterinarians can be too quick to go to great lengths to do unnecessary often extremely expensive testing. Others can insist or procedures that upon further inspection, may not have been necessary in the first place . This is where inexperience can play a role in Baxter not receiving the best care possible. If your practitioner is very young or fresh out of college, it’s likely that he or she simply hasn’t been in practice long enough to have seen a large number of pets and their dizzying array of varied conditions. A more experienced doctor will be less likely to spend thousands of dollars on testing or procedures unless he really feels confident that they are prudent and important for your dog’s well-being.

I’ve known others who are anxious to medicate with all the nuclear weapons in their pharmaceutical toolbox at the first sign of a sniffle. As I tend to prefer a cautious approach, and one that relies heavily on natural solutions and support to my dog’s health, I’ve had to be an advocate for what I did and didn’t want to do when it came to my dog’s care, you will need to do the same. You’ll want a veterinarian who is willing to listen to your concerns. Someone who is caring and compassionate, experienced and has a personality that’s a good fit with you and Baxter as well. It sounds like a daunting task, finding your own perfect canine practitioner, but take heart! There are shortcuts on every journey including this one.

Seek out dog owning friends and family members and grill them extensively. Ask which clinic they are using? Are they happy with the care their pets have been given? Have charges seemed excessive? Do their pets receive kind treatment (huge!)? Often word of mouth is the very best way to find a great vet, and perhaps avoid a not so wonderful one! One last thing, don’t be afraid to move on to another clinic if you find after the first visit that you and Baxter just didn’t “click” with your new doctor.

You’re not duty bound to stay with the first animal hospital you try. Mark it up to experience learned and do a bit more asking around, a few more Google searches, and I’m confident you’ll find a dog-doctor that you’ll be happy to take Baxter to for the long-term.

PUPPY NOTE: A word about Animal Emergency Hospitals. A fairly recent innovation and an absolutely life-saving one are the arrival of the after-hours veterinary hospital. First of all, if you ever truly need their services, you will be grateful that such an option exists for the emergency care of your beloved pet.

Keep in mind though, these clinics by necessity, charge vastly higher fees than your routine office visit at your regular vets office. By all means avail yourself of them for any emergency with your pet. If however, your’re only slightly concerned about a minor issue, perhaps your dog is limping slightly after an exuberant romp in the backyard, save yourself the probablity of an enormous bill and wait till morning for regular office hours.

Of course, always, call your veterinarian if your puppy has a problem and follow his or her guidance, if they want to see your puppy immediately, grab the car keys and get on your way!

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Grooming

Choosing the right dog groomer for your new puppy is one of the most important dog care decisions you’ll ever make.

Let’s face it, we all love it when our dogs look great. Even more so, if we have a dog who requires grooming, and we’re going to spend a considerable amount of money on upkeep and maintenance of our furry friend, it wouldn’t be too much to ask that they look really super after a trip to the doggie spa would it?

As the owner of a popular dog grooming salon in that dog loving city, Charleston, South Carolina, as well as having worked as a groomer in a number of shops over the years, I've seen much of the best and the worst of dog grooming. Here are some tips to help you find a dog groomer whom not only will your dog love visiting, but one who will keep your canine companion looking like she’s ready for Westminster come February.

Signs of a great grooming shop

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A good groomer will help reinforce great manners with your new puppy. Think about it, going to the grooming shop will mean your little Lily will have to undergo the following with good grace:

  • Sitting still and having her coat brushed thoroughly (hopefully you’ll be practicing this at home as well).
  • Having a bath and getting her ears cleaned.
  • Getting her nails trimmed.
  • Waiting for her turn for each step of the grooming process.
  • Having her hair dried with a hair dryer.
  • Mixing with other dogs and new people in a new (read good socialization) environment.
  • Waiting patiently for you to come pick her up and take her home.
  • Finding out that when she’s all finished, she’ll get a yummy treat and mom will ooh and aww over her cute new hairdo and her adorable pink polka dot ear bows.

You should see in each dog’s expression that they have learned to enjoy the attention and care that a pleasant grooming experience brings. When I did a lot of grooming, it was always amazing to me how much some of my customers dogs learned to love having their coats trimmed and groomed. There was a little silver Toy Poodle called Henry, who used to get so relaxed as we were scissoring his coat that he’d almost go to sleep. If you asked him to lift a paw, he’d do it proudly, waiting happily for each “what a goooood boooooy you are!!”

Not only do I look for a spotless shop with welcoming faces behind the check-in counter, there are other signs I watch for to know I’ve found a place I want to put on my “doggie speed dial list”:

  • I love it when the shop girls remember me, remember my dog’s name. Great groomers love dogs and dogs sense it. There’s no fooling a dog, they read people effortlessly.
  • Grooming shops have an atmosphere if you spend a moment, you can get a good feel for the staff the dogs in their care.
  • Is there a cheerful friendly feel?
  • A word about pricing. Dog grooming is hard work and great groomers don’t undercharge for their services. This isn’t an area to cut corners, expect to pay anywhere from $35 & up for grooming a small coated dog.
  • What’s the noise level? Grooming can be a bit noisy, but I don’t like to hear lots of dogs barking, raised voices, an unhappy feel will make me head for the door and make another choice before leaving my dog in someone else’s care.

Be sure to take a picture along and have a talk with your groomer about what you are hoping your puppy will look like after her trim. Talk about the length you want. How you want her face to look. A photo can help express your desires and avoid miscommunications that can result in a disappointing grooming experience. Last but not least, be sure you are keeping your puppy well brushed and that she doesn’t have mats or a tangled coat, which can result in a super short cut that will be less than the cute puppy clip you were hoping for. Most groomers truly want to make your dog look wonderful, after all that’s their best advertising, happy clients with beautifully groomed dogs.

Socialization

Your new puppy is like a sponge, she’ll absorb and learn from everyone she associates with, so keep an eye on her four footed role models!

Just like children, puppies quickly pick up behaviors and begin to imitate the older more mature friends they spend time with. If your neighbor wants their barky Jack Russel Terrier “Bosco” (who loves to run off, ignores their shouted commands, and is more than a little on the disobedient side of things), to spend lots of time having play dates with your little angel, be aware that your baby could quickly begin to display some of the same hard to correct behaviors if she spends too much time with Bosco on a regular basis!

Try to tactfully keep interaction with dogs who are not good role models to as much of a minimum as possible, or you’ll have a little Bosco of your own before you know it! “Bad company corrupts good morals” be they canine or no! That being said, playtime is important for dogs of all ages, there’s no better way for your puppy to learn how to be a stellar canine companion than to observe the great dogs in your circle of family & friends and have them help her learn the doggie ropes. Rather than wrap your puppy in cotton wool & never allow her to put a paw to the ground when other canines are around, just be a good observer and if you think things are heading in a direction you prefer your puppy not go, don’t be afraid to scoop her up for a bit of a time-out until the rough housing ends or the less than well behaved Fidos head to greener pastures! Let her practice a bit of patience and either pop her in her crate for a nap or hold her out of harm's way until calm reigns.

Don't forget, your puppy is always learning. You decide what you want her to learn and more importantly, not learn, so no apologies!

Toys

Most pet owners have heard of the dangers of giving your dog a rawhide bone or treat. You don’t have to search very long on Google to realize that not only are the average rawhides on the market laden with everything from heavy metals to toxic glues and dyes, but that ingesting them can cause impactions and worse. Yikes! No wonder they are strictly on the off-limits list for your beloved dog.

There are several other problems with offering your puppy the wrong kinds of treats. My concern today is to discuss the behavioral aspects of giving your puppy something that could make her forget all her puppy manners in an instant. Perhaps more importantly, how to use treat time to help reinforce your position as leader of her tiny pack.

The average pet store has a dizzying array of dog goodies, pet food manufacturers have happily supplied our desire to give our dogs rewards and created a multimillion dollar industry devoted to rewarding and yes, sometimes spoiling our pets.

So, you ask, what’s wrong with bringing home a wonderful chicken-basted delight for your new puppy? I’m glad you asked, there are actually several problems that might arise when you unpack that yummy smelling bag from the local pet emporium.

“I gave my puppy some new treats and now she’s got loose stool and her tummy seems upset. She even had an accident in the house and she almost never does that. What did I do wrong?”

Your puppy’s tummy is sensitive and upsets can occur when she ingests heavily flavored treats and biscuits. Best to keep things basic and simple for immature puppy tummies.

“My husband brought home a huge beef basted bone and now Lily runs away with it when I try to get it away from her. Currently, she is under the couch gnawing on it & she growls when I reach in!”

Giving your puppy an amazing bone to chew on might seem like a good idea, but it’s easy for her to become so excited about her new prize that she decides to keep it from everyone at any cost. It’s like giving your teenager who just got her learning permit, the keys to your new SUV and telling her to go have a great time!

Lily isn’t a terrible puppy, but the heady aroma and delicious taste of her new treat have made her forget herself It’s NEVER ok for our dogs to growl and guard their doggie treasures, don’t set yourself up for a confrontation with your new puppy over something that could have easily been avoided. More about potential guarding behavior and what to do about it in another post.

For now, help baby Lily stay out of trouble by keeping her treats simple and not too wonderfully delicious until she’s older and able to be a responsible driver :)

For now, boring treats and teething pacifiers are puppy perfect!

 
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