How to brush your puppy’s teeth

Following last week’s post about cutting your dog or puppy’s nails, I decided to continue the dog grooming mini series. This post provides some top tips on how to clean your puppy’s teeth in order to ensure healthy gnashers well into their adult life.

Why clean your dog’s teeth?
As the way in which we keep dogs has changed throughout the years, the amount of grooming required to keep your pooch in tip top shape has increased. With regards to teeth, this is because the natural diet of gnawing on bones and gristle, which helps to remove plaque and sediment build ups, is long gone and in most cases has been replaced by dog biscuits and wet food.

Cleaning your dog or puppy’s teeth will not only prevent bad breath and keep your dog’s mouth comfortable, it will also save you money in the long run, as tooth extractions and veterinary dental treatment can be a costly process. According to the PDSA, over 2 million pooches in the UK are suffering from dental disease, when with a good diet and regular oral hygiene, a dog’s teeth should last a lifetime.

Monty dog teeth

How to clean your dog or puppy’s teeth
There are lots of different items you can use to brush your dog’s teeth, and no absolute right or wrong way. Some owners choose to use DIY toothpaste made of baking soda and water, while some like to use commonly available doggy pastes as an alternative.

Similarly, some dogs are more welcoming to a normal toothbrush, such as ones you’d use yourseslf, whereas some like the specific dog toothbrushes which are often worn on the finger of the owner.

As I try to keep my dogs from eating too many unnatural ingredients, I make my own toothpaste.  Be careful when you’re making this though, as if it’s too strong my pups find it a bit too fizzy in their mouth! I also use a children’s toothbrush for my small pup, Delilah and a medium bristled adult toothbrush for my larger dog, Monty.

Once you’ve selected your desired paste and brush, sit patiently with your dog in an area they’re comfortable in, and gently open their mouth. Before brushing their teeth, I use this as an opportunity to make sure everything looks healthy, so:

  • There is no noticeable difference in the smell of their breath
  • There are no clear signs of rotting or decay
  • There are no signs of over inflamed gums or bleeding
  • There are no indications of abscesses or growths
  • My dog is not unusually hesitant or cross about me looking in their mouth

Once I’ve done this, one side at a time, and with a pasted brush, I gently make circular motions on my dog’s teeth working from the back to the front. I find this easiest as dogs are often more patient with the front teeth, but get a bit restless if you’re holding their gums and mouth wide open for a long time.

Delilah boo dog

You shouldn’t usually have to use any water or additional liquid to brush your dog’s teeth, but every brand is different so it’s best to read the instructions on the back to be sure. Similarly, brushing their teeth may make your dog quite thirsty, so be patient with them if they are excessively licking and swallowing, and be sure to have a bowl of water nearby.

As with most training and grooming, the more you brush your dog’s teeth, the more tolerant they should become. Some pups don’t really like it at first, but using something tasty to clean with will often tip the scales into teeth brushing being seen as a fun thing for your dog.

I try and brush my dogs’ teeth once every fortnight – it only takes 5 minutes so it isn’t really a burden for any of us. Another tip would be to give your dog bones and hide treats to chew on every now and then (supervised of course), as this can help to remove plaque too.

Does your dog love or loathe having their teeth brushed? Or do you have any other tips for brushing a dog’s teeth? If so, i’d love to hear them below!

How to clip your puppy’s nails

While owning a puppy or dog brings lots of joy to your life, and provides great experiences that you and your pooch can share together, there are also some down sides.

For my dogs, and for me, grooming is one of these downsides. While my Poodle cross Sausage dog Delilah hates having her Rapunzel like hair trimmed, for my Basset Monty it’s having his nails clipped that he hates with a passion. Even though my pups get lots of exercise on different terrains, from forests to concrete, they both still need their nails trimmed every now and then.

Dogs in the forest

You’ll probably need to cut your dog’s nails every couple of months, although this differs from dog to dog. Some lucky owners may also find that their pooch doesn’t need their nails clipped as they will wear themselves down. If this is you, count yourself lucky!

The golden rule when it comes to trimming your dog’s nails is to start as early as you can. Part of your initial puppy training should be holding your dog’s paws and holding the clippers to their nails – even when they don’t need a trim. While doing this be sure to reassure your pup and congratulate them on good, patient behaviour with a treat and a cuddle. Like other areas, such as trips to the vet, the familiarity will reassure your dog and make them less likely to cause a fuss.

If your puppy doesn’t take too well to holding their paws, don’t distress them but remain firm. If they wriggle around lots and even yelp, make sure that you’re not causing pain and then firmly tell them no. Spend a minute a day holding their paws and regarding compliant behaviour, and in one week you’ll have made lots of progress.

Delilah poodle relaxing

Once your dog is comfortable with you holding and checking their paws, start to introduce the nail clippers, trimming just a little at a time. You’ll see a natural change in the colour of your dog’s nail as you get closer to their pad, and this is actually the mark you should use as an indicator. Make sure you trim close to, but not all the way to this mark, as the darkness is usually where your puppy’s blood is flowing, and so cutting past this could cause their foot to bleed.

You should use special puppy or animal clippers as these are both sharp enough and designed for convenient access to your pup’s nail. If your dog is particularly nervy then simply hold the clipper to their nail but don’t cut at first. Familiarise them like this for a few days, and they’ll soon get used to it and be ready for the chop.

While you may set cutting your puppy’s nails as five minute task, it’s important to take your time and keep your dog content and calm – otherwise they’ll only cause havoc the next time you try. If they are particularly nervy or tricky to keep still, why not do a paw each day?

Have you had particular trouble cutting your puppy’s or dog’s nails? If so, please let me know and I’ll try and make useful suggestions.

Also, if you have tips for puppy grooming that I’ve missed then I’d love to hear these below!

How to teach your puppy novelty tricks

As you’ll know from my blog, dog obedience is really important to me, and though I’ve had a fair few struggles with my pups I always try to make sure that they are obedient to my command.

However, while my dog training time is mostly spent teaching my pooches to follow command when it comes to important areas such as walking on a lead, recall or waiting for food; I also love to teach my dogs novelty tricks and commands too!

All dog breeds have special traits and strengths, and while I’m a firm believer that every dog is full of capability, it might be good to research your dog’s natural traits first if you’re looking to encourage certain tricks. For example, Border Collies are often thought of as an intelligent breed suited to dog ability and tricks such as climbing see saws and running through tunnels, whereas Poodles are traditionally water dogs who may be particularly good at swimming related tricks.

To your dog, a command is a command, and whether you’re teaching them to heel or jump through a hoop, their mind will be equally as engaged and they will be just as willing to obey. Teaching dogs tricks is also great for their mental stimulation and can challenge their brains in ways that normal training wouldn’t.

But what tricks should I teach my dog?

My dogs are by no means superstars, but I’ve taught them a few novel tricks which could make for a good start for other puppy owners. I’ve give a bit more information about each below:

Paw trick and alternate paws
Monty dog posingMy pups love giving me their paw, but it still makes my heart melt every time! Teaching a dog to give you their paw is one of the most basic novelty tricks, and is very easy to teach.

To teach a dog to give you their paw, you will need time, patience and of course, treats! Start by sitting on a level with your dog and holding out your hand to them, saying the command ‘paw’. Try not to say the word too many times as you will confuse your dog, but simply keep your hand held out to them with a gentle reminder now and then. I found it easiest to hold a treat in the other hand to the one I hold out, as this keeps your pup’s attention.

As with other training, you mustn’t cave and should only give your dog the treat when they fulfil your command. You should also remember that dogs aren’t mind readers, and it may take the a while to learn. That’s why it’s important to give healthy treats in small amounts, such as lean ham or chicken.

Once you’ve mastered the art of paw, you can start differentiating between the right and left paw. My puppy, Monty, has different coloured paws and so I use ‘black paw’ and ‘white paw’ commands. This is a simple transition for your dog, as they already know the basic level of command.

Roll over
Teaching your dog to roll over is another lovely trick, and it’s once again quite easy to teach. Monty loves this trick, and sometimes does it of his own will if he’s eager to please at dinner time!

Monty dog rolling over

To teach your dog to roll over, you can use a treat to imitate the roll, as this will encourage your pup to follow the motion. It also helps if your dog knows how to lie down, as you can use this as the starting point for rolling over. Start by instructing your dog into the down position, and then turn your hand and move the treat round in a circular motion, while firmly saying ‘roll over’. Try and keep your hand with the treat in quite low, as otherwise your pup may simply sit up. You can give them a helping hand by gently coaxing their tummy if that helps too.

Try to teach the roll over trick on a soft surface, so as to make it comfortable for your dog. As with other tricks, you should remain patient and calm with your dog, and shouldn’t repeat the command too many times as this will only confuse them.

Through the legs
Teaching your dog to weave in and out of your legs is another lovely trick, and is remarkably easy for your dog to learn. Start by standing with your legs spaced out, and then coax your dog over by calling the and presenting a treat in one hand. With a treat in one hand, invite your dog to stand in front of you and then pass the treat through your legs.

Monty and Delilah, my shadow

While moving the treat through your legs use the command ‘through’ so that your dog begins to associate with the command. Your pup will more than likely follow this treat as let’s be honest, most dogs are food led, and by uttering the command at the same time they will begin to tie the action and the instruction together.

I hope you like the sound of these three novelty tricks and take the time to teach them to your pups. Try to master one at a time, as otherwise it can be confusing for your dog. Plus, once they’re all taught you can think about sequence training too if you’d like!

Do you have any novelty tricks that you’ve taught your pooch? If so, I’d love to hear them below, and to see some pictures too!

The benefits of dog agility

For those who don’t know, dog agility is a kind of dog sport, where a dog owner or handler directs their pooch to complete an assault course of objects and obstacles, which can include tunnels, ramps, jumps, weave posts and more.

Dog agility can be enjoyed for fun or as a competitive activity, and let’s be honest, your pup won’t necessarily know the difference. While some breeds are more inclined to be naturally strong at agility type activities, there’s no reason why your Poodle can’t enjoy it quite as much as your Border Collie, and nowadays there are lots of agility classes that will welcome dogs of all different ages, shapes and sizes.

One small caveat is to make sure your pooch is old enough to participate, as it’s not recommended for puppies or those whose minds and bodies aren’t completely developed (this happens at around 18 months). Not only could agility be too strenuous before this point, but chances are your pup simply won’t have the mind ability or patience to be that good at it!

Dog agility Discover Dog show

Nevertheless, here are some of the main benefits of dog agility:

1. Agility plays to your pooches natural instincts
As we all know, dogs are natural hunters and chasers, and in the wild they would spend lots of time in pursuit of food. Therefore they are skilled at manoeuvring tricky and different obstacles – such as jumping over logs or climbing up steep slopes. While we may see these natural situations in a different light to our manufactured tunnels, for your pup the principle (and instinct) is the same.

2. Agility is great mental and physical exercise for your pup
I’m a firm believer that mental stimulation is just as important as physical stimulation for dogs, and agility is a fantastic way for your pup to use their brain.

The different elements of an agility course mean your dog is having to consider and adapt throughout, whilst also running as fast as they can to complete all of the obstacles.

You can be sure that agility will help to strengthen your dog’s muscles, coordination, stamina and mental ability.

Sooty border collie cross

3. Agility classes provide great socialisation
Any regular The Puppy Tails readers will know that the one thing I’m always banging on about (apart from my own pups) is socialisation. There’s nothing better for your dog’s development than letting them experience different situations on a regular basis, particularly ones that involve other dogs.

Agility is also a great test for your recall training, as between the obstacles, the other dogs and the handlers, an agility class can definitely create doggy carnage!

4. The bond with your dog will become stronger
Dog agility, as with other forms of training, is centred around authority (that’s yours), and respect (theirs). While it’s a natural instinct for dogs to perform agility type tasks the order, speed and precision with which they complete a course is solely as a result of the respect they have for their handler.

Communication is the vital ingredient to a successful agility pairing, so it will also build on your bond as a pair and encourage your pup to look to you for their commands.

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I hope after reading this post you’re encouraged to try dog agility with your pooch(es). If so, I’d love to hear how you get on below! Alternatively if you’re already into dog agility I’d love to hear how it’s helped with your dog training and development.

Finally, if you’d like to find an agility class near you, this site could help.

Home made dog treats

As I have often talked about, one of my dogs, Monty, has a bowed front leg as a result of overbreeding. Monty was born on a puppy farm, and as other rescue dog owners will know, the defects puppy farm dogs have as a result of their treatment will often trouble them their whole lives.

As well as feeding Monty a special dry food diet which is mostly grain free and incorporates added joint care, my vet also recommended I work to keep Monty as lean as possible – something not so easy to achieve with a Bassett cross Spaniel!

Monty and Delilah

Through doing some online research about ways to maintain a dog’s weight, I quickly discovered that dog treats were often attributed as a reason for pups piling on the pounds. My research suggested making home made, low fat dog treats could help to ensure your dog still gets rewarded and treated but without jeopardising their waistlines in the process.

While there are lots of useful dog and puppy treat cook books available, I also managed to find some treat recipes online (thanks to @Piper_Winnie) which are free to access.

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I decided to start with a veggie treat that would be full of fibre and sweetness without any additives, as this way I didn’t have to worry about the treats going off before Monty had time to eat them – it is about weight balance after all!

The recipe I used was as follows:
1 medium ripe banana
1 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/8 cup water
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats

The directions are just as simple as the contents – simply mix the wet ingredients (carrots, banana, applesauce and water) together, then make a well in the dry ingredients (flour and oats) before pouring the wet mix into the centre. Then stir together to form a sticky but solid dough before rolling and cutting into shapes as desired.

When it comes to baking, place the treats onto a lined baking tray and cook in the oven for around 20-25 minutes on 180 degrees.

As it’s Christmas I decided to make festive star shapes for Monty, as well as smaller bite sized pieces for my diddy dog, Delilah.

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As well as the treats I made, there were lots of other fantastic recipes I found, including on this site here.

If you have any great dog treat recipes I’d love to hear them! Please post a comment with either the recipe itself, or where I can find it!

A year of doggy learnings

As most of you will know, this year has been my first as an official dog blogger, having set up The Puppy Tails earlier in 2013. For me blogging has given the chance to share some of the invaluable lessons I’ve learned about raising two dogs to the best of my ability, as well as learn lots more along the way. I also love shamelessly posting pictures of my adorable puppies, but that’s just part of the fun!

While they’re not always as frequent or as detailed as I might like them to be, I hope the posts on my blog have helped some other pup owners to learn a few tips and tricks they can use when raising their pooches. My pledge for 2014 is to make The Puppy Tails bigger and better in every way, including the launch of my online shop, through which I will be selling my homemade dog beds (sneak preview below!)

Delilah dog bed

To celebrate my first Puppy Tails Christmas, and to help spread the word about some of the other fantastic blogs out there, I decided to join the Pet Bloggers Gift Exchange. The Exchange is open for any pet and animal bloggers to join, and pairs together two separate bloggers in the hope they’ll hold a metaphorical ‘exchange’ whether that be reciprocal posting on each other’s sites or promotion via social media.

The great thing about being a puppy blogger is that everyone in the extended community who I’ve had the pleasure of working with has been lovely. So no exceptions when I found I’d been paired with the fabulous A.J from ‘wantmorepuppies’. If you haven’t checked out the blog, I whole heartedly encourage you to do so. What The Puppy Tails lacks in humour A.J’s blog absolutely makes up for, including lots of very special ‘caption this puppy’ posts.

If you’re a pet blogger and you’d like to join the Gift Exchange, you can still do so here.

Dogs at the beach

That’s it from me for now, though I’m hoping to squeeze in quite a few posts while I take some holiday from the day job over Christmas.

Happy holidays everybody, here’s to a wonderful and woofable 2014!

Should my dog be allowed on the sofa?

I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by those, both at work and at home, who are raising dogs. Some have older rescue dogs, while some are raising boisterous new puppies. Nevertheless, whatever the age, size, shape or sex of the dogs or their owners, the same conversation always comes up – “should my dog be allowed on the sofa?”

It seems like the million dollar dog raising question, but to me the answer is simple…

Yes, if and when you want them on the sofa.

For my partner and I, having a cuddle with our pups on the couch is one of the many joys of owning a dog, and I don’t want to hear that it’s wrong. What I do appreciate, however, is a big, dirty, slobbery dog with smelly breath climbing all over you while you try to eat your dinner is not appropriate!

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For me, allowing dogs on the sofa is a choice, and one your pup must understand lies with you. Both of my dogs, upon invitation, are allowed to have a sofa snuggle, but they get off when I want them to, and they don’t invite themselves up (or not while I’m at home anyway!)

This is something that was reiterated to me by the dog behaviourist we recently recruited to help our rescue pup, Monty, with his aggression towards other dogs. She told me that allowing your dog to perform an action such as jumping on the sofa, or running upstairs, or even passing through a door before you, is something that you must allow your dog to do only when you permit them to. The training element is very simple, as permitting these actions is taught in the same way as any other trick or command- though with much less persuasion required in most cases!

If you find you have a troublesome puppy who keeps inviting themselves when they’re not wanted, the most important thing is to stay calm about it. Don’t acknowledge their behaviour with a command, or even make eye contact, simply place two fingers just inside their collar and gently push them off. This shows your dog that jumping on the sofa isn’t a positive action for which they will get any attention, instead the recognition comes when they are invited up for a cuddle.

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This approach may sound a little strict and not much fun, but it ties into the fact that your dog must appreciate you are ‘top of the pack’ in your house, and therefore the decision maker of the group.

Have you got tips for keeping your dogs off the sofa when they’re not wanted? Or do you have a strong opinion about dogs on furniture? Either way I’d love to hear about it below!