The Puppy Contract
The Puppy Contract has been designed as a tool to encourage the responsible breeding and buying of puppies - ensuring buyers have all of the information they need to make an informed decision when buying a puppy and allowing responsible breeders to set themselves apart by demonstrating the care and attention they have put into breeding puppies with the best chance of being happy and healthy.
The principles that underpin The Puppy Contract are:
- Every dog should be born with the best possible chance of living a healthy and happy life.
- All those who breed dogs should prioritise health, welfare and temperament over appearance to protect the welfare of both the parents and offspring.
- All those who benefit from dogs have a collective responsibility to work together to protect dog welfare.
- Both the buyer and breeder have an obligation to protect the welfare of the animals in their care.
Congratulations on your new puppy. We hope that he/she will settle into your household and provide years of joy and companionship. The following information provided is mostly aimed at the less experienced pet owner although we hope that experienced owners will also benefit from reading it.
In preparation for the arrival of your new puppy there will be several arrangements necessary to make him welcome. He will be experiencing many changes, leaving his mother and littermates and being surrounded by strange new sights, sounds and smells. With a little forward thought and preparation you can make it easier for him to settle in.
Your puppy will need somewhere to sleep. His bed should ideally be raised from the ground out of draughts and it should be lined with a vet bed or blanket for him to snuggle into, it may be that he misses the company of mother and siblings, and fails to settle at night. Even before your puppy is fully house-trained he will have an instinctive dislike of fouling his own bedding.
Puppy pads or newspaper should be spread over the floor around the bed to prevent accidents and it may be an idea to confine him to a specific area during house-training. This bedded area should be somewhere quiet to allow undisturbed sleep – many people find a corner of the kitchen ideal.
He will need food and water bowls of a design suitable to the breed. Your veterinary surgery or a good pet shop will be able to advise you on this. Stainless steel or ceramic bowls are generally the preferred type. Also a supply of food for your puppy will be necessary. Advice on feeding is given later.
Toys are useful to keep your puppy occupied. They like to play and chew so it is worth investing in a few toy bones or play rings to help prevent him from chewing the furniture! However, toys are never a substitute for lots of attention and play.
It is wise to look around your home before the arrival of your puppy. Take the opportunity to remove anything that may be a danger to him, such as electrical flexes.
The garden should also be checked for escape routes such as small holes in fencing or under gates. Swimming pools and ponds provide another danger and should be covered. Introducing the puppy into the household can be difficult; young children need to be taught that puppies are not toys and should not be left alone with them. Established pets have their own status in the family and care should be taken to ensure that new arrivals do not upset the “pecking order”. Introductions should be made under supervision.
Let your puppy familiarise himself with his surroundings by sniffing around and then introduce him to his bed. For the first few nights he may be restless or whimper when left alone. A warm hot water bottle wrapped in a blanket will act as a substitute for his mother’s companionship when placed in his bed. If this fails you could try a DAP device (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) which mimics the effect of a substance released by the mother’s skin and reassures and calms the puppy. DAP works through a room vaporiser or a collar which is available from the surgery.
It is best not to go to him every time he makes a noise as if you comfort him he will continue to demand attention. Do not let your puppy sleep in your bedroom.
At first your puppy will obtain enough exercise through his own natural exuberance but as he grows he will need regular exercise. He can be taken out once he has had vaccinations and a clean bill of health from your veterinary surgeon.
Training makes a dog a more enjoyable companion to live with and a much happier pet. An undisciplined dog can cause damage – not least of all to your home. Some people have a very real fear of dogs and an encounter with a boisterous uncontrolled pet can be distressing, so every owner has a clear responsibility to train their dog to behave properly. If you take a little time and trouble, you will find that the companionship of an obedient dog more than repays your efforts.
It is essential to start training your dog while he is still a puppy. The earlier the exposure to social and training situations, the lower the chances of problems developing. Once vaccinations have been completed, enrol in a local dog training class. An instructor can help you to establish the principles of training and give advice on any problems which may occur. Young puppies learn fast and wish to please. Bad habits, once acquired, are difficult to correct.
The basic lessons he will have to learn are:
- to come when called;
- walk with you on and off the lead;
- stop and sit on command; and
- stay when told to do so.
A puppy also needs to learn how to make his toilet habits permissible.
Dogs learn by associating cause and effect. If a dog does something and as a result enjoys the experience he will want to repeat it. Similarly if an action results in an unpleasant experience, he will not want to repeat the action. This principle can be used in training. When a dog does what is required he is rewarded; if he does not then he is corrected.
Whilst training it is important that you are in a position to enforce the command you have given, therefore all training is carried out on the lead. In most cases a standard collar and lead are adequate but there are several types available which are specifically designed to provide more control over the dog. “Halter” designs fit the muzzle and guide the head, whilst “check” collars tighten when the lead is jerked and release as soon as the lead is relaxed. Advice can be sought from your veterinary surgeon or pet health advisor about which collar is appropriate and how to fit it correctly.
Toilet training is also an important part of your dog becoming an acceptable member of the community.
House training of puppies should commence at 8 weeks of age. Pups should be taken outside after meals and periods of sleep. At least 20 minutes should be allowed outside, since sniffing and exploring is part of normal elimination behaviour. They should be praised if they perform appropriately. If the puppy does not urinate or defecate outside during this time he should be carefully watched once brought back indoors. If he should start to urinate or defecate indoors, the owner should startle the pup to stop the elimination and then take him outdoors again. In no case should the pup be physically punished after the act of eliminating inside the house, since this will only teach the pup to be fearful of the approach of the owner.
Introduce your puppy to a grooming routine. Your local veterinary surgery or reputable pet shop will be able to advise you on suitable grooming equipment. Your dog should be groomed daily if long-haired or at least twice weekly for short-haired breeds. Bathing should be confined to those especially dirty occasions! It is important to handle your puppy’s paws and practice cleaning its ears and brushing its teeth from a young age to make it accustomed to such procedures. This will greatly help with certain treatments later in life, for example the clipping of nails which some dogs find distressing. Bedding should be washed weekly.
If you have particular problems with training your dog a member of staff at your veterinary surgery will be happy to give advice and can also give you information about local dog training classes. If you have extreme difficulties in training your puppy your veterinary surgeon can refer you to a specialist in animal behaviour for expert advice.
Feeding Your Dog
Feeding your dog is not as complicated a task as many pet owners might think. The availability of balanced premium diets in dry and tinned form makes this the ideal choice for your puppy. Selecting a brand depends very much on personal preference, but remember that cheaper ones often contain poor quality ingredients which your puppy may not be able to digest that well. This may tend to cause stomach upsets and also hampers house-training. Your pet health advisor or veterinarian will be able to give advice on dietary matters; the following are just a few guidelines:-
Puppies should be offered solids from the age of 3 - 4 weeks and should be fully weaned by 8 weeks of age. This is normally the age when pups are placed with their new owners. Initially it is best to feed your newly acquired puppy the same diet that it was fed with at the breeder. If you want to change its diet, remember to do this gradually over a period of about 7 days. Puppies generally need 4 meals per day. This will be decreased slowly as the puppy loses interest in some of the meals. Adult dogs will need two meals per day, although some dogs seem happy with one meal only. It is unlikely that you will over feed a puppy, but from the age of about 6 months you should start paying closer attention to the amount of food fed as well as your puppy’s condition in order to prevent obesity.
Wash the food and water bowls on a daily basis and remember to have fresh drinking water freely available at all times.
Transportation to the Vets
It is not always possible for the veterinary surgeon to visit your dog at home and in most cases it is better to bring him to the surgery where there is support staff and specialised equipment to deal with emergencies. If there is any possibility that your dog may have to be given an anaesthetic, for example, to stitch a foot or to X-ray a broken leg, do not give him anything to eat or drink.
To transport an injured animal to your veterinary surgery, place a blanket or an old coat on the ground next to his back where he is lying, then gently lift and pull him, body first and legs trailing, onto the blanket. In this way you are less likely to cause further injury. Two people can pick up the corners of the blanket to form a stretcher and can transfer the dog to the back seat of a car. The person walking backwards should get into the car so that the blanket can be lowered onto the back seat. Telephone the surgery to let them know that you are on your way with an emergency or get someone to do so as you leave.
If the dog attempts to bite whilst being handled, tie his mouth gently but firmly with a bandage (a necktie or dog lead will do in an emergency). Tie it firmly round the jaw, crossover underneath and secure loose ends behind the neck. If the animal is experiencing any difficulty in breathing keep any restraint to a minimum.
There are many different products on the market with which to worm your puppy; powders, liquid, a paste or tablets. Your veterinary surgeon or nurse can give you guidance as to which product is best for your dog. It should be done regularly throughout your dog’s life; your puppy’s breeder should let you know when he was last treated. Puppies are wormed very 2 weeks until 8 weeks of age. We recommend repeating this at 12 weeks and monthly thereafter.
There are many external parasites that can affect your dog but the most common are fleas. There are different methods of controlling them and your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you on which products are suitable. Most of the flea’s development is in the home environment, for example pet bedding, under furniture and mattresses, in carpets etc., and it is important to treat this as well. Your veterinary surgery only stocks the best products available and although they may appear more expensive, it is important to realise that they are quite cost-effective once broken down to a cost per month and compared with other similar products. These products are often more effective and safer than over the counter products.
Preventative vaccination against the four major diseases; distemper, parvovirus, leptospirosis and hepatitis is very important. The initial course of two injections can be started from eight weeks and a booster with a general health check should be given annually. We also recommend that puppies should be routinely vaccinated against infectious canine bronchitis (kennel cough) to make socialisation safer. It is recommended that this be administered to puppies about 2 weeks before starting puppy training classes.
All animals not kept for breeding purposes should ideally be spayed or castrated. Breeding should only be undertaken to improve the breed and not for other reasons e.g. “making money” or “so the children can see” or “because it is good for the bitch”. Spaying should not be delayed, since having it done before her second season has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of mammary cancer developing later in life. There are other health benefits too, the commonly held objection that spayed bitches can be prone to obesity is only a problem in a few breeds and can be managed by correct feeding. Male dogs are sometimes prone to roaming, scent marking, mounting behaviour and even aggressiveness. All these conditions will improve with castration to a greater or lesser extent. We are also seeing older dogs with prostatic disease more frequently - again something that can be prevented by neutering. Neutering will not change your dog’s temperament.
Pet healthcare insurance is now commonplace. It can offer you protection against veterinary fees for illness or accident, cover for boarding kennel fees if you have to go into hospital, compensation if your pet is lost or stolen, accidental damage and third party liability. A bill for treatment for your dog after a road traffic accident for example can run into many hundreds of pounds so it is wise to be prepared. Cover can also include the new growing branch of complementary medicines such as physiotherapy, acupuncture and homeopathy.
It is now law that all puppies should be microchipped by 8 weeks of age. Ensure that the breeder transfers the registration and contact details to your name. Microchipping is the best insurance against losing your beloved pet. A simple injection in the scruff of the neck ensures that you and your pet will be re-united should it stray. For further information visit www.tracer-microchips.co.uk
When you make your travel arrangements it is important not to forget your dog. If you want to put your dog into kennels most will require you to book in advance, so you will need to contact them to arrange this. It is advisable to visit the kennels before you book your pet’s holiday. It may be possible for a friend or relative to look after your dog whilst you are away in which case you will need to ensure that they have all his belongings and food for the time you will be away. There are also organisations that will provide someone to “dog sit”, they will stay in your house and walk, feed and keep your dog company whilst you are away.
If you are staying in Great Britain and intend to take your dog with you, ensure that the place at which you are staying allows animals. If there is a long car journey and your animal is a poor traveller, he may need sedatives or travel sickness medication. This can be discussed with your veterinary surgeon who can provide them if suitable.