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Puppies are only young for a short time compared to humans.

A human usually is fully grown by the time they are 21 years of age (despite some adolescents feeling that they know everything by the age of 16 years) and in fact the frontal lobes of the brain (used for thinking and rational thought) does not develop fully in male humans until the age of 25 – 28 years (females usually have the fully functional frontal lobe by the age of 22 years).

But puppies are usually fully grown by the age of 9 months (exception is the giant breeds such as Great Danes who are not fully grown until the age of 2 years). In fact some breeds are fully grown in height by the age of 5 months.

This means that there is only a short time to make sure the animal is developed on the right path to happiness and full health – we need to feed it properly, we need to train it properly, we need to socialize it properly, we need to make sure that the animal is protected from diseases and parasites and we need to protect it from itself (young puppies are inquisitive and therefore always getting into some form of trouble).

So let us start when the pup is 6 weeks of age and is now starting to experiment with the world and is eating solid food. Some owners do acquire their pup at this early age but it is our recommendation that the pup should stay with its mum and other litter mates until 7 – 8 weeks of age. We address the issues that are important to puppies from 6 to 12 weeks of age in the next section.


At 6 weeks of age the brain is now functioning but the pup would have great difficulty “learning” so if you have just got a dog at 6 weeks of age then this is NOT the time to start “house training the dog”. This is a time for cuddles, little plays (the dog will often only play for a few minutes and then fall asleep). Pups do sleep a lot and they should be allowed to rest as much as they want to.

As the pup gets older the brain starts to take in information and the pup starts to develop its own personality. By the age of 8 weeks the pup is old enough to start to learn basic commands and basic house rules. This is called the Formative Time – the time that the future personality of the pup is formed. Basic personalities are imprinted on the normal pup by the time it is 14 weeks of age so it is important that basic rules and commands are instigated by the age of 14 weeks. See the section on Puppy Preschool for more information.


It is time to vaccinate the pup and we recommend a C5 (this is a vaccine that protects against Parvo, Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza and Bordetella diseases). But, be aware that the vaccination takes 10 days to work so it is best to keep the pup away from other dogs and other people who own a dog (some of the viruses can be carried on people’s clothes). The vaccination will need to be repeated when the pup is 12 weeks of age.

Intestinal worms

It is also time to make sure all intestinal worms are killed – we recommend that owners use medication called Drontal. This should be given to the pup every 2 weeks until the pup is 12 weeks of age.


We also recommend that the pup is given some form of heartworm control. We recommend using the medication called Heartguard and this will protect the pup until the pup is 12 weeks old.


We do NOT recommend young pups get a bath with a shampoo very often – only when really necessary (that means when the pup is smelling foul or is itching a lot) and then it is necessary to use the right shampoos and conditioners to overcome the problem. It is our opinion that pups should NOT be bathed before 12 weeks of age. The only shampoo that we recommend for puppies of this age is Natural Shampoo that is available at our animal hospital.

Flea control

It is our opinion that pups at this age (up to they are 12 weeks of age) should NOT have any flea control put on their skin unless there the flea numbers is huge. It is our recommendation that a flea comb is used daily to catch the flea in the teeth of the comb and then the owner should kill any flea that is seen. If there are huge numbers of fleas then we recommend a medication called Advantage is put on the skin BUT please make sure this is entirely necessary. We do NOT recommend any other medication.

Feeding the pup

We recommend for the first week you have the puppy to feed a diet that will not upset the bowel of the pup and then once the “settling in” stage has been completed you can start to introduce well balanced food.

There are two basic ways to feed a small puppy – either use home based diets (we have one written out in the nutrition section for canines) or to use commercial diets. We only recommend Royal Canin dry food for puppies and it is important to match the food to the animal size. It is important to match the size of the food to the size of the mouth and also match the energy intake to the growth potential of the puppy. Some small dogs will be fully grown in height and weight by the time they are 4 months old and other dogs may take up to 24 months to reach their adult height and weight.

We recommend:

  • Small dogs (adult weight up to 15 Kg) – use Royal Canin Small Breed Puppy food
  • Medium dog (adult weight up to 30 Kg) – use Royal Canin Regular Puppy food
  • Large and giant breeds (adult weight over 30 Kg) – use Royal Canin Giant Breed Puppy food

It is important that 75% of the food fed to a puppy each day is balanced with the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals etc. The other 25% fed every day can be anything you want to feed as long as it is not harmful to the pup.

Young pups (6 – 8 weeks of age) need to be fed small amounts and often – we recommend 8 times a day the pup should be offered food. As the pup gets older then it will need food 4 – 6 times a day until the age of 12 weeks when a normal pup needs to be given 3 meals a day.

The amount to feed varies with each pup but a rule of thumb is for the pup to leave 10% of the food offered in the bowel and for the pup NOT to have a swollen stomach after the meal. If the pup does have a swollen stomach then feed smaller amounts and more often. We recommend that food is only left with the pup for 10 to 15 minutes.

Puppies need to smell their food so it is important that the food is warmed up before being offered to the pup.

House training the pup

The pup’s brain does not start to develop “toilet” ideas until the pup is approximately 8 weeks of age. Until that time the pup will eliminate waste products (urine and stool) where ever it feels like and when ever it feels like. This does not mean that you cannot start training the pup before the age of 8 weeks but it may take a while for you to get your message over before “the light comes on”.

The best way to teach a pup to eliminate outside involves a number of issues.

  1. The pup must have access to the outside regularly. That means taking the pup outside at least once every 4 hours – day and night. This usually means taking the pup outside at 2.00am. This is a toilet time NOT a play time and the owner should discourage the pup from playing or get used to getting up each night for a long time to play with the pup.
  2. The pup should be encouraged to go to the toilet. This may mean staying with the pup for a period while it sniffs the area. When the pup does go to the toilet then the pup should be rewarded with a small treat (liver treat etc) and the words “Good dog” so the pup develops an association with the act of going to the toilet, the reward and the words. That way the words “Good dog” will be a reward in the future.
  3. If you can catch the pup in the act of urinating or defaecating inside the house (and you have to actually see the dog doing this) then punishment can be applied but must be at the appropriate level and must occur within 10 seconds of the act of urination or defaecation. The appropriate punishment may involve yelling “no”, may involve squirting the dog with water, may involve making a loud noise and may involve the owner looking annoyed (dogs work more on body language then vocal noises). Punishment does NOT involve hitting or hurting the pup physically – this can emotionally or psychologically traumatize the pup for the rest of its life.
  4. Consistency is the key to success. It is important that the rules are the same all the time. Dogs need rules and regulations to be part of a pack and they need to be shown and rewarded when they do well. They also need to be shown when they do not do well.

Bones and the puppy

We do not recommend any bones are fed to small puppies. Bones can get caught in their throat, they can break the weak temporary teeth, and they can cause lacerations to the mouth or the food pipe. The sad belief a lot of owners have – is that it is beneficial for the pup to have a bone (or two) to chew on. Some owners even believe that bones will clean the animal’s teeth. Next time you are at your dentist – ask them if you go home and chew on a bone whether that will substitute for cleaning your teeth with a toothbrush?

Puppies need lots of sleep

When you watch your new puppy you will notice that the pup sleeps a lot – in fact some puppies will sleep up to 80% of the day. Puppies need to sleep to allow their body to grow. Some puppies play hard when they are awake and then all of a sudden they will fall asleep – sometimes in amusing places and in amusing postures. Have your camera ready so that you can take pictures of the pup asleep in its food bowel, when the pup falls asleep on your lap, when the puppy falls asleep in the middle of the cushions. This is a great time to capture memoirs on camera so that you can laugh later as the animal grows older. Remember that pups grow mainly during the sleep period – so it is better to let them sleep when they want to and allow them to grow to their full potential.

Toys and other items the pup would like to chew on

Remember that puppies at this age are developing teeth and with these teeth comes biting and chewing. Pups will chew on lots of items including your shoes, your pants or dresses, pot plants, fingers, buttons and other items. If you do not want an item chewed up then remove it from the area the puppy lives in. If the pup does chew on an item that that is not removable such as the sofa then showing the pup your displeasure is advisable (using the firm word of “NO” said in a deep serious voice and taking the dog away from the item). Once again keep your camera handy and have a good sense of humour – the pup will usually grow out of the chewing phase of life and hopefully leave lots of great memories behind.

Pups usually love playing with toys that make a noise or can be carried around in their mouth (but make sure the pup cannot swallow the toy). They also enjoy ropes to pull on, toys that move and toys that they can put their foot on as they chew on it. We recommend the Kong toys.


We recommend all puppies start attending a Puppy Preschool by the age of 12 weeks. This is the time when pups need to mix with other pups of varying sizes and breeds. It is also the time when pups need to develop confidence in themselves and learn to fend for themselves in a manner that is acceptable to society (fear biting or aggression is not acceptable by our society). It is also important for the pup to socialize with other people who are not normally part of their home environment.

Puppy Preschool is so important that we have developed a whole section on this that can be found on the home page and we recommend all owner of young puppies visit this site and have a read of the information available.

Part 2: 3-6 Months of Age

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