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Dog Advice

Taking care of your dog

It is always a great event when a puppy arrives in its host family. After often several weeks of waiting, the newcomer is the centre of care and attention. But, if these good relations are to last, you will have to make sure that the situation of the puppy you have just acquired is one which eases integration.

It is indeed these first weeks of life together which, to a large extent, will set the pattern for your pet's behaviour in future years.

In particular, you must avoid two big mistakes:

  • thinking of the animal as a human being as far as intellectual and emotional capacities are concerned
  • or, on the contrary, acting as though it were no more than a machine, devoid of feeling and of understanding

Your dog is a living creature. In their natural environment, dogs live in groups with complex hierarchical social rules. Its development is based on attachment, and the first weeks are crucial for the rest of its life. This is when it learns the basic features of its environment, and how to control itself. The very long period of its dependence on its mother (or human tutors) goes with its considerable learning capacity. It is able to acquire social rituals favouring the harmony of the group and to forge individual bonds with one or other members of it.

For dogs, communication involves all of the senses (sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch). It represents a blend of instinctive messages, reflexes and more complex learned sequences combining posture, vocalisation and emission.

  • Like all mammals, a dog will adapt several times in the course of its life, if need be to very different conditions, families and environments. But do not forget that, whatever the circumstances, your companion is always going to react as a dog, with a dog's understanding and a dog's reflexes.
  • Nor should you forget that your pet is unique- an individual moulded by its parents, birth, early environment, time spent with the mother, and all its various experiences of life.

All of the general rules which you are going to be given here will need to be adapted to each individual case.

So are you aware now of your dog's complexity, richness and limits? If so, then, let us see a few important points so as to avoid getting off on the wrong foot.


Your puppy has no doubt only just left its mother, the primary object of its attachment.

If it is less than 6 months old, then it is going to need someone to replace her. And so it will choose a person who can provide warmth and comfort. It will try to be always as close as possible to this person, whose contact is a source of calm for it. It is vital that this new attachment should be formed, for the pup to be able to set off to discover this new world of yours.

At about the age of 6 months, the time of puberty, you will need to detach your baby dog from you- not that this in any way means ceasing to love it! What it means is simply helping it to replace its primary attachment, which was necessary at the beginning, by an attachment to the group as a whole, which will be vital for the rest of its life. For this, what you need to do is to make sure that, in the contacts between you and the little dog, the initiative comes from you and not from the puppy. This will enable it to put up with your being absent. And in this way it will not fall prey to a certain all too common pathology: separation anxiety, causing the dog to howl and ravage or foul the house when you are not there. This pathology is now well known and easy to treat.

Things To Be Learnt

Toilet Training

Adopting a little dog means accepting that you are going to be using a floor-mop for a certain time. At the ideal age for adoption - around 8 or 9 weeks - toilet-trained puppies are few and far between!

To expedite matters, there are a few rules to follow, and especially some mistakes to avoid making.

Spot the right moment: in very young pups, each and every meal, drink and awakening triggers the need to "do its business". If you take your dog out right then, you stand a good chance of being able to hand out a bit of reinforcement (strokes) for business done in a place of your choosing.

Reward works better than punishment! It does not need to be systematic in order to be efficacious.

Never punish your puppy if you have not caught it "on the job". It might get afraid of you. "Putting its nose in it" is not a punishment at all (you will see that dogs quite happily do as much by themselves!) and would not help it to know what you're so cross about. It will, of course, put on its "hang-dog" look - but so would it if you scolded it when it had done nothing at all! It reacts to your expression rather than to any fault it may have committed itself.

Don't use the "newspaper method"! Learning twice over is just twice as hard. Take your puppy out, as soon as it has been vaccinated. That way, it will soon learn, and will never be afraid in the street.

Don't clean up its business in front of it. It's going to take that as a sign of interest on your part.

Simple Commands

If you are going to get on well with your dog, you will need to train it in two types of command: call and stop.

Many a dog has been saved from an accident by being able to obey these very simple commands. In both cases, you should begin training your new friend very early on. Education begins as soon as the puppy arrives in your home.

Use simple words, and always the same ones. "Heel, Fido!" or "Rex, come!" will do just as well one as the other, as long as you do not change them.

The younger the puppy, the more the training needs to be playful, and the shorter the sessions should be: 5 minutes at a stretch for a 3 month-old.

Rewarding is always more effective.

Disobedience is very often due to not understanding. Words mean little to a dog, so you should back them up with clear accompanying gestures which it can learn and interpret more quickly.

As regards the call, never stand in front of your dog pointing at it and calling to heel!


For the first lessons, crouch, face away and call softly, tapping your thigh, "Come, boy!". This makes you attractive for your puppy, who will come, and be delighted to get a vigorous stroking as a reward.

Walking on a Lead

Walking on a lead does not mean much to a dog. You are going to have to teach it this new relationship which binds it to its master or mistress.

At first, you could put the collar and lead on your puppy, and let it get used to this little constraint.

When you pull on the lead, do so gently. Give some little tugs, calling your dog's attention by clicking your tongue. As soon as it follows the direction of the lead, be it only for a yard or two, reward it with some vigorous strokes.

Once the puppy begins to frisk alongside you on its lead, go on catching its attention with lots of little sound signals, so as to get it used to making regular visual contact with you. In this way, the physical leash is backed up by a vocal tether.

Keep the lead slack: as soon as the puppy pulls, bring it back sharply to heel and slacken the lead straight away again, accompanying your gesture with always the same command: "Spot, here!" or "Flash, heel!". As soon as the dog goes a few yards without tugging, give it a stroke.


A tight leash is a transmission line for emotions and may trigger undesirable reactions, such as aggressiveness towards other dogs.

Taking your dog out

While taking all necessary precautions not to expose it to pointless risks (places soiled by animals you do not know and contact with unvaccinated animals), do walk your dog as soon as possible. In all likelihood, it is going to be spending its daily life in a completely different environment from that in which it was born and spent the first few weeks. To be truly at ease in its world, the puppy needs to encounter it regularly by its 13th week (e.g., its 3 months).

By walking your dog, you thus let it avoid falling victim to the "deprivation syndrome". This all too common behavioural affliction consists in severe difficulty in adapting to urban life and intense fear when in contact with strangers.

Should your dog seem unduly afraid when you first take it out, do not stroke it for reassurance: you would be rewarding, and so reinforcing, its fear! Just act as though nothing is wrong and start a game with it by way of distraction. If this is just too hard and your puppy is unable to respond to you in this way, do not hesitate to talk things over with the vet.


Your Dog is your Best Friend

We know that you care for your dog and want to ensure that he remains happy and healthy throughout his life and will do all you can to achieve this.

One easy way in which you can help to ensure that your dog is protected from infectious diseases is to ensure that he is vaccinated as a puppy and regularly throughout his adult life.

Why Vaccination is Important

Dogs can and do become seriously ill or die from infectious diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination every year.

Regular vaccination can protect your dog from infectious diseases such as canine parvovirus, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, canine parainfluenza and rabies.

This page contains information on each of these diseases. By preventing these diseases you ensure that your dog stays healthy and happy.

Why you Need to Vaccinate your Dog Regularly

Primary Vaccination

For the first few weeks of life, puppies are usually protected against disease from the immunity they receive in their mother's milk. However, this maternal immunity may also neutralise any vaccine given at this time. Gradually this protection decreases, and the maternal immunity declines to a sufficiently low level for the animal to no longer be protected. This also allows the animal to respond to vaccination and so at this stage it is possible to start the vaccination programme.

Your veterinary surgeon will suggest a programme of vaccinations to fit in with your pet's particular needs and the local disease pattern.

Annual Vaccination

Many people believe that if they have their pet vaccinated when they are puppies the immunity they receive will protect them for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately this is not the case. After the last injection, the immune level reaches a peak and then begins to decline. After a year, the level of protection offered to your pet may no longer be sufficient.

Re-vaccination stimulates the immune response so that protection is maintained for another year. Without these yearly vaccinations, your pet's immune system may not be able to protect it from serious, often fatal disease.

How Vaccines Work

Vaccines work by training the white blood cells in your dog's body to recognise and attack the viruses or bacteria contained in the vaccine. This should prevent infection with that particular organism if your dog comes into contact with it again.

Fatal Diseases of Dogs

There are four major infectious diseases affecting dogs today. Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis and Leptospirosis. All are highly contagious and difficult and expensive to treat.

Canine Parvovirus

Parvovirus is perhaps the most common canine infectious disease.

Parvovirus was first recognised in the late 1970's and rapidly became an epidemic. Many hundreds of dogs died before an effective vaccine could be produced. Sadly, this disease remains a major problem. Outbreaks still occur regularly across the country.

The disease is usually seen as bloody diarrhoea in young animals, with a characteristic offensive odour and severe dehydration. Many will die within hours of the onset of symptoms.

Once a dog becomes infected by parvovirus, the virus invades the intestines and bone marrow. This leads to sudden and severe bleeding into the gut, resulting in dehydration and shock and damage to the immune system. Death is common and frequently rapid unless emergency veterinary treatment is received.

Canine Distemper

Canine distemper, sometimes referred to as "Hard Pad", is caused by a virus very similar to the measles virus, although it is not a risk to humans.

Although less common than it was 20 or 30 years ago, outbreaks still occur, mainly in urban areas where a large unvaccinated population of dogs and foxes exists. These tend to be "explosive" in nature, causing death or permanent brain damage. Transmission of the virus is by inhalation and direct contact.

The distemper virus attacks most parts of the body, including the spleen and bone marrow. This makes it easier to catch secondary infections. As the disease progresses, the virus spreads to the lungs and gut, the eyes, skin and brain.

The classical signs are of a dog with a high temperature, a discharge from the eyes and nose, a cough, vomiting and diarrhoea. Hardening of the skin may occur, in particular the nose and pads, hence the term "Hard Pad". The virus can reach the brain causing permanent damage, ranging from involuntary twitches to fits. Dogs that recover may be left with some permanent disability such as cracked pads and nose, epilepsy, and damage to teeth enamel.

Once again, treatment is lengthy, expensive and most importantly, often unsuccessful. As the incubation period is long - often about three weeks - it is usually too late to vaccinate when an outbreak occurs.

Canine Hepatitis

As the name suggests, canine hepatitis attacks the liver. Some dogs may become infected but show no obvious signs, but in acute cases the death of your pet can occur within 24 - 36 hours.

The disease is spread by direct contact and from faeces, saliva and urine from infected dogs. The virus is carried to the liver and the blood vessels where the major signs of the disease appear.

The symptoms are very variable depending on the severity of the infection. Some animals may show a slight temperature and at the other extreme may die suddenly. Intermediate cases exhibit fever, vomiting, pale gums, jaundice, abdominal pain and internal bleeding. The less severe form of the disease has been associated with "Fading Puppy Syndrome".


Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria that is spread in the urine of infected animals.

Two major forms of the disease exist in dogs. One (L.icterohaemorrhagiae) causes acute illness and jaundice and is usually caught from rats - either by the animal being bitten or coming into contact with rat urine. L. icterohaemorrhagiae infection usually produces a sudden disease with fever, vomiting and diarrhoae, thirst, bleeding, and jaundice. The outcome is usually fatal and death can occur within a few hours.

The other type (L. canicola) can also cause acute disease but frequently takes a more prolonged form. This leads to the slow destruction of the kidneys and renal failure can occur many years after the original infection. Even animals that show no signs of illness may still go on to develop chronic disease.

Other Major Diseases of Dogs

Canine Parainfluenza

This virus is one of the pathogens responsible for the disease known as "kennel cough".

Dogs with this disease suffer from a harsh, dry cough that can last for many weeks, causing distress for both the dog and owner.

Rabies Vaccination and the Pets Travel Scheme (PETS)

Rabies is a fatal disease, which affects both dogs and humans. Rabies was eradicated from this country many years ago and strict systems are in place to make sure that it is never seen again.

If you are intending to take your dog to another European country and return to the UK with it you must ensure that it is protected by having it vaccinated against rabies.

Your dog must be at least 3 months old before it can be vaccinated against rabies. It can then be vaccinated any time after it has been fitted with a microchip. Before vaccinating your dog, the vet will check its microchip number and enter it onto your pet's vaccination record.

If your dog is vaccinated against rabies before it was fitted with a microchip, it will have to be fitted with a microchip and vaccinated again. This is to make sure that your pet is correctly identified when it is vaccinated.

In order to prevent future complications please discuss the PETS Scheme in advance with your veterinary surgeon.

Booster Vaccinations

After your pet has been vaccinated, it will need regular booster vaccinations. Your vet will advise you further. You must make sure that your pet is given its booster on time otherwise it will not meet the conditions of the scheme and would have to be vaccinated and blood tested again. It would have to wait another six months before being able to enter the UK.

Please discuss with your vet vaccination of your puppy and dog throughout its life, the important infectious diseases and how you can help keep your dog healthy and happy.

The Alternatives to Boosters?

Homeopathic Vaccines

The main concern most vets have about their use is that there is no proper independent evidence to show that they work in protecting dogs by preventing disease. Indeed, the few properly designed trials that have been carried out by using homeopathic nosodes have shown no evidence of protection. Without evidence of effectiveness, homeopathic nosodes may pose far greater risk to dogs by leaving them susceptible to disease.

Vaccination Status blood sampling

For previously vaccinated dogs a blood sample can be taken to establish if there are sufficient levels of antibody to protect your dog against Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus. The results are usually available after 10 days. If the antibody titres (levels) are high enough your dog would not require a booster. The disadvantage of this test is that it costs more than a booster and if the levels are too low your pet would still need a booster.

Re-homing Stray Dogs

Homeless Hounds

This is a local charity which devotes a great deal of time to rehoming stray dogs found in East Lancashire.

Any dog rehomed from this charity will be entitled to a discount on Vaccination and Flea and Worming treatment at any Town and Country Veterinary Group surgery (Blackburn, Darwen and Clayton-Le-Moors).

We will carry out a Clinical Examination before vaccination and make appropriate recommendations about diet and any health issues which may be detected.

For a limited period only, FREE neutering is also available for both dogs and bitches rehomed from the charity and vaccinated at Town and Country Veterinary Group.

(Disclaimer: Town and Country Veterinary Group accept no responsibility for the content of external websites)

Identification of Dogs

The Control of Dogs Order 1992 mandates that any dog in a public place must wear a collar with the name and address of the owner engraved or written on it, or engraved on a tag.

You can be fined up to £5,000 if your dog does not wear an identification tag.

Even the best trained dog can be distracted and it only takes a short loss of concentration for the dog to run across a road and cause an accident.

Dog Leads

It is a requirement of the Road Traffic Act 1988 that dogs must be held on a lead when on a road, regardless of how well trained the dog is.

Any person who causes or permits a dog to be on a designated road without being held on a lead is guilty of an offence.

Our dog warden will stop and tell people to put their dogs on a lead when walking by a road.

Collars and Tags

The Control of Dogs Order 1992 requires dogs to wear a collar and tag with the name and address of their owner whenever it is in a public place.

A public place is defined as any street, park, recreation ground, or open space.

If your dog should happen to escape from the garden or get lost, a collar and tag will enable the dog warden, police or a member of the public to contact you when they find your dog.

The fine for non-compliance can be as much as £5,000.


The law does not recognise a microchip or tattoo as a form of identification under this order. A dog is still required to have a collar and tag even if they are mircochipped.

Although our dog warden can check for a microchip, an ordinary member of the public who finds a stray would not be able to.

Microchipping provides the security of knowing that should your dog stray, the chances of being reunited with it will significantly increase. Thousands of pets are lost every year and many are never reunited with their owners - microchipping can change that.

While collars and tags can get caught or removed - microchipping identifies your pet permanently and harmlessly.

Have your dog or cat chipped today from £10*

(*ring for details)

Behavioural Therapy for Dogs

Dog Appeasing Pheromone

DAP SprayIn mammals, all lactating females release substances called "appeasing" pheromones, the function of which is to reassure the offspring. Research has shown that these reassuring properties persist even into the adult stage. D.A.P.® Spray helps comfort puppies and adult dogs in situations they may find worrying or which make them apprehensive.

D.A.P.® Diffuser

D.A.P.® Diffuser helps comfort puppies and adult dogs in situations they may find worrying or which make them apprehensive (visitors, strangers, vet visits, firework seasons, novel and unpredictable situations).

D.A.P.® Diffuser helps establish the puppy in a new environment (re-homing, moving house, coping with strangers).

D.A.P.® Collar

The D.A.P.® Collar will help control or prevent fear related signs in puppies and adult dogs.

It can be used for events happening both inside and outside the home such as:

  • Adjusting to a new environment (new home, strangers, kennels)
  • Socialisation period
  • Novel and unpredictable situations
  • Fear related reactions expressed outside the home (traffic, other dogs, thunderstorms, gunshots, etc.


Zylkene is a natural product, proven to help manage stress in cats and dogs. Zylkene quickly helps pets to cope with many challenging situations and can facilitate adaption to change. No side effects have been associated with the use of Zylkene and it can be given with other products.

Zylkene is Hypo allergenic, preservative free and lactose free.It is highly palatable and easy to give, the capsule can be given whole or the contents emptied onto food or treats once daily.

For short term stress, e.g. kennelling, fireworks, begin Zylkene one day before the anticipated stressful situation and continue for the duration of the stress.

Zylkene can help manage long-term stress. The initial period os use should be 1 - 2 months, and can be repeated as required.

Behaviour modification techniques will also aid the management of stress-related behavioural problems in dogs and cats.

These products are available in all our Surgeries at Competitive prices. Phone for details.