Caring for a Puppy

You are ready to welcome a new puppy in to your home. You are looking forward to many years with a loyal pet that will bring lots of joy to your family. Remember that you also have to make sure you offer your new pet the best start when it comes to their health.


Vaccinations are very important when your puppy is young to prevent against a variety of diseases that can cause major health problems and even be fatal. Vaccinations that are recommended include: canine parvovirus, infectious canine hepatitis,  canine distemper virus and infectious canine tracheobronchitis (kennel cough).

Vaccination Schedule for Puppies:

  • First vaccination should be done at 6-8 weeks old

  • Second vaccination should be done at 10-12 weeks old

  • Third booster vaccination at 14 to 16 weeks.

Full protection from the diseases being vaccinated against only kicks in completely around 2 weeks after the final booster vaccination. Thereafter you need to vaccinate annually against infectious canine tracheobronchitis and have a C3 vaccine every three years. In some areas, vets may recommend the C3 on an annual basis instead to reduce the risk of parvo. If your puppy is not vaccinated, it is highly susceptible to these very contagious diseases which can be fatal if contracted. Due to the diseases being contagious, they can also be passed to other unvaccinated dogs and young puppies as well, resulting in a high death rate. Protect your puppy by following the suggested vaccinated schedule.


Most puppies are born with worms and if left untreated, they may become quite ill and can even die from a severe infestation. Puppies should be de-wormed regularly, every 2 weeks until they are 12 weeks old. Thereafter they should be wormed once a month until they are 6 months old. After this they should be de-wormed every 3 months if they are around small children or every six months for life.

De-Wormers are available as tablets or chews; some are for specific worm types or a combination tablet which includes treatment of heartworm. Heartworms are parasites that can be picked up from association with other dogs and even mosquito bites. These parasites can be deadly if not treated. The larvae from the heartworm travel through the blood to the lungs and heart of the puppy causing damage to the tissue. This can lead to heart and lung disease and eventual death if not treated. Heartworm treatment should be kept up for the dog’s entire life to prevent infestation. If you miss de-worming treatments, you can ask your vet to check your pet’s blood for potential infestation. There are annual injections available for heartworm which may be better than monthly tablets if you think you might miss a dose.

Ticks and Fleas

Fleas and ticks can cause a number of diseases in pets as well as skin irritations and allergic reactions. You may not notice the fleas but only see the results of the bites. Ticks can cause various illnesses and even paralysis if untreated. This can result in death due to respiratory failure. Make sure you use tick flea treatments monthly to control and prevent flea infestations.  Check the tick and flea treatments purchased to ensure they are safe for your pet. Some treatments can be used for dogs but not for cats.  Ask your vet for advice if you are unsure. Treatments can include oral chews, tick and flea collars, sprays, rinses and spot on products.

Even if you have used preventatives, you should still check your pet often to make sure there is no infestation. This is important especially during tick season. Run your hand over the skin and feel for lumps. Ticks are usually found around the neck, head and ears but can be anywhere on the body. Symptoms of tick paralysis can include: laboured breathing, hyperventilation, coughing or grunting, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, general weakness, and changes in the sound of the bark or loss of voice or wobbly legs. If your pet shows any symptoms, ensure they are treated immediately to reduce the risk of death from the tick bites.


Desexing helps reduce a lot of inappropriate behaviour as well as the risk of illness in dogs.  Desexing reduces urination as territorial marking, less wandering and fighting with other dogs, no unwanted litters of puppies and may also prevent the development of other behavioural problems. Desexing also helps reduce the risk of infections such as pyometra as well as certain cancers.  Puppies should be desexed at around 6 months of age.

Your puppy would be brought in on the morning of the surgery (should not have eaten since the night before) and will be desexed under general anaesthetic. They will usually be released the afternoon of the same day or perhaps the day after depending on their health and general condition after surgery.


Microchipping involves a tiny chip being placed under the skin of the neck, between the shoulder blades. Puppies should be microchipped on or before change of ownership. If your puppy is lost and found for any reason, a vet or animal shelter will scan the puppy to get the unique code which will link back to you as the owner. There is an Australia-wide registry so your puppy would be linked back to you no matter where he or she is found. If you are not sure about whether or not your puppy is chipped, ask the vet to scan and check for you.  Remember to change your details on the registry if you happen to move or change your phone number.   You may also need to register your pet with the local council at 3 months old. The fee is usually cheaper for a desexed puppy. Update your details with the local council as well so you can be reunited with your puppy.

Diet and Nutrition

There are many commercial brands of puppy and dog food on the market today. Most of the premium-grade brands are designed to meet the exact nutritional requirements of your pet. Quality may vary from brand to brand, but most of the premium brands are made from high quality ingredients. Use a premium brand for your puppy at least until six months old. For puppies that are likely to grow to 25kg or more, you should use a “large breed” formulation to reduce the risk of problems with skeletal development and issues later in life.

Your puppy will initially be eating 3 small meals every day. At around 3 to 4 months, you can change this to 2 large meals per day. Once your pup reaches 6 months of age, you can go to one large meal a day if preferred though most people stay on 2 meals a day until the puppy reaches its first birthday. The quantity to feed will differ from breed to breed and brand to brand. Check the recommended allowance according to the choice of food you are feeding. If you change brands of food, you need to replace the foods gradually over 4 to 5 days to prevent intestinal problems.

Training and Socialisation

A puppy is greatly influenced but its experiences during the first 16 weeks of life. This shapes the personality of your dog and will affect the behaviour of your pet once it is adult. This is why it is very important that your puppy is socialised with people and other dogs during this time. This will help prevent antisocial behaviour later on.  Puppy preschools help your puppy socialize and learn manners and discipline in a controlled environment. The pups that attend all have to be vaccinated, which means there is less chance of the spread of contagious diseases than meeting random pets in public areas. The dog trainer is also there to ensure that pups interact in a positive way. Recommended basic training is from 12 to 16 weeks so your pet can finish the 4 weeks of training before 16 weeks of age. It is however, never too late to do some socialization and training to improve general behaviour.

Toilet training your pet takes patience and positive reinforcement. Take your puppy outside after eating, sleeping and playing and at least every two hours when they are small as they need to urinate frequently. Take them to the designated area for them to do their eliminations and praise them once they have done so. You do not have to be overly enthusiastic with the praise, but have them associate this process with being good. Punishment for accidents does not work as they will generally not associate the punishment with the misdeed.

Jumping to get your attention is quite common and may be acceptable during play with other dogs. This is a behaviour that should be discouraged and is usually part of basic behavioural training. Digging is part of a puppy’s normal responses as it promotes thermoregulation and also provides comfort and shelter in some cases.  Excessive barking can also be a problem. Barking is normal but it becomes a problem when the puppy barks all day. Check that the puppy is not in pain, anxious or bored as this can be a reason for excessive barking. Do not provide positive reinforcement by going to the puppy if it barks at night to soothe it. Talk to your trainer about the best way to combat annoying or destructive behaviour.

Pet Insurance

Pet care has become quite advanced over the years and there are generally many options available when it comes to treating pets that are injured or suffering from various illnesses. While the care has improved, there is no subsidized system available to pay for the treatments. A pet insurance may be an option to help you when it comes to paying for the cost of treatment. Most of these insurances reimburse up to 80% of the cost of treatment. Have a look at policy options to suit your requirements.