Exercise, training and health for your new puppy during isolation

by Dr Gretta Howard. Published 28 April 2020

This article is part 2 of advice for raising your new puppy during COVID-19. Click here to see part 1.

Part 2: Exercise, training and health for your new puppy during isolation

Dogs are incredibly smart and your new puppy needs mental stimulation for learning through positive experiences such as exercise and training.

Nutrition for a new puppy

Puppies grow at a really fast pace, much faster than humans, so it is paramount that they receive a high-quality premium diet formulated for puppies, so that their learning is properly supported with the right nutrients. Your puppy’s growing bones needs the right calcium to phosphorus ratio, which has been formulated correctly in premium pet food brands, such as Black Hawk.

It is actually much harder to feed a balanced diet for puppies using home cooked ingredients and these growing dogs may risk growth abnormalities. A premium puppy diet balanced for growth is what I recommend for my clients.

Exercising a new puppy

Dog walking is allowed and can be incorporated into your exercise regime during COVID-19.

Leash training is vital so that your puppy can walked outside safely and enjoy the outdoors. There are some great resources online to help teach your dog to walk on a lead such as the Dr Sophia Yin YouTube Channel.

If you prefer one-on-one lessons, then dog training sessions can be arranged remotely via video link so that you can ask questions in real time. Check the website for the Association of Pet Dog Trainers for Australia or New Zealand for a recommendation.

Off-leash dog parks may not be open during this challenging period, but as a rule, I don’t recommend visiting these parks until the puppy reaches 6 months of age, as it is important they learn how to interact properly with other dogs before being in an uncontrolled environment. While puppies are young, they tend to pick up more infectious diseases from dog parks, so this is another reason to avoid them.

Other ways to physically exercise with your dog include games such as go fetch or hide and seek.

Training your new puppy

Training is a fun and mentally stimulating way to interact with your puppy, but must be done in a positive manner in order to be effective and avoid fear.
I often direct my clients to books such as “Before and After Getting Your New Puppy” by Dr Ian Dunbar or “Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to start your puppy off right” by Dr Sophia Yin, so that owners can learn how to interact with their puppy in a positive manner from the very beginning.

Toilet training should be kept to a routine and it is important never to get angry or punish your puppy if they do their business in the wrong spot. Take your puppy out first thing in the morning when he or she wakes up, after every meal and after each sleep and remember, take your rewards with you to encourage toileting in the right place.

"Training should be a life long process to ensure your dog is taught good manners and therefore remains a valued member of the family."
Time Out

Everyone needs some time out from the people they live with and this includes pets too. To help the puppy get enough rest, ensure the family leaves the puppy alone if he or she is resting in their puppy bed. This can be their safe place.

Vaccinations for your puppy

Most puppies will have already had their first puppy vaccination (C3) before you acquire him or her but it is important to realise that the full puppy vaccination course (usually 3 vaccinations) is not complete at this stage.

For this reason, it is important to avoid high density dog areas such as off-leash dog parks, ovals and sports fields, as Parvovirus can remain in the soil for extended periods.

Consult your local vet for their recommendations in terms of getting your puppy out and about before their final puppy vaccination. The risk of infectious diseases in puppies varies geographically.

If you have a friend who has a really friendly well-socialised, well-trained, fully vaccinated dog then I would encourage you to introduce the dogs to each other while on a leash (ensuring that humans remain 1.5m away from another in line with COVID-19 government regulations). If your puppy is afraid of the other dog, do not force him or her to interact. Provide some delicious treats to both parties to reinforce the experience as being positive.

The risk of developing a behavioural problem due to lack of socialisation is significant, but at the same time, your puppy needs to be kept safe from diseases such as Parvovirus. I inform my clients to stick to concreted outdoor paths until 2 weeks after the puppy has completed the full course of puppy vaccinations.
It is also a good idea to prevent your puppy interacting with dogs where you do not know their vaccination status, just in case.

Puppies are a source of joy during this time of change and uncertainty, so help your puppy grow into the best dog possible and enjoy the experience that dog ownership brings to your life.

Take care and love this time at home with them.

Read Next: What is parvovirus?