Rockport Mastiffs,  Puppy Proofing Your Home

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Before bringing your mastiff puppy home, you'll need to "puppy proof" your house. Mastiff Pups are like babies: they want to explore every corner of your house, and they want to put everything into their mouths.

Here's a simple checklist to make sure your home is safe before letting Rover run free:
Make sure all poisonous household items are securely stored out of the puppy's reach
Did you put the household cleaners, laundry detergents, bleach, disinfectants, insecticides, cleaning fluid, fertilizers, mothballs, antifreeze, insect poisons, rat poisons and other items in cabinets or on high shelves? These items can be deadly to your puppy. As your new puppy grows, he will be able to explore higher places and be tempted to jump up on shelves.

Check your plants
Many plants in and around your house can be threatening to your pup. Did you know that the pits of apricots and peaches, as well as spinach and tomato vines, can make your puppy sick and, in large dosages, can even be fatal? Click here to learn about more plants that you should keep away from Spot. For a more complete list of dangerous doggie plants, consult your vet.

Look at your house from your puppy's point of view
Get down on all fours and look around. Are there any dangling electric cords, loose nails, plastic bags or other tempting objects that will be in puppy's reach? If there are, be sure to put them away immediately.

SOME ADDITIONAL TIPS
Never leave your puppy unsupervised inside or outside, and keep him off balconies, upper porches and high decks
Puppies, no matter what breed, are so little that they can slip through openings and fall. Puppies may also get tangled in ropes or the plastic from six-pack beverage holders. Cut these items apart to prevent problems.

Keep your toilet lid down
Puppies are often tempted to play in toilet bowl water. This habit can be awful to break. Not only is it embarrassing when friends or family are visiting, but toilet cleanser may be harmful if swallowed.

Unplug, remove or cover any electrical cords in your puppy's confinement area
Chewing on these cords can cause severe mouth burns, electrocution and fires. It is also a good idea to cover electrical outlets, when they are not in use.

Keep buttons, string, sewing needles, pins and other sharp objects out of your puppy's reach
If your puppy swallows any of these objects, he can damage his mouth and internal organs.

Do not tie ribbons around your puppy's neck
Rufus may be tempted to chew the ribbon, which can cause digestive problems. He could also choke himself if he catches the ribbon on anything.

Problem Plants for Puppies
If your puppy has a tendency to nibble on grass, don't be alarmed. If his vegetarian habits continue and he tries to nibble on any of the following plants, STOP him, or you could have a few problems on your hands. These plants may make your puppy sick and may even kill him. Remember, this is not a complete list of dangerous plants. You'll need to talk with your vet to learn more about these and other plants that can be harmful to your pup.

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SUPPLIES TO BUY
Before bringing your Mastiff puppy home, purchase the following supplies. Preparing in advance for the arrival of your new pal will allow you and your puppy to spend time getting to know each other. 

Food and Water Bowls
Select bowls that won't tip over. Make sure they're easy to clean, since they will need to be washed daily. Purchase separate bowls for food and water. You may want to buy smaller bowls at first, and upgrade to larger ones as your puppy grows. This will keep him from getting buried under a heaping pile of dog food or from falling in his water bowl every time he drinks.

Collar
There are a variety of lightweight collars available for your puppy. Some have buckles and others snap. Regardless of the collar style you choose for your Mastiff puppy, remember to attach an identification tag listing your puppy's name, your address and phone number.

Your puppy's first collar should be made of lightweight nylon or leather. To measure your puppy's collar size, measure his neck and add two inches. To ensure that the collar fits properly, you should be able to slide two fingers between the collar and your puppy's neck. If your fingers fit comfortably, you have the right size collar. If there is extra room, you need a smaller size. If both fingers don't fit, the collar is too small. It may take a while for your puppy to get used to wearing his collar, so don't be discouraged if he is uncomfortable and scratches his collar.

Leash
Leashes come in a variety of styles, such as leather, nylon and retractable, and a in variety of lengths. A six-foot leash is the ideal length for both training and walking.

Always keep your puppy on his leash unless he is in a fenced-in area. Many states and cities have leash laws, which make it mandatory for your puppy to be on his leash at all times, even at public parks and playgrounds. Under these laws, you can be fined if caught with your puppy off his leash. Remember to clean up after your puppy if he goes to the bathroom in a public place, such as a park or a neighbour's lawn.

Grooming Supplies
Make sure you have the proper grooming tools. These will differ depending on your puppy's coat. For shorthaired breeds, use a brush with natural bristles, a rubber currycomb or a hand mitt. A sturdy wide-toothed metal comb and perhaps a mat splitter are needed for longhaired breeds. Be sure to include a flea comb in your grooming supplies, and begin by establishing a weekly grooming program with your Mastiff puppy as quickly as possible.

Toys
All Mastiff puppies need toys to help them exercise and to provide them with a safe way to satisfy their chewing cravings. Be sure to choose toys that are made for puppies and cannot be splintered, torn apart or swallowed. Large rawhide chips, nylon chews and hard rubber balls are fun and safe. As a general rule, if the toy can fit comfortably in a puppy's mouth, it's too small.

Your Mastiff puppy's Toy Chest should be free from the following items

Crate or Sleeping Bed
Your Mastiff puppy will need a warm, comfortable place to sleep. A crate provides a den for your puppy when you are not home. Crates usually come in one of two types: a portable, enclosed, plastic crate with handles; or a wire crate. Your puppy's crate should be large enough for him to stand up, turn around and lie down and should have adequate ventilation. If you buy an adult-sized crate, purchase partitions or place a cardboard box in the back to provide a cozy space for your puppy. Even if you crate your puppy, you should have a separate sleeping bed for when you are at home. Make sure you buy a puppy-sized bed rather than an adult-sized bed, so your puppy will feel safe and snug. 

Stain and scent remover
Special formulated stain and scent remover takes the odour away from a puppy's nose, as well as yours. Conventional household products not found in the pet aisle or a pet supply store mask the odour to humans, but not puppies. If you use a conventional household product to clean up after your puppy, don't be alarmed if he keeps repeating himself at the same spot. He's merely trying to mark his territory.

 

FIRST VISIT TO THE VET

During the nursing period, a Mastiff puppy receives protective antibodies from the mother's milk. This natural immunity will begin to disappear with time, and may be gone soon after weaning. Consequently, around 8 to 10 weeks of age, a puppy is susceptible to a number of diseases. That's why it is so vital to take your puppy to a veterinarian as soon as possible for a check-up and vaccinations, regardless of where you bought your puppy.

Your veterinarian can assess the general health of the puppy and point out any problems. If you buy your puppy from a breeder, the breeder may have given the puppy his first vaccination.

All Mastiff puppies should be vaccinated against canine diseases, checked periodically for worms and other parasites, and given an annual medical examination. Perhaps the most loving, responsible thing you can do for your pet is to see that he receives timely health care from a veterinarian. His life depends on it.

VACCINATIONS

All Mastiff puppies need to be vaccinated against disease according to the schedule provided by your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian may provide routine vaccinations for canine distemper, infectious canine hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, coronavirus, Para influenza, Bordetella, Lyme disease and rabies. Remember, most vaccines must be given over a period of time and require multiple veterinary visits. So check with your veterinarian and get ready for a happy, rewarding friendship with your pet.

Distemper
A highly contagious, often fatal virus that affects a dog's respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous system. Generally this virus spreads as an airborne infection, so vaccination is the only effective control.

Adenovirus
(Also know as infection hepatitis) A viral disease that affects the liver and cells lining the blood vessels, causing high fever, thirst, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, liver damage, and hemorrhage.

Coronavirus
A highly contagious viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, high fever and dehydration.

Leptospirosis
An extremely contagious disease that spreads through contact with nasal secretions, urine or saliva of infected animals, and can affect humans as well. The ailment causes inflamed kidneys, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Liver damage can also occur.

Parvovirus
A common and deadly viral infection whose symptoms include diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Parvovirus can kill puppies very quickly.

Par influenza
This virus is one of a number of infectious agents that cause what is often called "kennel cough." The disease is highly contagious and attacks the respiratory system.

Rabies
A fatal infection of the central nervous system that affects all mammals, especially raccoons, bats, skunks, foxes, domestic dogs and cats, and humans. Since rabies poses a serious public health threat, it is imperative that your puppy be vaccinated. Most states require it.

Newborn Mastiff puppies receive disease-fighting antibodies from their mother's milk. These antibodies normally last only six to sixteen weeks, however. After that, your puppy needs vaccinations to help protect him from disease.

MASTIFF TRAINING TIPS

Socialization
What your Mastiff puppy learns about people and his environment now will stay with him for the rest of his life. From his fourth to twelfth week a puppy acquires almost all of his adult sensory, motor and learning abilities. The more loving interaction you establish now, the stronger the bond your dog will have with you later. Plan to spend at least two periods a day playing with your puppy. Use playtime to teach your puppy the basic training commands.

As soon as your veterinarian says it's safe, you should also begin exposing your puppy to as much of the outside world as possible. Introduce your pup to a variety of positive experiences. Visit three new places a week and introduce him to five new people at each place (find a variety of people). Take your pup on regular car rides-use a carrier to insure safer driving.

Mastiff puppies may be predisposed to developing phobias between 8 and 11 weeks of age. During this time, you may want to be cautious when exposing your puppy to particularly stressful experiences, like large crowds and unusually loud noises. If he does become frightened, reassure him in a cheerful voice and pass it off quickly. Keep in mind, your puppy will sense feelings from you, so keep your response fairly matter-of-fact. Too much attention to a frightening experience may actually encourage a phobia.

Brush your pup daily with lots of affection and reassurance to make it a special time for both of you. At the same time, handle your pup's feet and ears and open his mouth for inspection. Massage him all over. If the pup fusses, say "no" firmly. When he is quiet, talk to him in a soft, pleasant voice. Similarly, teaching your puppy to allow you to wipe his paws now will be a real asset when he's full grown, bounding inside with wet feet on a rainy day!

Leash Training Fundamentals For Your Mastiff Puppy
Complete leash training is a gradual process. However, the fundamentals of leash training are an essential part of basic puppy training. Begin by having your puppy wear a collar. She may resist this at first but do not give in; for the safety of your puppy this is one rule that must not be broken. Once your puppy is used to the collar, begin letting her drag her leash around the house, under your supervision. When it's potty time, guide the puppy to her potty place on her leash. Get her used to walking on your left side by simply placing her there each and every time you take her outside. Most puppies learn to love their leash since it's a signal they're going outside - and puppies love to explore!

Heel
Once your Mastiff puppy is used to her leash, you can introduce the command, "Heel." Stand with your puppy at your left side and start your walk. Talk to your Mastiff puppy and keep her focused on you by making yourself the most interesting thing in her line of sight. When she becomes distracted and runs ahead, as she undoubtedly will, call her name and say, "Heel," and make an abrupt U-turn to the right. She will find herself behind you and hurry back to your side. Praise her and repeat. Make it fun for your puppy to heel with your praise and excitement and she will learn quickly.

Come
This basic training command should be started from the first day you bring your puppy home. As with all the basic commands, you should announce your intention by calling his name first, followed by the one word command - i.e., "Max, come!" Make the invitation as inviting as possible by using an enthusiastic voice. When he stumbles to you, praise generously. If he doesn't come immediately, give a tug on his leash, then guide him to you.

If you're having trouble getting your Mastiff puppy to come, examine your technique. Are you using his name, getting his attention? Squat down to his level and put a lot of energy into an enthusiastic command. Praise lavishly and repeat quickly - puppies typically enjoy learning to come to their leader. Never use "Come" in an angry tone or to call our puppy for a punishment. "Come" must be seen as a positive behaviour.

Sit
Teaching your Mastiff puppy to sit can keep him out of a world of trouble and do wonderful things for your relationship - and by eight weeks of age, he's ready to learn this basic command. Start by getting your puppy's attention, then using his name and the command, "Max, sit," gently help your dog to a sitting position by folding his back legs under his bottom. Once sitting, praise him. Repeat the exercise often to reinforce the training.

You can also teach "Sit" with a food reward. Using a treat, show your puppy the food. Once you have his attention, have him follow the treat as you move it slowly up and over his head. As the puppy follows the food, he will have to sit.

"Sit" is an excellent command to teach a puppy for praise. Once it's established in his mind that sitting is the sure way to receive praise, you will never have to worry about your puppy jumping on you or other people for attention.

HOUSETRAINING  YOUR MASTIFF PUPPY

A dog or puppy is either housetrained or not. If your dog is sneaking off to another room and having an accident, you will have to take some of his freedom away until you can solve the problem. The longer you allow this type of behaviour to exist, the harder it will be to modify. Unless you can catch him, it really does not do any good to drag him off to the site of his mishap and try and punish him. Keep him in sight if he is bold enough to try something in front of you, say "No," get his attention and take him outdoors quickly so he can finish eliminating in the appropriate area. Remember, it is your house. He has to earn his freedom through good behaviour and this is your responsibility.

If your Mastiff dog will be trained to eliminate only outdoors, start by establishing an elimination spot. In the morning, clip his leash to his collar and take the dog outdoors to his spot for elimination. State commands like "go potty" or "hurry up." After he does his duty, bring the dog inside for food and water. About 15 to 20 minutes after the meal, take the dog outside again for elimination. Take your dog to his "spot" at each elimination time. Maintain a regular feeding, drinking, and elimination schedule.

One of the most commonly made errors in housetraining is rushing too quickly ahead of your dog. Too much freedom too quickly can cause some confusion. If your dog experiences an accident or two, you will have to back up and slow down. Marking should not be confused with housetraining problems because marking is deliberate. This behaviour will arise in dogs who may be trying to vie for the role of the leader in the household; marking is a way of claiming territory. It is advised that if you should notice this behaviour indoors or out, you strengthen all obedience commands immediately. This will remove all doubts as to who is in charge around the house.

Providing your dog or puppy with a crate that is way too large may allow him to relieve himself in one end and sleep in the other. Placing food or water in his crate will allow him to fill up his bladder and bowel and he will have no choice but to relieve himself in his crate. Make sure you take your dog or puppy outdoors to eliminate on a regular schedule and especially prior to being left for prolonged periods of time.

If you have tried all the above and are still experiencing what you believe to be "Territorial Marking," consult your veterinarian. Your dog/puppy may have a bladder infection and it's always best to be safe, not sorry. If your dog/puppy is not spayed or neutered you may want to talk to your veterinarian about this procedure. It usually has a very positive effect on this type of behaviour problem.

Even well-trained dogs sometimes have accidents. Clean the accident area with a pet odour neutralizer so your dog won't be tempted to repeat his mistake. Here are some tips to help prevent accidents:

 

MASTIFF PUPPY CHEWING

Be aware that scolding your puppy after it has misbehaved is fruitless. If you catch the Mastiff puppy in the act of chewing, remove the object with a very firm "no." Let the puppy sense, through the firmness of your voice, that chewing is unacceptable. Correct your puppy quietly and firmly each time you catch him chewing. Realize that chewing is natural behaviour for a Mastiff puppy. It eases the discomfort of teething and is part of the puppy's exploring its environment through the sense of taste. Give your puppy safe chew toys such as rawhide bones and hard rubber toys. Avoid toys containing parts that might come loose and be swallowed such as plastic eyes or metal balls. Praise him when he plays with his chew toys. Never give the puppy a special sock or slipper to chew or a toy that looks like a slipper. Puppies cannot tell the difference between the toy and the real thing. Treat objects your puppy chews with hot pepper or with Bitter Apple for furniture, a bad tasting product available at pet stores. Boredom may also lead to chewing. Be certain your puppy enjoys play periods and enjoys walks with family members. Before leaving your puppy alone, take him for a walk or spend time playing with him. He will have less energy for chewing. Confine the puppy to his crate or to a small area, such as the kitchen. A pet gate may be useful in confining the puppy. Leave drinking water and chew toys.

WELCOMING YOUR NEWCOMER

You've thought about it and you've chosen the Mastiff puppy you believe will best fit your lifestyle. Now the anticipation builds as you look forward to bringing your newcomer home. Helping it adapt to its new home will be easier if you plan ahead. If you have all the pet's basic needs in place you can focus on introducing your adoptee to its new surroundings and begin its training.

Do your shopping in advance. If your choice is a puppy, you'll need a collar and leash, a crate (a great aid in housebreaking), brush or hand mitt for grooming, toys that will be safe for the puppy, a bed for the puppy, non-Tipp able, easy-to-clean food and water bowls.

If the Mastiff puppy is to be housed outdoors during the day, choose a well-insulated doghouse large enough to accommodate the puppy at its full-grown size. It should be located on a high, well-drained site protected from the wind. Choose a location that provides outdoor shade during the summer.

Select a veterinarian for your new pet as soon as possible. Ask pet-owning friends and neighbours for recommendations. The Yellow Pages is another source. Visiting veterinary clinics in your area may help in your selection. Choosing a veterinarian who is located nearby is a convenience and saves time if an emergency should occur.

Puppy-proof your home. Put household cleaners and detergents and other chemical compounds in tightly closed containers and be certain they are properly stored. Medicines should be kept out of reach. A good rule to follow is that anything that is not safe for children is not safe for pets.

The best time to bring your newcomer home is at the beginning of a weekend. If possible, add a few vacation days. This gives you time to acquaint your Mastiff puppy with its new home and to begin housebreaking and other training.

Make arrangements with the person from whom you are getting the Mastiff puppy as to the time you will pick it up. Ask that it not be fed prior to pick-up time. This helps avoid the puppy's becoming car sick on its way to its new home.

Once in its new home, remember that your adoptee is adjusting to strange new surroundings and people. Children can become especially excited. Explain to them that their new companion needs time out for naps. Show children how to pet the newcomer and the proper way to pick up the puppy.

A Mastiff puppy should be closely supervised and taken outside to relieve itself after eating, following naps and play periods. 

As soon as possible after you adopt your Mastiff puppy, take it to your veterinarian. At this time, a schedule can be worked out for needed vaccinations to protect your newcomer from a number of viral and infectious diseases. It should also be examined and treated, if necessary, for extern al and internal parasites.

Bring any immunization information you may have received when you adopted your pet to your veterinarian to begin a case history for future reference. It's a good idea to keep your own medical record. You may need it for reference if your pet's veterinarian is not available.

Choose a name for your newcomer and use only that name in calling the pet. In teaching a pet its name, as in all training matters, 100 percent cooperation of all family members is essential. When a pet is sent mixed signals, it can become confused and not respond to any of the contradictory signals. Behavioural problems may be in the making.

Key words to remember as you welcome your newcomer: Gentleness. Care. Patience. Consistency. Praise. Love. Your reward is a delightful companion for years to come.

A final thought
Avoid bringing home a new pet during busy times such as birthdays and holidays. The noise and confusion may frighten the pet. Family members are generally too busy with the festivities to devote adequate time to help the puppy become comfortable in its new home.

CHILDREN'S ROLES IN PET CARE

First, it's great that you want to share the responsibility of pet ownership with your children. However, it's important that you assign age-appropriate tasks. Here are a few examples of what you may expect: Toddlers - A toddler can help parents with pet care simply by being involved "helping" a parent fill food and water dishes, grooming, going with parents to take the pet for a walk, or to the veterinarian. Another good trick is to have the toddler give the dog a treat for good behaviour, i.e. gets in bed or crate before family leaves the house. The toddler and the pet both enjoy this special job! The 5-7 Year Old This age group is capable of doing some of the tasks above (feeding, watering, grooming) without parental help. Still you can't expect that a child this age will remember to do these jobs without friendly reminders from Mom or Dad. The 8-12 Year Old Parents still need to supervise children in this age group for some tasks, like walking the Mastiff. Before a child is 10-12 it's not advised that they walk a dog without adult supervision. But the child can feed, water and play with the pet alone (depending on the pet's temperament and area for exercising). Teenagers - Depending on your teen's maturity, you can sometimes allow him/her to take full responsibility for the pet, including feeding, cleaning up after, driving to the vet and exercising the pet. Allowing the teen to take the dog to obedience classes can also be a good activity for both.

BEING A GOOD PET NEIGHBOUR

Take a few minutes to imagine what it would be like if your dog lived next door to you. How would you rate your pet as a neighbour? As you enjoy your pet's companionship, a little extra effort on your part will teach it to be a good neighbour. Ideally this should begin when your pet is young.

However, at any age, a Mastiff can be trained to obey at least five basic commands "Come," "Sit," "Heel," "Stay" and "Lie Down." The best way to teach your dog obedience is to attend a dog obedience school. Kennel clubs, humane organizations and extension divisions of some universities offer obedience courses. There are also many good books on obedience training.

Are you aware of laws in your community regarding dog owners' responsibilities? Most communities require each Mastiff in a household to be registered. Some have limits on the number of pets in one household can own. Many communities have "pooper scooper" laws requiring owners to clean up after their dogs. Law or no law, cleaning up after your dog reflects your consideration for others. Many municipalities require dogs to be walked on a leash. Roaming dogs may be picked up and owners must pay fines to reclaim them.

Daily walks can be a treat for both of you when your Mastiff is trained to walk quietly at your side on a loose leash. This on-going training helps you control your dog so it won't jump on people or on other dogs.

A fenced yard is the best way to keep your dog from soiling or digging in a neighbour's yard. 

A barking Mastiff can become a neighbourhood annoyance. Excessive barking is frequently the result of boredom or anxiety when a dog is left alone for long periods of time.

Regular walks and play periods with your dog and teaching it tricks will help prevent boredom.

A pet who is not neutered or spayed may become an undesirable neighbour. A female dog usually comes into heat twice a year and the period lasts about three weeks. During this time, male dogs will be seen around your house, possibly barking and becoming a nuisance to you and your neighbours. If you decide to breed your dog responsibly later in life, the best way to handle the situation is to place her in a boarding kennel during the heat period. Otherwise you must keep her in the house most of the time. When you take her for a walk, be prepared to fight off male dogs. Never let her off the leash.

A neutered male dog is usually calmer and more companionable. He is less likely to run off in pursuit of females in heat and engage in fights with other dogs.

A pet in good health is unlikely to spread disease. Keep your pets well-nourished by feeding a nutritionally complete and balanced quality pet food. Take them to your veterinarian regularly to keep their vaccinations current and to be certain they are free from internal and external parasites and in general good health.

A final thought
Proper identification for your Mastiff is important. Dogs should wear collars with an identification tag as well as having a microchip or tattoo identification. If your Mastiff is allowed outdoors, train it to wear a safety collar with an expansion device and a tag that gives your dog's name and your telephone number to distinguish your Mastiff from stray dogs. Proper identification enables someone to contact you if your pet wanders far from home.

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