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Seasonal Setbacks: Protecting your puppyplaceholder

Throughout the weeks and months of your puppy's first, formative year, he'll encounter a vast variety of experiences, most of them happy and pleasant, but not all. So to help you prepare for the days ahead, here are a few pitfalls to watch out for, and some advice should your pet have the occasional not-so-nice experience.


Christmas: not such a happy time for a puppy

Unfortunately, Christmas could be the worst time to bring a new puppy into your home and life. A new puppy needs extra attention and a stable environment, but Christmas is so busy and sometimes chaotic. Your puppy needs round-the-clock feeding, housetraining and time to be comforted and reassured and this is virtually impossible at Christmas. But if you're considering having a puppy in the house at this time of year, here are some of the hazards he may face:

  • Doors left open and people coming and going could allow your puppy to run away

  • Your puppy will be constantly underfoot and vulnerable to trodden paws or worse injuries

  • Housetraining will be difficult, with daily routines interrupted by festivities, causing your pet and you, unnecessary stress. Also mid-winter doesn't provide the best conditions for housetraining

  • Beware of the additional safety hazards; holiday decorations, gifts, ribbons, wrapping paper and children's toys. Puppies love bright objects and could end up swallowing one of these with sometimes fatal consequences

  • Watch out especially for those chocolate tree decorations. It will be very tempting to treat your new puppy, but chocolate is not good for dogs, and too much could be poisonous to him

  • The same goes for too many titbits from the table, or a kitchen cupboard left open invitingly. You don't want your day spoiled by your poor puppy's upset tummy.

  • Turkey bones could choke your puppy, get stuck in his mouth or tear and cause damage to his oesophagus or stomach. Don't leave the leftovers lying around.

  • That crucial period of time for forging a bond between you could be compromised. A puppy needs the best start in life if you're going to avoid bad habits developing

  • The holiday activities will impinge upon your ability to supervise interaction between your puppy and your children. The probability of a sick, frightened or injured puppy biting a child is a real one


Fireworks: they don't work for your puppy

When your puppy (or any other pet for that matter) becomes exposed to the unpredictable bangs, cracks and flashing of fireworks, he experiences high levels of stress and his behaviour can in turn, be unpredictable. Your puppy won't know what's going on and will be scared. And these days, fireworks are no longer an annual event, but here are some steps you can take to make your pet's life more pleasant when the rockets go up.

  • Create a safe, cosy den area, with plenty of blankets for him to burrow in. It should be as far away as possible from the fireworks, and take him there a few times beforehand; feed him there occasionally, and let him settle there with a toy or a chew. And make sure the den is accessible on the night

  • Take your puppy for a walk before the display begins. And feed him an hour or so beforehand, to make him feel sleepy

  • Music played at a moderate level can mask the noisy bangs, but if it appears to make your puppy more stressed, turn it off

  • Don't try to soothe him by stroking if he's looking stressed; this will reward his behaviour and he'll think it's okay to be scared. Try not to show your concern

  • If he doesn't settle in his den, distract him with a game or a little training, but don't force it

  • Think about setting up the TV in a "safe" room and sit with him; normal family company will be soothing

  • If your puppy wants to hide in a corner or under furniture, let him

  • Make sure he's wearing his collar and tag, and is microchipped, in case he runs off

  • In case your puppy panics, ensure there are no dangerous areas close by, such as glass doors or fires

If you already know your puppy will be scared, ask your vet about the Dog Appeasing Pheromone, a plug-in device that releases calming pheromones into the air. Switch it on in the room where your puppy will spend most time up to two weeks before the fireworks. You can also buy a special CD with fireworks noises, which you could play occasionally to help him get used to the sounds before the big night.


Your puppy at Easter

Easter is the time of year when there's an awful lot of chocolate around, to say the least. It's also the time when it's very tempting to share some of the chocolate with your puppy. In a word, don't. Tempting though it may be to give in to those doleful puppy eyes, even a few squares of dark chocolate could kill a small dog. The milk chocolate in most Easter eggs can also prove fatal. Give your puppy his usual doggy treats and keep the chocolate eggs to yourself and your family, and everyone will have a happy Easter.


Help your puppy enjoy a safe summer

We all like to spend more time outside when the weather warms up. But summer can be hazardous for your puppy and as he's unaware of the dangers, he's going to need your help.


Sunbathing: Your puppy will probably love to lie in the sun but you must see that he doesn't become overheated, or even sunburned. At the hottest part of the day, encourage him to lay in the shade, or keep him indoors. And don't let him spend too long in a conservatory, either; he should have access to a cool, shady area at all time during hot weather.

White dogs with thin fur and pale ears and/or noses can be particularly prone to sunburn. Your vet will be able to advise on the use of sunblock and sunscreens if your puppy is vulnerable. He will recommend a non-toxic formulation as dogs will instinctively lick off anything on their fur or skin. If you come across an unfamiliar lesion on your dog's skin, get your vet to look at it, as it may be skin cancer. If caught early, skin cancers can be removed successfully.


Summer walks: When you walk your puppy in hot weather, carry some water and a bowl. Stop frequently to let him drink and stay cool. Dogs can suffer from heat exhaustion if they're exposed to extreme heat for too long; if he's not treated quickly, he could collapse into a coma. If you think your puppy is suffering from heat exhaustion - symptoms include excessive panting and drooling - bathe him in cool water, wrap him in a damp towel, and call your vet right away.


Summer refreshments: In hot weather, your puppy can lose moisture through panting and he'll want to drink more water than usual. Make sure he's got fresh water in his bowl and perhaps put an extra bowl outside the kitchen door. But remember, water evaporates quicker on hot days, so keep it topped up. As far as food is concerned, throw away leftovers to avoid contamination by flies, and to avoid food "going off" in hot weather.


Summer parasites: Parasites abound during hot weather, so you'll need to look out for fleas and ticks. Check your puppy's fur regularly, and don't forget his bedding, too. Your vet will advise you on the best preventative products to use.


Summer sores: You'll probably take more walks in the summertime, so check your puppy frequently for cuts and sores which could become infected if they go unnoticed. Also, grass seeds can become deeply embedded in ears, and between paw pads; they can even penetrate the skin and move causing infections. Small stones could also get stuck between your puppy's paw pads. These can cause problems if you don't remove them. Get treatment and advice from your vet if necessary. A little extra grooming in the summer will give you a chance to discover any small injuries.


Summer stings: Playful puppies find insects of all shapes and sizes irresistible and will pop any they find on the ground into their mouth. If your puppy gets stung or bitten in his mouth or throat, or you suspect he may be allergic to stings, get him to your vet's surgery straight away.


Summer poisoning: Your puppy is more likely to stray into sheds and garages in the summer and who knows what he might stick his nose in. Ensure your garden chemicals are safely out of harm's way. And keep your puppy indoors if you're spraying plants, lawns, or sprinkling slug pellets.

If you think your pet might have been poisoned, take him to the vet immediately. And take the packaging with you, if you think you know what he's eaten. This will help your vet identify the right antidote.


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