All dogs are descended from their wild cousin, the wolf, and share many traits seen in wolves. Dogs, and puppies in particular, are denning creatures and feel more secure in small, snug areas with low roofs, thus the success of the training crate.

Dogs are pack animals and do not enjoy being alone. Puppies who stay with their litters until eight weeks old easily will become members of human packs/families. Each pack needs a leader. Ideally all human family members should be ahead of the dog in the pack order. Your dog should not be the leader, as this can result in aggression or other dominance displays.

Before You Bring Your Dog Home
You will need food, water and food bowls, leash, collar, training crate, brush, comb and canine chew toys.

Cleaning Up
Keep your dog on a leash when you are outside, unless in a secured (fenced-in) area. If your dog defecates on a neighbor’s lawn, the sidewalk or any other public place, please clean it up.

Puppies 8 to 12 weeks old need four meals a day. Puppies three to six months old need three meals a day. Puppies six months to one year need two meals a day. When your dog is one year old, one meal a day is usually enough. For some dogs (such as larger ones or those prone to bloat), it’s better to continue to feed two smaller meals. Premium-quality dry food provides a well-balanced diet and may be mixed with water, broth or some canned food. Your dog may enjoy cottage cheese, cooked egg, fruits and vegetables, but these additions should not total more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily food intake.

Puppies should be fed a high-quality brand-name puppy food (avoid generic brands) two to four times a day. Please limit “people food,” however, because it can cause puppies to suffer vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems and may cause very picky eating habits, as well as obesity. Have clean, fresh water available at all times. Wash food and water dishes frequently.

Every dog needs daily exercise for mental and physical stimulation. The proper amount depends on the breed type, age and health status of your dog. Providing enough exercise will improve your dog’s health and prevent household destruction and other behavior problems common in underexercised dogs.

You can help keep your dog clean and reduce shedding by brushing her frequently. Check for fleas and ticks daily during warm weather. Most dogs don’t need to be bathed more than a few times a year. Before bathing, comb or cut out all mats from the coat. Carefully rinse all soap out of the coat, or dirt will stick to soap residue.

Small dogs, sometimes referred to as “lap dogs,” are the easiest to handle. The larger breeds, such as German Shepherd dogs, are usually too large to lift. If you want to carry a puppy or small dog, place one hand under the dog’s chest, with either your forearm or other hand supporting the hind legs and rump. Never attempt to lift or grab your puppy or small dog by the forelegs, tail or back of the neck. If you do have to lift a large dog, lift from the under-side, supporting his chest with one arm and his rear end with the other.

You will need to provide your pet with a warm, quiet place to rest away from all drafts and off of the floor. A training crate is ideal. You may wish to buy a dog bed, or make one out of a wooden box. Place a clean blanket or pillow inside the bed. Wash the dog’s bedding often. If your dog will be spending a great deal of time outdoors, you will need to provide her with shade and plenty of cool water in hot weather and a warm, dry, covered shelter when it’s cold.

Licensing and Identification
Follow your community’s licensing regulations. When you buy your license, be sure to attach it to your dog’s collar. A dog license, ID tag, implanted microchip or tattoo can help secure your dog’s return if he becomes lost. Training A well-behaved companion animal is a joy. But left untrained, your dog can cause nothing but trouble. Teaching your dog the basics—“sit,” “stay,” “come,” “down,” “heel,” “off” and “leave it”—will improve your relationship with both your dog and your neighbors. Start teaching puppies basic sit and stay commands. Use little bits of food as a lure and reward. Puppies can be enrolled in obedience courses when your veterinarian believes they are adequately vaccinated. Contact your local humane society or SPCA for training class recommendations. Start teaching your puppy manners NOW!

See a veterinarian if your dog is sick or injured. Take him for a full check-up, shots and a heartworm blood test every year.

Dental Health
Puppies replace their baby teeth with permanent teeth between four and seven months of age. Clean their teeth with a dog toothpaste or a baking-soda-and-water paste once or twice a week. Use a child’s soft toothbrush, a gauze pad or a piece of nylon pantyhose stretched over your finger. Some dogs develop periodontal disease, a pocket of infection between the tooth and the gum. This painful condition can result in tooth loss and is a source of infection for the rest of the body. Veterinarians can clean the teeth as a regular part of your dog’s health program.

Fleas and Ticks
Daily inspections of your dog for fleas and ticks during the warm seasons are important. Use a flea comb to find and remove fleas. There are several new methods of flea and tick control. Speak to your veterinarian about these and other options.

This parasite lives in the heart and is passed from dog to dog by mosquitoes. Heartworm infections can be fatal. Your dog should have a blood test for heartworm every spring, because it is important to detect infections from the previous year. A once-a-month pill given during mosquito season (which varies in different areas of the country) will protect your dog. If you travel south with your pet during the winter, your dog should be on the preventive medicine during the trip. In some warmer regions, veterinarians recommend preventive heartworm medication throughout the year

Females should be spayed (ovaries and uterus removed) and males neutered (testicles removed) by six months of age. Spaying before maturity significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer, a common and frequently fatal disease of older female dogs. Spaying also eliminates the risk of pyometra (an infected uterus), a very serious problem in older females that requires surgery and intensive medical care. And spaying protects your female pet from having unwanted litters. Neutering males prevents testicular and prostate diseases, some hernias and certain types of aggression (which differ from protectiveness, which this surgery won’t affect).

Medicines and Poisons

  • Consult a veterinarian about using any over-the-counter or prescription medication.
  • Do not give your dog chocolate.
  • Make sure your dog does not have access to rat poison or other rodenticides.
  • Call your veterinarian or The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA/APCC) for 24-hour animal poison information if you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous substance. The numbers are: (888) 4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435), or (900) 680-0000. A consultation fee applies.

Vaccinations (Refer to the Vaccinations Page for important information)

It is common for dogs, even in urban areas, to be exposed to worms and possible infestation. Microscopic eggs produced by intestinal worms in infected dogs and passed in their feces provide a source of infection for other dogs. There are several types of worms and a few microscopic parasites that commonly affect dogs. Because most of these cannot be seen in feces, a microscopic fecal evaluation is the only satisfactory way to have your puppy or dog checked for intestinal worms and other parasites. Most puppies, even from healthy mothers in good homes, carry roundworms or hookworms. All puppies should be dewormed by a veterinarian regardless of fecal evaluation.

Additional Information:

  • The average life span of a dog varies from 8 to 16 years, depending on breed type, size, genetics and care.
  • For more information, search the dog care section on our web site:
  • Write to ASPCA Animal Sciences at 424 East 92nd St., New York, NY 10128 for a list of free behavioral materials.

Recommended Reading:

  • Click for the ASPCA website

    “The ASPCA Complete Dog Care Manual”
  • “The ASPCA Complete Guide to Dogs”
  • “The ASPCA Pet Care Guide for Kids–Puppies”
  • “The ASPCA Dog Training Manual,” Dr. Bruce Fogle

You can order these ASPCA books by calling The ASPCA Humane Education Department at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4410. TM and ® are protected by The ASPCA. ©2001

The ASPCA The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals National Headquarters • 424 E. 92nd St. • New York, NY 10128-6804 • (212) 876-7700 •


Here are some K9 tips adapted from hiking expert Wendy Pope, founder of Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa in Ainsworth Hot Springs, British Columbia:

Doggy 411: Whether you are day hiking or planning a longer excursion, make sure your pet is fit, vaccinated and has identification.

Call in advance to see if the trail you are planning to hike will allow dogs. This will save time and disappointment if you get to the park only to find out that dogs are not allowed.

Dogs get dehydrated faster than humans, because they expend more energy in a short amount of time. The higher the altitude, the drier they get. You must carry enough water for your dog (and yourself), as well as a bowl - dogs can't drinks from cupped hands very easily. There are light-weight fabric bowls and dog canteens available in pet supply catalogs.

Dogs get the munchies too! Bring a small amount of kibble even if you only plan to be out for a couple of hours - there could be an emergency and your time on the trail extended. If you train your dog to wear a light pack, he can carry his own supplies.

Be prepared for common injuries such as cut paws and bites. Bring a tensor (ACE) bandage, gauze bandage, adhesive tape, small towel and antiseptic lotion. Also carry tweezers (for ticks), small nail scissors, a razor, and a SAM splint. This is also for human first aid response! A first aid kit for your dog should include: gauze sponges, roll gauze, hydrogen peroxide, muzzle, styptic powder, diphenhydramine (benadryc), sterile eye wash, antibiotic ointment.

Don't allow your dog to harass wildlife, other dogs, or people. Keep your dog on leash. It is the only way to prevent his sense of adventure from getting him into trouble.

In case of emergency: Always carry a cell phone, if within the range, or a telephone-equipped radio.

At Mountain Trek, owner Wendy Pope stresses the importance of preparing yourself well for hiking.  This goes for your dog too!  Be prepared, be knowledgeable, and be well.

Puppy Preparedness

Bringing home a new puppy is truly one of life's joys. Thoughtful pre-puppy preparations and a well-planned first 24 hours can give your fuzzy bundle of promise a head start and make your dreams of the perfect family dog come true.

Before the big day

Once household discussions have established that everyone wants a dog of a certain age and breed, where to get the pup - from a shelter or reputable breeder - is more or less determined. Now, family meetings should cover scheduling:

  • Who will take the pup to the papers or backyard and when?
    • Who will be in charge of feedings 3- 4 times a day?
  • Who will make veterinary appointments for vaccinations and de-worming?

Also, take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use. If Mom says "down" when Puppy climbs on the couch, Dad says "down" when he wants him to lie down and Junior utters "sit down" when he expects the pup's rear to hit the floor, the result will be one confused dog! Putting the schedule and vocabulary list in writing prevents confusion and will help dogwalkers, nannies and others involved in raising Puppy.

Next, draft a shopping list and purchase supplies: food and water bowls, chew toys, grooming supplies, bedding, collar and leash, identification tag, crate, gate and odor neutralizer. Pre-puppy shopping allows you to order from wholesale catalogs or visit the pet superstore in the next county without the pressure of Puppy needing it right now.

You'll need to puppy-proof the area where the youngster will spend most of his time the first few months. This may mean taping electrical cords to baseboards, storing household chemicals on high shelves, removing plants, rugs and breakables, setting up the crate and installing gates. Once you think you've completely puppy-proofed, lay on the floor and look around once more to get a puppy's eye view.

If you have children, hold one last meeting to lay down the rules: Don't overwhelm Pup the first day, and don't fight over him or create mob scenes showing him to the neighborhood. Now you're off to get Puppy.

Getting off on the right paw

When you pick up your pup, remember to ask what and when he was fed. Replicate that schedule for at least the first few days to avoid gastric distress. If you wish to switch to a different brand, do so over a period of about a week by adding 1 part new brand to 3 parts of the old for several days; then switch to equal parts, and then 1 part old to 3 parts new.

From the start, consistency is important. On the way home, Puppy should ride in the back seat, either in one person's arms or, preferably, in a crate or carrier.

Once home, folks who plop the excited newcomer on the Oriental and let the kids chase him will be mopping up in no time - and regretting the lesson they taught their new pup. Instead, take him to his toileting area immediately.

From there, carry out your schedule for feeding, toileting, napping and play/exercise. From Day One, your pup will need family time and brief periods of solitary confinement. Solitude may be new to Puppy, so he may vocalize concern. Don't give in and comfort him or you may create a monster. "Gee, if making noise brought them running once, maybe more whimpering is needed to get their attention again," reasons the pup. Give him attention for good behavior, such as chewing on a toy or resting quietly.

Doing things correctly from the start prevents confusion. Through puppy preparedness, you are one step closer to your Dream Dog.

For a list of topics on which you can receive informational literature, write to: ASPCA Companion Animal Services, 424 East 92nd Street, New York, NY 10128-6804

© 1996 ASPCA