Adding a new puppy to your household is an exciting event. You can look forward to puppy snuggles, goofy antics, and lots of playtime. Along with the fun parts, however, you can also expect a few sleepless nights, chewed-up shoes, and frantic veterinary calls. But with your guidance, your mischievous puppy can grow into a loyal companion. Puppies will be puppies, but there are many steps you can take to set your new best friend up for success, and ensure a lifetime of health and happiness.
Whether your new puppy just left their mother’s side, or was rescued from a shelter, coming to your home is a new and daunting experience. It may take time for your puppy to discover how wonderful your home is, and let their true personality shine. Be patient as your new pup navigates this transition, and support them as they grow in confidence.
You can expect your puppy to whine and cry during the first few nights in your home, especially if they just left their mother. Crate training your puppy can help them feel more secure, and prevent accidents in your home. Dogs appreciate having a “den” of their own, and a crate stocked with blankets and toys will provide comfort and security. Including a blanket with their mother’s scent can help ease the transition. Choose a crate just large enough for your puppy to lie down and turn around in comfortably, or use a larger crate with a divider that can accommodate them as they grow.
Puppies have all personality types—some will be eager to meet new people and animals, and others are more reserved. Watch your puppy’s body language, and let them approach people and other pets at their own pace. That being said, it is important to expose your new puppy to as many different people, animals, places, sights, sounds, and smells as possible during the critical socialization period of 3 weeks to 3 months, making each introduction a positive experience so your puppy associates positive feelings with new situations.
With so many options, choosing a diet for your puppy can be overwhelming. Ensure the food you choose is appropriate for your new pet’s life stage and projected adult size. For example, a German shepherd puppy should eat a food specifically formulated for large-breed puppies, as the nutrient composition is designed to prevent medical conditions, such as hip dysplasia, that result from excess nutrient intake during the growth phase.
Establishing healthy eating habits when your puppy is young is important to prevent obesity as an adult dog. Many pet food companies overestimate the amount you should feed your pet, so ask a veterinarian to help you determine an appropriate daily calorie allotment for your puppy as they grow. This calorie amount should be divided into meals, instead of allowing your puppy to free-feed. For example, if you plan to feed your puppy three times per day, divide their total daily calorie allotment by three, and, using the calories per cup found on the dog food label, calculate how many cups of food your pet should receive for each meal. At meal time, measure your pet’s food with a measuring cup to ensure they receive the proper amount, put the food down for 20 to 30 minutes, and remove what they do not eat. Provide plenty of fresh, clean water for your puppy at all times. Eating meals, instead of grazing throughout the day, will also help your puppy develop predictable elimination habits, as they will have to go at similar times each day.
Your puppy is not born with the instinct to hold it until they are in an appropriate place to eliminate. They must be taught your house rules. Take your puppy to the location you have chosen for elimination, and tell them to “go potty.” Repeat this process every hour or so until your puppy eliminates, and reward them immediately in this location. Young puppies have small bladders and must go out frequently, particularly after sleeping, eating, and playing. Between trips outside, keep your puppy nearby so you can watch them closely—use a leash or gate them in a room with you, if necessary. Once your puppy understands they should not eliminate in the house, they will be hesitant to do so in front of you, and may sneak off if given the chance.
When your puppy has an accident, clean it up quickly with an enzyme-based cleaner to completely eliminate the odor, which will remove the temptation for them to go again in the same spot. Accidents are an expected part of housetraining a puppy, and you should never punish your puppy for having an accident.
Teaching your puppy to obey basic commands will stimulate their brain, establish you as their leader, and keep them safe in various situations. For example, if your dog runs toward the street, you can command them to “come,” and prevent them from being hit by a car. Try teaching your puppy these commands:
After your puppy masters these commands, you can add fun tricks, such as “shake,” “high five,” and “roll over” to their repertoire. It is OK to use small, high-value training treats, but remember to subtract the treats from your puppy’s daily calorie allotment to prevent excess weight gain.
Puppies have a lot of energy, and need regular activity to prevent boredom and mischief. High-energy breeds, such as border collies and Jack Russell terriers, can become destructive if not given opportunities to play each day. Regular exercise is also important for your pet’s physical health, and will prevent obesity as they grow into adults. Exercising with your puppy is a great way for you to bond with them, and stay fit. Activities you can engage in together include:
As your puppy grows, consider joining a canine sporting community as a way to meet other dog owners with similar interests, and socialize your dog. Dock diving, treibball, scent tracking, and canine freestyle are a few of the available options.
As your puppy develops, take care to not exert excessive force on their bones and joints with strenuous exercise. Repetitive stress from running, or similar activities, can cause lifelong joint damage, and predispose your pet to arthritis down the road.
Regular veterinary care is critical to keeping your new puppy healthy throughout their lifetime. Infectious diseases, parasites, and health problems are common in puppies, and regular veterinary care is the best way to ensure as many years as possible with your new best friend. Start a health care routine now to help keep your puppy up to date on vaccines, parasite prevention, and routine health screenings that can save their life.
Your new puppy should visit a veterinarian within one week of joining your family, and will require several appointments to complete their puppy vaccines and other necessary health care. After your puppy completes their initial vaccines, and is spayed or neutered, they should visit the veterinarian at least once a year for booster vaccines, wellness care, and professional dental cleanings.
Your puppy will need several rounds of vaccinations to protect them against life-threatening infectious diseases. Puppy vaccines should begin at 6 weeks of age, and are repeated every three to four weeks, until at least 16 weeks of age. A veterinarian will base your puppy’s vaccines on their lifestyle and exposure risk to specific diseases, however all puppies will receive core vaccines, including:
Optional vaccines that can be administered, based on your puppy’s lifestyle and risk include:
A number of internal and external parasites can threaten your puppy’s health, and require regular prevention and screening.
Dogs who are not intended for breeding should be spayed or neutered to prevent reproductive problems, such as uterine infections and testicular cancer. Your family veterinarian can advise you regarding the appropriate age to have your puppy spayed or neutered. According to the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Canine Life Stage Guidelines, small-breed puppies should be spayed or neutered at approximately 6 months, and large-breed puppies should be spayed or neutered when they reach their full adult size, which can range from 5 to 15 months of age.
A microchip is a permanent identification device that can help reunite you and your pet, should they wander away and become lost. The size of a rice grain, a microchip can be injected under your pet’s skin during a routine veterinary visit without sedation. However, many pet owners opt to have their pet microchipped at the time of their spay or neuter surgery to prevent the minimal discomfort caused by the injection. After the microchip is registered, its unique number will be linked to your contact information, so you can be contacted if your pet ever becomes lost and is scanned by a shelter or veterinary hospital employee.
Puppies can develop many health problems, and young puppies with immature immune systems are at high risk of developing disease. Common health concerns of puppies include:
A few house training accidents and shredded shoes are normal parts of puppyhood, but true behavior problems can lead to lifelong issues for your pet. Common behavior problems to watch for include:
We hope your first days, weeks, and months with your puppy are packed full of fun and adventure, as you learn and grow together. However, mishaps are common, and puppies often need frequent veterinary care. If your puppy is sick, or if you have further questions about life with your puppy, download the Airvet app, and speak with one of our experienced veterinarians in minutes.