Ask AKC with Lisa Peterson
November 2006

Dear Lisa: What’s the best age for bringing home a new puppy? We are scheduled to travel to the U.S. from Europe and back again just one week after picking up our new 8-week-old puppy. My concern is that this will be a disorienting experience for a little pup. The breeder could keep the pup an extra month until we return. I think letting the puppy remain with the breeder is best. However, my partner feels that we should get the dog earlier to start bonding and that the travel, while disruptive, will be preferable to getting the dog later. What’s best?  – Bonding vs. Boarding

Dear Bonding: Before debating the merits of whether the pup should travel with you, take the time to see if there are any airline restrictions, microchip requirements, paperwork for your canine passport or necessary vaccines that your pup needs beforehand. You may find that traveling with a pet just for a quick trip isn’t worth the administrative nightmare since requirements vary from state to state in the US and country to country in Europe.

Some experts feel the ideal day to begin bonding with a puppy is day 49 or seven weeks old, so if you pick up the pup at 8 weeks you have already passed the ideal moment. Don’t despair since bonding with a new owner begins almost immediately. Once you start to train him, get him into his new routine at home for that week before your trip, bonding will begin, even if you board him with the breeder during your trip.

Early Socialization is Paramount
As a breeder, I have also kept pups at my home until 12 weeks for families with conflicting schedules. Puppies always bond with their breeders regardless of when they go to a new home. But what ever you decided to do, the real issue during that 8-to16-week-old window is not who he bonds with but that puppy socialization and teaching basic manners begins or else you will have an unruly adult dog on your hands. So, keeping the pup with you as much as possible would help in that regard.

If you are really worried about long-term issues, then I would suggest one of you forgo the trip and stay home with the new pup to focus on socialization and training. Remember getting a dog is like having a new baby. It alters your lifestyle, your freedom, and your ability to travel at whim.


Dear Lisa: I have two six-month old miniature Dachshund puppies, and when I brush their teeth, they squirm and try to lick the brush. I give them a taste of the toothpaste before and after, but they still just want to lick the toothbrush.  What should I do?  – Molar Melee  

Dear Molar: Before we delve into dental dos and don’ts, I just want to double check that you are using canine toothpaste and not human toothpaste since that can make dogs sick.

To stop the squirming, it might help to put the dog on a table, on a rubber mat (or a grooming table) and have someone else hold the dog’s collar or harness while you work around the mouth. Perhaps, have your helper lift a rear leg, so the dog will be less like to move because he is trying to balance himself.

As for the brushing, why don’t you back up a few steps and use your finger without any toothpaste and get your dog used to the idea of someone lifting their lips, rubbing their teeth and general mouth handling. Pretend your finger is the toothbrush and go through the motions of brushing the teeth, paying particular attention to the gum line, where tartar builds up. Start slowly with maybe just a few seconds, gradually increasing the time you spend in the dog’s mouth. Make sure you stop this exercise while the dog is still behaving and reward with a happy word and a very small treat.

Slowly Add Toothpaste
If this training goes well, you may want to invest in a finger toothbrush. It slides over the index finger and has a little brush on the end. This may work best for your small puppies rather than trying to insert a big toothbrush into their delicate mouths. Once you have the pup standing still, accepting the brush, then add the toothpaste.

Lisa Peterson, a long-time owner/breeder/handler of Norwegian Elkhounds, is the AKC Director of Club Communications. If you have a question, send it to Lisa at lxp@akc.org and she may select it to be answered here in Ask AKC.

© 2006 The American Kennel Club, Inc.