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Common Puppy Questions

We get lots of questions about what to do before getting a puppy, in those early days of puppyhood, and as your puppy moves into adolescence and adulthood, so we've put some of the most commonly asked questions (and answers!) below.

Before you get your puppy

What supplies do I need for my puppy?

Puppies are a major investment, both in terms of time and money, and require a fair bit of equipment to set them up properly. The basics are, of course, good quality puppy food, food and water bowls, a comfy dog bed, an ID tag (in UK law it should have your last name and postcode as a minimum, but I would strongly recommend including your phone number as well!), a well-fitting collar, a basic lead (not retractable, as this teaches your pup to pull!) and a Y shaped harness (I recommend Perfect Fit when your pup is an adult, but a cheaper Y shaped harness from Pets at Home will do until they reach full size). For training recall, I would also recommend a long-line lead (still not retractable!) to use until you are confident your pup is safe to be let off-lead.

 

In terms of hygiene... for toilet training, I recommend a litter tray with a patch of real turf (grass) in it, as this will help Pup make the association between toileting and grass. I would suggest having, at minimum, one upstairs and one downstairs, but ideally one in every main room the pup will be in. Puppy pads and newspaper can inadvertently teach Pup that those are the places they're supposed to toilet so they hold it until they get back inside! Pup will definitely still have accidents in the early days though, so invest in an enzyme cleaner to remove the smell of the toileting, otherwise Pup may think that's a good place to go! Don't forget plenty of poo bags for when you're out and about (pro tip: nappy bags from the baby section of any store are cheaper and equally as effective). Your pup will inevitably have an accident on themselves as well, so I suggest having a puppy shampoo to hand.

 

It's a good idea to invest in an enzymatic toothpaste for dogs and a standard toothbrush (I use the cheap human ones from Sainsbury's), as it's much easier to introduce teeth brushing when your pup is young, and your dog (and bank account) will thank you for it later. A good pair of dog nail clippers is also important, and it's good to get your pup used to having their nails trimmed early. You can teach your pup to file their own nails by making an emery board from a wooden chopping board and sandpaper, but even with this you'll need to trim the thumb nails (and possibly the back feet, although it can be taught!). Even if you don't plan to trim your pup's nails, it's a good idea to buy a pair of clippers or a doggy file so you can teach your pup not to be afraid of them when they need to be used at the groomers or the vets. A decent brush for grooming would be helpful too, especially if your pup is longer-haired or enjoys mud. A car seatbelt or crate for the car will be necessary if your pup will be travelling this way as, by UK law, dogs must be securely restrained in the car. If your pup is short-haired or feels the cold, you'll also need dog coats of varying thickness for different weathers. 

 

You'll likely need baby gates to contain Pup to ensure good supervision and safety, as well as some form of crate or den where they can go when they can't be supervised. Make sure the crate/den is always associated with lots of nice blankets, chew toys, and treats so Pup thinks of this as their safe place. The den/crate should never be a place of punishment! Speaking of chew toys... unless you're ready to say goodbye to all your furniture and shoes, I strongly suggest investing in a variety of chew toys. Teething puppies will chew! This is a natural and necessary impulse, and they need plenty of variable outlets. Rope toys are good for sore gums, as are hard rubber toys. You can get some rubber bones that can be smeared with plain yoghurt and put in the freezer, which will alleviate sore gums temporarily. You should also provide Pup with natural chews such as olive wood, antler, and bull horns. Ensure the chews are an appropriate size for your pup; too big and Pup could damage their teeth, too small and Pup could swallow them. Stay away from bones and sticks as these can splinter easily and result in a costly vet bill! Please always supervise Pup when chewing as they can quickly swallow pieces of toys or chews which can cause a lot of problems for your pup and your wallet.

What costs should I prepare for?

Puppies (and dogs) are not cheap. You'll have a variety of costs, some ongoing and some only once in a while. Initially, you need to factor in all the equipment above, as well as first vaccines and a microchip (if they aren't already chipped). It is a legal requirement for all dogs in the UK to be microchipped. You also need to factor in monthly food costs, plenty of boiled chicken for training treats, and a never-ending supply of poo bags and enzymatic cleaner. You'll need to account for the monthly cost of pet insurance, as well as some savings to cover your excess and the annual health check and vaccinations. Your pup will also need monthly flea prevention, as well as worming prevention every three months. I would also recommend an initial training class, and potentially ongoing training depending on your pups needs. You'll need to consider a dog walker and potentially a pet-sitter for holidays where you may need to leave your pup behind. And don't forget a constant supply of new toys!

What food should I get for my puppy?

Different pups have different nutritional needs based on their breed, age, health, and individuality. I strongly recommend speaking with a vet first and foremost about your dog's nutritional needs and whether the food you're offering is of good quality and contains the right nutrients for your individual pup.

 

If your pup is coming from a breeder or foster carers, ask them what food your pup has been eating so you can get the same food for when they come home. You can then transfer them slowly to another food if needed. 

If your dog is consistently showing signs of tummy distress (i.e., his nickname is Sir Fart-a-lot!), it is likely Pup is intolerant to something in the food. If this is the case, speak to your vet about what the cause may be and give their suggestions a go. It's important to find food that is just right for your dog to ensure a happy and healthy life throughout all their developmental stages.

Boiled chicken is recommended as a good training treat throughout this page as it's healthier than many processed options, has a strong smell, and is easy for Pup to eat quickly during training sessions. If your pup has any allergies or intolerances to chicken (or simply doesn't like it!) substitute the chicken for a treat Pup can enjoy.

What pet insurance should I use?

While I do not wish to endorse a specific pet insurance company, there are a few things you should watch out for when selecting your pet insurance policy. Many rescue organisations and breeders offer a month's trial of a specific pet insurance when your pet comes home with you, but before committing long-term, make sure your chosen policy will cover your dog for life. Most pet insurance policies fall into one of three categories: lifetime cover, annual cover, or accident-only cover. Accident-only is fairly self-explanatory and only covers costs related to an accident your pet experiences; it does not cover any costs of illness or old age. Annual policies appear at first glance to be the cheapest and most cost-effective, and may well be while your dog is a healthy puppy. However, the majority of pet insurance companies won't cover a pet over the age of 9 years unless they are already covered by a lifetime policy, and any illness or injury that is covered in an annual policy will then be a pre-existing condition the following year and, therefore, will no longer be covered. For that reason, I would strongly recommend a lifetime policy that will allow you to continue claiming year after year for any health conditions that may arise, especially if your dog is over the age of 5 years! Other things to check are whether your policy covers dental care and third-party liability (just in case!).

Personally, I use Waggel, as my senior pets needed a new insurance company and they offered lifetime cover for them and have continued to pay year after year for the (many) arthritis claims I have had to submit. While I don't endorse one company over another, if you want to try Waggel, you can get your first month free here.

How can I help my puppy transition from their previous residence to my home?

If you're bringing your pup home from a reputable breeder, you should be able to plan your pup's transition ahead of time. A good breeder will welcome you dropping off blankets and toys for your pup so these items smell familiar when your pup comes home for the first time. A good breeder will also give you information about the food your puppy is currently eating (as well as possibly sending home a portion of this food) so that you can keep things as familiar as possible for your pup. You should also be given the opportunity to visit and spend some time with your pup before they come home. I would strongly recommend you take every opportunity to do this to help your pup become as familiar as possible with you before they come home.

If your pup is coming home from a rescue or shelter, the transition will depend on the set-up of the rescue. If Pup is in a foster home, it is likely you can ask to be put in touch with the foster carer to ask any questions about your pup, and arrange a handover of blankets and toys as above, to ensure your pup has familiar items and scents when they come home. The foster carer or rescue will also be able to tell you what food they are currently on. You should be given the opportunity to have at least one 'meet & greet' or playdate, and may even be able to arrange a second or third. Take advantage of every opportunity to do this to help ease your pup's transition home. 

 

If your pup is in a shelter environment, this can be trickier, but may still be possible. If you are unable to give your pup transitional items prior to coming home, you can simply give them a quiet area to retreat to in the home (such as a crate or den) to help them feel safe until they're ready to explore in their own time (see next questions below). The shelter may know the food Pup is on, but they may be given a variety of brands depending on what has been donated to the shelter.

If your pup is coming from an overseas rescue and you are picking your pup up 'straight off the bus', there will be no transition possible and your pup will likely be highly traumatised from their travels. It is even more important in this scenario that Pup has a safe, quiet place to retreat to, as explained below.

Before you get a puppy
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When your puppy comes home

How can I help my puppy feel safe?

Moving to a new home with new people, new smells, new rules, and possibly new animals while leaving behind everything and everyone familiar (including their littermates and parents) is a very scary time for your pup - especially if they've also travelled long-distance to get there! While this will be a thrilling time for you, it is important that Pup has a safe, quiet place where they won't be disturbed (except to meet care needs such as feeding and toilet breaks). It is likely you'll want to hold and fuss Pup much of the time, and if Pup initiates this and genuinely appears to want this interaction, that is absolutely fine. But even the most sociable pup needs some downtime. Puppies should be sleeping (or at least resting!) for up to 20 hours a day, so it is important your puppy is left to rest in peace. If your pup is shying away from interaction or appears anxious when being handled, give them a little extra space while they adjust to their new environment. 

Hopefully, you'll have prepared a crate or den for Pup before they arrived, filled with soft blankets, soft toys, chew toys, and natural chews (if not, now is a good time!). Make sure this is set up in a quiet area away from a lot of foot traffic. If there are children in the home, the den should be in a room where the children do not spend the majority of their time. You can lay a blanket over a crate to make it darker if Pup is anxious or needs to sleep. Every so often, as you walk by Pup (especially if they're anxious), drop a piece of chicken in so they associate both their den and you with good things coming. You can give Pup meals in their den to help build positive associations, and give them a biscuit or small chew when they go to bed which will naturally help them fall asleep (chewing is to young puppies as sucking is to babies!). Never call Pup out of their den to do something unpleasant (such as giving medication or trimming nails); if these need to be done, wait until Pup naturally comes out. If your pup is upset at being in a crate or den, try moving it to where you are (or ideally moving yourself to where the den is so it remains quiet) and leaving the door open so Pup can go in there to sleep but doesn't feel trapped. Keep building those positive associations so the den becomes somewhere Pup wants to go. 

How do I socialise my puppy?

Socialisation means so much more than getting Pup used to playing with other puppies. To really socialise a puppy, you need to expose them to as many new experiences as possible, while remaining below their stress threshold. 

Before Pup is old enough to be walked (i.e., if Pup is not fully vaccinated), you can begin their socialisation by inviting a friend or family member to bring their calm, tolerant dog to Pup's home (only if their dog has had a vet check and vaccinations in the last 12 months!). This will allow Pup to develop confidence around other dogs, and begin to read the body language of dogs they are not familiar with. It is important to introduce Pup to dogs of all different breeds, as it's easy for dogs to misread the body language of particular breeds such as those with wide chests, straight ears, or scrunched faces. Ensure all interactions are closely supervised and both dogs always have the option of retreating if they feel uncomfortable. Never push one dog into the space of the other.

Within the home, you can expose Pup to various household noises, such as the vacuum, dishwasher, microwave, alarm clock, house alarm, car alarm, and doorbell. Pup can also be exposed to different smells and sounds in the garden, and should be taken out at various times of day and night to help them get used to all the different sounds and smells these different times of day bring.

When their vaccinations are complete, it's a good idea to take Pup along to the vet clinic at fairly regular intervals to build positive associations with going to the vets. Most vet clinics will be more than happy to accommodate puppy visits, which should include lots of attention and fuss from the staff (as well as a couple of treats) to get Pup used to the clinic smell and being handled by different people. Many will also offer pretend exams if Pup is comfortable enough for this. 

When Pup can go out on walks, think about places you can go to expose them to as many different situations as possible. The local park will give ample opportunity to meet other people and dogs, and will likely introduce Pup to the sounds and sights of children as well. Make sure that you are a respectful puppy parent by always asking permission before allowing your pup to approach an unknown dog, and set a boundary of asking people to check in with you before approaching your own pup, so you can assess whether Pup can manage the extra stimulus at any given time. 

If you live close to a school (or have school-aged children) it's a good idea to walk Pup by the local school at drop-off and pick-up time so they can become familiar with having a lot of children around. Before letting children pet your pup make sure Pup appears completely comfortable, and ask children to pet them one at a time. At the first sign of discomfort, let the children know Pup has had enough and needs a break. You are your dog's advocate and they are relying on you to keep them safe and comfortable. Try to encourage Pup to interact (safely) with children of varying ages from babyhood to adolescence.

It's also a good idea to get Pup familiar with teenagers, adults, and elderly people. Walk your pup by the local skate park to expose them to teenagers and young adults, as well as the sounds of skateboards, bikes, and roller skates. Try introducing them to older people in the park (with their permission of course!) to help Pup become familiar with the different scents and movements of people of different ages. Make sure Pup is exposed to people wearing different kinds of outfits including hats, heels, helmets, sunglasses, and backpacks, and introduce your pup to babies in prams and people in wheelchairs and using crutches. Ensure Pup is exposed to both males and females of different ages, as well as people of various ethnicities and in various religious attire. 

Walk your pup down the road to help familiarise them with the sound of traffic (always walk Pup on the inside of the path, with yourself between Pup and the road). Walk them by the shops to help them become familiar with the bustle of people carrying shopping bags, pushing trolleys, and loading up cars. 

Expose your pup to different kinds of terrain by walking them on concrete, tarmac, grass, gravel, and mud. Various shops allow dogs inside, such as Mountain Warehouse, Pets at Home, Go Outdoors, Dobbies, Starbucks, most pubs, and various garden centres and cafes. Take your dog into these different places to allow them to become familiar with the different textures of the floor, as well as the general din of chatter, cutlery on plates, beeping of tills, and various other sights, sounds, and smells. 

Of course, you do also need to introduce your pup to other dogs outside of the home, and Pup should be introduced to dogs of various breeds, sizes, and ages. A good rule of thumb is to let Pup sniff for about 2 seconds and then move on. This eliminates the majority of potential negative interactions. If Pup appears to be particularly well-matched with another dog and both dogs clearly want to play, then you can allow your pup to interact for a little longer. Keep in mind that Pup should not be allowed to meet or interact with every person or dog that you pass while out and about. Allowing this at a young age is an excellent recipe for creating an adult dog who pulls to meet with every other dog (but every other dog won't want to meet them!). Allow your pup to meet about 10% of the dogs and people you pass (that's about 1 of every 10 dogs and people). This will allow for a healthy amount of socialisation while also teaching Pup to ignore and walk past the vast majority. 

Socialisation and play groups for puppies are becoming very popular, but should be approached with care. If these are run by animal professionals, such as your local vet, then they can likely be trusted but should not be a free-for-all. If the group is simply a coming together of puppies and puppy owners, where puppies are then left to their own devices, it can be quite a negative experience for Pup who may feel the need to become defensive (and may then feel the need to become defensive around all dogs). Any good puppy socialisation group should be carefully managed with a professional who is trained in reading dogs' body language. Puppies should be matched to play for short periods based on play style and confidence. The group facilitator should be pointing out to owners, at any given time, what the body language of the dog is indicating so that the puppy owners can begin to read whether their pup is engaging in healthy play or is displaying signs of discomfort. 

It's a good idea to try to prepare your pup for some of the scarier sounds they may encounter throughout the year, such as fireworks and thunder. While it is impossible to imitate the atmosphere and vibrations of these noises, pups can be de-sensitised to the sounds by playing them on a low level (gradually increasing the volume) and pairing the sounds with treats. Not all pups will be able to be de-sensitised, but if you do hear thunder or fireworks, try giving your pup some chicken in their den so they associate the sounds and vibrations with treats and safety. 

Sophia Yin has an excellent Socialisation Checklist that can be downloaded for free here (in addition to various other helpful free downloads!).

How long should I walk/exercise my puppy?

Firstly, your pup should not be walked outside of the home until they have finished their vaccination course. Following that, the general rule is that your pup should be walked for 5 minutes at a time per month of age, up to twice a day. So, if your pup is 12 weeks when they are ready to venture outside, they should be walking for about 15 minutes at a time, once or twice a day. When they reach 4 months, they can walk for 20 minutes at a time and so on. This rule should be maintained until your pup is about 1 year of age, at which time they should be ready to go off on day-long hikes with you. Once your pup reaches six months of age, they should be walked for a minimum of 30 minutes a day (unless otherwise recommended by your vet). Your pup also shouldn't be going out running or jogging with you until they're fully grown. While you may be tempted to try to 'burn' your pup's energy with longer walks (or runs) earlier, it's important to remember that their joints are still developing and their bones are still growing, so excessive or high impact exercise (such as running and jumping) can have life-long implications if any damage is done.

If your pup is too young to go outside or hasn't finished their vaccination course, you can give them plenty of gentle exercise in the home by playing with them and walking around the garden with them. You can take this time to get them used to wearing a collar, harness, and lead, and pairing these items with delicious boiled chicken, so they learn that these items mean good things to come! If your pup wears a harness and lead for the first time on their first venture out into the big wide world, they may be too overwhelmed to actually walk anywhere! If you own a breed that is required to be muzzled on walks, you'll want to begin to de-sensitise Pup to the muzzle at these times too so they learn that the muzzle means they get to go for a walk!

How can I stop my puppy chewing everything?

Puppies will chew. They don't know the difference between your antique furniture and their cheap stuffed toy, so it's up to you to give them enough stuff they're allowed so they're not interested in the antique furniture. And maybe move the expensive stuff out of reach. 

Puppy shouldn't be left unsupervised long enough to do any real damage, and if Pup does have to be left alone, they should be in their safe place (den or crate) so they can't cause any mass destruction. If they are particularly interested in the things they're not allowed, you may need to restrict them from being in a certain room or give them a particularly tasty chew when they enter that room to keep their eyes on the (allowed) prize. 

Keep wires and anything dangerous safely covered, and never leave Pup unsupervised. Just as we know that babies put everything in their mouths, I can guarantee your pup will do the same. And equally, it won't actually be Pup's fault if things get damaged. Forewarned is forearmed!

My puppy keeps nipping!

Some breeds, like shepherds and herding breeds, are more prone to nipping due to their genetics. Malinois are often used as police and security dogs because of their tendency to grab limbs... Puppies rarely nip to 'be mean' and this is a standard form of play that tends to hurt humans much more than it hurts other puppies. Old advice used to say to squeal or yelp to let your puppy know that they're hurting you, similar to how one of their litter-mates may react if hurt. Unfortunately, this tends to excite most puppies more than deter them and turn their human into a real-life squeaky toy! 

If your pup is nipping or grabbing clothes and flesh, stop all play and stand very still. Children in the family are often the more unfortunate victims of this play nipping, as they tend to be less able to stop and stand still, and are more likely to begin moving frantically and making a lot of noise (and pup likely thinks they're playing). It's very important to practise this behaviour with any children in the family to help them prepare for the moment their flesh is being nipped. It can be helpful to teach them to 'stand like a tree' with their arms up out of reach and not to react to any movement from Pup. When your pup has stopped trying to grab the person (or when an adult has come to help), take Pup into another room for some calming activities like chewing, sniffing, or licking (see page on Enrichment). It is very important that Pup learns that any contact with flesh immediately ends the game. Unfortunately for the people involved, it will likely take approximately 200 repetitions of this before Pup makes the connection. In the meantime, make sure you have a toy that Pup can grab and shake when playing to minimise the likelihood of those teeth grabbing your hand or arm. 

How can I toilet train my puppy?

As mentioned in the answer to what supplies you'll need for your pup, I would recommend a cat litter tray with a rectangular piece of turf inside to help your pup make the association between toileting and grass. Newspaper and puppy pads can actually confuse your pup, and some puppies have been known to hold their bladders until they come home from their walk, in order to relieve themselves on the puppy pads or newspaper that they have learnt to use inside. 

The most important thing in toilet training is to understand that it's a process (just like toilet training a child), and your puppy will have accidents. When your pup has an accident, clean it thoroughly with an enzyme-based cleaner, and don't comment on it to Pup. DO NOT SHOUT AT PUP, OR RUB THEIR NOSE IN THE MESS. This is very old-fashioned advice and teaches pup not to toilet in front of you, or to hide their mess from you in the future (sometimes by eating it). What we want to teach Pup is that going toilet on the grass is a wonderful thing. 

Firstly, it's your responsibility to make sure that Pup has plenty of opportunities to go toilet in the garden. You should be taking them outside for 5 minutes every hour to give them the opportunity to go, as well as after every meal and every time they wake up from a nap. When pup goes for a wee or a poo on the grass, wait until they're finished, and then shower them with praise, fuss, and chicken. They get a fun and exciting potty party every time (but don't distract them mid-stream!). If your pup goes toilet in the litter tray with turf, they get a little fuss and a treat. If your pup goes toilet anywhere else inside, they get no reaction whatsoever and you clean it up quietly. Pretty soon, Pup is going to want the potty party that follows their toileting outside and will save it all up for those opportunities. 

How should I pick a puppy class or trainer?

Unfortunately, dog training remains an unregulated industry, and there are many unscrupulous people calling themselves dog trainers who have no training or education in the field themselves. As you may imagine, these people can often cause more harm than good, and can permanently damage the relationship between yourself and your dog. While we are still working towards lobbying for legislation around regulation, qualified dog trainers do tend to regulate themselves. This ensures you can find a suitably qualified practitioner who keeps their knowledge and learning up to date. The most common dog training educators and regulators are the IMDT (Institute of Modern Dog Trainers) and the APDT (Association for Pet Dog Trainers). You can find suitably qualified dog trainers in good standing on either of those web pages, and any trainer you find will have a minimum level of education, as well as an annual requirement for ongoing professional development. 

Some helpful things to look out for include a 'force-free' trainer who helps you motivate your dog using toys and treats until they have learnt a behaviour. Force-free methods are now used by the military, Search & Rescue teams, and for training show animals, giving consistent and predictable results that can be trusted. Qualified trainers have typically spent a lot of time attending additional learning courses and will usually have their courses listed on their website. If not, your trainer should be able to tell you in an initial phone call/email what courses they have attended. 

Qualified and ethical trainers will NOT use aversive tools that cause pain to animals; these include prong collars, electric shock collars (e-collars), slip leads, choke chains, or sprays. Terms that raise red flags include 'balanced trainer' (willing to use both reward and punishment), 'alpha' or 'pack leader' and any sort of guarantee for a 'quick fix' for your dog's behaviour. 

At any point in your training journey, both you and your dog should be having a good time. While there will be times when frustration creeps in for both yourself and your dog (that's the time to stop and come back to it later!), training should be an enjoyable activity for you both. If you or your dog appear to dread training sessions, if your dog looks anxious when they see your trainer or begins to cower away when they see any training tools come out, it may be time to consider a new trainer. 

When your puppy comes home

As your puppy enters adolescence

My puppy has forgotten all his training!

As pups enter adolescence it is common for them to backtrack on the training and behaviour front. Like people, they suddenly have loads of hormones surging through their bodies driving them to explore more, try new things and test out their natural skills. Very often, this means they are more interested in meeting other dogs, exploring new places, or grabbing food than they are in listening to their human and getting their predicted treat. Research shows that dogs make a conscious decision whether or not to come back when called, so if you've lowered the value of their treats or stopped making such a fuss, now is the time to up your game again so Pup once again thinks you're the best thing in the world. Not to worry, adolescence is a developmental phase that all pups must go through, but they will come out the other end with their training even more cemented (as long as you keep up the work!).

Why does my dog eat poo?

The technical name for eating poo is Coprophagia. This is quite common in puppyhood, and most pups do grow out of it by adolescence. If your dog is still eating poo in adolescence, it's worth taking them to the vet to rule out any health conditions. One of the most common reasons dogs eat their own poo is because they've been punished for going toilet and therefore try to 'hide' the evidence, even when they go outside because they haven't learnt that it's okay to go outside (see toilet training above). 

There are products on the market that can make the poo taste unappetising or like chilli peppers, however, these often give the dog an upset stomach and they don't actually address the underlying issue. If your dog has a habit of eating their own poo, be ready with the treats for a potty party (see toilet training) as soon as they go, so they can come and get chicken from you instead of eating the poo. When they reach you and have had their reward and fuss, put Pup inside while you clean up the poo. If Pup is eating poo on walks, make sure they stay on the lead while they learn a consistent 'away' cue.

How can I stop my dog from jumping up at people?

Dogs that jump up on people while out and about have likely not been taught how to ignore people. It's great that they want to say hello to everyone, but they need to learn firstly to walk past people without expecting to say hello, and secondly to greet people with their bottom firmly on the floor. 

To teach your dog to ignore people as you walk by, show them a piece of chicken and reward them with it every time they successfully walk past someone without pulling towards them.

 

To teach them to say hello while sitting, get a consistent sit and then ask them for the sit before they get to interact with any new person. It can be helpful to have 'practice people' who know and understand your dog, and don't mind being jumped on while Pup learns! 

If your dog is jumping up at people when they come in the house, follow the same steps as above for teaching a sit before any interaction, then give your dog a nice chew in their quiet den to keep them calm and occupied and to teach them to ignore people once they've said hello.

When should I neuter / spay my pup?

This is a very common question, and everybody you speak to will have a different opinion on it. First and foremost, speak to your vet and take their advice whenever possible. 

If you bought your dog from a breeder, check your contract as many will have an expectation that your dog is spayed or neutered by a certain age to prevent anyone else breeding from their line. If you find this clause, make sure your vet agrees that the age stated in the contract is suitable for the spay or neuter.

If you adopted your dog from a rescue or shelter, there will often be a similar agreement in the adoption contract that you will get your dog spayed or neutered when they reach the age at which it is suitable to do so, although their reasoning is in regards to overpopulation and strays rather than breeding lines. 

Recommendations for the appropriate age of spaying or neutering vary based on a number of factors, but a general rule of thumb is 6 months of age for small breeds, 12 months of age for medium breeds, and 18 months of age for large breeds. In any given situation, speak to your vet about their recommendations based on your pup's age, breed, size, health, and lifestyle.

As your puppy enters adolescence
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Your adult pup

Your adult dog

How can I help my rescue dog settle in?

An adult dog moving to a new home will be even more overwhelmed than a puppy and may have suffered more trauma and disrupted attachments, so could be more hesitant to trust its new family. 

As described above for helping a puppy settle in and feel safe, it will be important for your rescue to have a safe, quiet space that is theirs alone. An adult rescue may be less able to tolerate a crate if they haven't had one before, so it may be more appropriate to make a cosy bed area in a quiet room that your rescue can take themselves off to if things become overwhelming. Make sure this is a calm and safe area for Pup with blankets, toys, and chews. Every so often, drop a bit of chicken down for them when you walk by, so they associate your approach with positive things. 

It's important to remember that it can take several months for your rescue dog to begin to settle in and feel safe enough to allow you to get physically or emotionally close to them. Any challenging behaviour in the early weeks and months should be discussed with a reputable and qualified behaviourist. Much of this behaviour will simply be your pup trying to feel safe. 

If you have adopted a dog from overseas, they may display significantly more challenging behaviours associated with life on the street. It's not as simple as teaching an overseas rescue what is expected of them in their new home, as many behaviours they display are essential and well-adapted for life on the street. Many street dogs tend to guard their resources, roam with little recall, and grab food wherever they can. These aren't just learned behaviours; their parents were street dogs, their grandparents were street dogs, and so on. They have a genetic predisposition to these behaviours and will need a lot of patience and consistent guidance. For these dogs, I would strongly recommend speaking to a qualified behaviourist who specialises in overseas rescues. 

My dog is bored at home!

As our dogs enter adulthood, they begin to calm down from their youthful exuberance and spend more time lying around the house. The world isn't quite as amazing to them anymore and daily routines can become 'the same old thing'. It's important to offer enrichment opportunities for your dog to ensure they are getting sufficient outlets for their energy and the necessary mental stimulation they need (see page on Enrichment). Even 10 minutes a day of engaging training or games can make a major difference to your dog's mental wellbeing. 

I want to introduce a new dog / cat to the family!

Firstly, assess whether this is the right move for all the current pets in the household. If your dog tends to bark, howl, or lunge at small animals, adding a cat to the household is likely to be stressful and dangerous for the cat, and frustrating for the dog.

Assuming you've assessed your dog's personality and are confident that your dog can manage the new addition, it's important to start introductions as early as possible - preferably before the new pet comes home. If you're adding another dog to the family, try to have some playdates before making a final decision, to ensure both personalities are a good match for the other. If you're adopting a second dog this will be a mandatory step for any reputable rescue organisation. If you're getting a puppy from a breeder, it may be less practical, but you should still take blankets and toys to the breeder to gather the puppy's scent, and bring these back to your dog for a few weeks before they are actually introduced to each other. If you are rehoming a pet from someone you know, make sure you arrange playdates first. 

When the new dog comes home, make sure each dog has their own space that they can retreat to without the other dog present. You may need to enforce some breaks if one dog is more eager to spend time together than the other. Put their safe spaces in separate rooms whenever possible so they each have their own un-disturbed place to sleep. Feed them at opposite sides of a room or in different rooms so they do not feel like they have to compete with each other for food.

If you are introducing a cat to your dog, make sure the cat has a safe room, ideally one that only the cat can get into (you can ensure this by blocking the dog with a baby gate or using a cat door). Make sure the cat has plenty of high and enclosed hiding places so it feels safe and can be confident the dog is unable to reach it. Allow them to meet each other in their own time, but take the dog's blanket to the cat's room so it can have a sniff, and take the cat's blanket to the dog to sniff. Allow your dog to sniff the cat's litter tray after use so the dog can gather information about the cat before they meet. If you are concerned about how your dog will react when they do meet, keep Pup on a lead for initial introductions, but try not to place any tension on the lead unless this becomes necessary (i.e., Pup lunges for the cat). Ensure the cat always has a quick escape route, and never force either pet to interact if they're not ready.

 

Whatever pet you're introducing, always ensure both pets have an escape route should they choose not to interact - this will help them avoid feeling the need to use aggression. Ensure each pet has their own safe space, preferably in different rooms, and ensure both pets have their own space to eat so they do not feel as if they have to protect their food.

What activities can I get my dog involved in?

There are loads of great activities that are available to keep both dogs and owners active and engaged. Some of the most popular activities are below:

-Basic behaviour courses (very much as the title implies!)

-Scent work/Tracking (teaching Pup to find objects or people using their nose - for fun)

-Search & Rescue (teaching Pup to save lives with their nose)

-Agility/Hoopers (for fun or competition, learning to go over, under, and through)

-Tricks training (all sorts of tricks, usually just for fun)

-Flyball/Disc Dog (dog sports teaching Pup to chase, catch, and return)

-Herding trials (teaching herding breeds to herd sheep for fun)

-Formal obedience (competitive obedience trials)

-Canine Good Citizen (certification course confirming Pup achieves certain obedience levels)

-Canicross (running with your Pup)

-Canine Freestyle/Heelwork to music (dancing with Pup!)

FAQs about booking

What is your cancellation policy?

If you have booked a 1:1 session, the cancellation notice is 48 hours for a full refund or change of booking. If the notice is more than 24 hours, you will be reimbursed for half of your booking fee. If the notice is less than 24 hours, regrettably there will be no reimbursement of funds as it is unlikely your slot will be filled.

If you have booked a course, you must give at least 72 hours' notice to move to another set of courses or cancel your place. If you give more than 48 hours' notice you will have half of your booking fee reimbursed. Regrettably, I am unable to reimburse cancellations of less than 48 hours for courses as it is unlikely your space will be filled. 

Should you need to cancel for medical reasons for yourself or your pup, every effort will be made to find a suitable alternative. This may mean completing a 1:1 session remotely (via Zoom) or completing a catch-up 1:1 in place of a class. Only one catch-up will be offered per course and documentation of medical reasons may be requested.

The above cancellation policy includes cancellations for Covid.

Where can I find your Terms and Conditions?

Terms and Conditions can be found here.

Where can I find your Privacy Policy?

Our Privacy Policy can be found here.

I don't have the ability to pay online!

Payment is required in order to book online, but if you are unable to pay online, you can submit a request to attend a course or book a 1:1 session via the submission form at the bottom of the home page, or you can email me at betterbuddybonding@gmail.com and we can arrange payment at the time of service. 

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