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As a breeder, there is a lot of responsibility resting with you to prepare your puppies for their new homes. You’re with them during key periods of life in which their personalities and fears develop. In between keeping them fed, socialized, and happy, many breeders go the extra mile to prepare their puppies for important grooming routines that can help prevent illnesses. AKC Pet Insurance wants pet owners to learn preventative measures to keep their precious dogs healthy! Whether you already prepare your puppies to handle these routine tasks, or would like to start with your next litter, read on to learn how to prepare your puppies.  

Ear Cleaning

Regular ear cleaning can help prevent ear infections. Many dog owners aren’t aware that they need to establish an ear cleaning routine. Breeds with excess ear hair or floppy ears are at a higher risk of infection due to a tendency for the ears to trap dirt, moisture, and excess wax build-up. Puppies can also experience ear infections; however, the main cause is often mites rather than bacteria or yeast growth. 

Preparing your puppies for future ear cleanings can save pet owners a lot of time and hassle. Start by holding your puppy and practicing looking into his ear – hold the puppy’s chin for stability if he tries to move his head around. Practice touching his ears inside and out – praising when he remains still. Once the puppy is comfortable having his ears touched, you can add in touching a cotton ball to his ears.  

Once your puppies understand the process, their new owners will be able to keep ears clean and infection-free! You can pass along the following instructions to your puppy owners to ensure they know how to correctly clean their puppy’s ears. All owners will need is four cotton balls and ear cleaner. 

Puppy Ear Cleaning Instructions:

  1. Moisten a cotton ball with ear cleaner.  
  2. Using small gentle circles, transfer the ear cleaner into your dog’s ears. Clean the folds of the ear if they appear dirty. Repeat on the other ear. 
  3. Let the ear cleaner settle in your dog’s ears for about 30 seconds. 
  4. To ensure the ear cleaner reaches all of the ear canal, massage under your dog’s ears where the base of the ears meet the head.  
  5. *Tip: You should use enough ear cleaner to hear a “squish” in the dog’s ears. 
  6. Using a dry cotton ball, remove the debris and any excess ear cleaner from your dog’s ears using small gentle circles. 

Teeth Cleaning

By six months of age, most puppies have a full set of adult teeth that will need a little maintenance to remain healthy throughout their lifetimes. Providing appropriate dental chews and cleaning the puppy’s teeth two to three times a week can help keep teeth healthy by removing plaque and tartar. You can start preparing puppies for having teeth brushed at a much younger age by handling each puppy’s lips and teeth. For a puppy who doesn’t mind having his mouth handled, you can extend the puppy’s training to include using a toothbrush in and around his mouth. 

Breeders can inform a new puppy’s owner on the progress they’ve made training for teeth brushing, and can explain how teeth should be brushed once all of the adult teeth are in. 

Puppy Teeth Brushing Instructions: 

  1. Apply canine toothpaste or a paste of baking soda and water to a pet toothbrush or your finger. 
  2. Gently scrub your dog’s teeth with the toothbrush or your finger to remove tartar.  

images of puppies

Nail Trimming

While many puppies won’t need their nails trimmed before they go to their new homes, it can be helpful to handle your puppies before they leave to prepare them for all of their future nail trims. If left untrimmed, dog’s nails can grow too long and break, leading to infections in the nail bed. Handle every puppy so that they are used to allowing each paw to be picked up and held without resistance. Once they are comfortable with this, you can even train further so that they accept the nail trimming tool to “trim” the air in front of their paws. Remember to praise and reward them for sitting still while the tool is close to their toes.  

When the time comes to actually trim the dog’s nails, you will simply need nail trimmers and a willing pup!  

Dog Nail Trimming Instructions:  

  1. Ask for your dog to give you his paw or pick up your dog’s paw if he doesn’t know that command.  
  2. Grasp your dog’s toe with your thumb and forefinger to extend the nail. 
  3. Using dog nail trimmers, clip the tip of the nail. Be sure to avoid the quick when clipping by avoiding clipping past the curve of the nail.
  4. *Tip: For white nails, the cut surface will turn pink just before reaching the quick. For black nails, the cut surface will first show a gray or white center, then black, and eventually pink right before you reach the quick. 
  5. Repeat for all toes. 


Whether your breed is hairless or a shedding machine, all dogs can benefit from learning how to be patient during grooming. Start by allowing the puppy to investigate the brush, then move on to touching him gently with it. Puppies may decide this is a game and attempt to pounce and attack the brush. If this is the case, pause and allow your puppy to investigate the brush further until it becomes less exciting. Praise your puppy each time he allows the brush to touch him and remember to be very gentle with these initial interactions. Once your puppy is comfortable, lightly run the brush down his body and praise him for being still.  

Educate Your Puppy Owners

Preparing your puppies for their future is only the first step. Further prepare your pet owners for keeping their puppies safe and healthy by providing the AKC Pet Insurance complimentary Pet Safety Handbook. Our handbook covers basic pet first aid, grooming tips, and seasonal safety advice. Visit our website to learn more about other breeder benefits offered by AKC Pet Insurance
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Selecting a Puppy

How do you know what breed is right for your family? How do you find a reputable breeder? What questions should you ask a breeder? Download this e-book for guidance on these questions and other important factors to consider when looking for a puppy.
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