Here are some commonly asked questions, a few handy tips and interesting facts for getting new puppies ready for their new homes.

The right start

Q: What is puppy preschool and is it really that important?

A: Socialisation is vital to ensure a well-adjusted, even-tempered dog. The window of opportunity for imprinting good social behaviour in pups is between six and 15 weeks of age. After this, the dog's innate habits have already formed.

Puppy preschool gets dogs together at this age and teaches them social skills and basic training. Many behavioural problems, such as separation anxiety, other anxiety disorders and aggression, are compounded by poor socialisation in early life.
Protecting puppy

Q: What diseases should my puppy be vaccinated against?

A: Dogs are vaccinated against five diseases: canine distemper, canine infectious hepatitis, parvovirus, bordetella and parainfluenza. The first vaccination is carried out at six to eight weeks, followed by one or two boosters, depending on vaccine used, between 12 and 18 weeks.

Belly nuisance

Q: If a pup has a hernia what does it mean?

A: Hernias are small holes due to a separation of muscle tissue. The umbilical hernia, which occurs where the belly button would be, is the most common and can usually be fixed at desexing surgery. Larger hernias, where the tissues in the abdomen can fall through, need to be fixed promptly.

Missing Mum

Q: Our puppy still cries at night. How can we stop this?

A: Having a good routine is the best way to settle a puppy. Find a safe, private area for your pup to sleep - not on the end of your bed. Try putting a ticking clock in her bedding, which will remind her of her mother's heartbeat. A radio playing softly will also help to reassure her.

Work, rest and play

Q: How long should my puppy normally sleep for?

A: Puppies need lots of short sleeps during the day followed by short, sharp bursts of activity. They should sleep most of the night.

Pooch provisions

Q: What's the best type of food to feed our puppy?

A: At first, feed your puppy the same as they were getting at the pet shop or breeder's. If you want to change their diet, wait until your pup's settled, which is usually about two weeks, then gradually introduce a new one. Sudden changes can result in upset stomachs.

There are many options for feeding. Raw food diets or dry food alternatives are fine as long as they're balanced. Get the best food you can afford.

He's misbehaving

Q: Our puppy won't obey us and occasionally urinates in the house. What can we do?

A: Smacking or yelling at him will make him nervous and the problem will get worse, especially urinating and defecating in the house. Ignore bad behaviour and reward your dog when he's good. Create a toilet area outside and put him there regularly, praising him when he goes. After dinner, take him to his toilet so he can go.

Worm worries

Q: If our puppy gets worms are we at risk too?

A: It's possible, but very rare. Puppies contract hookworm from their mother's placenta before birth or from their milk. Hookworms can burrow deep into human skin and cause a severe itch or even intestinal inflammation. For this to happen, a human would have to have contact with heavily infested soil, which would be unlikely.

To catch the common tapeworm from your dog, you'd have to eat a flea or infested faeces. Good hygiene around the house and garden and flea control is crucial.

The bare bones

Q: I've been told that exercising our labrador puppy could cause her to have arthritis in later life - is this true?

A: Veterinary orthopaedic specialist Dr Steven Fernside recommends taking your puppy for a good run, but don't exercise her to the point of exhaustion. When this happens, her muscles will collapse and her joints will bear all the weight, which can do damage.