Dogs and Puppies

Looking after your dog

It is always a great event when a puppy arrives in its host family. After often several weeks of waiting, the newcomer is the centre of care and attention. But, if these good relations are to last, you will have to make sure that the situation of the puppy you have just acquired is one which eases integration.

It is indeed these first weeks of life together which, to a large extent, will set the pattern for your pet´s behaviour in future years.

In particular, you must avoid two big mistakes:

  • Thinking of the animal as a human being as far as intellectual and emotional capacities are concerned or, on the contrary;
  • Acting as though it were no more than a machine, devoid of feeling and of understanding.

Your dog is a living creature. In their natural environment, dogs live in groups with complex hierarchical social rules. Its development is based on attachment, and the first weeks are crucial for the rest of its life. This is when it learns the basic features of its environment, and how to control itself. The very long period of its dependence on its mother (or human tutors) goes with its considerable learning capacity. It is able to acquire social rituals favouring the harmony of the group and to forge individual bonds with one or other members of it.

For dogs, communication involves all of the senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch). It represents a blend of instinctive messages, reflexes and more complex learned sequences combining posture, vocalisation and emission.

  • Like all mammals, a dog will adapt- several times in the course of its life, if need be- to very different conditions, families and environments. But do not forget that, whatever the circumstances, your companion is always going to react as a dog, with a dog´s understanding and a dog´s reflexes.
  • Nor should you forget that your pet is unique- an individual moulded by its parents, birth, early environment, time spent with the mother, and all its various experiences of life.

All of the general rules which you are going to be given here will need to be adapted to each individual case. So are you aware now of your dog´s complexity, richness and limits? If so, then, let us see a few important points so as to avoid getting off on the wrong foot.

Things to Be Learnt

Toilet training

Adopting a little dog means accepting that you are going to be using a floor-mop for a certain time. At the ideal age for adoption- around 8 or 9 weeks- toilet-trained puppies are few and far between!

To expedite matters, there are a few rules to follow, and especially some mistakes to avoid making.

  • Spot the right moment: in very young pups, each and every meal, drink and awakening triggers the need to "do its business". If you take your dog out right then, you stand a good chance of being able to hand out a bit of reinforcement (strokes) for business done in a place of your choosing.
  • Reward works better than punishment! It does not need to be systematic in order to be efficacious.
  • Never punish your puppy if you have not caught it "on the job". It might get afraid of you. "Putting its nose in it" is not a punishment at all (you will see that dogs quite happily do as much by themselves!) and would not help it to know what you´re so cross about. It will, of course, put on its "hang-dog" look - but so would it if you scolded it when it had done nothing at all! It reacts to your expression rather than to any fault it may have committed itself.
  • Don´t use the "newspaper method"! Learning twice over is just twice as hard. Take your puppy out, as soon as it has been vaccinated. That way, it will soon learn, and will never be afraid in the street.
  • Don´t clean up its business in front of it. It´s going to take that as a sign of interest on your part.

Simple commands

If you are going to get on well with your dog, you will need to train it in two types of command: call and stop.

  • Many a dog has been saved from an accident by being able to obey these very simple commands. In both cases, you should begin training your new friend very early on. Education begins as soon as the puppy arrives in your home.
  • Use simple words, and always the same ones. "Heel, Fido!" or "Rex, come!" will do just as well one as the other, as long as you do not change them.
  • The younger the puppy, the more the training needs to be playful, and the shorter the sessions should be: 5 minutes at a stretch for a 3 month-old.
  • Rewarding is always more effective.
  • Disobedience is very often due to not understanding. Words mean little to a dog, so you should back them up with clear accompanying gestures which it can learn and interpret more quickly.
  • As regards the call, never stand in front of your dog pointing at it and calling to heel!

Advice: For the first lessons, crouch, face away and call softly, tapping your thigh, "Come, boy!". This makes you attractive for your puppy, who will come, and be delighted to get a vigorous stroking as a reward.

Walking on a lead

Walking on a lead does not mean much to a dog. You are going to have to teach it this new relationship which binds it to its master or mistress.

  • At first, you could put the collar and lead on your puppy, and let it get used to this little constraint.
  • When you pull on the lead, do so gently. Give some little tugs, calling your dog´s attention by clicking your tongue. As soon as it follows the direction of the lead, be it only for a yard or two, reward it with some vigorous strokes.
  • Once the puppy begins to frisk alongside you on its lead, go on catching its attention with lots of little sound signals, so as to get it used to making regular visual contact with you. In this way, the physical leash is backed up by a vocal tether.
  • Keep the lead slack: as soon as the puppy pulls, bring it back sharply to heel and slacken the lead straight away again, accompanying your gesture with always the same command: "Spot, here!" or "Flash, heel!". As soon as the dog goes a few yards without tugging, give it a stroke.

Advice: A tight leash is a transmission line for emotions and may trigger undesirable reactions, such as aggressiveness towards other dogs.


Nowadays we are all convinced of the truth of the slogan, "One day, our food will be our best medicine." To have a good and handsome dog later on, correct food needs providing from the earliest age. Canine nutritional science has made strides - puppies´ nutritional requirements are known precisely, so that industrial manufacturers can now supply perfectly balanced foodstuffs.

A puppy´s nutritional requirements vary with its size. Thus, puppies can be seen to put on weight very quickly at first. This then slows down, at between 4 and 6 months (4 months for small dogs and 6 months for large ones). As in everything else, excess and deficiency are both harmful. A puppy which is too fat is liable to be obese later on. Being overweight moreover predisposes to bone and joint disorders in large-framed animals. Hence the importance of weighing your puppy regularly, to check that growth is proceeding smoothly.

Industrial or home-made food?

Dog-owners believe they are doing the right thing by feeding their dog with the leftovers of the table, whereas dogs´ nutritional requirements have got nothing to do humans´. All the same, it is true that we have the choice between two ways of feeding our dogs: home-made or industrial food.

Industrial - tins or dog-biscuits?

Dogfood manufacturers provide puppies with product-ranges adapted to size. These are perfectly balanced, which means that no extras are needed. The choice then is between dry rations (biscuits) and wet (tins). The former is often more practical and cheaper. You must make sure that the puppy always has fresh water at its disposal.

The choice of industrial food is based on an idea of quality: Vets supply "premium" and "superpremium" food. These high quality products may sometimes be a bit more expensive than down-market ranges, but the repercussions in terms of your dog´s health and its fur´s beauty are striking. The price difference mainly comes from the quality of the raw materials used, notably as regards proteins. Moreover, these products are very appetising, so that your puppy will be eager to eat.

Finally, certain owners wonder whether they should vary their animal´s food.    The answer is no. Dogs do not need variety and may quite happily consume one type of food all life long. Not only that, but sudden changes in diet can cause digestive complications.

The amount of food to be given is shown on the packaging. However, you should check your puppy´s weight regularly and adjust the amount of food in line with its ideal weight. Your Vet is also a nutritionist, and can help you find the ideal food for your puppy.

Home Cooking

There are those who remain unconvinced of the advantages of shop food. You can make your animal´s meals yourself. There are several types of rations which must absolutely be topped up in calcium and phosphorus (seek advice from your Vet).

Here is a possible menu (for 1kg of rations):

  • red meat: 450 g
  • cooked and drained rice: 400 g
  • cooked and drained veg (carrots, french beans): 85 g
  • salad oil (soy, rape or sunflower): 35 g
  • extra minerals and vitamins: 30 g

Meal-time rhythm

For an adult dog, one meal a day is enough. For puppies, 4 meals a day are generally advised at first, the frequency to be gradually reduced.


More or less, clean water should be constantly available. Water requirements vary greatly with food, weight and climate (e.g., a 25kg 6 month old pup, eating 500 grammes of dog-biscuits per day, needs 2 litres of water). The requirements will obviously be lower for a puppy feeding on tinned or household food.

Beware of treats!

Ideally, your puppy should only ever get meals. But it sometimes is hard not to go soft! Then, at least, no sweets: shop treats are better adapted to a puppy´s nutritional requirements. Also, your puppy should not be allowed to "beg" at the table - not only for nutritional but also behavioural reasons: sharing a meal is a sign of dominance in a dog pack. Dogs should eat after their masters and never get food during meals.

General Well-being

You know that your puppy is in good health. You feed it properly, and have it vaccinated, wormed and treated for parasites according to plan: fine ... You can still show all your love, in various little ways of daily care and comfort. You alone can save it from the dangers of life; Its health and well-being depend on you.

  • Brushing, for your dog´s pleasure and your own. Brush every day, if you have a long- or medium-haired dog (Yorkshire terrier, collie or golden retriever), twice weekly for woolly or tough fur (poodle or fox terrier), and once a month for short-haired dogs (dachshund or boxer). Talk to your dog during these moments of conviviality, and finish up with a reward.
  • Trim claws. If your dog spends more time walking on carpet than on hard floors, teach it to give you its paw to have its claws cut or filed. Your vet can advise you as to the right tool, and how far to go
  • Eyes. When you find mucus in the corner of your dog´s eyes, or even a slight watering, you need to take a sterile compress soaked in a special ophthalmic solution for dogs (or cats). Press your hand, with the compress, against the skull and clean directly. In case of blood-shot eyes or persistent watering, consult your Vet without delay. Eyes are precious jewels.
  • Walks. So far as possible: always at the same time of day, regularly ,and at least three times a day, take your dog out on its lead. The lead can become a symbol of enjoyment. More-or-less always take exactly the same route, for the sake of habit and the dog´s intellectual comfort: they hate change.
  • Self-cleaning ears.So long as your dog´s ears are clean and odourless, leave them alone and they will stay perfect. Some dogs do have too many hairs in their ears, and gentle depilation is required (done by your Vet, your groom- or yourself: they can show you how). Many puppies have too much black or dark brown earwax, causing them to shake and scratch their heads. If your Vet diagnoses ear-mange, you will be told what course to follow so as to clear up this form of parasitosis once and for all within a month.
  • Shining white teeth.Scales, of mineral salts contained in the saliva, all too quickly form on the dental plaque, especially in certain small-sized races. Use a brush or special finger-stall to brush the teeth with a special dogs´ toothpaste. No joke! It´s the one way to ensure healthy adult teeth which will last all life long, with sweet breath and better health into the bargain. If scaling occurs all the same, the teeth risk coming loose. Regular de-scaling- by ultrasound, of course- is the optimal solution.
  • Bath-time. Generally speaking, you need quite hot water, at around 39C, and to get it all over with in 5 minutes, then dry your dog thoroughly (towels and hair-dryer). Some dogs do not need washing more than once a year. Shampoos for humans are a little different for those carefully developed for dogs. Your Vet will advise as to the rhythm and special product to use in case of problems: sebum or allergy, for example.

Finally, don´t forget that, during most anti-parasite treatments (for fleas, or tics, etc.), it is recommended not to bathe the dog for 48 hours prior to and after treatment.

Health Issues

One morning, your dog just stays on its cushion, in its basket or its kennel without the usual celebrations...

Muzzle warm or cold?

It makes no difference, unless it is abnormally dry, crackled or oozing. Your dog may have a 40°C fever and a cool muzzle, or vice-versa. The only thing that counts is the intra-rectal temperature.


The normal average temperature is 38.5C, ranging between 38C and 39C.

You need a medical thermometer, electronic preferably rather than the old mercury ones, well-lubricated and gently slipped into the rectum for a sufficiently long time. Infections are often accompanied by fever (temperature above 39C, accelerated breathing and heart-rate, and prostration). Illness may be free of fever and just as dangerous as an infection.

Not eating

Your dog is uninterested by its first meal; well, okay... But is it playful, lively and alert? Yes? Then just pick up its platter of dog-biscuits, tinned dog-food, home-made meal or whatever. Do not give it something different. Serve it up again at the next meal-time. If it eats it, that´s fine. If the hunger-strike persists, phone the Vet for guidance.


What has it vomited?

  • Grass? Nothing more normal, up to a certain point.
  • A little bile? Nothing unusual.
  • The previous day´s meal? Does it otherwise still seem fit and well? If it eats at its usual time and nothing else happens, it´s probably not serious.
  • Your dog is "off colour"? Consult straight away: it could be the beginnings of gastro-enteritis or of some other trouble. Best treat immediately.

Soft or liquid stools?

With a diet adapted to its stage of life, properly wormed and vaccinated, and if the cause is not too serious (there could be so many!), it will recover with a 24 hour cure of drinking tap-water and rice-water. Resume feeding gradually. If diarrhoea is accompanied by bleeding and a generally altered condition, consult as soon as possible.

Coughing at night?

Kennel cough is highly contagious, and your dog may not have been vaccinated against this. If your dog is coughing for some other reason, your Vet will be able to find out what it is and to treat it too, shortening the duration of the cough and avoiding complications.

Always sleeping?

Siestas aside, particularly in hot weather - even if sleeping sickness does not exist for dogs, something else may be incubating. Your Vet will be able to find out what. So get along there.

Always drinking, and urinating to match?

With modern dog-biscuits (20% liquid), your dog needs to drink more than with tinned foods at 80% water-content. In hot weather, with exercise, water requirements go up. Never deprive your dog of water, but monitor how much it is needing each day and let your Vet know if it is excessive.

Emergencies - What to do

As the owner of a puppy, you may come up against emergencies. Knowing what they are is being better able to foresee them, but also being able to do the right thing and make the right decision. Here are a few recommendations to follow in case of trauma, insect bites, poisoning, electrocution, infection or heat-stroke.


Puppies are lively, easily distracted, and often fail to answer their master´s commands. They are all the more liable to get run over by a car. Confronted by this kind of accident, you need to keep calm and try to assess the observable injuries. Your puppy´s pain and shock may make them behave abnormally, be cautious when assessing their injuries.

If your dog is bleeding profusely: press the wound with a finger, or, better still, with a clean cloth, to encourage coagulation. If your dog cannot get up, handle it with great care, trying to keep it horizontal. Spinal injuries may have been sustained, too much manipulation might aggravate this type of injury. If any bone is visible, do not touch it but cover with a cloth to stop any more germs getting in. Finally, regarding injuries to the muzzle, if there are blood or saliva clots interfering with breathing, remove them with a towel, taking care not to put your fingers between its teeth: it might unintentionally bite you under the effect of pain and shock.

If you dog appears unharmed after a traumatic accident: you must still consult your vet. Serious lesions can be invisible. These recommendations obviously apply to any trauma : falling from a window, fights, etc..


Being young, your puppy is especially sensitive to infectious diseases, and notably gastrointestinal ones. These may be caused by parasites, viruses or bacteria. In the most serious cases, they can cause severe dehydration and death in a matter of hours. In less severe cases, a twelve hour fast, with water constantly available, may be enough for a cure. Fasting should not be prolonged, due to the danger of hypoglycemia.

If your dog´s condition worsens or the symptoms persist, you should consult your Vet.

Insect bites and other venoms

Insect bites cause swelling of the paw or muzzle, but can also lead to breathing difficulties or allergic shock. Try to extract the sting with tweezers if you can see it, and take your puppy to see the Vet, who will administer an anti-inflammatory treatment to halt allergic reaction.


If your dog has attacked an electric wire and got itself electrocuted, there may only appear local burns at first; all the same, you must take it to the Vet´s, as a serious lung oedema may ensue.


Young pups also tend to bite and swallow almost anything. In case of poison, it is no use giving your dog milk or anything else to drink, or putting your fingers in its throat to make it vomit (failure almost assured!). You need to take it straight away to the Vet´s, who will administer something to provoke vomiting before the poison gets digested.

In case of convulsions, do not put your fingers in its mouth to take hold of the tongue: again, you might get bitten. Bear in mind also that not all substances have an immediate effect: good health for the first few hours is not the same thing as no toxic effect (e.g., anticoagulant rat poison).

Don´t forget to take the package of the poison, where the composition is mentioned: this will help treatment.


Simply, never leave your puppy in the car: in the sun, the inside temperature can reach 60 or 70C, causing dehydration and a state of shock in a matter of minutes (remember that the sun "goes round", and the shade shifts). In such a case, your dog needs to be cooled down as quickly as possible: douse it with cold water and take it urgently to the Vet´s. Do not try leaving the window ajar: your dog could stick its head through and get stuck and hung in the door.

Some advice

Keep your puppy out of harm´s way! It is just amazing how many dangers a house or a flat contains. Think about it, before anything happens. Keep everything tidy:

  • Your medicines: your dog could tear up a box and swallow the contents.
  • Chocolate: nice, but easily toxic... for a dog, because of the theobromine.
  • Cleaning products: caustic, and can cause burns (e.g., bleach).
  • Electric wires: electrocution!
  • String: blocked intestines.
  • Sewing baskets: needles.
  • Razor blades and knives: cut hazard
  • Any boiling liquid or even hot bath-water.
  • Cocktails left on the coffee-table have alcohol in them.
  • In the garage, antifreeze, apparently, tastes nice and sweet. Also highly toxic.
  • In the garden shed, pesticides, weed-killer and rat poison are best stored at a height, out of reach. If your dog swallows any, go straight to see the Vet, who will do what is necessary.

Finally, beware of beautiful plants. Indoor plants are nice for you to see, and for your dog to nibble! E.g., Diffenbachia, philodendron, poinsettia, holly and ivy. Water containing fertiliser has an exotic taste and could send your dog to the veterinary clinic.

Canine Herpes Virus

The virus

Canine herpes virus (CHV-1) is a virus that has been largely ignored for many years. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the virus causes many more problems than was first thought. Like all herpes viruses, CHV is highly infectious, and a recent study showed that more than 80% of dogs in England have been exposed to the virus at some time in their lives.

The problem

For most dogs CHV is not thought to cause any significant problem and so for a long time is has largely been ignored by both breeders and vets. However, it is now clear that CHV can be a significant cause of death in young puppies, and also smaller litter size and weight.

The unborn puppy

CHV attacks the placenta of the mother, starving the foetus of nutrients. This can lead to abortion, stillbirth or re-absorption of the foetus (seen by the breeder as infertility).

The newborn puppy

If the puppy is infected before birth and survives, it may be underweight at birth and have a weakened immune system, making it vulnerable to early puppyhood infections.

If the puppy is infected soon after birth, CHV is known to be one of the factors in "fading puppy syndrome", in which the pup fails to suckle, loses weight and fades away despite intensive care.

The adult dog

in the dog, CHV can cause painful lesions on the genitals. In the bitch, there may not be any external signs, but the bitch seems infertile or gives birth to undersize and weak litters. In both males and females, CHV is also known to be a cause of kennel cough.


There is no cure for an animal that has CHV - infection is probably lifelong and can flare up repeatedly during periods of stress. Antiviral drugs do not appear to be effective and are very expensive.


A new vaccine has just been launched in the UK by Merial Animal Health Ltd, best known as the makers of Frontline®. The vaccine, Eurican® Herpes 205, cannot prevent infection but if given during pregnancy it has been shown to significantly improve fertility rates and reduce early puppy death. Even bitches that already have the virus can be vaccinated.

The vaccine is available from veterinary surgeons now and for more information about this new vaccine, or any of the Eurican dog vaccine range, contact us.

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