Starting a new chapter
Four years after losing our old gal at 15 years of age, hearts have healed and it’s time to open the doors again. Our new baby is on the way, which is a great opportunity to remind readers about the needs of a new puppy.
A great place to start is your state breed registration body for pedigree breeds, or a breeder with whose dogs you are familiar.
Make sure you are able to visit the parents and the property where the animals have been kept. Inappropriate rearing conditions can have a huge impact on your dog’s social and mental development, which can lead to lifelong anxiety issues and may impact on the dog’s ability to hunt.
Your new puppy should come with its first vaccination, given at least 10 days before you pick it up, to commence protection against distemper, hepatitis and parvovirus. Some areas also have issues with leptospirosis and coronavirus, so your breeder may also vaccinate for these diseases.
Are there heritable diseases in your chosen breed that can be DNA tested or screened for? And if so, have the parents been tested and certified disease free? It should also have been microchipped, vet checked and wormed fortnightly from two weeks of age.
Check the diet your breeder has been feeding; a good breeder will supply you with the same food, otherwise make sure you grab yourself a bag of the same food to start your puppy on once it comes home to minimise the risk of an upset tummy. Another good reason to buy a puppy from a breeder is that it gives you the opportunity to interact with the puppy’s siblings and dam, also possibly the sire and get an indication of what the future holds for your puppy. Homecoming — preparing for your new puppy Make the decision early as to whether your pup is going to have inside access and where it is going to sleep. There are no right or wrong answers, only what works for you. Make sure your home is safe inside and out; if there is something you don’t want your little mischief maker to have, trust me, they will find it. Check for exposed wires that a puppy can chew on and either tuck them away or coat them in something unpalatable like Vicks Vapour Rub. Make sure anything they can swallow, especially kids’ toys, are picked up and put away. Ensure remote controls are up out of the way, and things with stuffing are out of reach; we routinely surgically remove stuffing from puppy bellies. If you have a cat, the litter tray is out of bounds. If you have an outdoor pen, ensure any gaps underneath are too small to allow heads or limbs though. Pool fences may be kid safe, but unfortunately, they are often not puppy safe. Make sure there are no gaps under fences, poisonous plants, or access to chemicals that could harm your pup. Provide your pup with a comfortable bed and their own space. Crate training at an early age is great for providing a safe resting place but also to assist on transitioning them into transport crates when you eventually start your hunts (unless of course, like our mob, they travel in the car with you). If you are planning on having the pup as a house dog, a play pen or baby gates are great for limiting their space to roam free through the house, this helps with toilet training too.
Lastly, make sure you have sturdy food and water bowls, and the same type of food that your breeder was using initially. You want to wean them onto your preferred food of choice gradually over a few days, after the pup has settled in.
A well-fitting collar and ID tags are a good idea, however, don’t spend too much as it won’t fit for long.
When you pick up your new pup I highly recommend a vet check within the first 72 hours to ensure that he/she is fit and well. The vet can discuss with you the most up-to-date vaccine recommendations, parasite control products, and the timing for treatment. Be aware of the diseases you may also encounter in the areas you plan to hunt as additional vaccines may be of benefit. Make sure you have worming and other parasite control products available. Plan ahead and start on a suitable product for the types of parasites your pup will eventually come into contact with, particularly if you hunt in a tick or heartworm-prone area.
Your pup should be wormed every two weeks until 12 weeks of age and then monthly until six months. Get your vet to scan your pup’s microchip to make sure that it reads and that it matches the paperwork the breeder has provided to you. You would be surprised how often mistakes happen.
Also, chat to your vet about the appropriate diet for the age, breed and growth potential of your pup. What is good for humans is good for dogs too, right? WRONG! You have paid good money for a great dog, don’t cheat on what you feed at this age or you may end up with growth disorders such as hip dysplasia, etc.
You want a diet that has a combination of highly digestible proteins, prebiotic fibres such as beet pulp for a healthy gut, good quality fats and carbs for energy and all of the necessary vitamins and minerals in a balanced formulation.
Dogs also prefer routine with feeding rather than variability, and the introduction of new foods and treats should be gradual to avoid digestive issues.
Please don’t get caught up in the new grain-free bandwagon. The latest research out of the USA indicates grain-free diets, especially those containing legumes, such as lupins, are linked to cardiomyopathy (or heart failure). Abundant raw meat is high
in phosphorous, it competes with calcium for absorption, leading to weak bones and possible fractures.
Give several small meals a day to encourage good feeding behaviour, to avoid overeating and an over-distended stomach, which can lead to vomiting.
Decide whether you want to desex your pet. In general, we recognise that desexed pets live longer, have a reduced risk of ovarian and mammary cancer in bitches and prostate and testicular cancers in dogs.
However, there is conflicting evidence as to the timing of desexing, as we discussed in a previous article. Just to recap, in larger breeds it is now suggested we delay desexing until the dogs are mature and fully developed.
Our new baby will be a bitch and our plan at this stage is to spay at 14–16 months, depending on her development.
I expect some of you will disagree with me on basic training, and that’s OK.
All puppies benefit from puppy school to assist them in becoming well-rounded dogs. I am not talking about hunting training at this early stage, but rather general basics.
I practice reward-based training rather than punishment or correction techniques because first and foremost, dogs are companion animals: they hunt and retrieve for you out of a sense of loyalty.
The old saying, ‘It’s a two-dog night’, came from the fact that it was so cold you needed two dogs sleeping with you to keep you warm.
Whether you are old school or not, a dog will always work better to please you than from fear of punishment.
Get the basics right and this will help when it comes to hunt training.
An important first lesson is toilet training. Take your pup out regularly, every 20–30 minutes, when it wakes up and any time it eats or drinks (as it needs to make room). Don’t wait for it to need to go, you will be too late every time.
Praise the dog when it toilets outside but don’t scold them or they will revert to hiding when relieving themselves, giving you the joy of finding a sneaky poop behind the couch!
If your pup has an accident, you weren’t on your game; they only have small bladders and like kids, are easily distracted until it’s too late.
Basic obedience such as sit, drop, mat training and recall are all essential when it comes to hunting. Start with three short training sessions a day of no more than a few minutes. Reward correct behaviours and use treats to encourage outcomes that you want. Try to tie these behaviours in with signals as well as verbal commands, and once the pup has them down pat, try with only the words, or only the signals.
Sound training is also great, if done early. I have used a great app called ‘Sound proof your puppy’, which has all sorts of noises including gunfire, fireworks, vehicles and machinery. Getting your pup used to these sorts of sounds when played quietly initially and gradually increasing the volume reduces fear and noise phobias later.
Very exciting and challenging puppy times ahead. After four years stalking without a four-legged companion, we will get the basics out of the way during the snake season and have her primed just in time for the cooler months next year. If only I could teach her to carry the beast back to the ute.
Happy hunting, everyone.
Veterinarian Dr Karen Davies owns and uses hunting dogs and has broadened her expertise to include animal rehabilitation, animal physiotherapy and animal hydrotherapy services. Readers of Field & Game Magazine can draw on her experience and expertise by submitting questions to edi[email protected]dandgame.com.au Karen can be consulted at Direct Vet Services, 8/22–30 Wallace Ave, Point Cook, VIC; Email: directvetser[email protected]pond.com or Tel: (03) 9369 1822.