From a dog-training expert: 8 puppy-raising tips to help you be successful
By Liz Palika
A 9-week-old English shepherd puppy, Hero, recently joined my family. The adorable dark brown-and-white little guy with freckles on his nose immediately stole my heart. At the same time, my brain kicked into "puppy-raising" gear. Having raised a number of puppies over the years, I've learned some skills that make the process easier. Here are eight tips that have helped me be successful.
1. Buy lots of inexpensive towels. When I knew Hero was going to be joining my family, I immediately ran to the nearest store for a stack of cheap towels. I don't think most puppy-raising sources express how important towels are for raising a puppy, but I think they are invaluable. Towels can serve as bedding for your puppy (as long as he doesn't try to eat them), for cleaning up spills or other accidents and for bathing and drying the puppy. I always have a clean stack ready for use. You can find them new at discount or big-box stores, or even purchase them used at stores such as Goodwill. Just wash them well before using them.
2. Choose toys carefully. Everything goes into a puppy's mouth, so it's important to have appropriate toys ready for him to sniff, taste, chew and sometimes destroy. If a toy has hard eyes, a button nose or other parts a puppy could chew off and swallow, remove them. Make sure the toy itself can't be swallowed.
3. Provide a variety of toys. I like to give some chew toys to gnaw on, toys that can be shaken and tossed, balls of various kinds and toys with different smells and textures. Every puppy tends to develop his own likes and dislikes, but a variety in puppyhood can be great fun.
4. Your puppy is a baby. Puppies grow and develop so quickly it's hard to remember that they are babies. I consider a puppy younger than four months a baby, although that's an arbitrary line; many puppies develop faster or slower than others.
5. Baby puppies need extra meals. Hungry puppies get antsy, fussy and grumpy, and they will cry and whine. Toy and small-breed puppies need four to six feedings a day for the first few months, while larger puppies should eat at least three times a day. When you take your puppy in for his first veterinary exam, you can ask the vet for a specific recommendation for your pup.
6. Puppies know no fear. As with most babies, young puppies don't consider their own safety and will do things that cause themselves harm. They need to be protected from jumping, climbing or getting stuck. Baby gates, exercise pens and crates can help you keep your puppy safe when you can't supervise him.
7. Puppies need help with temperature regulation. I quickly discovered that Hero's fluffy puppy coat kept him warm. It was difficult for him to get comfortable in a crate as he quickly became too hot. I wrapped a frozen water bottle in a towel (another use for those towels!) and he would cuddle up to it, immediately becoming more comfortable. Make sure your puppy can also move away from the water bottle so he doesn't get chilled.
8. Teach independence. It's important for puppies to learn to spend some time alone. Although it's our nature to cuddle a puppy -- and we should -- puppies also need to learn to be OK when left alone. I started by putting Hero in his crate with a toy for 15 minutes, then half an hour, then while I ran errands. This is an important life skill for dogs, so start it when they're young.
Guest columnist Liz Palika is an award-winning writer and certified dog trainer. For more information, go to kindredspiritsk9.com.
drugs with pets
Q: My dog is really afraid of going to the groomer. Would it be OK to give him just a little of one of my Xanax tablets to see if it will help take the edge off? -- via email
A: Dogs and humans share many of the same medications, including Xanax, but sharing your own prescription with your dog is highly risky. The doses are not the same, and giving your dog even a fraction of a pill can have serious consequences for several reasons.
First, you have no way of knowing if your dog has any health problems that could be worsened by the drug. For instance, it must be given cautiously in dogs with liver or kidney disease or glaucoma.
Second, Xanax can have what's called a paradoxical effect in dogs. It may cause hyperactivity or even aggression instead of the intended relaxation.
Like any drug, it may not always work well with other medications your dog takes. It can increase the effects of some drugs, while other drugs may decrease the rate at which alprazolam (Xanax) is metabolized.
Finally, you have no way of knowing what a safe or appropriate amount might be. Just guessing is a dangerous game to play with your dog's health. These are just some of the reasons that it's necessary for your dog to have a veterinary exam before a drug is prescribed.
Even though many human drugs can help animals, it's important to realize that humans, dogs and cats don't necessarily metabolize drugs in the same way. According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, nearly a quarter of the calls it receives are about pets ingesting human medications and suffering adverse reactions. The top 10 most common drugs that pets ingest are ibuprofen, tramadol, alprazolam, Adderall, zolpidem (Ambien), clonazepam, acetaminophen, naproxen, duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor). -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Dogs take down
poachers from the air
-- Skydiving anti-poaching dogs? South Africa's got 'em. The elite canines -- mainly German shepherds and Belgian Malinois -- combat poaching at the country's national parks and airports. They track suspects through thick bush and sniff out firearms and contraband such as ivory and bushmeat from wild animals killed illegally. Arrow, Giant and Killer are among the specially trained dogs tasked with protecting elephants, rhinos and other endangered animals. Arrow works from a rapid-response helicopter. Killer, a Belgian Malinois, has taken down more than 115 poaching teams over an 18-month span. Go get 'em, dogs.
-- If your dog or cat thinks wearing a Halloween costume is for the birds, send him to bed instead. But not in a boring old crate or on a rectangular mattress: Have some fun with his sleepytime surroundings. Pet product manufacturers have turned their imaginations to catnaps and dog dreams, arriving at some clever and cute accommodations for the pet set. Picture your pup or kitten curling up inside a lion or shark mouth, lolling on a banana boat, dreaming of racing after that squirrel in a sports car bed or peeking out from a pineapple-shaped pet tent. Sleep tight!
-- Cat lovers visiting Hawaii can take a purr break at the Lanai Cat Sanctuary on the island of Lanai. The 25,000-square-foot feline paradise houses more than 500 cats, who are free to roam their surroundings on the remote island. A veterinary team flies in monthly to care for the cats, and they get plenty of attention from visitors, who are welcome daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The site has received a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor. Cats at the sanctuary are available for adoption, but have a home for life if the right person or family doesn't come along. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Beckern
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
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 Vetstreet.com 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 Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.