As fellow pet owners, we share in your joy as you prepare to welcome a puppy into your home. We know you’ve likely been looking at pictures of cute puppies and browsing shopping lists of items such as dog food bowls, a cute new dog bed, nail trimmers and puppy pads. But what does your veterinarian want you to know before you take the plunge?
As veterinarians, we are in a unique position to know the common questions and concerns that arise as a new pet owner prepares to welcome a new puppy into their home. After all, we help people like you every day!
In this post, we’ll point out some easy, common-sense ways you can be prepared to help your new puppy become your healthy and treasured lifelong companion.
Getting Your Puppy
The journey to bringing a new puppy home starts with a choice—what furry little pup will be the best companion for you, your family and your lifestyle? Questions to consider before you choose a new puppy:
- Are you an outdoorsy person who wants a hiking buddy to take with you on long treks in the outdoors? Or are you more of a simple homebody who wants a pooch to cuddle with you on the couch every night? Some dog breeds are more active and athletic and love to explore the outdoors. However, some breeds are more laid-back and need less exercise.
- Do you want to run your fingers through a long, luxurious coat and don’t mind regular grooming visits and daily brushing—or would you prefer a short-haired pup that needs less maintenance?
- Are there young children in the household who need more of a patient dog personality?
- Do you have access to a large yard or doggie daycare to satisfy an active, intelligent puppy who seems to NEVER get tired out? (We’ve been there!)
- When your cute puppy is fully grown, how much space will they need to sleep–and to transport? Will you be able to pick them up and carry them to safety in case of a medical emergency? Do you have the financial capability to “pay by the pound” for a large breed’s dog food and medications, or would a smaller new dog be more within your budget?
- Do you have the financial resources to care for a purebred dog’s likelihood of expensive health problems (like allergies), or are you more comfortable with the (possibly healthier) mixed breed pups at a shelter?
Our Care Squad is happy to help answer your questions about common dog breed traits and what to consider as you welcome the new puppy of your dreams. The American Kennel Club (AKC) also has a wonderful tool to help you explore the right dog breed for your lifestyle.
Everything You Need for a Puppy: Training
One of the most prevalent concerns for a new pet owner is—you guessed it—dog training! We have you covered with a whole section devoted to housetraining and how to potty train a puppy fast. Here are some items that you will find helpful as you teach your new pup this important skill:
Make sure the crate you choose is appropriately sized for your puppy. After you choose the perfect crate, learn how to crate train a puppy. Doing so will make the rest of the training process a breeze.
Choosing the Right Collar
Puppies have delicate necks, and traditional nylon collars are the softest and best way to train your new pup how to walk on a leash. We do NOT recommend choke or pinch collars for young puppies and do not recommend using a harness until they are older. Choose a comfortable and appropriately sized collar that can’t slip off little necks, but also make sure you’re able to insert two fingers under the collar while wearing, to ensure it is not too tight.
Choosing the Right Leash
In general, veterinarians usually do not recommend a retractable leash because these can make dog training sessions more difficult. Also, the cord of a retractable leash makes a “runaway puppy” more likely, since it is easier to chew through!
Waterless Shampoo and Enzymatic Cleaners for Accidents
Just like humans, appropriate hygiene is important! For those housetraining accidents, a waterless shampoo is a great option for a quick clean without having to give a full bath to your puppy. Enzymatic cleaners will ensure that accidents are cleaned with little remaining evidence.
A Consistent Schedule
Puppies thrive on routine. A regular schedule makes housetraining easier and can avoid anxiety issues later in life. Try to create a consistent schedule for the puppy of meals, time outside, playtime, and bedtime. Having this schedule planned BEFORE you bring your puppy home—and before your days are filled with puppy love—can make a big difference!
These are small, low-calorie treats that are designed to be carried with you to reward your puppy quickly whenever they succeed at something—like going potty outside.
Group puppy classes are essential for your new puppy to learn basic obedience skills and become comfortable around other dogs. Make sure your trainer has vaccination requirements for all of your pup’s future classmates, as well as good sanitation of the facilities before and after the class.
Things You Need for a New Puppy: Home Safety
Veterinarians see many injuries that can easily be prevented by pet parents. A pet parent can keep their puppy safe by making sure these items are taken care of BEFORE you bring your puppy home:
Install Child Safety Locks
Install safety locks on cabinets at puppy height, particularly cabinets containing household cleaners, chemicals, and medications. Doing so will ensure your new pup won’t get into things it’s not supposed to!
Create a Pet-Friendly Yard
If you have a yard, make sure any holes or weak spots in the fencing are repaired or blocked off from a curious puppy. We don’t want them to escape! Also, make sure the yard is free from litter, plastic, rat/insect bait, and ensure any plants are blocked off from enthusiastic puppies. Ingesting any of these harmful items can cause medical problems.
Electrical Cord Covers
A variety of inexpensive cord organizers and cord covers are available to protect your puppy from chewing on dangerous electrical cords. Not only are your expensive appliances at risk, but puppies can become electrocuted by chewing loose cords.
Of course, you are looking forward to PLAYING with your new puppy! Make sure to choose toys that are too large for your puppy to swallow (OR flimsy enough to be chewed into pieces that can be swallowed!) and that are soft enough for a puppy’s baby teeth. Broken baby teeth and intestinal blockages are common consequences of choosing toys that are not compatible with your pup. The right chew toys will vary based on your puppy’s size and chewing preferences.
We know that ALL family members will be super excited to interact with your new puppy! Just like you, puppies have personal boundaries—BUT those boundaries are enforced with bites and nips. (This is part of their natural behavior and communication with each other.) It is especially important that children be educated on how to safely play with the puppy and respect their boundaries. Listed below are some helpful resources to assist you and your children in reading dog body language and enjoy each other safely for years to come:
Things You Need for a Puppy: Mental and Physical Health
Did you know that your new puppy’s mental health is JUST as important as his physical health? Here are some items that are essential to ensure health in ALL aspects of your new puppy’s life.
Whether you adopt your new puppy from the local animal shelter or purchase a puppy from a breeder, make sure to obtain your pup’s medical records. These should have your pup’s birthdate, dates of deworming, any testing for intestinal parasites and any vaccinations already administered. If you are purchasing your puppy from a breeder, it can be helpful to ask if the mother was fully vaccinated and dewormed prior to pregnancy (here’s a hint: if the answer is “no,” it’s time to pick a different puppy!). Make sure to bring any records to your puppy’s first veterinary check-up.
Your new puppy is growing FAST, and high-quality nutrition is essential for their overall health. If you’re wondering what to feed a puppy, consult with a vet to help you find the right choice for your pup to reach its full potential!
Did you know that many behavioral problems later in life—such as storm phobia, barking at other dogs, separation anxiety and fearfulness—can be prevented in puppyhood? As a young dog, your new puppy’s brain is a sponge learning about the world—so take the time to create positive associations with anything you anticipate your puppy encountering in their daily life. This can be done by frequently giving treats as your pup is closer to or navigating different obstacles. (You may need a partner to help with these!) We want your puppy to be calm and confident as they explore the world with you. Just like with crate training, reward calm and relaxed behavior. Here are some areas to focus on:
- Wheeled objects: Bicycles, garbage cans, skateboards, vacuum cleaner, baby stroller, cars
- Loud noises: You can use recordings of thunderstorms, doorbells, dogs barking, fireworks and jackhammers in the background while your puppy plays with his favorite chew toy or enjoys his favorite treat. Gradually increase the volume of the recording until your pup is totally relaxed, even when surrounded by scary noises.
- People: Try to have as many different types of people play with your puppy as possible! This includes people of different heights/ethnicities/ages, as well as people wearing a hat, sunglasses, hoodie, backpack, using a cane/walker–anything you can think of!
- New surfaces: Train your puppy to walk calmly over surfaces including sidewalks, grass and metal (using a baking sheet at home works well for this). If you have access to a see-saw, your puppy can learn to walk on uncertain surfaces, too!
- Handling: Reward your pup for allowing you to open their eyelids, sticking your fingers in their ears, play with their paws/toes (this will help when trimming nails!), holding them upside-down, wrapping a towel around them, poking them (gently) with a capped pen in various parts of their body and massaging their gums with your finger. This will make future vet visits so much easier and not stressful for your puppy!
- Veterinarian: Within a few days of bringing your new puppy home, make an appointment to have him examined by a local veterinarian. Make sure to bring any medical records you have with you to your first appointment. If you don’t already have a relationship with a veterinarian you trust, ask your local friends and neighbors if they LOVE their vet—and if so, who it is! As part of your pup’s healthcare team, our veterinarians are available for your puppy questions 24/7/365 as well—so feel free to reach out to us any time.
Talk to a Trusted Vet
We hope this information helps as you prepare to welcome a new puppy into your home. Congratulations! Enjoy this exciting time—and be sure to take plenty of pictures, since it goes by fast!
Whether you have a general question about your puppy or need urgent advice due to an unforeseen medical problem, your AskVet veterinarians are standing by and ready to help with your new puppy at any time. We are proud to be members of your new puppy’s team!
Allison Ward, DVM
Dr. Allison Ward grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and started working in veterinary hospitals when she was 14 years old. After graduating from veterinary school in 2011, she completed a small animal rotating internship in New Jersey, followed by a neurology/neurosurgery internship in Miami. After completing this advanced training, Dr. Ward then moved on to general small animal practice. Dr. Ward’s professional interests include feline medicine, neurology, and pain management. Her passion for educating pet owners carries over into her work with AskVet, and she loves being able to help pets and their parents at all times of the day (and night!). She currently resides in sunny south Florida with her two cats, Larry and George.