What you need to know about your new baby!
Stress: Please remember that when you take your puppy home, although it’s a wonderful change going to live with the people who are going to love him forever and be his whole world, it’s still stressful for him. He’s leaving everything he has EVER known, the only people he’s ever lived with, and leaving his mom and littermates. It’s tough for him – even if you don’t see it very obviously. Please give him at least 2 weeks to really settle in with you before making ANY big changes (like food) or starting him in something like an obedience class, play group, or getting him groomed etc. (The only exception to this is that you MUST bring him to the vet within 3 days of bringing him home.) Be gentle with him and know that some pups show their stress with a bit of diarrhea or not really wanting to eat etc. His whole world has just completely changed – give him a few days to settle down.
Vaccines: Your puppy will have had at least one Parvo vaccine and one Distemper combo vaccine before you bring him home. He will need 2-4 more (depending on your vet). He’ll also need a Rabies vaccine in a few months, and possibly (depending on you and your vet) a Lyme vaccine and Bordetella vaccine. Because your pup is not fully protected against disease yet, he should NOT be put down anywhere unvaccinated dogs might have been! That means if you bring him to a pet store, he gets carried (you can’t know if every single dog coming into a pet store is healthy and/or vaccinated!). Ditto ANYwhere outside except for your own fenced yard. Generally training studios (professional – not store-based or boarding kennel-based) are safe IF the trainer only lets in vaccinated dogs into ALL of her other classes – and verifies same (meaning, not just trust what the owner says).
Food: I rotate several brands of high quality kibble, so your pup was weaned to one of them. (Ask me which – it’s potentially different for each litter. I will tell you what exactly your pup was weaned to shortly before they go home.) Keep your puppy on the same food he/she was weaned to for a minimum of 2 weeks. I choose food carefully and feel these are superior, high-quality foods that are fairly easily found not only locally but through Amazon.com (links to actual product(s) can be found on the puppy Supply List page) and chewy.com as well. But if you feel strongly that you’d like to change the food, please be sure you’re moving to an equally high-quality food. (Some ways to check are found in the Food Information section of the Resources page.) If you do change the diet, do it *slowly*. 1/4 of the new food, 3/4 old for 3 days; 1/2 new, 1/2 old for 3 days; 1/4 old, 3/4 new for 3 days; 100% new.
Your puppy should be fed 2-3 times a day. If you are feeding 3 times a day, the middle meal should be dropped by the time the pup is about 5-6 months old. Put the food down, leave it down for 10-15 minutes, then take it up if he’s not at the bowl. If you continually add things to the food to get him to eat, you’re teaching him that refusing to eat results in more yummy stuff being added, so it benefits him to refuse. Don’t worry – he will eat when he’s hungry! You can, if you want to, add a small bit of warm water to the kibble and mix it up. Some people like to add a teaspoon of high-quality canned food to the kibble, but know that if you do, you will likely always have to add it. Know also that when your pup left here, he was eating dry kibble when it was first put down. Please do not “free choice” feed. Free-choice means leaving the food down all day for the dog to pick at and makes it very difficult to housebreak and also makes it difficult for you to judge the dog’s appetite.
Supplements: I don’t recommend vitamins because they are not needed if you are feeding a decent food. However, I strongly recommend digestive enzymes and probiotics. Cooked and processed food (like kibble) has very few enzymes left and dogs really need to have that replaced back in order to digest well. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria in your dog’s gut and help a tremendous amount with proper digestion and optimal digestive tract health. Your puppy will have had “Nature’s Farmacy Dogzymes Probiotics Max” added to each meal. It’s a powder that contains probiotics and digestive enzymes and you add just a small bit to the food once a day. (Link to this product can be found in the puppy Supply List page.)
Crate: I STRONGLY recommend crate-training your puppy to facilitate housebreaking. I recommend plastic airline crates instead of wire crates. My experience has been that dogs prefer them because they are more like a “den”. They are also substantially easier to clean. I like the Petmate Compass crates best – but any of the airline crates are okay. For a crate with a divider (so you can buy just one crate rather than changing as the dog grows), I like Petmate Navigator, but again, any plastic airline-type crate with a decent divider is okay. (Links to both product(s) can be found in the puppy Supply List page.)
Until your pup is going into, and staying in, his crate without any noise, I recommend feeding him in there. Don’t close the door, just put his food bowl in and let him stand in the open crate and eat. Take the bowl out when he’s done. Once he’s no longer fussing when in the crate, you can stop feeding in there.
Remember! Never leave a collar on your dog when he’s in a crate!!
Housebreaking: We will have gone over this in great detail in the Raising Your Pup! phone class, but remember that the key to successful housebreaking is consistency and avoiding accidents inside. I do NOT recommend wee-pad-training if you are going to ultimately expect him to toilet outside only. Poodles are super smart and generally housetrain quickly and without incident if you are diligent and consistent.
Chewing/mouthing: Puppies begin losing their baby teeth around 5 months old. Until then, they are teething – just like babies do. The difference is that they have little sharp teeth already in their mouths. They hurt. So your pup has to be taught not to teeth on *you*. Here again, we’ll go over this in our Raising your Pup! phone class, but you will be learning to redirect your puppy to things that are appropriate to chew on and rewarding when he does. Remember that he’s lived with a long-time trainer for 2 months and had much attention; he will already have been started on understanding not mouthing on humans.
Chewies/bones/etc: Puppies MUST have things to chew on! AVOID all chewies from China. I try to make sure everything is USA-sourced. Here’s the list of what I recommend (links to actual product(s) can be found in the puppy Supply List page):
- Bully Sticks – I recommend the 10-12″ ones, as fat as you can find. Limit to about 1/2 hour at a time – they are very rich. They are meant to chew and ingest these. They are fully digestible.
- Water buffalo horns – They love these. Generally they just chew these, though if a small piece comes off and they swallow it, it’s okay.
- Goat horns. These they chew but if a small piece breaks off and they eat it, it’s all right.
- Cow hooves. They love them. Avoid the ones stuffed with anything. They chew on these and rarely swallow pieces but if they eat small pieces it’s fine.
- Deer antlers. “Split antlers” are the best for pups. They are split up and down – exposing the hard marrow long-wise, which is what they want.
- Marrow bones. Best gotten from a butcher, or some supermarkets have them. I usually push the marrow out (though they love it, it is VERY rich) and give the bone with just a little bit of the marrow left inside and let them chew and clean it themselves. Avoid the ones you get in pet stores etc that are bleached and stuffed with who knows what!
- Pig’s ears – Here again, meant to chew and ingest.
- NO RAWHIDE of any kind!! Rawhide is NOT digestible and can cause an impaction.
Toys: All dogs need toys. Puppies especially have to have things to play with. (Links to actual product(s) can be found in the puppy Supply List page.) Puppies should have an assortment of different types of toys. Booda Bone ropes, Kongs, stuffed toys with squeakers inside, rubber toys. You can rotate toys much like you do with young children; when they get bored with what they have, put them away and give them new toys for a couple of weeks. When you bring out the old stuff, they think it’s new.
Things to avoid? I don’t love latex toys – they are EASILY chewed open and pieces swallowed. I also don’t like fake lambswool stuffed toys or tennis balls. In both cases, pups like to sit there and pull the fuzz up and off with their front teeth.
Be safe with toys! If your pup chews a toy open, throw it away. You do not want him ingesting the stuffing or choking on a squeaker! For the same reason, I don’t suggest toys (except Kongs if necessary) be left in the crate or with an unsupervised dog.
Flea prevention: While I tend toward the more holistic and natural (and anti-chemical) with most things, flea prevention is the one big exception. Some disagree, but I have yet to find a “natural” flea preventive that truly works. If you end up with fleas on your dog, not only do you expose him to disease (fleas can transmit tapeworm) and make him miserable, but you also have fleas in your home. (For every one flea on the dog, it’s said there are 100 living in his immediate environment!) For me, it is absolutely not worth the risk. No, I don’t love putting chemicals on the dog every month – but I also don’t love what he’s going to go through if or when we get fleas. So. I strongly encourage you to continue to use flea prevention at least from April through December. Most use it all year round.
Heartworm prevention: Heartworm can be transmitted when a mosquito bites your dog. Yes, it’s worms that live in your dog’s heart. It can be VERY nasty and isn’t pleasant to treat. Not all the dogs live through the treatment. It is, however, fully and easily preventable. Give a monthly Heartworm Preventative. Vets routinely recommend giving it year round, though I’ve read studies, and had holistic veterinarians agree, that in the Northeast it’s safe to give just March-December.
Grooming: Poodles need to be groomed every 4-6 weeks. Poodle’s hair continues to grow (which is why they don’t appear to shed) and must be cut at regular intervals. If you are local, I will be giving you the name and number of a groomer I completely trust. Part of owning a poodle is committing to the grooming needs. They are not easy dogs to groom yourself – most especially if you want to keep them looking at all poodley! They do NOT have to be kept in elaborate poodle cuts (unless you want to), but I do always suggest keeping their faces short so they can see, and so you can see those amazingly expressive eyes. With my guys, I choose to keep their body fairly short, and they get a “clean face,” which means shaved fairly close. They all have long hair on their tails. Some people prefer to let their poodles grow a bit and keep them shaggy looking. To me, that makes them look like doodles, but some like that look. Know that the longer you keep their hair, the more upkeep you have in the way of keeping them brushed and tangle- and mat-free.
And hang on! Don’t miss the Supply List that you’ll need for your new pup!