Getting a new dog is always an exciting time in your life! Here are a few tips:
The right dog
In order to give both your family and your new dog the best chance of settling in together, it is important to make sure that you choose the right companion. When it comes to the breed, you need to consider your living situation – apartment? house with a garden? – as well as the amount of time that you can spend with your new friend. Puppies are very time-consuming by nature of their age, but bear in mind that any new addition your family is going to need some extra time spent on them at the beginning. Rescuing is always a great option, particularly as Irish rescue centres are always packed full of dogs looking for you!
When you bring your new dog home, make sure to get some of their food so that they don’t get an upset stomach. Any change in food needs to be done gradually! If you do want to change your dog’s food, start as you approach the end of one bag of food and start mixing it with the new bag. This allows time for their digestive system to adjust.
A puppy will grow for the first eighteen months of their life. During this crucial period, you need to be feeding them enough food for them to build a healthy skeleton and muscles but not so much that their growing body is put under pressure. Keeping your pup at the optimum weight as they are growing up will set an excellent precedent for the rest of their life! The lifespan of an overweight dog can be up to two years shorter than that of a dog kept at a healthy weight. Bringing your dog for monthly weight checks is a great way to make sure that they are gaining or maintaining the right weight at the correct time. It also means that they visit the vet a few times without having an injection which makes the experience less stressful for them!
Make sure that the food you choose provides a complete diet for your dog. Dry food is generally best as this helps to keep your dog’s teeth as clean as possible. Ideally, you should be using a handful of your dog’s normal kibble as training aids – this is best done by measuring out your pup’s daily food each morning and then taking out some nuggets to be used as treats. If you use other treats, make sure to compensate your dog’s food accordingly – remember that commercial treats are often considerably higher in calories than kibble!
All dogs need exercise but the amount varies by breed. Working dogs like collies, Labradors, spaniels and terriers are high energy and they love to be moving all the time. They are best suited to a lifestyle where they have access to an outdoor space at all times. More sedentary breeds include greyhounds, Cavaliers and Pomeranians. These dogs are more likely to be couch potatoes but they do still need at least one good walk per day. Not every dog of the same breed is going to be the same, so it is possible that your Cocker spaniel will spend all day snoozing while your Pomeranian runs laps around the garden! Older dogs tend to be more settled into their personalities and you will usually get a better idea of their energy levels after 3 years of age, so it is always worth checking rescue centres to see if you can find your ideal friend!
Puppies are usually full of energy, so let them run around the house if they want to! In terms of walks, it is best for growing skeletons if you keep walks nice and short to start with. As your pup grows, their little joints are quite fragile so keeping walks short reduces the risk of arthritis later in life – this is particularly important in the larger breeds.
Puppies will need an initial course of vaccinations consisting of two injections four weeks apart. The first injection may be given before you get your puppy, in which case you will be given a record. Until a week after your dog has had both of these injections, they should be kept away from other dogs and water. If your pup get wet feet, make sure to dry them off! A nasty disease called leptospirosis is transmitted in surface water such as puddles.
Older dogs which have had their vaccinations kept up to date just need an annual injection to keep their immunity topped up. If this has lapsed or there is no record of previous vaccinations, it is best to restart the initial course and then you can keep top of the vaccines after that. We will send you reminders about this annual vaccines and the visit also includes a weigh-in and general health check so that we can make sure your dog is keeping well.
Under Irish law, all dogs must be microchipped and registered to you. This is so that if your companion decides to go off exploring, a vet can scan the chip and call you to reunite you! The chip is usually inserted when your puppy is having their first vaccinations and registration is lifelong after that. If you move house, you need to make sure to update your address and phone number. You will receive a certificate in the post once we have sent the form away. When you adopt a dog, the vet can check that they are microchipped and you can transfer them into your name. If they are not microchipped, they can have one put in by any vet.
All puppies are born with a worm burden which needs to be kept under control both for their sake and for your family’s health. Young puppies should be wormed weekly until 2 months of age and then monthly until 6 months of age. From then on, your dog can have a monthly tablet which covers them against fleas, ticks and all worms present on the island of Ireland. We will set you up with monthly reminders so that you can keep on top of your dog’s parasite treatments.
We recommend that most dogs be neutered. This helps to prevent any unwanted pregnancies which are extremely time consuming on the part of the owner. A bitch should be allowed to have two or three heats before she is bred, which means that she will be around 2 years of age. If she has any complications while whelping, both her own life and the lives of her pups can be endangered. If the bitch struggles with milk production, the task of feeding the pups every 2 hours will fall to you as the owner. In the sad case of a bitch being lost during whelping, you will be left to raise the pups which is a gruelling task!
By not breeding from your dogs, you will avoid contributing to the current overwhelming problem of canine overpopulation. Irish dog shelters and rescue organisations are inundated with dogs!
For smaller breeds spaying can take place at 6 months of age. For larger breeds, we recommend allowing one heat then spaying them 2-3 months later. This avoids dealing with heats and unwanted pregnancies as well as vastly reducing the risk of mammary cancer and preventing pyometra – the latter is a common infection of the womb in older dogs which can rapidly be fatal. Spaying also reduces the risk of diabetes and hormone-related cancers.
Castrating dogs removes risk of testicular cancer and reduces risk of prostate cancer. It also reduces risk of your dog roaming in search of females and inappropriately marking his territory. Castration can also reduce hormone-related behavioural problems.
By insuring your pet early in life, you are covered should they develop any sort of illness or disease requiring long term treatment. It also means that if your pet sustains an injury – for example, from a road traffic accident – you will not be faced with such a large and unexpected bill. Insurance subscriptions can be paid monthly or yearly by direct debit, and there is a yearly excess payable by the owner. Insurance does not cover any pre-existing conditions so bear this in mind when you are choosing your dog. This is a particularly important consideration in some of the designer breeds and in older dogs.
If you are planning on taking your pup out of the country, they will need to be vaccinated against rabies. This injection needs to be given at least 21 days before you leave, so make sure to plan in advance! When you come in to get the rabies vaccine, we will draw up a pet passport for your dog. You will then need to come in a few days before you leave – the exact timeframe differs between countries so please check! – so that your dog can have a health check. This certifies them as safe to travel, and we will also give them a tapeworm treatment – there is a species of tapeworm present in Great Britain and on mainland Europe which is not in Ireland, so your dog needs to be protected if you are leaving the country.
Some breeds require regular grooming from a welfare point of view – this is particularly important with some of the designer crossbreeds as they are bred to shed as little as possible. Without regular grooming, painful matts can build up and can quickly become a welfare issue.
Training and Socialisation
Socialisation for puppies is important because they are most receptive to new experiences before 6 months of age. In the current climate, the best way to do this is to try and take your pup on short walks in populated areas. Once they are fully vaccinated, finding a dog park where they can meet new friends is a great way to get as much socialising as possible in. Just make sure that they don’t over-exert themselves in order to protect their joints!