A puppy is like a car in the sense that good maintenance will keep a puppy healthy and running well for many years if the time is put in at the beginning. We all like to keep our pets in good shape, and there are some things that should be checked on, worked on, and watched out for when caring for a puppy so it grows into a happy and healthy dog.
Keeping your dog’s coat clean and well brushed not only is important for your dog’s appearance, but for the hair’s health. Washing your puppy may be necessary, and if so be sure to only use a puppy shampoo and not a human one, which could cause skin irritations and dryness. Also be sure not to wash too often, usually no more than once a month, as this can also lead to dryness. Only wash in the morning and not late in the day, so the puppy will be completely dry before bedtime. Regular brushing prevents dead hair, dirt, and other foreign matter from sticking and causing mats or clumps, which can lead to skin infections underneath the clump if moisture sets into the area. Brushing also stimulates blood flow in the skin, which makes the coat shiny. Since many breeds have specific grooming needs, check with your groomer or vet to see what is best to do for your puppy.
Trimming your dog’s nails may easily be done at home with proper training on how to do so. Your veterinarian, experienced groomer or pet shop employee can show you the best way to do it so you do not cut the quick, which is the vein in the nail that can cause pain if cut and bleeding. Buy some special powder that will stop the nail bleeding if in fact you do hit the vein by accident. And remember that if you reward your puppy with lots of praise and a small treat when you trim its nails, your pet will actually look forward to having its nails trimmed. Start when you first get your puppy and do the trimming, or at least handle the paws if the nails do not need to be trimmed, every couple of weeks so nail trimming will not be a big deal to the puppy when it grows up.
Keeping puppies on a dry puppy food will keep their teeth cleaner than feeding anything moist or canned, but the teeth still need to be cleaned. Like nail trimming, if you start brushing your pet’s teeth when they are young, it will be no big deal when they get older. First buy a dog toothbrush and some dog toothpaste, which will be in a flavor they will like and is edible. Do not use human toothpaste because it will not only taste bad to them, but it can make them sick if they digest too much of it.
Get your puppy to sit and then put some of the dog toothpaste on the brush and let the puppy lick it off without trying to brush. Give the puppy lots of praise for doing this, and a command may be given when the toothbrush is being licked like, “Brush your teeth.” Do this once a day for three days. Then on the fourth day, just brush the outside of the teeth very quickly. It is important at this stage not to push it on the puppy. Give the command as well and then let them lick any toothpaste that is left on the brush. Do this for a few days, increasing the time you brush more and more until the puppy fully accepts its teeth being brushed. You do not need to brush the inner surfaces of your puppy’s teeth. It is important to brush your puppy’s teeth because plaque can cause gingivitis that releases bacteria into the dog’s system, which is very bad for a dog’s health, especially for the heart valves and kidneys. Dogs that normally get their teeth brushed every day or every other day don’t need to have it done professionally very often, which is very expensive, and will usually live longer and healthier lives.
Some dog breeds have more problems with ear infections than others. This usually includes dogs that love the water, like retrievers, and dogs that have large floppy ears. A dog’s ear canal is not like ours, it is actually shaped like an “L” and so bacteria and yeast that can cause the infection have a great place to grow where it is moist. For those that have a puppy that may be a breed that tends to have ear problems, talk to the vet about the best way to clean the ear regularly to help avoid ear infections. Good grooming, like pulling out excess ear hairs and using a good ear cleaner made specifically for dogs, will keep the ears healthy. But do not use household products, especially rubbing alcohol, in a dog’s ear as this may injure the ear more than the ear infection!