While small, brush your pup every day, or at least touch all over. The backs of back legs are a potential spot of irritation. Feel between toes and round pads. Gently squeeze nails daily to get pup used to feeling of having claws clipped. Look under tail, into eyes, ears and mouth. Gently rub your fingers round the gums daily. Basically you must be able to touch and fiddle with all parts of your dog any time you like. This will save vet bills as a vet that can touch and examine a dog without using anaesthetic is much safer for the dog and cheaper for you. Toenails need clipping. Ask your vet how, or come and see me and I’ll teach you how. Do not allow pup to play with brush or comb. Get some one else to hold treat in front of nose to keep attention while you do the grooming. If alone, smear a bit of peanut butter/cream cheese on fridge door just above pup head height, and groom while it is licking it off!
You have a socialisation chart that shows you all the things your pup must meet several times before it is 14 weeks of age. This is VITAL for the Pup to become accustomed to all the ‘terrors’ of modern living. Problem.....your vet will tell you pup must not go out until 1 week after is’s SECONG vaccination...guess what....this is often after the critical socialisation time is up... So what do we do. WE CARRY our fat bundle to places and people. You DO take him/her out.......but NOT to the ‘doggy park’ . When family goes shopping, one member of the family sits by the entrance to the supermarket and lets every one stroke the pup. Trolleys going past etc, no problem. Take pup to middle of town, sit on a bench and allow pup to see and hear everything around him/her. To the pub, summer fair, county show, changing of the guard in Windsor (very good for them!), in short anything unusual flashy or noisy you can imagine....get there and do it. Those first few weeks are so important you can’t fix it later!!!!!! Thousands of dogs are put to sleep each year because they are so afraid of the world, and their only response is to bite, bark and growl.
The question I get asked most often about my adult dogs is; ‘How are his hips’. This next bit is the best information I have at this point about how to ensure your answer when your dog is adult can be;’ they are fine!’. Currently there are thought to be three main factors affecting your dog's hip condition as an adult. They are heredity, feeding and exercise.
Firstly Heredity - i.e. what were the parents hips like, and the grandparents etc. The breeders have done their best only to breed from dogs that show no sign of Hip Dysplasia. This does not mean your pup will have perfect hips, but the best we can do has been done before the pup was conceived. The parents have their hips X rayed, and a hip score certificate awarded from the Royal Veterinary College. This is done when the dogs have reached adulthood, normally 12-14 months old. This is now history, once the dog is born, the genetics can’t change, so your pup has the genes he/she is born with, and now it’s up to you to do the best from here on in.
Secondly the food you feed. It has been established that a lot of joint problems in large breed dogs are made worse by feeding food that is ‘too good’ for the young dog. This means it grows too fast, and its joints don’t have time to get strong enough, leading to serious problems. To avoid this manufacturers have formulated a series of complete dog foods for Large Breed Puppies...which make sure your dog grows at a steady rate. I will give you a list of the ones I know are good, and you choose one your pup likes. Once your dog is adult, you can feed what you like, but please take my advice while your dog is young.I feed all my dogs a mixture of natural raw food ( known as the BARF Diet) and complete food. I don't like addtives in food for humans so don't like it in my dog food either. I feed Fish4dogs to everyone, from pups being weaned to old quiet dogs.
Thirdly exercise - This is the most common area where I cry in the park! I see a young pup running around without a lead chasing after a ball or a stick, with a gleeful owner telling me ‘ He really needs this for an hour’ . No, no, no. ‘ Dogs need lots of exercise’. Yes they do, but not as babies!!! Would you let your 6 year old child run a marathon ?
For the first YEAR, walk your dog on a lead. Little short trips at first, building up to 20 minutes, twice a day. Play games at home, roll balls, don’t throw, as jumping , twisting and turning at speed can seriously damage their skeletons. Hips and shoulders in particular. Don’t let them play rough games with other dogs in the park, instead find some sociable friend with a nice dog of the same size and let them have play time at home. This way you can call them with food treats...so they come away from their friend, without taking off to the other side of a big field. Then as adults your dog will always view you as the best thing, and enjoy the park without becoming a maniac running riot in it. The restricted exercise has many advantages; your dog doesn’t learn that every time it has it’s lead on, it gets to go to the park and behave like ‘a wild one’. This often causes problems with a recall once the dog is a teenager. It lets you teach your dog to walk nicely on a lead. It teaches your dog to be polite in public. Walking builds nice muscles and encourages strong bones and joints without damage. If you want you can take the pup swimming, there are several doggie pools around now, and it is great safe exercise, fun for the dog and you, and as long as the person running the pool is qualified, safe for your pup. So, please ignore all the people you meet who say ;’needs a lot of exercise, does one of them dogs’. Walk! Play at home!