General Care Tips for Your Puppy
Clip the "hook" off the toenails and dewclaws about twice a month. It is also a good idea to purchase some blood coagulating powder (like Kwik Stop) to have on hand as you will nick a nail occasionally. Don't panic if nail bleeds, and make sure to teach your dog to accept this routine without fussing. This is an important aspect of puppy care; you should never be able to hear nails clicking on a hard floor.
Grooming & Flea Control
Bathe your puppy every month or so with a mild dog shampoo, unless needed more often. Stretching a garden hose outdoors from an inside sink, using a waterbed adapter, will allow you to use warm water and not get the bathroom all steamy and hairy.
Do not let your dog get fleas, as they will cause many problems like tapeworms and hot spots, and they are very difficult to get rid of once your house is infested. After a severe freeze, you may not need to worry about fleas until spring (unless you are around other infested pets - at classes, etc.) As soon as the weather warms, begin preventative flea control by dipping every 10-14 days.
If you find fleas, treat home and yard, dip dog weekly, and spray your home every two weeks. Wash and preferably bleach your dog bedding after each dipping. Continue these things until after a heavy freeze, and only when you absolutely sure you have no fleas. It is wise to dip every two weeks year-round in mild climates.
Check your dog's ears monthly and wipe any visible grime out with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol, or preferably ear cleaner. If the ears are red, runny, foul-smelling, have excessive grime in them, or the dog shakes his head a lot and scratches them, have the vet check them out. We always use ear cleaner on our dogs' ears after every bath to help prevent yeast infection, or any time they are in water. Not mere puppy care, this regimen should be followed for life.
Do not let the dog scratch or chew at himself, as this will cause coat damage and hot spots. A dog with healthy skin and no fleas should not need to scratch.
Keep an eye on your dog's teeth. If an adult tooth is being held back by a puppy tooth the tooth may need to be removed by your vet. Wiggling it firmly yourself may help loosen it up. Your puppy will start losing his puppy teeth at around four months of age. Provide chew toys (safest) to help him work those teeth out.
When your dog has his adult teeth, watch for tartar buildup. Consult your vet if their is an excessive buildup, or foul- smelling, bleeding gums. Scrape tartar off of teeth with your fingernail or tartar scraper every month, and you will help out a lot with dental health and avoiding bad breath, as will brushing with a plain dry toothbrush two or three times a week. Raw shank bones and dog biscuits relieve stress and clean teeth.
Other toys are not a good idea unless you're there to supervise. Do not give your dog rawhide chews, as these can lead to intestinal blockage.
It is a good idea to discuss heartworm preventatives with your vet. Dogs in most areas of the U.S. should be on a preventative. There are safe monthly pills available, but the dog must have a blood test before being put on heartworm preventative.
Puppy Care and Formal Training
An obedience trained dog is a joy to live with or be around. It only takes about 8 weeks, and it lasts a lifetime. A puppy care basic!
A class should be taught with praise and positive collar corrections - not brute force, throwing things at the dog, or punishment - check before enrolling. If you use a choke chain in training your puppy (recommended), always remove this after training. It is a training aid only. So many dogs have needlessly strangled or have been injured while wearing one when not at obedience training. Keep a buckle-type collar with tags on the dog when not in training.
Traveling with Your Dog
No dog should ever travel in the back of an open vehicle - pickup or otherwise. If it is absolutely necessary to transport an animal in such a manner, it must be contained in a securely fastened, covered dog crate. This is for the safety of the animal, the people around you, and is not only good new puppy care, but complies with the law.
Station wagons, pickups with canopies and covered bed floor, or vans are the best ways to transport a large dog. A dog crate within one of these vehicles is even more desirable because the animal is kept from being thrown around in the event of an accident, and is prevented from escaping in a crisis. A crate should be big enough for the dog to stand and lie comfortably and be sheltered from sunlight. Wire crates are best. Never leave a dog in a vehicle on a warm day.
Care and Exercise
Because of the fast growth rate and weight of the puppy, no structured exercise should be given. Just normal puppy care, playing and socialization should be enough to tire him out. Never push him, or you will end up with a lame puppy. If by some chance he does overdo it and becomes lame, a few days of inactivity will usually clear it up. If not, consult your veterinarian. Don't play too rough with the pup, as this can cause permanent structural damage. Jumping down from things is very hard on his joints. Don't let him jump down from couches, high steps, vehicles, etc. Always help him down, even as an adult. An excellent piece of puppy care advice!
We suggest giving your dog toys to play with but don't throw them far or repeatedly. Also, leaping and twisting can be very dangerous, as it stresses his joints, particularly his knees.
Don't keep your puppy on a slick floor all the time, either, as this is not good for growing puppies. Chasing and sliding on slick floors is asking for injuries. Always have a soft area for any puppy or adult, to lay on, as this cuts down on the amount of callusing, and may help prevent "hygromas," which are harmless but unattractive fluid pouches that may form on the back of the elbows.
Hygromas usually surface somewhere around 5-9 months of age, and can take several months to subside. They do not cause pain, and as calluses develop over them, the fluid reduces. Some puppies get them, some do not. Cushioning their resting areas can help.
Do not allow the fluid to be drained, as this is not necessary, and the fluid comes right back anyhow. The danger from introducing bacteria into the joint from the needle is a health risk. Leave them alone unless they become red, hot or infected, or if the dog becomes lame on that leg for longer than a few days.
After he is over 18 months, he may begin some structured exercise if needed, but some forms are inadvisable. Most puppies do not need any formal exercise; just nominal activity keeps them healthy.
Most puppies need to be kept on the lean side to insure slow, proper bone growth. Supplements - Pet-Tabs, vitamins, calcium, etc. should be given. Offer the dry food with water over it, three times a day - remove leftovers immediately. You should be able to see a hint of the last couple of ribs, but no hipbones. Sustaining this constitutes very good puppy care.
Always provide plenty of fresh water at all times. As the puppy grows you will want to move his water bucket outdoors to avoid a lake indoors.
Do not feed table scraps or anything but the dry food and special treats in training, or he will become finicky, and it unbalances the diet. Never feed a dog (or cat, by the way) milk as this will cause diarrhea.
Gastric Torsional Bloat
Though not precisely a puppy care issue, we want to alert you to this: It is common for large and giant breeds to have the possibility of developing gastric torsion, or "bloat." Bloat occurs when the dog's stomach overfills with gas. The stomach can then flip over (torsion), causing the ends to constrict, trapping food and gases inside, and restricting blood flow to the heart and other tissues. This will lead to death quickly and painfully if not immediately surgically corrected.
It is not known exactly what causes bloat, although several causes are being investigated, including genetics, individual stomach digesting patterns, and exercise too close to meals, stress, etc.
Just to be safe, good puppy care dictates that you should not feed your dog large amounts of food or water at any one time. Avoid rolling over or exercising right after any meal. Do not let your dog drink huge amounts of water all at once after exercising. These tips may not stop your dog from bloating, but it certainly won't hurt to avoid these situations.
Symptoms of bloat include distress, panting, restlessness, hiding, pacing around and lying down, lying very still, then moving around again. Also drooling and foaming excessively, vomiting with nothing or foam coming up, and a swollen "ripe watermelon" tight stomach.
If any combination of these symptoms occurs, day or night, see a vet immediately. Discuss your vet's availability for these sorts of emergencies before they occur. Good puppy care requires that you know where to go in an emergency.
After your puppy is six months old, he should be fed twice a day for the rest of his life. Increase the amount of food as the puppy grows and his appetite increases. The puppy may consume a large daily amount of food between 4 and 10 months, and will gradually drop down.
If your puppy begins to lose his appetite, it is OK to go ahead and feed twice a day early on. If he does not eat readily, do not play games. Remove food, refrigerate, and offer to him 12 hours later. Adjust amount as needed.
Your puppy should not have hugely swollen wrist joints, sloppy feet, or be badly high in the rear. These and/or occasional or constant limping means that he is growing too fast - good puppy care requires that you cut back on food. You cannot hurt him by keeping him thin, but you can ruin him orthopedically by overfeeding.
Your puppy has probably been started on vaccinations and has been wormed several times for roundworms, so when you make your first visit to the vet the pup may not be due for worming or vaccinations. This may be just a health check visit. Bring along the pup's health record, an important puppy care documant, to show to your vet.
Always use a vet-dispensed wormer as part of your puppy care regimen, as they are safe and effective. Have a fecal, exam done at 6 months of age and every 6 months after that. All vaccinations should be repeated a year later from the 17-week visit, then repeated yearly.
Puppy Care and Conformation
If you purchased a show quality puppy, you need to get your puppy into a conformation class for show training as soon as possible - usually around three months of age.
Here your pup will learn to stand for examination, and how to be gaited in different patterns. Do not teach your puppy to sit for food, as this may cause sitting in the show ring. You will learn to show your dog to his fullest potential. Even if you are going to hire a handler, your puppy care regimen still needs to focus on training first. There is no reason to oniy work on conformation or obedience at one time. The one always enhances the other.