Updated policies - Find out all the information about our updated policies at the bottom of the page.

Dogs & Puppies

Dogs, our loyal companions

Dogs are fantastically loyal companions. Their love is unconditional. We understand just how important they are to their owners, and it is our aim to provide the latest available high quality veterinary treatments, in a kind and caring manner. 

All our vets are dog owners, and we appreciate the worry an illness can cause.

Our facilities are excellent, facilitating high quality diagnosis and treatment. A high powered x-ray machine, and automatic x-ray processor allows us to get good images of even the largest chest, or smallest foot! After all, our canine patients vary from the 1 kg Yorkie, to the 55kg Great Dane – it`s not really small animal practice!

The traditional auscultation (listening to the heart with a stethoscope) can still be used to diagnose the commonest heart condition in dogs, namely a murmur due to endocardiosis (click on play button below to listen)…but the advent of high quality ultrasound imaging has transformed the treatment of difficult heart cases, including cardiac tamponade.

We can now image internal organs without the need for surgery – diagnosis is now possible in many cases without any invasive procedures – this significantly enhances the welfare of those entrusted to our care. When it is necessary, however, we have a dedicated theatre suite, and we perform soft tissue surgery, both routine elective, and emergency, and orthopaedic procedures. We now perform cruciate surgery (on the knee) several times a week. It has become increasingly successful, now utilising the latest implant technology, with a shorter-than-ever recovery time.

Dog parasites represent a significant health concern, especially with the emergence of lung worms which have been responsible for some deaths in NI pets. We have seen clinical cases in Bangor (6 confirmed affected cases in Cedarmount in 2013) – the risk remains real.

We strongly advise against using the older wormers (often sold in pet shops and supermarkets), which are prone to drug resistance and side effects. Please contact us for the best advice on worming your dogs.

We stock the latest flea and worm control products – safely eliminating fleas and worms from your dog, and very importantly from the environment, ie. your house and garden etc! With recent advances in oral, tablet, parasite control, and genuine concerns about the environmental contamination caused by spot-on products, we are now advising a combined flea, tick and worming tablet. This is the only combined treatment for dogs and, when given monthly, it will eliminate and prevent flea infestation, kill ticks, prevent roundworm (toxocara) infection and prevent ooscyst shedding, and prevent lungworm (angiostrongylus) infection. The tablets are extremely palatable with very little side effects and we recommend these for virtually all dogs. 

Other advantages of tablet treatments are that they will not be washed off at the groomers, or by swimming, and they do not leave any sticky residues. These combined tablets are available at incredible value as part of our Pet Health Club. Unless your dog is a hunter e.g. rabbits or mice, eats a raw diet, or travels to at risk areas, e.g Wales or Europe, then tapeworms are not really a concern. If we need to control tapeworms then a separate tablet can easily be used alongside every 3-6 months, depending on the risk.

We can insert a microchip very inexpensively now – this will be there permanently, allowing rapid identification of your dog, with your contact details immediately available to vet or rescue centre should the need arise. The chips we use are ISO standard, and as such acceptable for the Irish Kennel Club.

  • Vaccinations
  • Spaying and Neutering
  • Spaying and Neutering - what happens on the day?
  • Spaying and Neutering - your instructions on the day
  • Heart Disease In Large Dogs
  • Basic Training
  • Have you got a new puppy?
  • Puppy - Getting Started and House Training Guide
  • Puppy - Socialisation and Habituation


Preventive healthcare is the cornerstone of keeping your pet healthy and routine vaccination is a vital component of this. The diseases we vaccinate against are extremely severe, and sometimes fatal, so preventing your pet from succumbing to these infections is obviously better than trying to deal with the problem if it arises. The other benefit of regular vaccination is to improve the health of the pet population as a whole by reducing the overall level of disease, and therefore reducing infection for all our pets.

We have seen the benefits of this over the last 20-30 years when Parvo virus outbreaks were common but with the introduction of vaccines, the often fatal infection is much less common. It is important not to become complacent though, as there have been problems in recent times with Measles outbreaks in children in areas where the level of vaccination had dropped. This could easily happen with our pets too, if the number of vaccinated animals falls.

Of course we don’t want to “over-vaccinate” either and recent advances in vaccine technology and research has provided us with improved understanding and better vaccine protocols. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has provided comprehensive guidelines for vaccination and we strive to follow this advice, taking account of our local disease prevalence rates etc.

Cedarmount Vets are now pleased to offer our new vaccine Nobivac DHLPPiL4 which provides protection against a multitude of diseases:

  • Canine Distemper
  • Parvovirus 2b, Adenovirus
  • Para-Influenza with the option of Bordetella bronchiseptica (Kennel Cough). NB.This intranasal vaccination is included FREE OF CHARGE for all Members of our Pet Health Club. The new vaccine is licensed to not only protect from clinical signs of Leptospirosis, but importantly to reduce excretion of the bacteria in the urine, reducing the risk to human and other animal’s health
  • Leptospirosis (serogroups Icterhaemorrhagiae, Canicola, Australis and Grippotyphosa) 

Your pet will receive different combinations of vaccine each year, to provide continuous protection in a single injection (kennel cough is extra for non-Pet Health Club pets) but without “overvaccinating”.

These vaccines are very safe with only very rare reactions. These are generally mild and short lived. The most common reaction is a small lump which will resolve after 7-14 days with no treatment.

  • Puppy vaccines start from 6 weeks with a second 2-4 weeks later when at least 10 weeks old
  • Both dogs and cats need annual booster vaccinations, of which the 1st at just over a year is especially important, to maintain the immunity.
  • We can do blood samples to check the antibody status of your pet if you prefer, to check if they need to be vaccinated or not. With the low level of side effects from the vaccines we feel that this is usually not necessary.

Your dog will need a Kennel Cough vaccine before entering a boarding kennel, and also may be best done before going to training classes. Our Pet Health Club members get this vaccination free.

Spaying and Neutering

Neutered pets often live longer and can make better companions. If not intended for breeding, we recommend that male dogs and bitches are spayed from 5 to 24 months of age, depending on their expected adult weight, and individual circumstances, (see table below).

Most of the objections put forward against neutering are unfounded worries. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us for further advice/reassurance.

In dogs neutering will:

  • Stop or reduce male sex hormone driven behavior (mounting, urine marking)
  • Reduce wandering / roaming / straying (also reducing car accidents)
  • Reduce prostatic disease – something very common in older entire dogs
  • Remove the risk of testicular cancer (especially common in retained testicles)
  • Reduce the number of unwanted puppies – (NI still has far more stray dogs unnecessarily put to sleep than any other region of the UK)
  • Reduce some hormonally driven aggression

Neutered dogs have less well-developed musculature, but will only get fat if you overfeed them! We strongly recommend a diet designed for the neutered dog and can advise at the time of the operation – these diets really work!

Spaying at 5-6months of age, just before the first season, has been our practice policy for many years.  Recent evidence suggests there may be a benefit to leaving larger dogs until a little older, from 11-24 months. This depends on their adult weight and breed, see below.

Early spaying definitely will:

  • Dramatically reduce the risk of breast cancer, which remains a big killer of entire bitches
  • Reduce the risk of false pregnancies, a common and distressing condition
  • Remove the risk of pyometra – a life threatening womb infection very common in older or middle aged entire bitches
  • Reduce the number of unwanted puppies – (NI still has far more stray dogs unnecessarily put to sleep than any other region of the UK
  • Stop unwanted heat / seasons – the inconvenience of three weeks of bleeding per vagina, the attractiveness to male dogs, and the tendency to escape to “find the boys” with the attendant increased risk of road traffic accidents

But may:

  • Increase the likelihood of obesity: it is vitally important that spayed bitches are fed an appropriate diet – again we can advise at the time of the operation. The specialist “neutered diet”, which is designed for spayed bitches has the appropriate calorie and nutrient adjustments built in, and genuinely makes them feel full longer, reducing begging and over-eating behaviours. Spayed bitches can only get fat if you overfeed them!
  • Increase the severity of any urinary leakage problem: urinary incontinence occurs in entire bitches too as they age, and can be managed by drops, tablets or in very rare, extreme cases, by surgical procedures. It may be potentially more difficult to treat if in an overweight and neutered patient.

Set against all the benefits, most vets believe these negative points are outweighed and the risks are acceptable. We have all had to treat bitches in pain with breast cancer, and eventually had to put many to sleep because of untreatable spread.

Breast cancer and womb infections in bitches should be diseases of the past – they are prevented by early spaying!

Cedarmount is a participating practice in the Dog's Trust free/subsidised neutering scheme for those on means-tested benefits – please contact us for details.

If you are on a means-tested benefit, (Income support; Jobseeker’s Allowance; ESA, Child Tax Credit, Working tax credit; Housing Benefit; Council Tax reduction/Council tax Support; Universal Credit Pension Credit or a tenant of the NI Housing Executive) AND if your dog is one of the following listed breeds:

  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Mastiff, Rottweiler
  • American Bull Dog
  • Greyhound
  • Lurcher 
  • Akita
  • Husky
  • Malamute
  • German Shepherd
  • Samoyed
  • Border Collie and Crossbreeds where the primary breed is identifiable as one of those listed will also be eligible, you may be entitled to a Dogs Trust Voucher.
  • Jack Russell Terrier

We will need to see photo ID and proof of benefits to complete the necessary paperwork. You pay £50 towards the neutering, Dogs Trust pay the rest.

At what age should we neuter/spay our dog?

Timing of the surgery

One of the most common (and controversial) questions posed by clients is “What is the best age to neuter my pet?”. Despite the frequency with which it is asked, it is often one vets are cautious to give a definitive answer to, as it is frequently loaded with strong opinions previously voiced to the owner by media, friends and breeders whose advice may be conflicting. As a profession we are nervous of giving an opinion that we feel is not strongly backed by science – and the science is lacking.

In Cedarmount, we have however kept bang up to date with the current literature and current thinking. In light of recent findings, national guidelines have been updated (late 2020) to reflect current research, and we have adopted these in the main. Please note that as the research and literature continue to change, these guidelines may also be updated in the future.

The following table is drawn from the data outlined below, but mainly based on the work of Hart & Hart. Dog sizes relate to expected adult bodyweight. The chart is intended as guidance only and obviously the decision rests with the owner, having taken these and all other factors specific to the individual – we strongly recommend you talk to us to discuss your own dog specifically.

Quick reference chart: Spay and Neuter Timings Dogs/Bitches

*** national guidelines suggest there may be no problems neutering/spaying as young as 3mths – at Cedarmount we prefer to allow a little more time and have adopted 5 mths as earliest routine spay/neuter age, and only for small dogs whose adult body weight will be less than 20 kg

  • We prefer not to spay bitches on heat or in a false pregnancy – so if we are delaying the spay then we believe the ideal window to choose is 3-4 weeks, or 3-4 mths post-season (last bleed)
  • If a dog is naturally fearful, we prefer to defer neutering until after puberty – it is believed this allows a flush of testosterone to assist in combatting nervousness.
  • We prefer to spay/neuter as early in the “Reasonable Choice” recommendation as possible

Although “what age should I neuter my pet” is such a simple and sensible question, it’s clear that the evidence is vague, and in some cases contradictory. It seems that a “one size fits all” policy is not what is appropriate. We should consider the benefits and drawbacks of all options and fit them to the species and breed of our patients, as well as the wishes of the client – it is important to find out why they wish their pet to be (or not to be) neutered – are they more focussed on reproductive control or neoplasia risk?

Spaying and Neutering - what happens on the day?

At Cedarmount, we are very proud of the care we give these young ones on the day of their spay/neuter. We aim to minimise your worry, and to maximise their comfort and safety. There are so many benefits of the operation, it is a great thing to do for your dog.

What you get for your money:

  • reassurance that we use the very latest anaesthetics and painkillers
  • reassurance that we are all very, very experienced surgeons
  • a full cardiovascular examination before the operation to check for any concerns with the heart which might impact on the anaesthetic
  • a fully qualified vet nurse (Registered Veterinary Nurse, RVN) patient-side throughout the operation and recovery
  • a full, monitored general anaesthetic
  • operation performed in premises passed by an RCVS inspector (because we are members of the voluntary RCVS Practice Standards Scheme)
  • tiny wounds with no skin sutures in dogs or bitches (and unbelieveably small wounds in bitches if done by keyhole
  • a warm comfortable environment for continually monitored recovery
  • Elizabethan collar sent home on discharge just in case they need it. The truth is that since the pain relief we give is so good, most do not bother their wounds, so don’t need the collar. We are very happy to refund the small cost for any collars returned unused
  • the most modern pain relief on the day of the operation
  • follow up pain relief for a few days at home – importantly this latter aspect is frequently overlooked by many practices   

If you have any questions about any aspect of the procedure, please do not sit and worry, simply ask us!  

All animals which are neutered at Cedarmount will be given strong pain relief by injection, and this can be topped up with oral pain killers as necessary. You will be given appropriate advice when you collect your pet after the operation. In the majority of cases, the use of modern anaesthesia, pain relief, and the application of gentle tissue handling during the procedures, facilitates discharge home on the same day as the operation. Occasional animals will require an overnight stay, but nearly all are done as day procedures.

We send all animals home with an Elizabethan collar or a nice comfy body suit (Dogease) to assist in minimising any interference with the surgical wound. We are proud of our surgery, most wounds have no skin sutures, utilising a combination of dissolving buried sutures, and flexible tissue adhesives. This greatly reduces the animals desire to lick the wound. No-one wants to have to re-suture a wound – it is your responsibility to stop any animal removing the sutures – please use the collar provided if you think he/she is/may lick excessively at wound.

If, in the unlikely event an animal does work at a wound sufficiently badly to open it, immediately place the collar on, and call for advice. Most are not emergencies and can be left to the next available appointment to be assessed. The exception to this would be in a situation where a body cavity were opened, or where the animal is in pain. Thankfully, such cases are extremely rare. If in doubt, call for advice. Telephone advice is always free!

Spaying and Neutering - your instructions on the day

As advised, we ask that you provide no food from bedtime the night before, but access to water is allowed until the first human is up in the morning. Please walk them so they have a chance to have empty bowels and bladders: makes for a much cleaner experience in theatre!! Bring them into Cedarmount between 8:30am and 9:30am.

We will text or call you after the operation so you know all is well. Discharge is normally by arrangement between 2:30pm and 7:00pm the same day.

You will be given written post-op instructions. There is an emergency service available in the exceptionally unlikely event that you need advice or help after hours. There are very few complications of these procedures at Cedarmount – please be assured your wee one is in safe hands throughout the day!

And finally…….after the operation, remember that your dog will need fewer calories, so we strongly recommend a diet change to avoid piling on the pounds! Overweight dogs struggle to play, and run the risk of breathing and heart problems, and of course of severe arthritis. We can recommend diets designed specifically for the job! Changing diet really does make a difference to the waistline…and the recommended diet helps keep poohs solid and easily scooped. The diet also keeps coats glossy, teeth clean and bladders stone-free! Oh, and dogs love the taste of the high quality dried food!! A win-win all round!

We work very hard to make the experience a positive one for you and your pet. If we fall short in some way please do let us know so that we can try and put things right. If we have done a good job for you. please consider leaving us a Google review,  these can really make a difference for us. Thanks.

Heart Disease In Large Dogs

Did you know that large breed dogs can be at risk of heart disease?

In fact, about 10% of dogs can be affected1 and the most common form in large dogs is called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

DCM is a disease that affects the heart muscle and its ability to pump blood around the body. DCM most commonly affects large breed dogs, and certain breeds such as Dobermans, Boxers, Irish Setters, German Shepherds, Great Danes, St Bernards and Irish Wolfhounds are at particular risk of developing the condition.
In DCM, the heart muscle gradually becomes weakened and floppy. The heart stretches and enlarges and becomes very inefficient at pumping blood around the body.

Much of the research has been in Dobermans but many of the points apply to all larger dogs.

DCM is characterised by two phases, a long and ‘silent’ preclinical phase where the dog will appear normal and healthy and then a shorter clinical phase, i.e. heart failure, when the dog appears ill.

The preclinical phase is important because although your pet may look healthy, the changes of heart disease have already begun. Unfortunately, once clinical signs are noted, the disease tends to progress quickly.
The good news is that if DCM is detected in the preclinical phase, there are options for managing this condition in some dogs before they progress to heart failure. Closer monitoring will also allow earlier identification of the onset of heart failure, permitting earlier intervention with treatment.

How do you recognise DCM in your dog?

In the preclinical phase of DCM, your dog will generally look and act happy and healthy. Because this disease is silent, it is recommended that if you have a large breed dog (20Kg or over) that is three years old or older, then you should talk to us about keeping a close eye on his/her heart health.

Although many dogs with preclinical DCM show no signs of the disease, some dogs will display some very subtle signs that can be an indicator that something is going on below the surface. If you see any of the following, make sure you make us aware:

  • Changed breathing pattern
  • Reluctance to exercise
  • Fainting
  • Unexpected or unusual weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Coughing

The importance of regular check-ups

As preclinical DCM is generally silent, heart screening is required to detect it. Finding DCM early enables us to institute an optimal management programme, which can help to extend your dog’s life. It is advised that at risk dogs (i.e. large breed dogs over 20kg and over 3 years old) undergo regular heart screening. During heart screening we may want to run one or more tests, including:

  • Blood tests – to check specific heart-related markers
  • Chest X-rays – to assess the size of your dog’s heart
  • ECG – this checks the electrical rhythm of your dog’s heart
  • Heart scan (echocardiogram) – this is an ultrasound examination of the heart and is used to examine the heart in detail

Next steps

Depending on the results of each test, we may:

  • Suggest a treatment regimen, if appropriate
  • Recommend re-screening, normally a year later

We will discuss the appropriate plan of action.

Remember, heart disease can develop in at-risk dogs even when they seem happy and healthy. Acting early can help extend your dog’s life! Don’t delay, please contact us today.

Basic Training

All of the advice below has been kindly provided to us by Carol Clark of Down Dog


There are two ways to teach this.

  • Wait for the dog to sit (you can try calling his name in a happy voice or just look at him expectantly) then praise when he does it. Add the cue when he is doing a sit naturally and happily.
  • To lure, bring your treat hand back and between the dog’s ears and upwards so he looks up, and give the “sit” cue at the same time. Wait for a sit, and then treat. Give the cue once and wait.

A “hands off” approach is best. The aim is for the dog to stay in the sit until you ask him to do something else or say “OK” or “that’ll do” or whatever to tell him he can move.


Again, watch and wait for him to offer the behaviour then give the cue, praise and treat. To lure from the sit, you can take a treat past the nose in a smooth curve down to the floor between the front feet then move forwards as the feet slide into the down position. Give the “down” cue as he lies down. You can also encourage a down

The aim is for the dog to stay in the down until you ask him to do something else or say “OK” or “that’ll do” or whatever to tell him he can move.


Catch the dog in a stand, praise and then add the cue as before when he is doing it naturally and easily. Lure by asking the dog to sit then taking a treat forward just under the dog’s nose level until he stands, praise and treat.

Staying still in the stand is a hard exercise so needs a lot of practice!

Gradually teach the dog to stay for longer periods of time in whichever position you have chosen. Use the garden as your dog becomes steadier, and then bring these exercises into other areas such as parks and fields with greater distractions. A long line on your dog in these areas may assist with control if necessary. Practice in lots of places and situations. Ask for a position before going out of a door, or in the middle of playing a game (advanced work this!),

Walking Nicely

Start walking with your dog on lead and off lead in little circles both ways on either side of your legs in the garden using little treats as a reward when your dog is moving nicely beside you. Build this up by doing figure of eights, and left and right circles.

Ask your dog to sit (or stop and wait for a sit) from time to time to treat and praise.

When out and about with the dog, stop to do some sits, downs and stands, or little recalls or whatever: sometimes walk slowly or run for a few paces - keep yourself interesting ad your dog will keep interested in you!

If the dog is about to pull, immediately stop and stand still. The aim is to stop just before the lead tightens, not after. He will (eventually!) turn and look at you (in puzzlement!). You should then immediately encourage him back to beside you (tap your leg if necessary), then continue walking forward whilst praising him well. It may take some time to move any distance but the method works well and quickly if used consistently!

An alternative method is to immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction, praise as he comes level with you then turn and walk in the original direction again. However, the timing of the praise can be difficult to get right with this method and it can take some time for the dog to understand what you mean. Warning - it can also make you quite dizzy – so be careful!


Call your dog to you frequently in the house throughout the day. Calling the dog to you should be done with a really bright voice, open arms and a low posture for encouragement. Use lots of praise and the occasional tasty treat. Do the same exercise in the garden. If you are going to do something unpleasant (leave him, brush him etc.) NEVER call him, but rather go and fetch him.

You might like to use a 30 foot long lead/line at first when out in public. This way your dog cannot run off and you can control him. Give plenty of recalls on each walk. Use cheese or chicken as tasty treats. If your dog should ignore your first call, move closer and then ask for the recall again with loads of enthusiasm.

When the dog comes, take him by the collar, then treat and give plenty of physical praise also. Play tug! Keep the dog with you for a short time, then say ‘Go play!’ or “Go sniff!” to release the dog again ready for the next recall when the time is right. (You can also put the normal lead on briefly in the middle of the walk then take it off again so the dog does not think the fun stops when the lead is put on!).


Using some food on your hand, show it to your dog. If (when!) he tries to take it, close your fingers around the food. Do not move your hand! As soon as he looks at you or/and moves away, open your hand so the treats are in plain view. Then pick up a piece of food and give it to him, praising him well.

Once he leaves food reliably in your palm, try it on your knee and then on the floor. Practice in lots of different places. You can now add a “leave” cue if you want. Do it with different foods, toys, and any other items the dog tends to steal but obviously he gets a piece of his food rather than the item as the reward in these cases!

Have you got a new puppy?

Bringing a new puppy home is very exciting! Lots of people want to give you advice – the breeder, your friends, the pet shop – please remember, we are best placed to give accurate, professional guidance on all matters doggy – please do ask us first – not all advice is good advice! Breeders are now under an obligation to act in a responsible way and protect you from buying a puppy with problems. Open this link and ensure your breeder uses it too. - The Puppy Contract. 

Free puppy check

Just like children, pups can be born with congenital defects such as cleft palate, umbilical hernias, hole in the heart – we offer a free first visit health check, designed to pick these things up early on – most are not going to be a problem. We need to recognise those that might restrict life expectancy or affect quality of life. We will advise on vaccination during this visit.

Puppy Party!

Why not come along to a free puppy party? All are welcome, once primary vaccination course is completed, call 028 9127 1364

With practical dog behaviour and training advice from our own behaviour specialist Carol Clark and the very experienced and lovely Ruth Byers, a well respected Golder Retriever breeder and qualified dog trainer. (Craig’s lovely big pup Phoebe is one of Ruth’s puppies!)


These days, good quality veterinary care does not come cheap! We strongly recommend pet health insurance, taken out young, before any signs of illness are present. The features most important in choosing a policy are:

  • Does it cover illnesses for lifetime or just 12 months?
  • Does it exclude dental disease (the most common reason to make a claim?
  • Has the company offering the cover got the necessary track record in the pet health market?
  • Does it cover 3rd party liability – in NI, if your dog bites someone, or causes a car accident, you could be liable for a personal injury claim!

Contact us for advice – we can issue a free cover note on your first visit – well worth the peace of mind! When your pet is ill the last thing you want to be worrying about is the money!!


All puppies have worms – that’s how worms exist! They catch them from their mums. Pups can die from intestinal parasite burdens, and of course they also represent a public health risk, especially to children. Contact us for advice. At Cedarmount we follow the BSAVA guidelines on worming.

Feeding your Pup

We strongly recommend feeding a good quality commercial dog food, formulated for growth, and with the correct protein, calcium and phosphorus ratios ideal for each type of breed. Contact us us for advice. We predominantly stock and recommend Royal Canin – this super premium high quality diet is from a company which has a proven track record in pet health nutrition. We often have offers on this  food, making it an even more attractive option. We can supply a free bag for your pup at the first puppy check, and you can register on line for ongoing discount vouchers direct from Royal Canin – ask us for more details when you are in!

Toilet Training

We very strongly recommend the use of a puppy crate, which can also assist in prevention of separation anxiety in later life

Puppy - Getting Started and House Training Guide

Bringing a new puppy into your home is a big change! Your goals are to help your puppy to bond quickly to its new family, and to minimise the stress associated with leaving its mother, litter mates, and former home.   If there are already dogs in the new home this transition may be a little easier as the puppy is able to identify with its own kind. However, most puppies, especially those obtained before 12 weeks of age, will form attachments almost immediately to the people and any other pets in the new home, provided that there are no unpleasant consequences associated with each new person and experience.

How do I prevent my puppy from doing damage or getting into mischief?

The rule of thumb for dog training is "set the dog up for success". Supervise the puppy whenever possible until it has learned what it is allowed to chew, and where it is supposed to eliminate. Keeping the puppy on a house line is an excellent way to keep it in sight, and to train it not to wander off. This is particularly helpful with a highly investigative puppy or in a very busy household.

At any time that the puppy cannot be supervised, such as throughout the night or when you need to go out, house it in a secure area.  An escape-proof cage, a dog run, or collapsible pen are simple, highly effective, and most important, safe. The puppy could also be confined to a room that has been carefully dog-proofed. When selecting your dog’s confinement area it is useful to consider a number of factors. The dog will adapt faster to the new area if it is associated with rewards. Have the puppy enter the area for all its treats, toys, and perhaps food and water. The area should have some warm, dry, comfortable bedding and should never be used for punishment (although it can, and should, be used to prevent problems). Housing the puppy in isolated areas where there is minimal human contact, such as in a back room or basement cellar, should be avoided. In fact, often the best area is a kitchen (so that this can also be the dog’s feeding area) or a bedroom (so that it becomes the dog’s sleeping area).  Each time the puppy needs to be confined, it should first be well exercised and given an opportunity to eliminate.

Another consideration in selecting the type of confinement area is how long you may need to leave the dog alone.  Anytime the puppy will be left alone for longer than it can control its elimination, you must provide an area for elimination. A room or collapsible pen with a paper-covered area would be needed. A simple cage could be used for owners that do not have to leave their puppies confined for longer than 2 or 3 hours.

How can I prevent problems?

Supervise the puppy at all times that it is not confined to ensure that the puppy does not get itself into mischief or cause damage to itself or the home. Leaving a house line attached is all that is usually needed to prevent or interrupt inappropriate behaviour such as bin raiding, chewing on household items, house-soiling, or wandering off into rooms or areas that are out of bounds. When the puppy cannot be supervised, confinement (discussed above) will be necessary. It is not fair to stop the puppy doing things for when you provide no suitable alternative. Providing for your puppy’s needs is discussed below.

What if my puppy does something wrong?

Every effort should be made to avoid punishment for new puppies as it is unnecessary and can poor relationships at a time when bonding and attachment are critical. By preventing problems through confinement or supervision, providing for all of the puppy’s needs, and setting up the environment for success,  punishment should never be required. If a reprimand is needed, a verbal "ah-ah" or a loud noise such as a hand clap is usually sufficient to distract a puppy so that you can then direct the puppy towards the correct behaviour. NEVER hit or smack a puppy.

What must I do to provide for my puppy’s needs?

Chewing, play, exercise, exploration, feeding, social contact and elimination  are basic requirements of all puppies. By providing appropriate outlets for each of these needs, few problems are likely to emerge. Puppies should be given chew toys that interest them and occupy their time.  When supervised, the owner can allow the puppy to investigate and explore its new environment and can direct the puppy to the appropriate chew toys (and away from inappropriate areas). Hollow toys can be stuffed with biscuits and treats to make them more attractive. Play, exercise, affection, training, and handling must all be part of the daily routine. New tasks, new routines, new people and new forms of handling can be associated with rewards to ensure success. And, of course, the puppy will need to be provided with an acceptable area for elimination, and will need guidance until it learns to use this area.

How do I house-train my puppy?

With a few basic rules you can house-train most puppies within a few days. This does not mean that the puppy will be able to be trusted to wander throughout the home without eliminating. What the puppy should quickly learn is where it should eliminate.

Puppies have a strong urge to eliminate after sleeping, playing, feeding and drinking.  Take your puppy to its selected elimination area within a few minutes of each of these activities. In addition, although some puppies can control themselves through the entire night, most puppies need to eliminate every 3 to 4 hours during the daytime. With each passing month, you can expect your puppy to control itself a little longer between elimination times. The puppy should be taken to its elimination area on lead, given a word or two of verbal encouragement (e.g. "Hurry up") and as soon as elimination is completed, lavishly praised and patted.   A few tasty food treats can also be given the first few times the puppy eliminates in the right spot, and then  intermittently thereafter. You can also have a short game with a favourite toy. This teaches the puppy the proper place to eliminate, and that elimination in that location is associated with rewards. Always go outdoors with your puppy to ensure that it has eliminated and so that rewards can be given immediately when it performs.

When indoors the puppy must be supervised so that you can see when it needs to eliminate and immediately take it outdoors to its elimination area. If you see pre-elimination signs (circling, squatting, sneaking-off, heading to the door), immediately take your puppy to its elimination site, give the cue words, and reward the puppy for elimination. If the puppy begins to eliminate indoors, interrupt it by saying “oops”, and immediately take the puppy outdoors to its proper site, so that it can complete the act.

When you are not available to supervise, the puppy should be confined to its confinement area.   Be certain that your puppy has had a chance to eliminate, and has had sufficient play and exercise before any lengthy confinement. If the area is small enough, such as a pen or cage, many puppies will have sufficient control to keep this area clean. When you come to release the puppy from confinement, it must be taken directly to its elimination area. If the area is too large for the puppy to keep clean, or the puppy is left alone too long for it to control itself, the entire area, except for the puppies bed and feeding spot, should be covered with paper for elimination.

What do I do if I find some stool or urine in an inappropriate spot?

Be cross with yourself for not watching your puppy and just clean it up! There is no point in punishing or even pointing out the problem to the puppy. Only if the puppy is in the act of elimination can you correct it (and take it out to the appropriate place). Make sure your clean the area thoroughly with a proper pet odour and stain remover or use diluted biological washing powder. Leaving any residue will encourage the puppy to eliminate in that spot again.

Why does my puppy refuse to eliminate in my presence, even when outdoors?

Puppies that are not supervised and rewarded for outdoor elimination, but are constantly being disciplined and punished for indoor elimination, may soon begin to fear to eliminate in all locations in an owner’s presence. These puppies do not associate the punishment with indoor elimination; they associate the punishment with the presence of the owner. Check to see whether or not this could apply in your situation and ask for urgent help from our behaviourist! Punishment does not work!

How can I teach my puppy to signal that it needs to go out to eliminate?

By regularly taking the dog outdoors, through the same door, to the same site, and providing rewards for proper elimination, the puppy will soon learn to head for the door each time it has to eliminate. If you recognise the signs  of  impending elimination and praise the puppy whenever it heads for the doorway, the behaviour can be encouraged further.

When will I be able to trust my puppy to wander loose throughout the home?

Generally you will want your dog to have been error free around the house for a month before you can begin to decrease your confinement and supervision. The first time you leave the puppy unsupervised should be just after taking the dog outdoors for elimination. Gradually increase the length of time that your dog is allowed to roam through the home without supervision. If the dog has been able to go unsupervised for a couple of hours without an "accident", it might then be possible to begin going out for short periods of time. Of course, if the dog still investigates and chews, then confinement and supervision may still be necessary as well as a wider range of chew toys.

Puppy - Socialisation and Habituation

  • Habituation is the process whereby your puppy becomes accustomed to non-threatening things in the environment and learns to ignore them. The aim is for every experience to be positive for the puppy
  • Socialisation is the process whereby your puppy learns how to recognise and interact with the people and other animals it will live with

There is a sensitive period of development in which socialisation and habituation must occur. For puppies this period is between 3 and 14 weeks of age, but exposure to things needs to continue regularly for the first year of life. A dog that has had no experience of something by the end of the sensitive period will always be fearful of it; a dog that has had some exposure, but not sufficient, will be better  adjusted, although not entirely sound; and a dog that has had adequate experience in the sensitive period will grow up to be "bomb proof". Although it is possible through training to improve fearful reactions, prevention is always better than cure!

Watch your puppy carefully when he meets something new. He should be curious and want to explore. You are responsible for making sure the experience is always positive for him. If he shows any fear, move away and try again.

A puppy’s exposure to environmental stimuli should be as systematic as possible to ensure the best chance of it developing a sound temperament and capacity to cope in all circumstances. A lot of responsibility lies with the breeder. Basically, a puppy obtained from a chaotic, noisy family household is far less likely to develop a fearful temperament than one that has been kept exclusively in a kennel or farm building.

Of course, the puppy needs to be kept safe from catching infections and it should not be taken for walks in public places until after its vaccinations are completed, but this does not mean you need to keep your puppy indoors at home all the time until then. There are lots of things you should do at home and you can even take your puppy out and about in the car and by carrying it until it is safe for your puppy to walk by itself.

Things that you should do at home


Accustom your puppy to lots of visitors of both sexes and all ages. This will develop its social experience and help to keep territorial behaviour to manageable levels in later life. Ensure your visitors only say "Hello” and fuss your puppy once it has got over it's initial excitement, so as to prevent the development of boisterous greeting behaviour.


Accustom  your puppy to being handled by your and/or visitor's children, but don't let them pester it or treat it as a toy. ALWAYS SUPERVISE. Arrange to meet someone with a baby regularly, especially if you plan to have a family. This will help to overcome the common worries about how the family dog will react to a new baby and toddlers.

Domestic sights and sounds

Expose your puppy to noisy domestic stimuli such as the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, dishwasher, toaster etc. but don't make an issue of them. Let the puppy get used to them gradually without being stressed.

The postman and milkman etc

Carry your puppy and meet these people as often as you can. If your puppy gets to know and like them and more importantly learns that they will not "run away" if it barks, it is far less likely to show territorial aggression towards them when it grows up. (Some householders have to collect their post from the sorting office because the postman will not deliver as a result of their dog's behaviour).


If you have one, introduce your puppy to it. Keep the puppy under control and reward it for not pestering. Be careful not to worry the cat, as it may scratch your puppy. Placing the cat in a cat carrying basket just out of the puppy's reach can be a useful method of introduction with little chance of an unpleasant incident occurring. This can be repeated after a few days so that both puppy and cat learn to become settled in each other's company.

Other dogs at home

If you already have a dog introduce your puppy to it in the garden. Once the initial acceptance has been made by the older dog, the two should find their own level and settle down without too much intervention from you.

Leash training

Prepare your puppy for walking on the lead by getting it used to its collar and lead in the house and garden.

Going solo

Socialisation is very important, but so is learning to be alone. Puppies who are not accustomed to being left unattended on a regular basis are much more likely to suffer from separation anxiety (i.e. become anxious when separated from the owner) in adulthood. The three main symptoms of separation anxiety are destructiveness, incessant howling or barking and loss of toilet control.

To help prevent your puppy from suffering from this very common syndrome, you need to leave it unattended (i.e. in the house on its own) for over an hour on most days, preferably in the area that it sleeps in overnight. Ensure this area is "chew proof" and free from hazards such as electrical cables etc. Crates and pens are useful. Leave your puppy with some appropriate chew items, such as long lasting chews from the pet shop, and fresh water.

Initially you should accustom your puppy to you sitting in another room, with the door between you open. Over a period of time the routine can be carried out with the door shut. Once your puppy accepts this you can start to leave the house; go next door for a coffee, for example. Gradually extend the time you are away until you are absent for over an hour on a regular basis. Do not go back if you hear your puppy crying. Return when it is quiet. If a puppy thinks it can "call you back “ it may never accept being left.

Be very matter of fact about going out and coming home. If you fuss your puppy before leaving you can unsettle it and make it want to go with you. Too much fuss on returning home highlights the loneliness of your absence.

Things to do away from home

Go to all the environments you can think of that will help your puppy become "bomb proof" . Start in quieter places and gradually find busier ones. Remember to carry your puppy until it has completed its vaccinations.

The street

Expose your puppy to the sound of traffic and the movement of people. Start in quiet side streets and gradually build up to busy ones.

Places where people congregate

Any environment where people tend to congregate to sit and chat will do, so that they have the time to take interest in and handle your puppy. Local parks, beaches and town centres are good for this

Children's play areas, schools, creches

These are good places to meet lots of children of different ages (but consult your veterinary surgeon about the appropriate worming programme before bringing your puppy in contact with children). Take your puppy along to the local school or creche at playtimes or starting and end times. Take your time and start with just a few children and control their enthusiasm to prevent your puppy from being overwhelmed.

The car

Plenty of car travel will accustom your puppy to it and help prevent car sickness. Do not let your puppy sit on the front seat or on someone's lap. Accustom it to travelling in the place it will occupy when it is an adult.

The countryside

Accustom your puppy to the sights, sounds and smells of the countryside and livestock etc. (in your enthusiasm don't forget the Country Code).

Leash training

Once your veterinary surgeon has said that your puppy can be safely walked on a lead instead of carried, carry on as before but go back to using quiet areas, then gradually build up to noisy and busy ones again. In addition think about the unusual places to which you can accustom your puppy, for example, open staircases can be a problem, as can the vibration of station platforms when trains arrive or the movement of the floors on trains, buses and lifts. Encourage your puppy to walk on lots of different surfaces, such as concrete, gravel, sand, mud, stones, gratings and manhole covers. In the countryside keep your puppy on a lead and reward it for staying with you and ignoring livestock.

Socialising with other dogs

Puppies learn a lot from their littermates and mother. It is important that the process of learning to interact with other dogs continues througout the socialisation period and first year of life. However, socialising with other dogs does not entail allowing your puppy to run amok with other dogs in the park or on the beach! You would not allow your child to run off and play with any child they see, so be as careful with your puppy! If the other dogs are not properly socialised, their interactive and communication skills may be poor, which can often result in a misunderstanding and aggression. This sort of encounter could result in your puppy learning to be aggressive towards, or fearful of, other dogs. So set up meetings with your friends’ or family well behaved dogs instead.

Puppy training classes are a great environment for puppies to learn to be with and meet other dogs in a controlled way. Good classes will teach you how to help your puppy greet people and other dogs calmly and politely. Our behaviourist, Carol Clark, runs such classes, so contact her to enrol now!

What should I do if my puppy shows any fear whilst it is being socialised/habituated?

  • Do not overreact. Just keep calm, be matter of fact (it’s OK you know!) and show your puppy there is nothing to worry about

  • Reward the puppy every time it does not react to the stimuli, or as soon as it recovers from its fright if it does react

  • Expose the puppy to the type of stimulus that worried it as often as possible, but initially from a distance (i.e. reduce the size of the stimulus) so that the puppy can become desensitised to it and learn to cope. As the puppy's reaction improves you can gradually get closer

  • Do not try to pressure a puppy into approaching the item as you will make things worse, rather move a little further away until you see your puppy calming down and coping

​​Remember: Start socialisation and habituation from the moment you get your puppy and continue it for the first year of its life!

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