10 Frequently Asked Puppy Questions


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe

Adopting a new puppy is an exciting time for for the whole family! But with so much to learn as a new puppy owner it can sometimes feel overwhelming. We all want what is best for our new pet, but just knowing where to start can be a challenge.

The Pet Circle Vet Squad have put together a list of the top 10 frequently asked questions that pet parents have after first bringing their new puppy home.

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My Puppy Cries When I Leave Them: What Should I Do?

Many, if not all, young puppies will cry when left alone for the first time. Your pup is likely to be scared and missing their mum and siblings. The best thing you can do is provide a safe, warm and comfortable bed for your puppy to sleep. Consider using a crate, which taps into your pup's natural instincts to sleep in a den. Having a cuddly plush toy or soft blanket with your scent can help your puppy to settle. Similarly, using dog appeasing pheromone Adaptil may help your puppy adjust to their new environment. A white noise machine or a fan can block outside noise that may be frightening your pup.

Another possible reason for crying is that your puppy needs to go to the toilet. Ensure that you take you puppy out for a toilet break prior to settling them alone. An indoor pet loo or puppy pads should be provided if they don't have easy access to outdoors.

What not to do: Avoid yelling at your puppy for crying, as this will only increase their anxiety. Wait until you puppy is quiet and not crying when approaching them after being alone otherwise you may inadvertently reward the crying by giving attention.

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When Can My Puppy Go Outside?

Typical vaccinations for puppies involve 3 injections spaced approximately 4 weeks apart. These usually occur at 6-8 weeks, 12 weeks, and 16 weeks of age but can vary depending on your location and the type of vaccine your vet uses. Once the puppy series has been completed your dog will need yearly vaccinations for life.

In general, dogs in Australia are routinely vaccinated against Canine Parvovirus, Canine Adenovirus (Infectious Hepatitis), Distemper and Kennel Cough (Canine Parainfluenza II +/- Bordetella bronchiseptica ). Additional vaccinations such as Leptospirosis may be required in certain areas so consult with your local veterinarian for recommendations specific to your dog's needs.

Before taking your puppy for walks or socialising at the local dog park, it is important to ensure they are protected against common parasites. Intestinal worming is recommended in puppies from 2 weeks of age, every 2 weeks until 12 weeks old using an all-wormer product such as Drontal, Milbemax or Paragard.

Many vets recommend starting puppies on prevention for ticks, fleas and heartworm from around the time of their first vaccination. All-in-One Products such as Simparica Trio, Nexgard Spectra and Credelio Plus are safe to use from 8 weeks of age, and if given monthly, protect your pup against ticks, fleas, heartworm and most intestinal worms with one easy chew. Protect your puppy from additional worms such as tapeworm and whipworm which may not be covered by some all-in-one products, with the addition of an intestinal wormer. It is best to check with your local veterinarian to ensure you are protecting against all the common parasites in your area.

How Do I Stop My Puppy From Chewing on Everything!?

When you first bring your puppy home, they won't know the difference between their toys and your favourite sneakers! Chewing is very normal behaviour for puppies so it's up to us to provide appropriate objects to chew and supervise where necessary.

Puppies start to teethe from around 12 weeks of age, when they lose their baby teeth and grow in their adult teeth. At this time, puppies will chew more to help soothe the gums. If you suspect your puppy is teething you may want to provide them with some teething toys which are designed to soothe the gums through chewing.

Set your pup up for success by removing all objects that you don't want to be chewed from their reach. If your pup gets hold of an object they shouldn't chew, immediately replace it with a toy and praise them for chewing the toy. Keeping a rotation of toys can help prevent your pup from getting bored.

When you need to leave your pup without supervision, it is highly recommended to make a 'puppy proof' zone in your home so that your pup can't get into too much trouble. If you suspect your puppy is chewing because they are anxious, Adaptil may help them feel calm.

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How Often Should I Bathe My Puppy?

Puppies have a habit of getting dirty, so you'll need to keep some gentle shampoo on hand for your pup. As a general rule, aim to bathe your puppy about once every 2 weeks or so from the time you bring them home.

Bathing your pup too frequently may dry out their skin which can cause itching or flaking. Look for a sensitive skin or puppy specific formula to help protect that soft skin and keep your pup's coat smooth and shiny. For quick clean ups in between washes you can also use pet cleansing wipes and coat refreshing sprays.

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How Do I Trim My Puppy's Nails?

Your puppy will grow so quickly and so will their nails, which can often be very sharp and painful. Trimming your puppy's nails can help to prevent scratches on you and other family members while your puppy is still learning not to jump up. Nail trimming can be daunting for both you and your puppy and if not done carefully it can result in pain and sometimes bleeding too!

The first step is to choose a pair of clippers that suits your pet. For puppies I would recommend using a smaller pair of clippers that are suitable for little paws and start practicing clipping your puppy's nails from 8 weeks of age.

It is a good idea to get your puppy used to being held and having their feet handled from a young age. The best time to try is when your pet is relaxed, perhaps when they are on your lap or having a cuddle. Make sure that they get plenty of rewards and encouragement when they let you do this. Treats such as a Lick Mat smeared with KONG Puppy Paste can serve as a good distraction.

It is really useful to have a second person to hold your puppy while you clip their nails. Ask your helper to gently hold your pup around the shoulders in the sitting or standing position. Gently pick up the foot and carefully cut the nail. Be sure to trim only the very tip of the nail to avoid hitting the nail bed or 'quick'. Cutting the nail bed can be very painful and result in bleeding so it is recommended that you take a little off at a time to avoid this. If your puppy has white nails, you are in luck! You should be able to see the pink of the nail bed making it easier to avoid.

With puppies that really dislike having their nails clipped, try doing it gradually, for example a foot or even a nail at a time. Reward your pet for their good behaviour and with time and patience you should be able to build up to doing more nails per session.

Don't worry if you do accidentally cut the nail too short, even veterinarians, nurses and groomers do this from time to time. Often the nail can seem to bleed a lot! Don't worry too much though, just like with any other small cut, your pet's blood will clot at the wound site and bleeding will stop with time. Apply a tissue and some pressure to speed this along. If your pet will tolerate it, apply a small bandage for an hour or so to help stop the bleeding and if you are concerned give your local veterinary clinic a call.

Many veterinarians or nurses are more than happy to give you lessons on how to cut your puppy's nails if you do not feel confident enough to give it a go. Just ask the next time your puppy is due for their vaccination or check-up.

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How Can I Tire Out My Puppy At Home?

Puppies are naturally curious and mischievous and can seem like they have endless amounts of energy. Keeping them entertained, especially if they are not fully vaccinated yet and need to stay home, can seem like an impossible task!

Providing your pup with lots of interactive toys will reduce boredom and help your puppy adjust to their new environment. Try stuffing a puppy KONG with KONG Paste, Treats or your puppy's dry food to keep them occupied and mentally stimulated. On hot summer days try freezing for even more of a challenge.

Puppy preschool is a safe way for puppies to burn energy while teaching your pup important life skills, such as socialisation and basic obedience. Daily obedience training at home is a great way to exercise your pup's body and mind as well as build the foundation for a well-mannered dog.

Playing games like catch or chase are a fantastic way to bond with your puppy while encouraging them to run around. Try playing Tug O'War or Fetch.

Once your puppy is fully vaccinated and old enough to start going for walks then try taking them on short 30 minute walks in the morning and afternoon. Growing puppies should never be run for extended periods of time as this can put too much pressure on growing joints and can lead to developmental abnormalities or injuries.

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When Should My Puppy Be Desexed?

Desexing your puppy before he or she reaches sexual maturity (from 4 to 6 months of age) will prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as reduce roaming behaviour and territorial marking. Studies have shown that female dogs who are desexed before their second heat have a significantly reduced risk of mammary cancer and uterine infection, while male dogs who are desexed are less likely to experience prostate problems and are not at risk of testicular cancers.

Many vets recommend desexing puppies at about 6 months of age, although in some cases puppies can be desexed as early as 8 to 16 weeks depending on the size and breed of the dog. RSPCA Australia supports early age desexing as an effective way to reduce unwanted pregnancies and rehome dogs as soon as possible.

Recently there has been evidence to suggest that delaying desexing in large or giant breed dogs may be beneficial. If you are unsure about when is the best time to desex your dog, it is best to speak with your regular veterinarian.

How Do I Stop My Puppy Eating Poo?

If your pup is under 1 year of age, they may just be a mischievous puppy up to no good. Even in cases where plenty of toys and mental stimulation are provided, some puppies just continue to eat poo. Just like children eating mud (or even poop in some cases!) we don't always know the exact motivation inside a puppy's head.

However, it's important to keep in mind that puppy food is rich in fat, protein, and nutrients, and therefore tends to 'taste good on the way out' to some dogs. Sometimes puppy poo can contain undigested 'nutrients', and as dogs have a keen sense of smell they might be able to tell! A swap to a different diet can help in some cases.

Many people find that their dog seems less tempted by their own poop after ingesting pineapple juice mixed in with their regular diet. Others report success with paw paw, yoghurt, or cottage cheese. (Note: if giving your dog yoghurt, make sure it doesn't have any artificial sweeteners in it. Also be aware that dairy products can give your dog diarrhoea so only add a small amount). When eaten, these ingredients seem to give an altered odour to the faeces, making it less enticing to poop-eating pups.

My Puppy Won't Eat Dry Food: What Should I Do?

We know you want to do the best for your newest family addition, and it can be difficult to know what to do when your new puppy will not eat the dry food that you have chosen for them.

Firstly, while the vast majority of puppy food sold in Australia will meet your pup's minimal nutritional requirements as set out by industry bodies like AAFCO, premium brand foods are backed by decades of nutritional research and development to meet all your puppy's needs. The ingredients in premium brand dry foods such as Hill's Science Diet, Royal Canin, Advance and Pro Plan are superior in quality to supermarket brands and are therefore often more palatable. If your puppy is not enjoying their current food, then swapping to a premium brand puppy diet may help to make their dry food more enticing.

Secondly, try not to stress! Your puppy has had a lot of change to adjust to and diet is just one of these changes. Try adding some warm water, broth or mixing in some puppy wet food to make the dry food more enticing.

Lastly, you can always try a different brand of premium puppy food as your puppy may just have a preference for one particular brand over another.

When Can I Start Getting My Puppy Groomed?

Medium and long haired breed puppies will need to be brushed daily to prevent knots and mats from forming. They'll also need to get used to having their coats clipped to keep things neat and tidy. Start getting your puppy used to being groomed, handled and having their nails trimmed as soon as you bring them home; this will make life much easier for you and any dog groomer in the long run!

Some puppy breeds, such as the Poodle, Cavoodle, Shih Tzu or Maltese may require grooming around the face and eyes as early as 14-16 weeks. Check with your local groomer on what their policy is for vaccinations if you are needing to have your puppy groomed prior to their final vaccination.

Further Reading

Pooping, Barking, Biting:The Ultimate Puppy Training Guide

Best Puppy Food

How To Toilet Train Your Puppy

Choosing The Best Toys For Your Puppy

Flea, Tick and Worming Guide For Dogs

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