BE YOUR DOG'S ADVOCATE
Your puppy cannot make wise decisions for him- or herself. Therefore, you have to make decisions that will likely impact the physical and mental health of your puppy -- and eventual adult dog. Please ADVOCATE for your dog! What does this mean?
- Stay informed of vaccination protocols and the reasons for them so that you can have a reasoned discussion with your veterinarian. Ultimately, the care provided to your dog is YOUR decision and if you have to overrule your veterinarian on when and how many vaccinations (or even which) to administer at a time, do so. Feel free to print out the Dodd's vaccination protocol and take it to your veterinarian to show them that this is what you'll be following.
- Likewise, if your veterinarian suggests early spay or neuter for your dog, you should feel comfortable informing him or her that you have read the background literature on why early spay or neuter is not a good idea and you will not be spaying or neutering until the dog is of an appropriate age to do so. The same goes for nutritional decisions that you make. Veterinarians, like primary care physicians for us, are generalists and do not necessarily have specialized training in nutrition. You can act as a resource for your veterinarian and some will actually be appreciative of information that you provide. NOTE: Recent concern about "grain-free" kibbles and taurine-deficient mediated dilated cardiomyopathy has created a huge amount of confusion about what kind of feed to buy for your puppy and dog. We strongly RECOMMEND that you read updates on this topic and the statement from Dr. Jean Dodd's about the testing that is ongoing on this subject to understand what the results of current tests mean.
- Feel free to tell people to leave your puppy alone or dictate how many people can approach at a single time and how they should approach. Strangers see cute puppies and want to pet them. If there are too many approaching your puppy at one time, this can be quite frightening. Just as you would not let a hoard of strangers approach your toddler and fondle him or her, you should also protect your puppy against too many people coming at him or her. Imagine a herd of elephants rushing you -- not exactly a fun thought! That's what a hoard of people coming at a puppy looks like. See this INFOGRAPHIC to understand the proper way a person should approach a dog.
- Carefully supervise young children approaching and touching your puppy. Young children can often be a bit clumsy and brutal around dogs, especially if they are not around dogs that much in their daily life. See this INFOGRAPHIC for how children should approach and play with any dog.
- If you are not comfortable with a particular training technique, DON'T DO IT! If you do not like a training suggestion provided by a class instructor, you should feel empowered enough to say that you will not do that to your puppy. If a trainer suggests throwing a can of pennies at your puppy to get it to stop doing something annoying, and you don't like that suggestion, just say NO. If you do not like the way your trainer handles your or other puppies in a class, find another trainer. Remember that you ARE IN CONTROL of how your puppy is treated.
- Keep your puppy's safety in mind at all times. This means puppy-proofing your house, limiting your puppy's forays in the house to a small, controlled area, crating or x-penning your puppy when you are too busy to watch him or her, walking your small puppy on leash outside to avoid contact with things that can cause injury and to avoid attacks by local hawks or coyotes, and paying attention when the puppy is out.
- Crate your dog whenever you put him or her in your car. Crates are NOT cruel -- they are safe zones for your puppy. Remember, if you are in a car accident and your puppy is loose -- it can escape and get hit by a car; it can panic and snap at or bite rescue personnel (in which case, they'll simply shoot it to get to you without interference); or it can be a projectile out of a window or into a dashboard and be instantly killed or so seriously injured that it needs to be euthanized. If the puppy is in a crate, it has the highest chance of surviving an accident and coming back to you safely. NOTE: not all crates are created equally -- a soft crate is useless in a car and some wire crates and plastic shell crates structurally fail in crash tests. Make sure you buy a sturdy crate that has been rated for crash tests. There are only two backseat harnesses that have passed crash tests; most are utterly useless. See this VIDEO for examples of crash tests showing harness and crate failures and also this VIDEO showing what happens to an unrestrained dog during a crash.
- Understand your puppy's exercise limitations for its age. If you love to jog or bicycle, the formula is 1 minute of exercise for each week of age of the puppy. A 9 week old puppy should only be walking or slow jogging for 9 minutes! Refer to the age appropriate exercise booklet in your puppy pack frequently. This SKELETAL IMAGE shows you when the growth plates will close in your dog. Use this exercise poster from Avidog/Zink to understand what exercises are age appropriate.
- Understand your puppy's physical limitations in terms of potty training and do not punish your puppy for mistakes. A young puppy, 8-12 weeks old, will have to eliminate every 2-3 hours if it has free access to water and/or food. It is YOUR responsibility to control access to these items. Puppies should not be free-fed, but should have regular feeding times (usually 2 meals or 3 smaller meals per day at specific times). If you go to bed at 10 pm, your puppy's last access to water should be about 7 pm with you taking it outside at 10 pm for a final "pee". You will also need to take your puppy out right after a meal, right after it wakes up from a nap or from a night's sleep, and after any play or training session. If your puppy makes a mistake, it is YOUR fault, not the puppy's. This GRAPHIC will help you remember when to potty your puppy and how the timing changes with age.
- Do NOT take your young puppy to any dog park PERIOD. A puppy can be killed by a larger dog in a matter of seconds with a single shake to the body. A puppy can be mobbed by other, larger dogs and become so terrified that it will become dog reactive and potentially even aggressive. In addition to these dangers, you have no idea of the vaccination status of the other dogs in the park, you have no idea if other dogs are carrying intestinal parasites or external parasites, and you are exposing your puppy to these disease vectors. JUST DON'T GO THERE with a puppy. See this tragic local news story for how a dog park visit can go terribly wrong very quickly. When your dog is older and mature mentally, you might choose to go to a dog park, but be vigilant at all times and keep your dog safe. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has provided an excellent article on the good, bad, and ugly aspects of dog parks that you should read.
- Properly socialize your dog and understand what socialization is. Many people think that socialization is getting dogs to play with or interact with other dogs. This is NOT socialization. Download this checklist for socialization activities and see this INFOGRAPHIC on socialization.
- Be a responsible dog citizen and do not let your dog approach another dog unless invited to do so. Do not be that person yelling, when your dog is rushing at another dog, "Don't worry, he's friendly"!!! Do not assume the other dog is friendly and do not assume that your dog will be friendly to a completely strange and unknown dog. See this INFOGRAPHIC on dogs in need of space and be aware of what the levels of reactivity look like in both your dog and other dogs.
- Learn about the developmental phases that a puppy goes through its first year of life. Do not expose the dog to potentially scary circumstances during any fear phases and do not purposely force your dog to do something they are wary of doing (they will NOT get over it and you will have a lot of work to do to desensitize them to that stimulus). This CHART will help you keep the developmental phases in mind.
- Learn the signs of stress and fear in your dog so that you can remove your dog from the circumstances causing these. Stress behaviors are numerous and are LISTED HERE.
- Be observant of your puppy and dog so that you know when something is "not right." After several months of living with your dog, you should have a very good idea of what "normal" behavior looks like in terms of eating, eliminating, playing, hanging out, etc. If your puppy or dog is not acting "normal" and this non-normal behavior lasts more than 1-2 days, take your dog to your veterinarian and run a tick panel, or get a urine analysis or blood analysis done!
- Feed your dog a quality diet. The sad truth today is that today so much of the food humans and our pets and livestock consume has pesticide or herbicide residues in it. Even if you're conscientious about looking at the protein content and sources of your dog's food, you still may be feeding a tainted diet. A 2018 study found that all brands of standard kibbles sold in stores like Petsmart/Petco and Target/Walmart had glyphosate residues present (the main ingredient in Round-Up). A 2019 study found that urine samples from dogs uniformly had glyphosate residues present in concentrations up to 4x what human urine has. Glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor, an antibiotic, can cause metabolic disruption, can harm body microbiomes, and may also be a carcinogen. Just as it is important for humans to eat a clean, organic diet, it is also important for our dogs to do so. Stay informed. This PDF can help steer you to better dog foods.