Puppy Advice

Top tips for looking after your puppy

  • General Health Check
  • Vaccination
  • Feeding
  • House Training Tips
  • Neutering
  • Insurance
  • Identification

General Health Check

We recommend getting your puppy used to sitting on a table and having their teeth, ears, paws and tail examined on a regular basis at home, by you and maybe some friends or family members, using lots of treats and rewards.

Hopefully this will mean they are more at ease when the vet needs to have a look at them on the consult table, making the whole experience less stressful.

Getting your puppy used to having their teeth and mouth examined also helps later on with teeth cleaning. We recommend starting this as soon as your puppy has all its adult teeth, as it is by far the best way to maintain good oral health and prevent a costly and traumatic dental procedure later in life. Talk to our nurse or see our section on oral health for help with teeth cleaning once your puppy is old enough.


The vaccine we give your puppy protects against several life threatening diseases including distemper, leptospirosis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and infectious canine hepatitis (also called adenovirus).

To prevent these distressing illnesses, our recommendation is to give the first vaccine at 8-9 weeks old and the second 21-28 days later at 12 weeks old. This time frame ensures your puppy achieves maximum immunity. In some breeds (for example Dobermans and Rottweilers) the vet may recommend a third vaccine at 16 weeks. You should discuss this with your veterinary surgeon.

If your puppy was vaccinated by the breeder’s veterinary practice, we will need to see the vaccination certificate so we can make sure we give the correct vaccine at the correct time.

Puppies should not be allowed contact with unknown (and potentially unvaccinated dogs) until 1 week after their 2nd vaccine. However, it is really important to socialise them from a young age, so you should allow them to play in the house or garden with friends’ dogs who you know are fully vaccinated and friendly.

Vaccines should be boosted every year; as well as maintaining immunity, this is the perfect opportunity for the vet to fully examine your dog and pick up any problems early on. We will do our best to send you a reminder each year, but it remains the owner’s responsibility to ensure booster vaccinations are kept up to date.


We recommend a good quality, complete, dry puppy food from brands such as Arden Grange, Burns, Eden and James Wellbeloved (this is by no means an exhaustive list – there are lots of good brands of dog food.

The main things to look for are natural ingredients, no additives or colourants, and a high protein content). You can add puppy wet food to the dry food if they are really fussy but if you can get them eating just dry food it is far better for their teeth. It’s also cheaper, more hygienic and more convenient to be on a complete dry food! Once you have found a brand your puppy is happy with and their stools are a normal consistency, stick with that brand and be careful when changing flavours to introduce them gradually because a sudden change may upset their tummies.

New puppies should be kept on the same food the breeder or rescue centre has been feeding them for at least a week after you take them on. It is too much of a disruption to take them away from their litter mates, mum and familiar surroundings, and change their diet all in one go. The exception to this is if the breeder was giving the puppy unusual mixtures of goat’s cheese/yogurt/Weetabix etc. You can wean your puppy off this over a period of a few days as the puppy is not benefiting from this kind of diet and it is an unnecessary hassle for you as a new owner.

We do not recommend a raw diet for any animal, especially puppies, for various medical reasons including the risk of foreign bodies and food-borne diseases such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. If you are considering a raw diet, please talk to a vet or vet nurse first. At the very least, we can give you pointers on how to make sure your dog gets the right balance of nutrients for growth, bone health etc.

How much to feed depends on the breed of your dog and its age, as well as the brand of food you choose. Follow the guidelines on the back of the food packet and talk to a vet if you think your puppy is not growing as it should, or is getting too podgy! Puppies should be fed 4 times daily until they are 12-16 weeks old, then 3 times daily until they are about 6 months old. We recommend twice daily feeding throughout adulthood, as once daily feeding is a lot for their digestion to cope with and also predisposes to obesity. At what age to swap your puppy onto an adult food depends on a number of factors including breed, weight gain, age of neutering, activity level etc. Talk to a nurse if you are unsure when to swap from a puppy to an adult food.

Remember dogs do not have to be fed from their bowl all the time. You can use their food as a reward when you are doing training sessions, out on walks to get them to come back to you, in Kongs to keep them occupied or simply thrown on the floor or across the garden so they use their natural scenting and hunting instincts to look for their food!

House Training Tips

Set rules and boundaries from day one. Just because it’s a cute little puppy doesn’t mean it can get away with anything it likes! Think about how you want your puppy to behave when it’s much bigger and older and train it appropriately from a young age.

Using a crate overnight and for daytime ‘time out’ sessions can be invaluable. It may feel cruel locking your puppy away, but they should see it as a safe, secure place for resting and eating, not as a punishment. Here are some guidelines for crate training:

  • Always have a game with your pup then take it out for toileting before putting it in the crate so it goes in there to sleep
  • If necessary provide stuffed Kong toys or dental chews to keep your puppy occupied and if it whines a little just ignore it; it should only be let out when it’s being quiet
  • If your puppy is howling or barking excessively it may need more exercise/play time/toilet time before being put in the crate or it may be that a crate is just not suitable for your pup. Don’t give up without trying for a few days at least
  • Our nurses are always happy to give advice on crate training and all other aspects of house training
  • Begin leaving your puppy alone for short periods of time as early as 12 weeks old. Your pup needs to learn that it’s ok to be alone and that you always come back
  • Always leave them with the radio or TV on and a treat or toy so they have something to focus on other than you being gone
  • Start at just 5-10 minutes then gradually increase it by 5 minutes a week so it’s not a shock to their system, they’ll just get used to it being a normal occurrence


We recommend neutering females either before their first season (so at around 5-6 months), or 3 months after their first season. Here are some of the reasons to spay your bitch:

  • Neutering your female at a young age dramatically reduces the risk of mammary tumours and pyometra (infected uterus), both of which can be life threatening
  • Eliminates the risk of unwanted pregnancy or developing ‘false pregnancy’ after their season
  • Avoids unwanted attention from male dogs and the mess and hassle of dealing with a season

Male dogs can be castrated from 4 months old in most instances. This eliminates the risk of developing testicular cancer and reduces the risk of prostate disease. Neutering may also help reduce aggression towards other dogs and unwanted sexual behaviours in some instances, although there is often a behavioural aspect to these problems as well.

In some instances, for example in large breed male dogs, your vet may recommend neutering earlier or later. If there is a specific reason not to neuter your puppy, a hormonal implant may be an option – speak to your vet for advice.


We strongly recommend insurance for your new puppy. There are a wide range of policies on the market nowadays and it’s tempting to go for the cheapest option, however, this may not offer the cover you need when your pet is ill.

You don’t want to be worrying about whether insurance will cover the treatment or not when you’re already worried about your dog’s health. Important things to look out for when doing your research include:

  • The maximum limit of cover should be as high as possible. Some policies have a limit of £1000 or £2000 – this amount really isn’t going to last long should your dog need on-going treatment for problems such as arthritis, or a one-off major operation such as fracture repair or spinal surgery. Therefore it is preferable to find a policy that will either offer unlimited cover or a high maximum (e.g. £5000-8000) for the life of your dog.
  • Once you have taken out an insurance policy it is advisable to stick with that company on-going (rather than changing companies yearly looking for the best deal like you would with car insurance). This is because once your dog has suffered from a condition if you should then change companies they will exclude this condition meaning they will not pay out for any treatment towards it.
  • Lifelong cover of every condition. For example, should your dog develop arthritis, diabetes or thyroid problems they will need treatment for the rest of their life, not just for a year.

According to FSA regulations, we are not allowed to recommend any particular insurance company. However, we are allowed to tell you our experience in claiming from different companies. In our experience, some are very easy to deal with and pay out with no fuss most of the time; others will find any tiny reason not to pay.

Speak to one of our vets or nurses for more advice and see our insurance tips for advice on how to make the most of having insurance.


By law your dog must wear identification in public places usually in the form of a tag on its collar which must include your surname and address.

Just a postcode is not acceptable and although a telephone number is not required by law it is advisable. Even for small dogs 3-4 lines of text can be printed on both sides of a tiny tag so there is no excuse. It is therefore important to get your puppy used to wearing a collar from a young age. Please ask at reception if you would like to order a tag.

In addition, we strongly recommend getting your puppy microchipped around the time of their 2nd vaccination and from 2016 it will be compulsory for all dogs to be microchipped. This involves inserting a small chip (about the size of a grain of rice) into the scruff of your puppy’s neck. Once chipped your details will be held in a national database so should your puppy ever get lost, they can be scanned and traced back to you via your contact details.

Therefore it is very important to keep your contact details up to date with the database company.

Toilet Training Tips

  • Always let your puppy out as soon as they’ve eaten/woken up/had a play session as this is when they are most likely to need to toilet
  • Try to put a command as they go to the toilet so you can encourage this later on e.g. “Wee-wees” or “quick quick”
  • Bear in mind your puppy may be fussy about where they want to go to the toilet, some only like grass, some only like concrete/pavements
  • Insist your puppy goes out even when its raining – put a coat on them if necessary and go out with them if you usually go out. If you break your routine because of bad weather, your puppy will just have an accident in the house
  • Crate training or newspapers by the back door will help

Noise Desensitising

Many dogs are scared of fireworks. Puppies born in spring and summer will have had no experience of fireworks until they are past the critical learning period (8-14 weeks), so they are even more likely to be sensitive to fireworks.

Therefore it is important to introduce all puppies to loud bangs in a controlled manner during the critical learning period. This can be done by playing firework CDs or rock-type music at low levels to begin with. Then increase the volume gradually over a period of weeks when the puppy is happy and contented. If they appear frightened at any point, go back to a volume level where they are not bothered for a few days, before trying to increase the volume again.


Exposure to other dogs, cats, people, objects and environments is incredibly important for puppies so they grow into friendly, well-mannered, confident dogs. See the checklist below of all the things we recommend getting your pup used to seeing and hearing.

Always make the experience a happy and rewarding time, not scary or overpowering.

Training Classes

We strongly recommend you enrol your puppy in training classes, even if it’s only so they get used to playing with other puppies nicely.

There are loads of different training options in the area; we recommend finding someone that uses purely reward-based methods (such as treats, toys and clickers) rather than any form of punishment-based technique (such as water pistols, rattle bottles, compressed air, shock collars and check-leads). As your puppy gets older you could consider more advanced training regimes such as the Good Citizen scheme, agility, search and rescue, flyball, gundog training and more! Our nurses (particularly Head Nurse Sian Gale) can give you up-to-date recommendations of local trainers – just pop in or give us a call.

Here are some links to local trainers to get you started. Please note we do not recommend any particular club; it is up to you to research which class is most appropriate for your puppy.

And here are some of our favourite websites for puppy owners:


Puppies need exercise little and often. It is important to practise getting them used to wearing a collar and lead from a young age around the home and garden, then from one week after their 2nd vaccination you can begin taking your puppy for short lead walks.

For large breed dogs as a guide we recommend:

  • Initially 10 minutes three or four times a day until they are 4 months old
  • Increase gradually so you are doing 20 minutes of lead walking 3-4 times daily by 6 months old
  • Continue to increase gradually so you are doing 30 minutes per walk by 8 months, 40 minutes by 10 months, and 1 hour per walk by the time they are a year old.

Gradually increasing exercise in a controlled way is particularly important with large breed dogs as their growth plates do not fuse until they are at least 1 year old. Small breed dogs are usually classed as adults by 10 months old so they can be doing lots of exercise by this point, although the idea of starting with little and often and gradually increasing the length of each walk is the same as for larger breeds.

When introducing off-lead running and playing it is recommended you do this towards the end of a lead walk when they are tired and less likely to run off. It is advisable to try to find an enclosed area the first few times you let your puppy off the lead. Practising recalls in your garden and in the gardens of family and friends before going public is a good idea. There are also long lines (up to 30metres) you can buy to practise doing recalls in open spaces.

Return to all advice