Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Puppy Hacks

11 smart ways to help your puppy become the dog of your dreams

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Whether your new puppy is your very first or the latest in a long line of family dogs, a little advice on bringing him up can help ensure that he has a great start in life. Sometimes we forget what puppies are like, especially if the last one was 10 or more years ago, and if you’re new to puppies, they can be a mystery. The following tips can put you and your new pup on sound footing.

1. Start as you mean to go on. “What’s cute at 18 pounds isn’t cute at 118 pounds,” says Bernese mountain dog owner Adam Conn. Teach young pups to sit instead of jumping up when greeting people, especially if they are going to be jumbo-size as adults. If you don’t plan to allow your dog on the furniture when he’s grown because he’ll be too big or furry or drooly, don’t make an exception when he’s a small puppy.

2. Introduce puppies to being brushed and combed and having teeth brushed from day one. Even if a pup doesn’t have much coat yet, becoming used to the grooming process will save both of you stress in the long run.

3. Live by a schedule. “They poop and pee a lot more than you’d expect,” says beagle owner and dog trainer Denise Nord. Set a timer, and take them out every hour during the day until you get a handle on their personal schedule. Every pup is different.

4. Don’t take them out to potty and then go right back in. Let them have a little fun outside first. Sniffing and exploring are important to dogs.

5. Speaking of exploring, puppies need plenty of socialization -- exposure to new people, places, objects and experiences -- but in a positive way. “The more new experiences you can introduce your puppy to under calm, controlled conditions, the more likely he will be to accept new situations with a confident attitude,” says Fear Free Pets lead trainer Mikkel Becker. New situations should be fun, not scary, with the pup having the option to investigate at her own pace.

6. Don’t miss your puppy’s peak socialization and learning period (3 to 12 weeks of age) by keeping him at home until all his vaccinations are completed. “If you wait until your dog is 10 months old and 75 pounds before you take them anywhere except the vet, you will have issues,” says dog trainer and Labrador owner Liz Harward. It’s safe to take your pup to a socialization or “kindergarten” class as long as he has had at least one set of vaccinations and the other puppies have had vaccinations as well. Avoid places where unknown dogs gather, such as parks and pet stores.

7. Exercise appropriately. Puppies are active, no doubt about it, but they aren’t ready to become jogging partners until they are 18 to 24 months old. Running with them too early during bone development can cause permanent damage and pain, says English springer spaniel breeder Linda Prouty. Talk to your veterinarian about when your pup’s growth plates will close.

8. Schedule downtime. Puppies need plenty of rest, or they’ll become cranky, just like a toddler. Use a crate, exercise pen or puppy-proofed room for naptime -- and for any time you can’t actively supervise your puppy’s activities and whereabouts.

9. Too much freedom too soon makes it difficult for puppies to become housetrained and learn house manners. For instance, they can learn to chew on the wrong things, says trainer Liz Palika.

10. Puppies need guidance, but it’s important not to push them too quickly. “I encourage people to let their pup grow up and take that time to build a solid working relationship that will pay dividends in the end,” says flat-coated retriever breeder Xan Latta.

11. Most important, enjoy that first year. “It goes fast,” Harward says.


Drooling may be

clue to cavity

Q: My cat has started drooling frequently, and I can’t figure out why. What could cause this?

A: A number of things can cause cats to drool, including a foreign object stuck in the mouth or ingestion of a toxic substance. But one of the most common is the development of cavities.

Cats may not have a sweet tooth, but they can develop cavities, known as resorptive lesions. They start inside the tooth and move outward toward the pulp -- or even exposing it. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a tooth injury that exposed the pulp, but it’s extremely painful!

The result can be a cat who drools or finds it painful to eat. You may notice your cat picking up a piece of food and then dropping it. She’s not playing; it hurts because the tooth is so sensitive.

Research shows that nearly half of all cats older than 5 years have at least one tooth affected by a resorptive lesion. Your veterinarian may point out a small red area at the gumline that’s characteristic of the condition. In other instances, the lesions may be identified only through dental X-rays.

Cats don’t get fillings for their cavities. Instead, affected teeth are removed while the cat is under anesthesia. Feline teeth are small and fragile, so it takes care to remove the entire tooth, including the part below the gumline. Once teeth with RLs are gone, the pain goes away, too. And your cat will be able to eat comfortably, even with a few missing teeth.

This is why I always recommend that cats (and dogs) be checked twice a year, from teeth to tail, to make sure they aren’t suffering any painful conditions. Your pet will thank you! -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Cats at risk from

tick-borne diseases

-- Cats don’t get ticks or tick diseases, right? Wrong. While cats are more resistant than dogs to tick-borne diseases, it doesn’t mean that exposure to ticks can’t or won’t cause disease. Among the ticks that may feed on cats are brown dog ticks, which transmit ehrlichiosis; lone star and American dog ticks, which transmit a potentially fatal feline disease called cytauxzoonosis; and black-legged ticks, which transmit anaplasmosis. Cats who go outdoors should receive routine tick preventive year-round or wear a breakaway tick collar.

-- Dogs don’t get colds, but they can get illnesses that have similar signs, such as coughing, a runny nose or sneezing. Take your dog to the veterinarian for prolonged coughing or coughing accompanied by labored breathing, bloody phlegm or runny eyes or nose. A runny nose that continues for more than several hours requires veterinary attention as well. If your dog sneezes, he may have mild nasal irritation that will resolve on its own, but frequent sneezing, especially accompanied by a runny nose, may indicate anything from allergies to an infection to something stuck in the nose.

-- Hamsters need dental care, too. You don’t have to brush their teeth, but they need access to material they can chew. Chewing wears down the constantly growing teeth so they don’t grow too long and develop abscesses. Hamster teeth that are too long can also grow through the roof of the mouth, invading the nasal cavity. Suspect dental problems if a hamster is drooling, not eating as much, losing weight or has bad breath. Take your hamster to the veterinarian so the teeth can be trimmed and antibiotics prescribed if necessary. Once the teeth get to this state, they will likely need to be trimmed by the veterinarian for the rest of the animal’s life. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.