There are various ways to raise puppies, but I think mine is superior to the “leave them with the other dogs and they’ll be alright” approach.
Stuff I Do When I Get a New Puppy
I always have a pen outside for them to play in during the day. It will have shade and sun throughout the day, they will have their food and water in small bowls (so they don’t accidentally drown), the other dogs can get up close to them through the wire mesh fence, they cannot escape (so I know where they are at all times), and they get to know their new environment while feeling safe in the controlled space.
The pen gets bigger and bigger until, after four weeks, they are big enough to play outside without being in a controlled space separated from the other dogs. (This is for when you get them at around six weeks. For eight weeks or older, you can cut the time they spend in the pen by half if they are comfortable.)
At night, my dogs sleep in the house. After having three of them poisoned when they were “outside dogs”, I’ve refused to let them stay outside after dark without supervision.
There are different ways to do this. I know some believe they should sleep in a kennel or a cage – I do not. Puppies have their own hallway, closed off on both sides (one with a door, the other temporarily with 1.5 metre hardboard so I can check on them during the night), the tile floor covered with newspaper until they are housetrained, a bed made of old towels until they stop destroying everything (they’ll use the towels to make a “burrow” in this den – something their ancestors did with leaves and twigs).
If it is only one puppy, I’ll add a soft toy that’s the same size for company and cuddling purposes (I change, fix and wash soft toys until the puppy is about four months old).
To help keep them calm, I add an old T-shirt that smells like me to their bundle of towels. Because it smells like their new mum, it helps them to bond better with me and their new home. I also sing them to sleep – they like the sound of their human’s voice.
I do leave them food and water in small bowls at night – they are still small and growing. I do not believe in depriving them of nutrition to get them on a schedule that fits me. They are babies, after all.
In the mornings before they go to their pen, I spend quality time with them. This means cuddling, playing and talking until they’ve had enough. While they are really young, this doesn’t last very long.
In the afternoons, when it is time for them to go inside, we cuddle again until they have to go to bed. This means they watch TV with me, or sleep on my lap while I read – whatever it is I’m doing until they go to bed, they will keep me company and learn what my normal schedule looks like. As they get older, this means we’ll also spend some time walking outside before going in for the night.
I immediately start with obedience training: getting them to sit, and to walk on the leash.
Once a day, I’ll take them outside of their pen – usually in the afternoon – on a walk with their leash to explore the entire garden. It takes a lot of patience, firm commands and treats to get them to do what you want, but it works in the long term. After they’ve mastered “sit”, “heel” (the one I use to make them walk with me) and “stop”, you can add “release” (for when they’ve taken something they shouldn’t – like a sock or poisonous plant), “stay”, “down” (when they jump onto something/someone they shouldn’t), “lie”, “shake” (after a bath), “paw” (give you their paw for grooming or greeting), and several other commands. Some of them will come in handy when you have to groom them.
You can, if you aren’t comfortable with training your dogs on your own, go for obedience classes. They are excellent and I highly recommend them. I did it with my first set of Rottweilers and learned exactly how to train them myself – which means that for over a decade, I’ve been training my furbabies to be well-behaved dogs without outside help.
Once the puppy is housetrained, they move from their hallway to my bedroom where they have their own bed. I cover their bed with a sheet that I can wash once a week – or when they had an accident (they’re still young, so bedwetting does happen). They also have a blanket for “burrowing” purposes.
By the time they move into my room, they no longer need to have food and water throughout the night. They can drink when they have to go outside for a bathroom break, but food is only available during waking hours. Rottweilers have a tendency to get fat, so I make sure that there is never too much food available – I make sure they get plenty to eat, but I don’t allow them to eat out of boredom.
No matter the age or where they are, I make sure they have enough toys to keep them busy. I also make sure they have stuff to chew on so their sharp little teeth aren’t used on the furniture. (See section below for recommended treats and toys.)
Raising Two Puppies Together
So much easier to raise two at a time! They keep each other company, cuddle together, and make things easier for each other.
I’ve found that raising two puppies at a time means that they aren’t as dependent on you to give them attention – they have each other! They also have healthy competition to see who is house trained first, who sits first, who runs to mummy first when she calls, etc. It really helps.
Also, if you have an older dog, it is easier on your older furbaby to have two bundles of energy to keep each other busy.
Raising One Puppy
Being the only child is difficult. Even when there is an older sibling, the lone puppy will still be harder to raise than two on their own – trust me, I’ve been there. But there are ways to make the transition to the new home easier for your puppy.
Make sure your puppy gets a lot of love and attention – but don’t ignore your older dogs! Jealousy can be a nasty thing. (I’ll do a post about how this relationship works at a later date.)
Having a T-shirt of yours nearby – even when they are in the outside pen – will make things easier for your young pup. Remember to add the soft toy for company, rawhide chews and carrots to keep the teeth busy, and lots of fresh water and food.
Food, Toys and Treats
Royal Canin is, of course, the best. But it can get a bit pricey.
Jock Junior (for puppies) and Jock Multistage is a great alternative.
Beeno Puppy is hypoallergenic and a great way to teach your puppy what you like them to do: if they sit on command, they get a biscuit; if they walk on their leash, they get a biscuit. Saying “good girl” (if it’s a girl, of course) when they do something right also works wonders – and eventually, no biscuit will be required to get the desired behaviour.
Under four months of age, rawhide chews are a great way to keep those sharp teeth busy. After four months, I suggest hooves: they don’t get icky from all the chewing, they still keep teeth clean and busy, and they’re less expensive than the rawhide which means you can replace them regularly.
Carrots (raw and peeled), apples (cored) and yogurt (plain, no added sugar) are also healthy treats.
Balls. My Rotties love to play with balls. Their favourite are tennis balls. I just have to keep an eye on them when they play: Caitlin likes to remove the fuzz, so I have to take it away before someone swallows it. Broken balls have to be taken away – they shouldn’t eat the rubber.
There are speciality balls made for dogs. They are pricey, though, but they last.
Rotties also like to play tug-of-war. I suggest a nice, strong rope without fraying ends. You can buy one from your local pet shop (pricey per metre) or DIY one by buying the right kind of rope from the hardware store, cleaning it properly (I’m all about decontaminating things before it goes into the mouth of a furbaby), tying it into knots to make it more fun to play with and then giving it to them.
Worms are a fact of life. But you don’t want your furbaby to be infested!
Remember to take her for all of her vaccinations – they aren’t a “money making rabble”, they are there for your furbaby’s health. (We’ll talk about vaccinations in another post.) Your vet will deworm her as necessary for the duration of her early life vaccinations. But once she is ready to be vaccinated annually, you’ll have to take the deworming into your own hands.
To make sure she doesn’t get heartworms, hookworms, various creepy crawlies, and – the worst! – the spiro worm, give her Milbemax once a month. Your vet can advise you on the strength based on your furbaby’s weight. Don’t let what happened to one of my furbabies happen to yours. (You can read all about how that awful spiro worm had taken a furbaby from me here.)
Karbadust is a safe and effective way to keep them mite, flea and tick free. I like to mix diatomaceous earth with the Karbadust in a 30:70 ratio – it is less toxic, less expensive, less of a coughing hazard (the diatomaceous earth doesn’t fly around like the Karbadust and it keeps the latter from flying around too), and still 100% effective. (As a side-note: I also use the above mixture on my chickens to keep those nasty red mites at bay. I use diatomaceous earth mixed in with my chicken’s powder feed to keep worms at bay, and I mix it with my horses’ feed for the same reason.)
Rotties love water. So give them a weekly bath! I use Marlton’s Tee Tree dog shampoo – it is great for sensitive skin, to sooth itching skin, and for over-all cleanliness. (I Karbadust my Rotties the next day when they are dry.)
Never forget that this is, after all, a Rottweiler. When she warns you with a growl to back-off, you better back-off or you will get bitten. The same with all dogs, really.
Introduce new people by letting her sniff them. If she doesn’t like them, don’t force the issue. Dogs usually have great instincts regarding people, so I would check out why the dog doesn’t like this person, if I were you.
Don’t introduce new people until your puppy is at least four months old: she needs to bond with you and her new house and she needs to feel safe there, new people won’t let her feel safe.
Rotties are curious by nature. They like to put new things in their mouths. So make sure your garden is free of toxic plants – especially toadstools that pop up after the rain! If you suspect poisoning, take your furbaby to the vet IMMEDIATELY.
We’ll talk about poisonous plants, fevers and various diseases in future blog posts.
What are your thoughts about raising puppies? Any products you believe are the best for your pup? Any questions?
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**Legal waiver: I’m not a veterinarian, just an overprotective Rottweiler mum and pack leader. It’s always best to contact your vet if something in your dog’s behaviour is out of character.