Four Winds Holistic Animal Services

– gentle effective healing for body, mind, and spirit –
Raising Your Pick of the Litter
After acquiring a puppy, focus on training and health care maintenance to keep it mentally, emotionally and physically fit. Canine companions can live 12 to 15 years or more. Making an informed decision when selecting a puppy can help ensure those years are happy ones for both owner and dog. Impulse buying never is a good idea when it comes to purchasing a dog. Time spent beforehand selecting a breed and learning about its temperament and health problems can minimize disappointment and frustration later. The first step is to decide if you have time in your life for a puppy. Puppies (like babies) take a lot of care, love and patience. Puppies need to be fed, walked and cuddled frequently. They have to learn “house rules” and how to be good companions and citizens. All this takes time. If you travel a lot, are rarely at home or are too tired to walk and play with a puppy when you get home, it would be best to enjoy the canine companions of others until your situation changes. Dogs are sociable animals that want to be part of the family, and they have much to offer if we give them the chance to share our lives fully. The easiest way to do this is by having your dog live in the house with you. If this is not possible, it should spend time each day in the house. This is true even if you have more than one dog. Dogs that live exclusively in pens or fenced-in yards rarely are happy and frequently develop behavior problems such as barking or digging.

Quick Questions
Direct A Puppy Search
The first step in knowledgeable puppy selection is to look at your family situation and living arrangements. Are there small children? If so, then breeds good with young children should be emphasized in your selection. Is there a fenced-in back yard, or will the puppy be exercised on a leash? It is inconsiderate to both dog and neighbors to allow an animal to run loose unless your property is so large the animal cannot travel far enough to leave it

Are you looking for a gentle companion for quiet moments or a vigorous dog to hike or jog with? The need for exercise varies among breeds; picking a breed with exercise needs that match your situation can reduce behavior problems arising from excess energy. Some breeds like (and need) a lot of attention (e.g., many of the spaniels) while others, such as terriers, are more independent. Have you ever owned and trained a dog? Some breeds generally are easier to train than others (although individuals within each breed vary in their willingness and ability to learn).

Do you have a preference for a male or female dog? Generally, males tend to be more dominant than females. Do you have other animals in the household already? Dominance issues among dogs are more likely when two or more of the animals are the same sex. Once you have decided what general personality you are looking for, it is time to determine the breeds whose characteristics meet your needs. See our Selected References for a list of books to help you select your most compatible breed. Once you have narrowed the list to a few, it is time to investigate the health problems common in those breeds. This is important for two reasons: to have some idea of the problems your puppy might face later and to know what questions to ask breeders.  

Get Health Details Early On
Taking time in the beginning to research seriously considered breeds can help avoid expensive medical care later on and improve the chances your puppy will have a healthy life. Health problems in a breed dictate what tests breeders should be performing on their stock to minimize the likelihood of hereditary defects. In some instances, puppies also should be tested for the presence of genetic problems. For example, puppies of breeds in which hereditary deafness is prevalent should have the Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test to determine their hearing status. BAER testing involves the placement of subcutaneous needle electrodes on the top of the head and near the ear to be tested. Brain responses to stimuli delivered to the ear canal then are recorded. The pattern of brain responses indicates whether a hearing problem exists. Puppies do not have to be anesthetized to have the BAER test.

Another example is hip dysplasia, a common problem in many breeds. To minimize the likelihood a puppy will develop hip dysplasia, the buyer should select puppies resulting from breeding stock whose hips have been rated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for a number of generations.

There are several publications that describe hereditary and congenital (present at birth) diseases in many breeds. "Veterinary Values," published by Scherings Animal Health Division in 1984 for veterinarians, has a section on hereditary and congenital diseases in dogs. The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (P.O. Box 208, Davis, Calif. 95617-9903) published the "Canine Consumer Report. A Guide to Hereditary and Congenital Diseases in Purebred Dogs.” This information can be obtained from most national breed clubs as well. Most breed clubs also provide a standard describing the breed's appearance and temperament. National and local breed club information can be located by contacting the American Kennel Club at 51 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10010; (212) 696-8200 or visiting its World Wide Web site at Another option is to contact the United Kennel Club, 100 E. Kilgore Road. Kalamazoo. Mich. 49002-5584; (616) 343-9020; Web site:  

Get A Grasp On Purebred Issues
Once you have identified one or two breeds to be considered seriously, it is time to meet dogs of those breeds so you can see their appearance and personality. Dog shows and dog club meetings are excellent places to view many different breeds as well as watch them work. They also are good places to get information about the breeds you have selected. Dog shows permit you to view many individuals of the same breed as well as many different breeds. If you see an animal you particularly like, note the breeder's name and address in the show catalog.

Before you run to the nearest breeder, remember there are more issues to examine. For example, line breeding (the breeding of related individuals) is an issue that should be considered when selecting a purebred. Close line breeding includes pairings such as brother-sister, mother-son or father- daughter. More distant pairings include parents that share the same set of grandparents on one side. Some line breeding is common in the majority of purebred dogs today. It is done to reinforce certain desired characteristics in appearance or temperament. Unfortunately, line breeding also can intensify genetic weaknesses. When selecting a puppy, review the pedigree for the amount of line breeding present (i.e., the number of times the same individuals appear on the pedigree). As a general rule, puppies that have many of the same relatives on both the sIre and dam's side are more prone to health problems than puppies with more variety in their genetic background.

Selecting a reputable breeder is an important step–and the best option–in acquiring a healthy puppy. Most national clubs will provide lists of club members with puppies available or litters planned. Local dog clubs also may have members with puppies available. It is best to select someone breeding for temperament and appearance. Puppies destined for obedience, agility or field work should have at least one parent, and preferably other relatives in the pedigree with titles in the desired sports. Reputable breeders will be knowledgeable about their breeding stock and problems in the breed in general. Their animals will be clear of major problems, as demonstrated by appropriate testing. One or both parents of the litter should be present so you can evaluate their appearance and temperament. Many breeders give guarantees with their puppies and require the new owners to sign contracts stipulating certain provisions for care are carried out. Often breeders will require the right of first refusal should the animal ever have to be placed in a new home. Most contracts offer a return provision if the animal is unsound when checked by a veterinarian within a specified time period. The initial wellness check can reveal major as well as minor problems that need attention, so it is important to have your puppy checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.  

Puppy Rearing
Once you have your new puppy, the fun begins! Puppies need lots of attention and love as they begin their journey to adulthood. They also need sunshine, fresh air, exercise and socialization. To prepare your new pet and your home, purchase some essential items such as a crate, food, water and food bowls (stainless steel or ceramic are best), a leash, collar, a baby gate and spot remover/deodorizer for accidents.

A crate is an important investment for your growing pup They are available from mail-order catalogs and many pet shops and feed stores, and they come in two styles. Airline crates are the most familiar; these are the plastic kennels that meet airline shipping regulations. Wire crates are more open, without the solid walls of airline kennels. A good supply of newspapers is advisable unless you are home all day and can take your puppy out frequently. It is best to get a crate that will be big enough to hold your puppy as an adult. The crate will be your puppy’s place of refuge, a place of safekeeping when you are too busy to supervise and a place to sleep at night until housetraining is complete.

Before purchasing toys for your new charge, remember they should be age-appropriate. Squeaky toys should be available only when supervision is possible to prevent ingestion of the squeaker or other parts of the toy.

You're set with all the puppy necessities. Now it’s time to clear your home of friends and family eager to see the precious pup. This may sound unnecessary to you, but it is important to remember that the day your puppy comes home should be a quiet one. Leaving familiar surroundings and coming into a new situation is stressful, and the puppy must have a chance to adjust to new circumstances and people.

Changing the puppy’s food should be postponed for at least two weeks unless it is medically necessary. Many breeders send food home with their puppies for this reason. Even if you wish to feed your puppy a different brand later, initially stick with what the breeder was feeding.

Puppies need to be fed frequently, with the number of feedings dependent on the age and breed of the puppy. Generally, it is a good idea for puppies to eat puppy food until they are 1 year of age. This is not true of all breeds, however, so check with the breeder about your particular pet.

Puppies also need ready access to fresh water at all times, especially if they are eating dry food. Water is essential for hydrating the body and flushing waste products of metabolism out of the body in the urine. The flushing action particularly is important in female puppIes because it can help minimize the incidence of puppy vaginitis and prevent bacteria from migrating into the bladder and kidneys in puppies with the disease. The water should be changed at least twice a day. Allowing a puppy access to water or ice late in the evening may result in having to take it out at night, but this inconvenience is temporary, and the results are well worth the interrupted sleep.  

Hitting the Classroom
Puppies require much more than food and water. Basic training keeps puppies' minds active and eager. Crate training, housetraining, Sit, Down, Stay, Come, walk on a loose lead, greeting behavior, grooming behavior and feeding behavior are basic skills all puppies should learn. While books can be good resources, a puppy class offers the chance to socialize and have fun while learning desirable behaviors. Puppy classes are offered by dog clubs, pet stores, kennels and community colleges. Selecting the proper trainer is just a matter of asking a few questions. How many breeds has the trainer worked with? Where did the trainer get his or her training? How long has the trainer been training dogs? How are the dogs motivated to learn? Observing a class before signing up will provide firsthand knowledge of how the trainer interacts with the owners and their dogs.

A good puppy class should address most if not all the behaviors listed above. Behaviors such as Come, Sit and Stay are familiar and self explanatory. Greeting behavior is calm behavior with all four feet on the ground when approached by people. Grooming behavior is willingness to allow the body to be handled or examined (especially the ears, mouth and feet), the nails to be clipped and the coat to be brushed or combed. Good grooming behavior eases visits to the veterinarian or groomer because the actions that occur are familiar. Feeding behavior is proper behavior around food and food bowls. This includes waiting until given a command to eat. Growling and guarding the food/food bowls are behaviors best extinguished early to avoid problems later.

Puppies have different personalities; some are shy while others are outgoing, even dominant. Some may be aggressive. Personality must be taken into consideration during training. A good trainer will assist you in working with your puppy to bring out its good characteristics and eliminate undesirable behaviors. Getting your puppy off to a good start is worth the time and effort.  

A Different Approach
to Health Care
Wellness is another important part of puppy care, Medical care when necessary, fresh food and water, exercise, training and love all are part of a comprehensive wellness program that can help your puppy grow into a healthy, emotionally balanced adult.

Many people are interested in a holistic approach to health care for themselves and their animal companions. Allopathic medicine, the type practiced by most veterinarians, relies on standard protocols for treatment and prevention of disease. Familiar examples of this include vaccination and worming schedules.

Holistic medicine acknowledges each animal is a unique individual with its own needs. Customized plans designed for the particular patient replace standard treatment regimens. Each patient is recognized as an integrated being of body, mind and spirit. All three affect health and well-being; all must be taken into consideration when providing health care.

There are many types of holistic care available today. A few of the principal modalities are listed below:
Homeopathy – A system of medicine developed in the late 1800s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, homeopathy is based on the theory that medicines that produce symptoms of illness in healthy volunteers can be used to treat illnesses that produce those same symptoms in the sick. Homeopathic medicines are highly diluted and dynamized by a special process so they are capable of affecting the patient’s vital (life) force. This in turn affects the patient’s physical body and, if the patient’s response to the medicine is curative, will result in the elimination of symptoms. "Homeopathy: 'A hair of the dog that bit'" in the January 1994 issue of DOG WORLD contains a more detailed explanation of homeopathic concepts. Because homeopathy is a complete system of medicine, it can be used to treat virtually any health problem. Vaccine reactions, cancer, inhalant, skin and food allergies, acute and chronic liver and kidney problems and infections are just some of the health issues treatable with homeopathy.

Chiropractic – This type of medicine deals with the relationship between the spinal column and the nervous system. The proper relationship between these two components is critical for proper flexibility and mobility and the maintenance of overall good health. A free flow of nerve impulses from the brain and spinal cord through the spinal and peripheral nerves to every cell in the body is essential for balance and harmony in body processes. Malarticulations can affect nerve transmission, giving rise to symptoms in other parts of the body (e.g., changes in digestion or bowel function). Conversely, disease in a particular organ or body part can result in malarticulations. More information about chiropractic medicine may be found in "Adjust Your Dogs Health With Chiropractic Medicine" in the May 1996 issue of DOG WORLD. Hip joint laxity, lameness, back or joint pain and/or stiffness, gait abnormalities and intervertebral disk disease are some of the common health problems that can respond to chiropractic care.

Traditional Chinese Medicine – In this system of medicine, health care is designed to balance the chi. Chi nourishes every cell of the body and must flow freely or imbalances result. These imbalances are reflected as health problems. Restoring harmony and balance to the body is done principally through diet, acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Traditional Chinese medicine can be used to treat any illness, including acute and chronic infection, digestive disturbances, skin problems and urinary disease.

Acupuncture – A component of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture uses fine-gauge needles to alter the flow of energy (chi or qi) along acupuncture meridians. A balanced flow of chi along these meridians, which may be thought of as rivers of energy flowing through the body, is essential for good health. Needles placed at appropriate points along the meridians balance the chi and promote normal functions of organs and body processes. Acupuncture can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including pain. organ dysfunction (e.g., liver disease), back and joint problems and immune system problems.

Other holistic modalities include flower essences, western herbs and nutritional supplements. Food also can be an important therapeutic tool. Holistic therapies, such as drugs and surgery, can be harmful if used unnecessarily or improperly so it is best to consult a knowledgeable holistic veterinarian when considering the use of any holistic medicine. Puppies are joyful bundles of love and boundless enthusiasm. Selecting a healthy pup with the right temperament takes time and patience but the reward is an enjoyable companion that will share your life for many years. Teaching your companion to be a good citizen will further enhance the quality of the time you spend together and make it easy to include your dog in daily activities.

Selected References

Wellness References

Puppy Selection

Puppy Rearing and Training

Puppy Selection

   N. Baer and S. Duno.
Choosing A Dog, Your Guide To Picking the Perfect Breed
(Berkely Books, New York, 1955).


   M. Lowell.
Your Purebred Puppy, A Buyers Guide
(Henry Holt and Co., New York, 1990).


   R.H. Pitcairn, and S.H. Pitcairn.
Dr Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats
(Rodale Press Inc., Emmaus, Pa., 1993)


   M. Siegal.
Choosing the Perfect Dog for You and Your Family
(Contemporary Publishing, Chicago, 1994).


   D.F. Tortora.
The Right Dog For You
(Simon & Schuster, New York, 1980)


   B.J. Wreede.
Before You Buy That Puppy
(Barran's, Hauppauge, New York. 1994)


Puppy Rearing and Training

   C. Benjamin.
Mother Knows Best,The Natural Way to Train Your Dog
(Howell Book House, New York, 1985)


Playtraining Your Dog
(St. Martin's Press, New York, 1980)


   B. Kilcommons and S. Wilson
Good Owners, Great Dogs
(Warner Books, New York 1992)


   Monks of New Skete.
The Art of Raising a Puppy
( Little, Brown & Co., New York, 1991)


   K. Pryor.
Don't Shoot the Dog
(Simon & Schusler, New York, 1984)


   J. Volhard and M. Bartlett.
What All Good Dogs Should Know
(McMillan, New York. 1991)