Getting a puppy is a very exciting time. After all, you are welcoming an adorable and furry little four-legged bundle of joy into your home – what’s not to love?
You’ll now be responsible for raising and caring for this small and loving creature, and it can seem a bit overwhelming as you try and figure out exactly what to do and how to ensure your puppy is as well cared-for as needed.
In this guide, we cover everything you need to know to take care of a puppy.
Preparing Your Home For A New Puppy
This journey starts before you’ve even brought your puppy home! Puppy-proofing is almost like baby-proofing – you have to make sure that the rooms your little furball will spend their time in are completely safe for them.
The best way to start is to consider your home from the perspective of a puppy. Everything is new and interesting to them, and they’ll want to explore a lot.
Keep human foods in high-up cupboards or sealed containers, make sure breakables are well out of reach and keep electrical plugs and cords hidden or away. Puppies can climb and jump, too, so bear that in mind!
Child locks are often great options for cupboards or cabinets, but the fact is that there’s nothing quite like a puppy’s determination.
There’s a good chance that a dog that really wants to get into a cabinet will find a way to do so if there is even a slight chance of the lock used failing.
You may want to invest in proper locks or even metal hardware for this purpose. If a pup can jingle it open without needing opposable thumbs, it’s not safe enough!
If you plan to keep your puppy in only specific parts of the home, invest in proper pet gates and baby gates and make sure they’re tall enough to prevent climbing.
We’d recommend keeping a young puppy away from your kitchen or the stairs!
Do note that if you have a big family, meeting them all at once can be overwhelming for a pup. Introduce the pup to others slowly.
Make sure they have a quiet, cosy place to retreat to if they feel things are too much. If kids are involved, teach them about what the puppy needs and how to properly handle one.
What About Medical Checks and Health
Ideally, the first thing you would do – even before bringing your puppy home at all – is take them to the vet. If this is your first pet, you may not have a vet yet.
Ask the people you get your pup from – whether a shelter, a breeder, from a friend or relative and so on – if they have any recommendations for a good vet. You can even ask those you see walking their dogs for some insight!
Bring your puppy to the vet for a check-up and be ready to ask a few questions that will keep you in the loop about what to expect in terms of puppy medical care for the specific breed and type of dog you have.
Discuss necessary vaccinations and ask for a schedule so you can plan ahead, talk about de-sexing, and bring up preventative care for heartworms, fleas, and other parasites.
You should also ask about the best food to feed your pup and how much of it, as well as ask about potential illnesses to look out for.
Expect to be heading to the vet a lot in your puppy’s earlier life for vaccinations, check-ups, and other similar reasons. You can opt for pet health insurance to help you handle these medical expenses.
Feeding A Puppy – When and How Much?
This probably goes without saying, but what a puppy needs to eat is quite different from what a grown, adult dog does.
Meeting a puppy’s nutritional needs are very important, and it’s not just because they ensure that the pup in question has enough energy through the day.
A proper diet boosts growth, aids in the building and strength of bones, muscles, and teeth, and helps keep a puppy healthy. Most people first bring a puppy home when it’s at 8 weeks old – a full month after they would have started eating solid food.
So, while you’re at the place you’re getting your puppy from, ask them what kind of food the puppy has been eating up till now and go get some of that.
If you plan to switch your puppy to a new kind of food, get both the old and new kinds and very gradual transition between them.
Responsible Feeding For a New Puppy
It’s advised that, if you plan to give your puppy dry food, you should mix some wet food in to make chewing easier.
Naturally, your vet will be the best person to ask about what food to give your puppy, so if you are still not sure, contact them.
When you are picking out food for your puppy, don’t forget to flip the bag or can around to read the labels and nutritional information.
Take note of ingredients, and if your vet has mentioned a particularly important nutrient, make sure it’s present here.
The food should be primarily made to promote growth, not for maintenance. Most puppy foods indicate the age range they’re made for, too. Depending on the type of breed every dog stops growing at a certain age.
Your puppy will likely need to eat three times per day until they’re 6 months old, but you can slowly train them to adapt to eating only twice.
Take note of how much your puppy eats and make sure you’re giving balanced serving sizes according to the amount of food that they do need.
A puppy needs to consume twice as many calories as an adult dog, so don’t feed too little or your pup may become too thin.
Conversely, if you notice your pup beginning to put on too much weight, reduce the amount of food given as obesity can lead to even worse health conditions.
When can your puppy be taken off of the growth diet? When they hit 90% of their full adult weight. Talk to your vet to see when this might be, as different breeds age at different rates.
What About Kennels and Crates?
A kennel or crate can be a fantastic place for a puppy to retreat to and consider their own. This is especially important in the beginning stages of bringing your puppy home, as they may occasionally feel overwhelmed or need some rest, and they know exactly where to go for that.
Being inside a den they consider their own also helps teach a puppy about bladder control, as they will not want to soil their little space. Place the kennel somewhere that the puppy can still see a lot of what is going on and won’t feel left alone.
They can be accompanied by a blanket or towel and some toys they love, and even a couple of treats if they’re not particularly fond of the crate at first.
If the puppy becomes distressed while being locked in the kennel, quickly allow them outside, praise them and provide treats, and try again another day.
You want to be patient and go slow and steady so they grow to love the crate.
Introducing your puppy to a kennel early on is a great idea because it allows you to crate train from the get-go.
Crate training is very important, especially as many puppies may be overly excitable and have a tendency to get into a lot of trouble and destroy a good amount of furniture.
Training your puppy to be comfortable and happy in a kennel can give you a breather from constant supervision when it’s necessary.
Do note that the goal should never be to shut a puppy in a crate for long periods of time permanently, as this can do more harm than good and cause behavioural issues and health problems.
Instead, these should be temporary measures as you work on training and getting through behavioural problems.
The end goal will ideally be for your puppy – or adult dog, as they grow – to be able to be safely left to their own devices at home when needed.
Most Important…Exercise and Play
Puppies have a lot of energy and can grow bored easily, and this can cause them to find other, less favourable ways to occupy themselves – like chewing through your new shoes.
The easiest way to keep a puppy occupied is through a multitude of different toys.
Look for ones that are hardy enough to withstand rough play, don’t have small detachable parts that may be accidentally ingested, and make sure to throw out broken ones to avoid injury.
Playtime is very important for a puppy’s development, and it also helps their bond with you grow. Stuffed toys, chew toys, tug toys and even fetch or chase toys can really help to keep a puppy happy and entertained.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different kinds to see what your puppy likes best. You can even opt for puzzle-style games and IQ toys to keep their brain sharp!
Your puppy may also start to experience discomfort when they enter the teething phase.
During this time, it is more important than ever to provide chew toys, rawhide chews and treats to your puppy if you want to avoid ruined household items left and right. Just don’t give them chocolate or any other type of sweets.
Exercise can also help to burn off the excess energy that causes a puppy to dash through the house like a rocket. A daily walk keeps them physically active and healthy, and it’s a great way to train and socialize your pup, too.
However, do note that it is important not to over-exercise your puppy until their growth plates are closed.
If you’d like to train your dog to run obstacle courses or do strenuous activities, do not do so until you’ve had an x-ray done by a vet that shows the plates have closed. If not, this can lead to severe health conditions.
Puppy Training and Commands
Training is a standard part of caring for any dog. It makes them more well-behaved, therefore allowing a more peaceful home, and it can even keep your dog safe if they know what to do in certain situations – like not to pick that dropped piece of chocolate on the floor!
Puppies might be adorable, but they’d quickly become the boss of the entire home if allowed to do so.
It’s important that you are firm with enforcing rules and regulations and that you take training seriously. Here are some kinds of training you may want to enforce.
This is a vital part of the training that teaches a puppy that they should not use the bathroom inside the house.
Establishing an expected routine time at which you bring the puppy outside can help make this a habit. There are many ways to house train – or toilet train – your pup, but consistency and patience are always key.
Teaching your puppy to properly walk on a leash as well as maintain a polite, composed decorum while on a leash outdoors can help make exercise and socialization easier.
We’ve already covered this, but it’s worth mentioning again that training a puppy to get used to and even enjoy being in a crate can be very helpful when you have to leave them alone and cannot be around to supervise, especially if you can’t guarantee good behaviour from them.
Teaching your dog how to act around other dogs and people by slowly introducing them into his life helps make for a good-natured, friendly, and well-behaved pooch.
Again, there are many ways to start socializing a pup. Bring in family members or friends to meet them, or even invite a friend over who has their own dog!
This is one of the most important of the kinds of training you will have to enforce.
Teach commands like “stay”, “sit”, “no” or “leave it”, and “come” can be extremely helpful and may even be life-saving in the event of accidents or emergencies.
This sort of practice encourages your pup to associate good behaviour with rewards and praise, and it really strengthens a bond between you and your puppy.
If you’re having trouble with obedience training, you can opt for obedience classes by professional trainers.
Final Thoughts On Looking After a Puppy
Remember that training can become boring or frustrating for a puppy! Always be patient and compassionate, and never use negative reinforcement – only positive reinforcement in the form of praise, treats, and affection.
If they lose interest, become bored, or seem distressed, stop for the day and try again tomorrow.