Puppy advice from the experts

puppy advice from the experts

Advice from a breeder – do your research!

by Stephanie Horan

So you want to buy a puppy – good for you! Nothing completes a household more than a beautiful dog included as a much-loved family member. Of course, you have done your research into what breed will best suit your family and lifestyle. That’s so important! When you’re ready to go out and find your new dog, keep these things in mind:

Questions for the breeder

When shopping for your new pup, ask the breeder questions about his/her breed involvement and experience. Find out how many years they have bred or owned the breed you are considering, and what dog activities they participate in. Ask if they belong to any breed clubs, since this can indicate a deep interest in the breed.

Your prior research should have told you what health problems can surface in your chosen breed, so ask if the puppy’s parents have had the appropriate tests.

Ask where the puppies are raised – ideally it’s in the breeder’s home where the puppies can experience the usual household sights and sounds, and have human contact. If puppies are raised in an outbuilding, ensure the breeder has been vigilant about exposing them to household activities and people.

Usually, the dam (mother) will be available for you to see, but she may be quite protective about her puppies. She may look a little scruffy – raising puppies is hard work! – but she should appear healthy and bright-eyed. The sire may not be available if he lives elsewhere; if the litter was conceived using frozen semen he may even be in another country!

Details are important

Is the puppy sold on a contract? This spells out the responsibilities of both buyer and seller, such as what the breeder will do if the puppy develops a debilitating hereditary condition, or if the buyer can no longer keep the dog. Read it carefully and be sure you are comfortable with the wording before you sign.

The puppy should be registered; the certificate will tell you the puppy’s breed, colour, date of birth, sire and dam, and registered name. It may not be available at the time of sale, but should be sent to you within six months. It is an offence in Canada to sell a purebred puppy without a registration certificate.

The litter should have been vet checked before you take your chosen puppy home, which should be no earlier than eight weeks of age. Beware of any breeder offering puppies younger than this.

Remember, a reputable breeder won’t mind answering any sensible questions and will likely ask you questions too, since she or he wants you to leave with just the right puppy for your home – one that will become a lifelong companion.

Stephanie Horan and her husband Terry got their first Puli in 1969 when they lived in England. They immigrated to Canada in 1974, bringing several Pulis with them. They have been breeding and showing ever since, competing in conformation in Canada and the US. Stephanie is an award-winning writer and lives in Nova Scotia.

From a trainer:  R-E-S-P-E-C-T – it’s important for puppies too!

by Renée Lucescu

Bringing home your new puppy. . .what an exciting time! For the pup, however, this may be the first real stressful situation he experiences, so you need to make wise decisions right from the start. After all, it will impact what your puppy learns about his new home and life with you.

To begin, you want your pup to relate to his new home as a very stable environment. There’s no need for outside visitors for the first week or two. Keep the energy in the home as quiet as possible. Let the puppy get to know his new environment and his new “pack”. If you want a stable dog, you want him to learn that home is a place of security and balance.

When you do start to invite extended family members and friends to visit your new puppy, ask them to come in and watch quietly from a distance at first. Let the energy subside and become peaceful before allowing the puppy and person to physically connect. The visitor should remain fairly calm throughout the introduction. If you have people lining up and bursting through the door, making loud noises and treating the puppy like a celebrity, it will teach him to be excited when meeting new people. This heightened response may lead to unwanted behaviours, including anxiety and fear, which in turn may trigger problems such as uncontrollable peeing and even aggression when the pup gets older.

The same rule applies for family members who live in the house. They’ll all want to socialize the new puppy to new people, other animals and new environments, but if this is done without any respect for the pup, then the consequences become life events that often lead to behavioural issues.

Remember, puppies start to collect information about you the moment they meet you. And, by the way, the same is true for any new dog coming into your home, regardless of his age or history.

Renée Lucescu specializes in behaviour modification in dogs, as well in as preventing unwanted behaviour, and has developed specialized training programs to help support the first year of a dog’s life. With over 30 years’ experience, Renée has been a contracted trainer for many law enforcement agencies in Canada and the US. She is also a breeder of European German Shepherd Dogs and has competed at the world level for the sport of Schutzhund/IPO. For more information, visit www.committedtocanine.com.

From a veterinarian: Getting ready to visit the vet

by Cindy Kneebone, DVM

Once you have chosen your puppy based on your family, home and lifestyle, it’s time to think about visiting the veterinarian. Ensure that, whatever vet you choose, you’re comfortable discussing your dog’s health care options. You are your pup’s advocate and you should always feel like part of your dog’s caregiving team. Here are some other things to think about:


Your puppy may already have been dewormed but it’s a good idea to bring a fecal (stool) sample to your first vet visit. Simply take a small piece of stool from two or three different days (you can seal and store in the refrigerator) just prior to your appointment. This can help increase the success of identifying any parasite eggs that may be present. Most, if not all puppies, should go on a deworm program that uses pyrantel pamoate products, which will safely eliminate the worms.

Vaccines for puppies

Your puppy may already come with a first vaccine. Many experts now believe that a puppy under ten weeks is not mature enough, immunologically, to mount the appropriate response to a vaccine, so some pups are receiving their first shots a little later. If a puppy is vaccinated younger than ten weeks, parvovirus on its own would be the vaccine of choice, but since manufacturers don’t make single vaccines, parvo is combined with distemper.

The first vaccine should be given based on the risk of exposure for a puppy. I prefer a minimal approach, building upon the number of viruses vaccinated for based on the age of the puppy. Lifestyle also plays a role. A rural dog has clean open spaces to run and play in, while a puppy in a crowded downtown environment with limited green space is at a higher risk for exposure to viruses. Talk with your veterinarian to help determine what viral and bacterial risks may be present for your new puppy.

The next vaccine booster, which includes distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza and hepatitis, occurs around 16 to 20 weeks. Again, distemper and parvo should be the core vaccine, while the others can be given based on risk. As the puppy gets older, you can determine if he is still protected by these initial vaccines by getting a blood titer done.

Finally, the rabies vaccine, which is mandatory, should be given at 20 weeks or older, and three or four weeks apart from other vaccines. Ask your veterinarian about the three-year rabies vaccine.

Thinking about nutrition

Roughly 50% to 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, so it’s important to feed your puppy the best quality diet you can. Incorporate lightly cooked or raw meats and veggies, along with wholesome treats, into your dog’s diet. Seek advice from a veterinarian who has knowledge in all forms of nutrition, and make the best decision for your puppy and family lifestyle on what to feed, and which supplements to use.

Oral care

Home dental care makes a big difference to your puppy’s overall health. Start tooth brushing at an early age to get him used to it. Choose a dog toothbrush or a wearable toothbrush glove or finger, and use them with pastes and gels formulated for canines (xylitol, commonly found in human toothpaste, is toxic to dogs). Brush in a gentle circular motion, angling the bristles 45° to the gumline, a minimum of three times a week. Be extra gentle when your pup starts losing her teeth at three to four months of age.

You can also try no-brush products that you add to your dog’s water, or spray directly in his mouth; they help break down tartar and control plaque.

Choose a reputable breeder

When looking for a puppy, purchase from a reputable breeder. The puppies should come from a female that is properly vaccinated, dewormed and not overbred, which reduces her stress and give her puppies the best start in life. The puppies should be handled often and be well-socialized. The breeder can help you choose the best puppy for your future happiness together.

Take preventative steps

Ask your vet for advice on harm reduction, such as avoidance. For instance, if there is a known outbreak of leptospirosis in local ponds, avoid allowing your puppy to drink from them.

Dr. Cindy Kneebone received her DVM from the Ontario Veterinary College. She received diplomas in homeopathy from the British Institute of Homeopathy; in Chinese herbal medicine from Huang Di College of Traditional Chinese Medicine; and in veterinary acupuncture at the Michener Institute. She is certified with the IVAS. Dr. Kneebone practices at the East York Animal Clinic in Toronto.