Five Things My New Toy Breed Puppy Has Taught Me

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Here’s a fun update:

My fiance’, Jen, and I recently rescued a then 12-week-old toy Maltese puppy. We’ve had him for a little over a month now, and it has been a steep learning curve. We already have two large breed dogs, and they were much easier than our little nugget, Franklin. Since bringing him home, we’ve had quite a few ups and downs and we’ve learned a whole lot!

Here are 4 things that I’ve learned from owning a toy breed puppy:

Toy breed dogs are high maintenance.

Franklin has long, straggly hair. This is quite different than the short fur of our older dogs. His daily grooming routine includes frequent brushing (at least twice), cleaning up the food stuck in his beard after every meal, wiping his bottom every time he goes to the bathroom, and taking him to the groomer every 1-2 weeks. Also, pretty soon we have to start brushing his teeth every day, as toy breeds have a higher incidence of dental disease than other types of dogs. For a little boy, he’s got an intense beauty regimen!

Not all dogs live to eat.

Our big dogs love food. You could feed Gemma anything (even vegetables) with enough enthusiasm and she would happily eat it and treat it like a great reward. In my experience, most dogs are very food driven.

Not Franklin. It is very difficult to get him to eat at all. We’ve resorted to feeding him equal parts plain boiled chicken, vitamin paste, and canned puppy food, just to make sure he gets enough calories into his little body. Why do we spoil him with chicken? Shouldn’t we just wait it out until he starts eating the dog food more readily? For most dogs, that is what I would recommend. But, because Franklin is a small breed puppy, he has toy breed hypoglycemia. That means that if he doesn’t eat, he could get very sick and possibly die (and no, that is not an exaggeration. See #4 on this list).

Potty training is really, extraordinarily difficult.

I have a new-found respect and sympathy for the clients that tell me that they’re having difficultly potty training their puppy. I used to always rattle off some nonsense about the importance of crate training, consistency, and rewarding good behaviors. Now, my response is noticeably more frazzled.

Franklin is a poop ninja. He will go to the bathroom outside (most of the time), and he is almost 100% when it comes to urinating, but when he wants to poop… he will find the most secluded corner in the most secluded room and leave little Cheeto-sized nuggets for us to find (usually much later). Obviously, I know the concepts behind potty training and understand that I should try to catch him in the act so that I can put him outside immediately, but it’s so hard to find your pooping puppy when he weighs less than 2 pounds!

It is extremely scary when your pet is in the hospital.

Remember that toy breed hypoglycemia that we touched on earlier in the post? Well, Franklin had a terrible episode with that a couple of weeks ago. When we came home from work, he was slumped over in his playpen, totally comatose. The end result was Jen and I driving to the vet clinic, calling in our friends and coworkers to help us, and then sleeping on the floor of the clinic overnight while our puppy had an IV placed in his neck, praying that he would come out of it. It was absolutely terrifying. I am going to try to my best to remember how painful that experience was when I deal with clients at work, so that I can be a more empathetic veterinarian.

Luckily, right now Franklin is doing really well. He is making noise at me from the floor as I lay on the couch typing this, and being his usual rowdy and rascally self. Ultimately, the lessons I’ve learned from him have given me a new respect for some of my clients at the clinic I work at.

Having a puppy is a lot more work than I remembered!

Question for readers: Have you had your dogs since they were puppies? What did you find most challenging about owning and raising a puppy?


7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Breeding Your Female Pet

“Should I breed my female pet?”

If you have to ask yourself that question, it is probably a sign that you should not. In fact, I don’t recommend breeding any animal unless you are an experienced breeder who is dedicated to that breed and wants to help improve upon it.

Don’t get me wrong- I can understand wanting to breed your female pet- you love her, and feel like she has great genetics. Plus, wouldn’t it be cool to have one of her offspring, or grandchildren, once she’s gone? And puppies and kittens are adorable! Those ideas may seem attractive, but I recommend that you consider the following questions before you get serious about this.

  1. Do you want to breed your pet to make money? If the answer to this question is yes, you may need to do some more research. It is very difficult to make money breeding most species unless you are “cutting corners” and not doing the proper genetic testing or recommended care for your breeding stock. Breeding is, essentially, an expensive hobby for individuals who are fanatical about one or two breeds.
  2. Are you willing to put your pet’s health at risk? Just like in humans, pregnancy can be dangerous for many pets. If your female pet is a family pet, I would not recommend risking her health to produce offspring. Health problems can arise during and after pregnancy, and even years later if she is never spayed.
  3. Do you have the financial ability to pay for an emergency c-section or other pregnancy complications? Remember how I said that it was difficult to make money breeding animals? This is especially true if there are complications or if your pet is a breed that will likely require a c- section, such as Persian cats or bulldogs. These bills can easily pile up, coming to hundreds- and sometimes thousands- of dollars to save the mom and her babies. Remember that most veterinary clinics require payment at time of service, so you should have at least $1000 saved in case of emergency prior to breeding your animal.
  4. Is your pet a purebred animal with papers? Please consider that thousands of mixed breed animals die annually in US shelters. I beg you- please don’t add to that number. Please only breed an animal that has been registered with a legitimate breed organization or kennel club.
  5. Is your pet a breed commonly found in shelters? The top three dog breeds euthanized annually in shelters (behind mixed breeds) include pit bulls, Labrador retrievers, and chihuahuas. Other popular pure-bred dogs, such as dachshunds, beagles, and poodles, are only a little further down the list. Remember economics class? Don’t add to the supply if there is not enough demand!
  6. Does your dog have genetic traits that should not be passed down to offspring? The list of possible genetic traits that your pet may be carrying may surprise you. This could include anxiety, behavioral problems, skeletal or joint problems (such as hip dysplasia), environmental allergies, ocular disease, or heart problems. Not sure if your pet has genetic problems? Talk to your veterinarian and get her genetically tested prior to breeding her.
  7. What will you do if you’re left with extra puppies or kittens? The best breeders have waiting lists for litters that are yet to be born. They will also keep extra puppies, and even take back puppies that don’t work out with their new homes, if need be. If you don’t have a plan that allows you take responsibility for the lives you help to create, you should not breed your pet.

Remember, I am not here to judge you. I will be cheering for you and helping you and your pet live your best lives, even if puppies or kittens are in your future. However, I encourage you to think through these questions and consider multiple angles. If you can answer the questions above honestly and conscientiously, then you may be in a situation where it would be acceptable to breed your pet.

As always, before making any big decisions, I encourage you to discuss the pros and cons with your family veterinarian. They’ll assess your pet and help make the best recommendation for her and your family.

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Questions for readers: Has your female pet ever (purposefully or accidentally) had offspring? What was the hardest part of trying to care for her and her babies? What did you learn? 

Resources for pet owners:


What Vaccines Does My Puppy Really Need?

*This is an excerpt from the first draft of my EBook, “Everything Your Veterinarian Wants You to Know About Your New Puppy,” coming in August 2018.*

This is where things can get a little complicated, as the standard varies even among veterinarians. The best source for what is best for your puppy is your veterinarian. The information in this post is condensed to an easy checklist that you can download for free Right here.

Basically, most puppies need four sets of shots, starting at six weeks of age and continuing every three weeks until finished. This means that your puppy will have two sets of shots after he or she is 12 weeks old, which is important as 12 weeks is around the time when the immunity they received from their mother disappears.

Core Vaccinations

“Core” vaccines are defined as vaccines that are recommended for all dogs and puppies, regardless of their lifestyle or habits. Core vaccines include DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza) and rabies. DHPP protects against four serious, often fatal, diseases that are transmissible between dogs, and the rabies vaccination is required by law in almost all states.

I recommend a bordatella vaccine for all my canine patients, as well. Bordatella was once called “kennel cough,” but now people are starting to call it “canine cough,” as it is highly contagious and your pet doesn’t have to be in a kennel to get it. Canine cough can be transmitted by encountering any respiratory secretions- so dogs that leave their house for walks, have a fence line that shares a border with other pets, or that go to the groomer or dog park should be vaccinated for it.


Other Vaccinations- Lepto, Flu, and Lyme Disease

Vaccines that aren’t considered core include leptospirosis, canine influenza, and Lyme disease. You should ask your veterinarian if, besides the standard vaccines series, if he recommends any additional vaccines for your puppy.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is spread in the urine of wild animals and livestock. It is very significant as it can be spread to humans, too. If you live in the southeastern United States, live on a farm or other rural area, have a dog that likes to swim, have a hunting dog, or live in a household with immunocompromised people (the elderly, young children, pregnant women, transplant recipients, etc), I highly recommend vaccinating for this disease.

Canine Influenza is “the dog flu.” It is becoming more and more common in areas of the united states. It is a respiratory disease, much like human influenza, and is spread easily via respiratory secretions. If your dog comes into contact with other dogs- at a boarding kennel, dog park, training class, groomer- I highly recommend vaccinating for this disease.

Lyme disease is a tick-borne disease, meaning that dogs contract it once they are bitten by an infected tick. Vaccination and tick control are two ways to prevent this disease. In the United States, at risk areas for Lyme disease include the northeast and the upper Midwest. If you live in these areas, I highly encourage you to vaccinate for Lyme disease and adopt a strong tick control program. If you live anywhere else, one or the other will likely prevent it.

What do I do?

Personally, my dogs are vaccinated for their core vaccines (including canine cough) plus leptospirosis and canine influenza. They often go with me to hike and ride horses, so they could potentially contact urine from infected animals or swim in an infected pond. They also come with me to work and enjoy going to the dog park. I do not vaccinate my pets for Lyme disease as we do not live in an area where the disease is very common, and I keep my dogs on tick prevention year-round

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Question for Readers: Has your pet every contracted a preventable illness? Which vaccines does your vet recommend for your dog?

Resources for Pet Owners: