Brining Home Your Puppy

Picking a Puppy

When choosing to get a dog, it’s essential to consider your current lifestyle but also what life changes you expect during the lifespan of the dog you’re about to take home.

For instance:

  • How much space does your current residence have?
  • Do you plan on downsizing?
  • Do you plan on getting more pets?
  • Do you plan on having children?
  • Will you be retiring or working longer hours?
  • Will you be travelling often?
  • What is your current health status?
  • What expected lifestyle and/or health changes do you expect in the next 8-12+ years?

These lifestyle questions are essential to determining what type of dog you plan on getting. The type of dog that you should be seeking should be one with needs that you can provide and that will fit with the lifestyle that you have now and will have in the future. This is the best way to ensure that you prepare yourself and your new dog for the best possible outcome for both of you to adapt to each other while minimizing negative outcomes (i.e. behavioural issues, stressors, needing to rehome the dog, etc.) Although certain breeds are known for having certain personalities and types, it is not always guaranteed that by purchasing that specific breed, you will get the exact personality that was advertised.

Home Essentials

  • Water and food bowls
  • Leash and collar, harness or Gentle Leader
  • Toys
  • Beds
  • Puppy-proofing: this means removing possible harmful situations/places for your new dog (cords, plants, objects that they can chew on or swallow, etc.)
  • Crate to make as their “room” – a safe place to rest and be calm

Out-of-Home Essentials

  • Veterinarian – best to have a few that you’re interested in going to; you can always set up a Health Examination ahead of time, even before you take puppy home. It’s best to schedule this appointment after you’ve had the puppy for at least 1 week so that you can determine what they’re like and so that you can formulate questions/concerns to bring up to the veterinarian.
  • Pet-sitter and/or Doggie Daycare
  • Dog training classes – are essential for every dog, regardless of age, and for all owners. Not every dog will learn in the same fashion, so having a professional assist you can ensure that we teach ourselves and our new dog in the safest and most efficient manner.
  • Grooming – consider the type of hair coat that your dog will have. They may require regular grooming to keep their hair coat well-kept and to avoid matting. The vast majority of dogs need regular nails trims (once a month, on average), unless they are very active and wear down their nails on hard surfaces (i.e. pavement or concrete)


Puppies need a total of 3 boosters, each 3 to 4 weeks apart. Typically, they should be started at 8 weeks of age, which means the subsequent boosters would be at 12 and 16 weeks. It’s not uncommon for breeders to vaccinate their puppies at 6 weeks of age so that they can sell them sooner. In these cases, we still recommend their 2 subsequent boosters 3 to 4 weeks apart as well.

Core Vaccines

These are vaccines that are recommended for ALL dogs. These prevent common, contagious, and life-threatening diseases that could potentially also be transmitted to humans. These vaccines include: DHPP & Rabies

DHPP: is a 4-way combination vaccine that protects against Distemper, Hepatitis (caused by an adenovirus), Parvovirus and Parainfluenza. The first 3 viruses tend to cause profuse vomiting and diarrhea which can lead to rapid dehydration and death. Parainfluenza can predispose to pneumonia which can be fatal in our young and elderly dogs (like pneumonia in the very young or elderly people).

Rabies: this virus is fatal to people, pets and wildlife. It is spread through saliva, so it is transmitted through biting or contact of infected saliva on open wounds or in your mouth or eyes. This virus targets muscle tissue and nerves. Symptoms include behavioural changes (including aggression), excessive drooling, difficulty swallowing, paralysis and seizures. It’s required by law so if your puppy ever bit anyone and if they weren’t already vaccinated, then they would be placed under 10-day quarantine and you’d be court-ordered to have them vaccinated.

Lifestyle-Based Vaccines

These vaccines are recommended depending on the dog’s lifestyle. This includes the level of interactions with other dogs, any travelling you plan to do with the dog, if they’ll be going off-leash anywhere, etc. These vaccines include Bordetella, Leptospirosis and Lyme.

Bordetella: more commonly known as Kennel Cough. This is an upper respiratory bacterium that causes a chronic dry, hacking cough without any other symptoms. Sometimes the coughing fit may lead to retching and the production of a foamy white phlegm. Some dogs can resolve the infection on their own without treatment, but most of them require treatment with antibiotics and sometimes an anti-tussive (cough suppressant) too. Recommended for dogs that frequently interact in areas with dogs directly or indirectly (dog parks, walked in dog-populated areas, groomers, vet hospitals). It is similar to the flu in the sense that it can be passed between dogs directly (direct contact) or indirectly through the environment.

Leptospirosis: Lepto for short; is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of wildlife. This includes foxes, coyotes, skunks, raccoons and even mice and rats. Dogs become exposed by consuming water that’s contaminated with wildlife urine (i.e. puddles, swamps, creeks, rivers, etc). This vaccine is recommended for the Quinte West area as we have a high level of wildlife exposure. It is important for dogs that will be doing hiking, camping or staying at a cottage/trailer, and if they’re spending time off-leash. Stagnant water is common in those areas and dogs always love running through them and drinking the water. Lepto can lead to liver and/or kidney failure in our pets and is zoonotic (can be spread to humans). Liver & kidney failure will cause a pet to drink and urinate excessively, often with urinary accidents in the house. As the owner, your potential exposure arises when you go to clean up the urine.

Lyme: a bacterial tick-borne disease that is increasing in prevalence in Canada due to global warming. Quinte West is a lyme-endemic area of Southern Ontario, so year-round tick prevention is highly recommended to prevent exposure. Lyme can cause 3 different types of diseases, one of which is life-threatening. The primary defense that’s recommended is to use tick prevention all year-round. For dogs with lifestyles that are higher risk for exposure, this vaccine is recommended. Higher risks would include the following: hunting, off-leash walks, hiking, camping, time at the cottage and/or trailer

Influenza: There was a canine influenza outbreak in Southern Ontario in 2018. Symptoms include: coughing, sneezing, fever, lethargy, inappetence/anorexia. At the time, vaccination was recommended for dogs who frequented dog parks, doggie day care and grooming salons, especially if they travelled throughout Ontario (i.e. people with cottages). There have not been any further outbreaks since 2018. Since it is a virus, treatment is supportive therapy (fluids if they’re dehydrated, anti-nausea medication if they feel queasy) and antibiotics are prescribed if there’s evidence of a secondary bacterial infection (i.e. yellow or green nasal discharge).

Vaccination Timing

8 weeks: DHPP

12 weeks: DHPP & Lepto (they can come in a combo so both vaccines in 1 syringe = 1 poke for puppy) and Bordetella +/- Lyme

16 weeks: DHPP & Lepto, Bordetella and Rabies +/- Lyme

16 months = DHPP & Lepto, Bordetella and Rabies +/- Lyme

Going forward, DHPP & Rabies are due every 3 years. Leptospirosis, Bordetella and Lyme are annual vaccines. All vaccinations come in an injectable form that is given subcutaneously (underneath the skin). The Bordetella vaccine does come in other forms: an intra-nasal (into the nose) and an oral form which is given into the cheek pouch to be absorbed through the gum tissue.

Vaccine Reactions

Common Reactions
  • Lethargy: typically lasts up to 24 hours
  • Tenderness where the vaccines were given; they may whimper or cry if you touch those areas. However, if your pet is so sore that they don’t want to move, then please notify your veterinarian. There’s a pain relief medication that can be dispensed for 1-2 days to keep them comfortable.
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea typically lasts 12-24 hours, but if it persists for longer than that or if during that time your puppy stops eating, please seek veterinary assistance immediately. Similar to infant children, if puppies don’t eat regularly, their blood sugar levels can drop to dangerously low levels, which can be fatal (symptoms include: seizure, coma and death
  • A small (1.5 cm diameter) bulge under the skin may be seen in dogs that are very well-muscled and/or have shorter hair coats. In other dogs, it may be felt when petting them. This swelling should subside on its own and may feel firm as the body reacts to the vaccine. If the swelling remains for over 2 weeks and/or gets bigger, notify your veterinarian immediately.
Less Common Reaction

A less common reaction (~5% of dogs) is an anaphylactic response (sudden swelling) which tends to occur within 15 minutes of the vaccine. This presents as swelling of the face, which is typically most notable in the lips and eyelids. PLEASE SEEK VETERINARY ASSISTANCE IMMEDIATELY. The swelling can spread to the point of blocking the airway. Treatment is simple: an injection of an antihistamine (i.e. Benadryl) to rapidly reduce the swelling. Your vet will likely then give you a dose of Benadryl to give your puppy at home 2-3 times daily for a couple of days. In future, they’ll ask you to give them a Benadryl dose before their next vaccines to avoid that sudden inflammatory process.

A RARE (<1 in a million) reaction is a delayed vaccine reaction which would lead to the formation of a cancer called a Soft Tissue Sarcoma. You would see a soft to firm lump growing in the region where the vaccine was previously given. It will grow slowly and likely won’t be painful initially. Soft Tissue Sarcomas are locally invasive and rarely spread to other parts or organs of the body. Towards the end stages, they typically become painful and irritating (dogs are known to chew them open) and they can start to eat away surrounding tissues like bone. Diagnosing these early is most important because the smaller the mass, the easier it is to remove, so schedule an appointment as soon as possible to have it assessed.


These can live on the outside (ectoparasites) or inside (endoparasites) of your pet.


Fleas: tiny (~3 mm long) parasites that bite your puppy and make them itchy

  • They love to live around the base of the tail, where it’s harder for most pets to reach
  • They multiply readily and are difficult to get rid of if they invade your home because the adults live on your pet and all of their eggs and larvae live in the environment (your carpets, sheets, blankets, the dog bed, etc.)
    • Sprays for the home are available at your veterinarian. (TAKE CAUTION with over-the-counter products as pet death has been associated with these types of products)
    • It is recommended to wash all bedding in warm or hot water as well
  • Often, you won’t see the actual adult fleas, but you’ll see what is called flea dirt (their feces)
    • It looks like dark brown or black dots along their skin and trapped in their fur
    • Flea dirt can be confirmed by wetting a sample of it on a paper towel and smudging it. If it’s just regular dirt, it’ll smear black or brown. Flea dirt smears a coppery red colour (like blood) because fleas feed on blood.
  • Fleas can transmit tapeworms

Ticks: tiny little parasites that can transmit various diseases (Lyme, Ehrlichia [er-lick-ee-a] and Anaplasma [anna-plaz-mah]). The latter 2 are most commonly seen in Southern regions but their prevalence in Canada has increased thanks to the adoption of dogs from areas affected by natural disasters and from the Dominican. Humans can contract the same diseases as well.

Mites: microscopic parasites that will require a skin scraping or ear swab to diagnose. They cause various degrees of itching, and most preventatives that manage fleas & ticks will also manage these too.

Intestinal Worms
  • Roundworms: these look like little white spaghetti worms
    • Extremely common in puppies!
    • Can be passed to puppies from their mother while they’re fetuses or from her milk
    • Also passed through the environment that is contaminated with infected stool
  • Hookworms: tiny worms (2-3 mm in size) that are unlikely to be noted by the naked eye. Cause chronic diarrhea.
  • Whipworms: far less common, typically seen in dogs that were adopted from another region
  • Tapeworms: we rarely see an entire tapeworm as they are built to shed off in segments
    • Segments will look like little grains of rice
    • If they are dried to your dog’s hind end, they’ll be hard and immobile
    • If they are in your dog’s feces, they will wiggle
    • Can be acquired via fleas (unintentional ingestion of an infected flea while gnawing at their skin) or via hunting or scavenging of other animals
    • There is a form of tapeworm that is beginning to emerge in Canada called Echinococcus [eh-kine-o-cock-us], which can be fatal to dogs and people. If your puppy ends up being a hunter or scavenger, is it recommended that they are regularly on deworming prevention that will also protect against tapeworms

As the name suggests, this is a worm that lives in the heart. It is spread between dogs and wild canids by mosquitoes, which means heartworm season follows mosquito season. These worms live in the artery that goes from the heart to the lungs, so if enough worms develop, they could clog the artery and lead to heart failure. The overall prevalence in Canada is low because we have 4 seasons; however, with global warming and the increased number of international dog adoptions, cases are increasing. Treatment is EXPENSIVE: a couple thousand for 1 treatment and a minimum of 3 treatments is necessary. In advanced cases, open heart surgery would be required to physically remove the worms from the heart. As such, prevention is the best-recommended practice and is required from June to November.

Parasite Prevention

Two main forms of prevention are available: chewable or topical. When we’re making recommendations on what type of prevention to use, the goal is to determine what is likely to be the most convenient to you, the owner, such that we maximize compliance (i.e. giving our pets their prevention properly and on time).

Topical Prevention

These are liquid products that are to be applied directly to the skin by parting the fur along the back of the neck.


  • Easy to administer to pets that aren’t food motivated or are very picky
  • Side effects are typically limited to irritation to the area of administration


  • Typically dry within 2 hours so you need to remember not to pet or cuddle them after application; application before bed or before going out to run errands is recommended
  • Some dogs tend to dislike the feeling of it as it’s being applied and may shy away from you
  • Can be washed off with baths and swimming
  • Can cause burns to the skin in severe cases of reaction
  • Tends to be more expensive to achieve full protection against all parasites
Chewable Prevention

Flavoured chews or tablets that are given by mouth every 1 or 3 months. We recommend these for food-motivated dogs and often for a lot of puppies because they’re busy and are always going to be cuddled and pet.


  • Easy to administer to food motivated dogs
  • Child-friendly
  • No drying time required


  • Common side effects are vomiting or diarrhea (especially on an empty stomach)
  • May elicit an allergic reaction in dogs with food allergies (itching, scratching, ear infections)
  • Have the potential to lower the seizure threshold in dogs with a predisposition to seizures
Choosing a Preventative

Pick a product that you think will be easiest for you to give to you pet. Consider you pet’s personality and your schedule. A lot of older clients are used to topical products, but as they age they can have difficulty with their dexterity so using the chewable products can make things easier for them. Chewable preventatives are typically faster to administer.

Consider the timing too. Would it be easier for you to remember to give something once a month or every 3 months?

For the first year, you’ll need to have you puppy weighed once a month in order to purchase the proper dose of prevention while they grow. Once fully grown, your veterinarian will be able to dispense several months’ worth at a time – you can let them know how many doses you’d like to purchase at once.


You are going to be VERY overwhelmed when you go to the pet store and check out the food section. There are HUNDREDS of options. Brands that are recommended are Royal Canin and Hill’s Science Diet. This is because these food companies have veterinary prescription diet lines and all the voluntary research that they put into those diets do trickle into their pet store lines as well. You will rarely see ads for these brands because they don’t spend much money on advertisement; instead they spend their money on research and testing to ensure that the diets they produce are proven to be safe and effective.

How to Feed Your Puppy

MEASURE the amount fed!! Use a measuring cup or a gram scale to accurately feed them. This is the best way to prevent excess weight gain. Meal feeding is generally best, especially in multi-pet households, but even if you plan to leave the food out all day, measure out the total daily amount to avoid over-feeding and to ensure that the food doesn’t spoil or become stale.

The use of wet food in dogs isn’t as essential as it is in cats. It can be helpful to medicate them in the future (i.e. hiding liquid medications in the wet food), but typically dogs tend to be much easier to medicate than cats. The decision to feed canned food can be a personal choice for the owner. That being said, some dogs can be picky and may not eat their kibble unless something is added to it. We call this “top dressing” their food. The use of a canned dog food is recommended over using broth, cheese or other people food to ensure that they’re still eating a complete and balanced diet.

Some dogs are extremely fast eaters and their meals will disappear in a matter of seconds. We recommend feeding these dogs with a puzzle bowl or a treat ball to slow them down. This is better for their digestion and will avoid issues such as hiccoughs, burping and farting. In addition, it will help these dogs feel more full, so we can avoid issues such as begging, food seeking behaviour (i.e. getting into the garbage) and some destructive behaviours (chewing on/eating inappropriate items)

People Food & Treats

It is easy to go overboard with treats, especially for puppies, since a lot of training will be happening. I recommend using a portion of their kibble as their training treats – or better yet, making them work for their meal rather than just dumping it in the bowl. It’s great training and bonding time, and although it is more time-consuming, your puppy will be in a motivated state of mind.

It’s best to stick with dog-specific treats. I generally recommend avoiding feeding anything from the table as it promotes begging behaviour. In addition, people food is incredibly dense in calories, so these pets tend to be overweight/obese.

The general rule of thumb is that the number of calories from treats a pet should consume in a day should be no more than 10% of their daily total calories. This is typically only about 35 calories in a day for a smaller breed dog. Try finding low-calorie treats (less than 5 calories per treat) and feeding them in ways that can keep your dog occupied for longer (i.e. feeding it in a Kong toy or treat ball).

CAUTION: Diet Trends

Grain-free diets: there are a lot of misconceptions that grains can the be cause of allergies. The overall percentage of dogs who are truly allergic to things like grains and corn are extremely low (<1%). There is a link between grain-fee diets and the formation of heart disease in dogs. Not all brands necessarily plaster that it’s grain-free all over the bag, so read the labels closely.

Raw diets: these are presently very trendy and you will be told all of the amazing things it can apparently do (cures allergies, prevents parasites, makes them super healthy because it’s similar to what wolves would eat). These are diets that are typically essentially just raw meat that’s sold either in tubs or bricks. There is risk that the diet won’t be complete or balanced, especially if you’re purchasing it from what we call a “boutique” (i.e. a diet that is only available from one place and isn’t commercially available). Raw meat alone won’t contain all of the necessary nutrients, vitamins or minerals that a dog needs to grow properly. There’s a risk of an excess of calcium and phosphorous in these diets and deficits in other essential nutrients.

  • There is a risk to humans as well when feeding a raw diet. The bacteria contained in raw meet (Salmonella, E. Coli, Klebsiella) can cause illness in the people your dog will contact. The bacteria won’t only be present in the food bowl that’s used to feed them, but also in their mouths, saliva and feces.
  • This means that any drool that is spread or any kisses that are given will spread bacteria around
  • When a patient eating a raw diet comes into the clinic, I wear gloves and change my lab coat after seeing them. We also perform a full sanitization of the exam room that they were in and shut down the room for a few hours before bringing another patient into that room


The goal of proper training is not to teach your dog tricks, but to teach them manners. You want to ensure that your puppy is well-socialized to other dogs of different shapes and sizes and to other people. You want to ensure that they’ve been safely exposed to various situations and environments and that they had positive experiences so that they feel confident. Training is not just for your puppy, but also for you to learn how to be a good leader. Proper training will lead to a positive relationship between you and your puppy.

Focus on positive reinforcement training: this involves rewarding good behaviour. This does not involve any dominance nor punishing your dog for bad behaviour.  The goal is to eliminate undesirable behaviour by showing your dog what behaviours should be performed to get what they want. For instance, if they want attention, then they don’t bark or jump up, but rather they should sit politely.

Dr. Sophia Yin has amazing training resources which are all based on positive reinforcement. Her Books “How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves” and “Perfect Puppy in 7 days” are excellent resources for a first time dog owner. Her website also has a lot of great resources as well. I’ve copied and pasted some information from her website which I provide to all of my new puppy appointments.

If you train your puppy properly to have great manners, I guarantee you that they’ll automatically become a favourite patient at the veterinary clinic. My biggest pet peeve is dogs that have no manners and are poorly behaved for treatments such as nail trims and ear cleaning because they’re stubborn and don’t want to be cooperative so they throw a tantrum. It’s frustrating and potentially dangerous to me and my colleagues.