Raising a Great Puppy, Part 5: Puppy Peculiarities

Teething Puppy

Previous Installments: Raising a Great Puppy, Part 1 &
Raising a Great Puppy, Part 2: Six To Fourteen Months: Puberty And Adolescence &
Raising a Great Puppy, Part 3: Teen Fears &
Raising a Great Puppy, Part 4: Socialization Recommendations And Tips

Teething Puppy
photo credit: ratterrell via photopin cc


Puppies get hiccups after eating, drinking or play. No cause for alarm. (Quite normal, quite funny.)


Puppies can go into a hypercharged energy state in which they run, jump, bark and spin as though jet-propelled. These episodes can last a few minutes and happen a few times a day. (Also quite normal — and funny!)

“Buddha Bellies”

Puppies’ bellies can distend dramatically after they eat. This is not related to the dangerous bloated stomach of an adult dog suffering from “bloat” after eating. It is no cause for alarm if you notice a bulging little “Buddha Belly.” (Quite normal and adorable.)

Eating Feces

Eating dog poop — their own or others — is probably the grossest thing that some puppies will do. (Quite common and revolting.) There are a few theories about why they do it — nutritional deficiencies is one — but for you the main thing is not why they do it but how to stop them. The simplest way is to clean up after your dog every time he poops, even if you happen to live in the country — just the way people do in a city. This lack of poop on the ground will also save you from the odor and the flies — and save people from eventually stepping in the stuff.

The other suggested remedy is to put something in the dog’s food that makes his poop unappetizing to him (you’d think it wouldn’t need any help, wouldn’t you?). The suggestions are to sprinkle either Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer or a vet-supplied product called For-Bid on the puppy’s food. These apparently make otherwise delicious-tasting poop not so tasty . . . but who are we to judge?

If you have multiple dogs and the puppy seems interested in eating any feces on your property, then all the above suggestions still apply.

Puppy Won’t Go Down/ Up Stairs

Puppies don’t have good enough depth perception to see the individual steps — the stairs look like one long slide to them. Some puppies just figure it out, one step at a time — other pups put their front feet one step down but then don’t seem to be able to figure out how to get their back feet down to join the front end — they just stretch way out across the steps.

To help your pup understand how stairs work, sit at the bottom of the stairs and put her on the first step. Clap your hands and when she jumps off, give her lots of praise. Next put her on the second step from the bottom and clap and call until she comes down the two steps to you. Then the third step up and so on, until she gets the hang of it. If going up the stairs poses a problem for your puppy, do the same exercise in reverse.

Physical Issues in Development


By four months of age a puppy’s sharp little teeth have been replaced by adult ones — twenty-eight puppy teeth become forty-two permanent ones.

This time can be difficult for him, because it can be painful when his adult teeth come in, and they can drive him crazy. Chewing is one way to relieve the pain and tension, so most puppies want to chew nonstop to feel better.

There can be problems with teeth, such as baby teeth being retained after the adult teeth come in — the new teeth erupt but the baby teeth do not fall out. This can cause problems like infection, misalignment of the permanent teeth or problems with jaw development.

You need to check your puppy’s mouth regularly while the new teeth are coming in. If you see a double row of teeth — it is easiest to see this in the front teeth — or anything that looks fishy to you, have your vet check it out. Retained baby teeth have to be surgically removed, as they do with people.


Even by the seventh or eighth month the puppy’s fur has not fully grown in, so if you live in a cold climate you might want to protect him with dog clothing of some kind. He’s still a growing baby: dry the puppy off when he gets wet so he doesn’t get a chill.

The exception to this is breeds similar to Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes and Samoyeds, whose fur is fully developed at an early age. This is probably because in their native environments these breeds were subjected to below-freezing temperatures before their first birthday. In the summer, don’t clip these thick-furred breeds, which have double coats. Just as it functions against the cold, their long hair provides insulation against the heat.

Puppy Vet Visits

No matter where you got your puppy — from a friend, a breeder, a rescue or a shelter — you should visit the vet who will be your puppy’s doctor within a couple of days of bringing that puppy home. It doesn’t matter whether this puppy was just seen by a vet connected with the puppy’s origins — you still need the seal of approval from your own vet, who is an objective third party.

In the vast majority of cases, this visit is going to be a quick, pleasant outing, but in the event that there may be something wrong with your puppy, it’s important for both of you to find this out right away while you can be objective — before you have grown attached — and can think clearly about what options you have. I once had to give back to the breeder within days a gorgeous little Rottweiler puppy who leaked pee, because I couldn’t face the expense, uncertainty of outcome and pain of major surgery for an eight-week-old puppy.

Another reason to bring the puppy in to your vet for a checkup is for her to have a positive early experience with the doctor, who also gets to know her — and you — a little bit. Most vets understand the importance of this first visit, because they know it sets the tone for the friendly, trusting relationship they hope to have with your pup during a long, healthy lifetime.

If the puppy acts frightened or aggressive at the vet’s, don’t make excuses for him or try to soothe him. Patting or “cooing” to a dog translates to him as reinforcement of the very behavior you want him to stop. Be upbeat and matter-of-fact in the way you handle and talk to your puppy from the moment you go into the vet. Don’t allow your own apprehensions about going to the vet — or your projected fears on the puppy’s behalf — diminish the calm confidence you should be showing your dog.


Before you go, ask whether the vet offers a “puppy plan” or some “wellness package.” With this, all the shots, exams and worming needed for a pup are typically covered by one fee.

The vet’s office will probably tell you to bring two things with you:

[  ] A record of whatever inoculations the pup has already had
[  ] A fresh stool sample

(To get the stool sample, just take a plastic baggie, turn it inside out and put your hand inside it. Then, when the puppy has moved her bowels, pick up her offering with your hand protected by the plastic bag, turn it right side out again, and seal it. There is no need to refrigerate or otherwise conserve it — but it should be taken on the day of the appointment for the best chance of finding parasites like worms, if there are any.) You should bring these two items even if they forget to remind you.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part 6: The Dangers of the Waiting Room
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Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner