Caring for and walking a client’s puppy
Dog walkers love to get a new puppy, all the fun of playing with a puppy with none of the work, brilliant. However, there are many things you need to be aware of when you are taking on a puppy, and lots of things you need to teach it to ensure it is a happy, healthy, well balanced member of your dog walking group.
First thing first, never over walk a puppy. Puppies should never be over exercised, generally it is 1 minute per week of life (or 5 minutes per month) twice a day. Anymore can end up with irreparable damage, causing issues like arthritis and hip dysplasia. However, this time limit is for active, repetitive walking/running, chasing a ball, if they are just gently playing with other puppies or just relaxing in a field, they can do this for a lot longer. Any dog under 1 year old should be considered a puppy, if it is a giant breed, it should be treated as a puppy until nearly two years old.
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Walking a clients puppy
Puppies must have had both their jabs before they can venture away from home on their own two feet (but you can always carry them out to get them experiences). The first jab is generally around 8 weeks old (but can be as early as 4 weeks), then a second dose two to four weeks later. After this, they still need to wait 10-14 days before they can go out. Puppies get some immunity from their mum for the first few weeks of their life.
Puppy classes are very important, they are all puppies attending, so low chance of getting anything, so can often be started before all the inoculations are completed. Dogs are very social animals, and for a puppy to go from its siblings and mum to a house on its own is extremely hard, so meeting with other puppies is fabulous for its social skills and mental health.
Puppy socialisation and experience window is generally between 2 and 14 weeks. This is when their brain learns new things easily, helping them to cope
with life and become a happy, confident adult. The sooner the better.
Skills they can learn before they can socialise with adult dogs
Ensure you take their food with them so you can hand feed them while they are having these new experiences and associate them with good things.
Noises, get them used to the noise of passing cars, vans, tractors, bangs, if possible, as many sounds as you can think of.
Places, take them to as many different places as possible, woods, parks, pavements (keep this limited due to damage to bone growth), buildings, I have even taken puppies in my care into pet shops (carried) in their time with me to get things. But this will not shock many people who are aware that I frequently take my cat with me!
Different people, everyone loves a puppy, let them go up to many different people, but ensure they do not jump up.
Different surfaces, take them on grass, mud, concrete, pebbles, sand etc so they know what to expect and this can help their confidence.
Various weather, as they get older, many dogs do not like the rain, or snow, but if they experience it as a puppy in controlled conditions, this can help them.
Other puppies, generally puppies are free of any disease as they are not allowed to go out, so puppies can meet, but be careful, if a puppy was from a puppy farm or breeder who did not have their mother inoculated, they may already have picked up things from her. But generally, puppies get immunity from their mother when they are very young.
Other animals such as cats and horses.
Handling, ensure you get them used to touching all their body, especially the feet, do this after every walk, as when they get older, many dogs dislike being cleaned off and the feet can be a major issue if they are not taught being handled from being young.
Getting dried off after a walk. This goes with the one above, but ensure they are used to getting towelled down, if they are small, put them on your knee and dry them, encouraging them to enjoy it, but do not let them play with the towel, this can result in them getting excited again or attacking the towel and now we are calming down.
Ensure all their experiences are positive and do one thing at once. Not doing enough when they are small can easily result in behavioural problems, fears and phobias. Any older than 12 weeks, they are still learning, but the older they get, the more experiences they will need to have before they are happy with them.
Once all their inoculations have come into action, they can then meet adult dogs and the socialisation can continue.
The bigger the dog, the longer it will take to mature mentally and physically. Climbing steps, running up and down hills, walking on hard surfaces and repetitive movements (like chasing a ball) should be avoided all together when they are small, tiny breeds are generally fine doing all this by 8 months, but giant breeds and breeds susceptible to hip dysplasia should avoid them all together, if possible, but 18 months minimum before they should be allowed to do any of these things. Also their weight has a huge affect on things like hip dysplasia and arthritis, so keep their weight down. Puppies should be lean, not terribly skinny, but they sometimes do get leggy and bony looking, if you are worried they are too think, check with your vet, but there are many more health implications with being slightly too fat than slightly too thin.
Do not let any puppies jump up. It is cute and endearing, but as they grow, it will become less and less so, but they will have this habit instilled in them. Get down to their level and roll around with them on the floor if they want a cuddle.
Positive reward-based training and welfare needs must always be met. Using their daily food allowance as a training tool is a great way to ensure they do not get overweight.
Puppies should be off the lead as soon as possible. When they are tiny, they still want to be near you, so use this period to teach them recall and being off the lead. Use their lunch to feed to them as you walk around while they are off the lead, so encouraging them to return to you frequently. They will become a teenager soon, and this is when they rebel, but if they have not developed any off-lead skills when they were smaller, they will be very hard work at this period.
Watch them carefully when playing with other dogs. Ensure it does not get too much. If they are running around too much or getting beyond themselves, calm them down and ensure they have relaxed before you let them go again. They need to realise at an early age that the adrenalin rush from chasing and running stops play, or they can get into trouble when they are older. We are building the building blocks of life to teach them how to be a happy dog and a pleasure to walk.
When you leave, teach them to settle in the place where they will be left. This is often a crate, which should have water in it. This must be an area they are used to and see as a comfy den.
A note on puppy health
I have turned up at a few puppies houses and they have never been allowed out as their family believe that this would be best for their growth plates. This is not generally true, studies have shown that muscle and bone strength improved by playing and walking on soft ground, puppies generally play all day long and walking on soft grass has no proven side effects, it is concrete and other hard surfaces you need to be wary of.
Stairs should be avoided until their growth plates are set. This is around 8 months in toy breeds up to 20 months in giant breeds.
Hills should be limited until their growth plates have set, and just walking up and down them steadily.
Chasing balls should be limited until their growth plates are set. They can still learn to play with balls, but certainly no throwing the ball as far as you can so they can get in and fetch it back. This action is very bad for their joints, even worse if you do it on a hill. A gentle throw to them so they learn balls are fun, but no damage is done. And no throwing sticks, but puppies should never be taught to play with sticks as there is so much damage a stick can do, they should be left alone!
Extra body weight can have a huge impact on their joints and growth plates, enhancing the risk of arthritis, hip dysplasia etc when they are older.
The main issue with things such as growth plates are genetic. Any puppy whose parents or grandparents had issues is very likely to have issues. Certain breeds are more susceptible to issues too, but this has generally originally been bred into them when trying to gain a certain look and ignoring the health.
The quality of their food can greatly impact their health. Many of the cheaper foods are lacking in the required nutrients and vitamins and high in colourings, added sugars and fillers. One easy way to check the quality of the food is look at the amount of meat that the product contains. 4% is the minimum they can have to legally call it a certain thing. So, if they have 4% chicken for example, what is in the other 96%? Dogs are carnivores and some very healthy dogs’ diets consist of 80% meat. Any change in food should be done slowly over a month or so, as even dogs on the worst diets will get upset stomachs if their diet is improved too quickly.
Puppies can be fed many fruit and veg such as apple slices, carrots, blueberries, broccoli, green beans, the list goes on of treats that can be fed to vary their diet and add variety to
Do be aware, certain things are deadly for dogs and they should never be fed the apple core, chocolate, grapes, raisins
, and if your dog is out in your garden, ensure all the plants and bulbs are safe if they ate them.
Puppies often get upset stomach. This can be from something as simple as over feeding or worms. First ensure that the puppy is not being fed too much and it has had all the wormer it requires. Any other issues should be checked by a registered veterinarian.
Always let the owner know if you spot something that you think is out of the ordinary.