How To Prepare For A Puppy - Your Complete Guide
Bringing a new puppy home is an exciting time filled with endless snuggles, playful antics, and a lifetime of love.
But before you can enjoy all the beautiful moments that come with having a furry friend, it's important to prepare your home and ensure that you have everything your new puppy needs to thrive.
From setting up a safe and comfortable space to creating a comprehensive puppy checklist, this complete guide will take you through everything you need to know to prepare for your new puppy's arrival. So let's dive in and get ready for some puppy love!
Preparing Your Home
Whether bringing home a juvenile puppy or a fully trained pet, you'll need to prepare almost the same way. If it’s the first time the dog will be in your home, expect an adjustment period.
Put Away Breakables and Precious Items
When dogs experience a place for the first time, their curiosity will always reign. They will want to scout and sniff every nook and cranny of your home.
They'll definitely interact with whatever they find interesting. Unlucky for you, that might mean they accidentally break a thing or two.
Before you bring home your puppy for the first time, evaluate your home. Determine what things you can set aside for the time being.
Keeping your special items safe to avoid unnecessary frustrations. It may also keep your dog safe from harm.
Eventually, you'll strengthen your bond with your dog and have more confidence in them. When you get there, you can reintroduce the items you put away without fear that your dog will break them.
Remove Toxic Plants
Dogs will put anything in their mouths, so it’s essential that they don’t have access to things that will harm them.
Among the most important things to check your home for are plants that are toxic to dogs. They are more common than you might think.
To ensure your home is safe enough for the newest addition to your family, check out ASPCA’s comprehensive list of toxic plants for dogs.
Plan Their Potty
Before your dog sets paw in your home, decide where their toilet will be.
If you have a yard, that would be the ideal place. If you don’t, you can teach your dog to go potty during their morning and evening walks.
If you live in an apartment or won’t have the ability to take your dog out at least twice a day, you can also opt for potty pads.
No matter where you’d like them to do their business, accept that accidents will happen.
That's true at least in the first few weeks until you’ve successfully house-trained them. Be prepared to clean up plenty of messes but don’t worry!
It's all worth it.
Things to Buy for Your Home
Your puppy's crate will be their safe, personal space in your home.
Whether you place it inside the crate or elsewhere, an orthopedic dog bed will keep them comfortable.
If you live in a cold area or have a dog that feels cold quickly, get a blanket they can snuggle with to keep warm.
You’ll need poop bags, scoopers, and other cleaning materials. If you’re house-training indoors, you’ll also need potty pads. Also, consider potty training sprays, which might make the process easier.
Make sure you get cleaning sprays specifically for dog messes. Dogs like to do their business in the same place. So, don't let them smell even a trace of their accident in your living room. They might make that their permanent toilet.
Food and water bowls
Find the right dish and bowl for the size of your pup. If you have a big dog, you might need something to elevate the bowls to the correct height.
Taking the time to purchase these essentials will help you make your home more puppy-proof and ultimately make for a happier home.
Dog Tag and Identification
Ask your breeder if your dog is microchipped.
If they are, ensure you get instructions on updating the information. If they’re not microchipped, decide if that’s something you want to do or if it’s needed.
Whether or not your dog is microchipped, it’s a good idea to secure an identification tag to their collar.
The dog tag should contain their name, your phone number, and your home city. That will be extremely helpful in the unlikely event that you lose your dog.
It’s also a good idea to include the date when they received their latest rabies vaccine. That will show anyone who finds them that they’re up-to-date on their shots, one of the critical puppy essentials you just can't skimp on.
Feeding Your New Puppy
Different dogs will have different feeding requirements.
Puppies less than six months old should be fed three times a day. Those older than six months can be fed once in the morning and then once in the evening.
Dogs over one year old can generally tolerate once-a-day feeding. But, it’s usually better to feed them two smaller meals rather than a single large one daily. This is to avoid any bloating and digestion problems.
Whether you’re adopting or purchasing your new dog, ask the previous carer about how they’re being fed so far.
Why not ask for a small portion of your dog’s current dog food? That way, you can continue to give the same kind or change it gradually. Abruptly changing your dog’s diet might cause some stomach problems.
So, it’s good to transition slowly.
One thing to note is that not all kibble is created equal. Don’t decide based on price alone. Sometimes, the cheaper options have filler carbohydrates.
That will require you to give larger quantities, costing you more in the long run.
Opt for high-quality dog food and follow the weight-based chart in the package. Then, observe how they respond and adjust portions as you see fit.
Dog Clothes and Accessories
Apart from getting a dog collar and harness, you might want to look into getting some dog clothes. Clothes, such as a dog hoodie, are fashionable and functional.
Additionally, there are plenty of serious reasons why dogs benefit from wearing clothes. While most of it involves protecting them from extreme weather, there’s no reason why their puppy clothes shouldn’t reflect the latest styles in dog apparel.
Choose wisely to keep them comfortable but don’t forget to have some fun!
Another important purchase is the perfect dog harness. While collars are standard accessories, there are many reasons why dog harnesses are necessary.
Not only are there more stylish choices available, but they also give you more security and control during walks.
For some dogs, harnesses are also a safer choice.
Health and Medical Requirements
If there’s nothing obviously wrong with your new puppy, wait a week before you take them to the vet. That will give them time to adjust to their new family and new home without the added stress of a vet visit.
The shelter or the breeder where your new dog came from should give you your dog’s updated health record. That should tell you what vaccines your dog still needs.
Core Vaccines for Dogs
Generally, dogs must receive the following vaccines:
- Canine Parvovirus – A highly contagious virus that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Dogs affected by this can die within 2 to 3 days.
- Distemper – A fatal virus that affects the gastrointestinal, nervous, and respiratory systems.
- Canine Hepatitis – A serious virus that attacks the liver and affects the kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels.
- Rabies – A fatal virus that affects the nervous system. An infected animal typically transmits it by biting. In some states and countries, rabies vaccination is legally required.
Additional Vaccines for Dogs
The following vaccines are optional. Getting them would depend on your dog’s environment and exposure risk.
You and your trusted vet should decide whether it’s a good idea to vaccinate against these diseases.
- Bordetella bronchiseptica – Infectious bacteria that affects the respiratory system. It is one of the causes of a common illness called “kennel cough.”
- Borrelia burgdorferi –bacteria that causes Lyme disease in dogs. This is typically transmitted by ticks.
- Leptospira bacteria – Bacteria that cause leptospirosis. This is typically transmitted through contact with infected waters.
The frequency and timing of all vaccines will depend on your vet’s evaluation.
Usually, this depends on the potency of the vaccine itself. Your dog’s age, lifestyle, environment, and medical history will also factor in.
When your puppy has adjusted to their new living situation, ask your local vet to do a general check-up. This involves a physical examination where your vet will feel your puppy's different body parts.
They’ll also use a stethoscope to listen to your pup’s heartbeat and breathing. Lastly, they'll check your dog's ears, teeth, and genitals.
Vets will make recommendations on your puppy’s care based on this general check-up.
Make sure to ask about oral hygiene, dietary suggestions, and parasite prevention to care for your dog's health. Your vet will also be able to give you grooming tips to keep your puppy healthy and clean.
Bathing and Grooming
Different dogs will have different grooming requirements.
For example, caring for Poodles will be unlike caring for French Bulldogs or Pugs. Most of the difference is because of the texture of their coats.
Dogs don’t need to bathe as often as you might think. In fact, the ASPCA recommends that you wash your dog at least once every three months.
Of course, this really depends on many factors, including your dog’s lifestyle and health.
If they suffer from skin conditions or spend a lot of time outdoors, you might need to bathe them more often. The schedule is something you can decide with your vet.
No matter how often you choose to wash your pet, make sure you use a shampoo that’s made specifically for them. Human shampoo may have chemicals that could irritate your dog’s skin.
After each bath, make sure to dry them as thoroughly as you can. Pay special attention to the ears and folds to avoid infections.
Related: How To Wash Dog Laundry
Brushing helps spread your dog’s natural oils throughout its coat.
It’s important to do this regularly to keep their hair in good condition. It will also help keep their skin healthy. Additionally, this is a great way to bond as well as check for fleas and ticks.
How often you need to brush your dog’s hair really depends on your dog’s coat. It’s always best to consult with your vet but here’s a general guide:
Bacteria and plaque can quickly form on your dog’s teeth. If you don’t clean it regularly, they’ll end up with tartar.
That can cause a variety of serious oral problems. Among them are tooth loss, receding gums, and gingivitis.
Generally, it’s recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth at least twice or three times a week.
Use toothpaste that’s formulated for dogs. And, experiment with various tools to see which works best for you and your pup.
There are dog toothbrushes, which are different from human toothbrushes. They have longer handles, smaller brush heads, and softer bristles. There are also brushes that go over your finger to give you more control.
How quickly nails grow varies per individual dog and their lifestyle. Because of that, there's really no standard schedule.
Walking on pavement helps file nails down. So, dogs that spend a lot of time outside require trimming less frequently.
Generally, you know they’re due for a trim when their nails start clicking on the floor as they walk. To trim your dog’s nails, you can choose among the available tools. The most common are scissor-type clippers, guillotine-type clippers, and electric nail grinders.
You may also want to use an emery board to smoothen rough edges after every cut.
Never probe inside your dog’s ear canal. Doing so can cause injury and infection. To properly care for your dog’s ears, all you need to do is a regular inspection.
If the ears appear dirty, take a cotton ball that’s dampened with a liquid ear cleaner. Then, gently wipe the dirt in the direction opposite the ear canal.
You can always ask your vet for a more thorough inspection and cleaning if your dog ever needs it.
Exercising and Training
Ample exercise is crucial to having a well-behaved dog. Without exercise, they can easily get bored. They'll use up their pent-up energy on destructive behavior.
This might include being hyperactive indoors and chewing on your things. They might also bark incessantly and bug you for attention.
Daily Exercise Requirements
Your dog’s exercise requirements will depend on a variety of things. This includes their age, breed, and health condition.
Puppies generally have more energy than adults. But, they won’t be able to tolerate long sessions of intense exercise.
A 3-month-old puppy might need no more than two 15-minute exercise sessions per day. On the other hand, a 6-month-old might require around 30 minutes of exercise, twice a day.
Once dogs turn 1, they’re considered adults. They will either need more exercise or less, depending on their breed.
Here’s a rough guide for how much exercise the typical adult dog really needs, based on their breed:
For adult dogs, you can meet the minimum daily exercise requirement all in one go. But there’s also a benefit to cutting it into two sessions per day.
Remember that this is just a basic recommendation. It’ll be up to you to observe your dog and adjust based on how they respond.
Generally, dogs are more easily trained after exercise. This is because they’ve already expended their pent-up energy.
You can indeed hire a dog trainer for basic obedience. But there are plenty of benefits to training your dog yourself. It could be a very fulfilling activity for you, and it’s definitely a great bonding experience.
The trick to training your own dog is discovering exactly what motivates them. Like most dogs, food is probably what drives your puppy.
Pick up some high-quality training treats and use them as rewards whenever they get things right. Other dogs are more motivated by toys or even by petting and scratches.
No matter what it is, try to figure it out because it’ll be the most valuable puppy training tool you can have.
Dog toys may seem like a luxury, but they’re actually very important in having a well-behaved dog. Generally, it’s recommended that you to have four kinds of toys:
Chew toys – These help address a dog’s natural tendency to chew. By giving them something of their own to chew, you keep them from destroying your own stuff. Chew toys also give them something to do when they’re bored.
Playtime toys – These are used only during active play and are not meant for chewing all day long. These include fetch balls, frisbees, and similar toys.
Comfort toys – These might bring a sense of security, especially for dogs with separation anxiety. They include plush dog toys, blankets, and squeaky toys.
Interactive toys – These help with mental stimulation. They might include puzzle toys, treat-dispensing toys, and tetherballs.
Bringing your Puppy Home
If you’re sharing your home with others, avoid overwhelming the dog.
Keep in mind that simply being in a new place could make them scared and anxious. The best way to introduce your new dog to its human family is to gather everyone in one place and keep the dog on a loose leash.
Make sure everyone is calm and ask them to wait for the dog to approach them and not the other way around.
A very good way for human family members to meet a new dog for the first time is first to take it for a walk. This gets rid of their excess energy and will make it easier to control them.
Then, give each family member a high-value treat to hold. If the dog approaches them, they hand over the treat. This helps the dog associate positive feelings with each one.
Throughout the entire introduction, keep in mind that you’re in control. Make sure you observe the dog’s body language. A wagging tail is generally a good sign.
If they look excited, relaxed, and eager to play, keep at it because the dog is comfortable and social.
On the other hand, if their tail is stiff and their ears are folded back, you might want to take the dog out of the situation and try even more slowly next time. Other obvious signs of discomfort are pulling back or even growling or being aggressive.
In any case, the leash will help you exercise control. Respond according to what you feel is best for the dog.
Introducing Other Pets
If you have cats and other social pets, supervise heavily and observe how each animal reacts to one another. There’s a chance that resident pets will be territorial and unwelcoming to newcomers.
In that case, keep them apart and give them a few minutes at a time to interact with each other. Separate them as soon as you observe signs of discomfort or aggression.
The most important thing to do when introducing resident pets to your new dog is to keep calm. Chances are that the animals will take their cue from you.
If they see that you’re calm and eager for them to interact, they’re more likely to feel safe and trust each other.
Here's a checklist for new puppy owners to ensure they have everything they need to provide a happy and healthy dog life for their new pup:
- Food and water bowls
- Puppy food (choose a high-quality brand)
- Leash and collar or harness
- Crate or playpen
- Puppy pads or newspapers
- Toys for teething and play
- Secure any hazardous areas
- Block access to stairs or balconies
- Cover electrical cords and outlets
- Store cleaning products and chemicals out of reach
- Schedule a checkup with a veterinarian
- Get your new puppy vaccinated
- Consider spaying or neutering your new puppy
- Start potty training and basic obedience
- Socialize your new puppy with other dogs and people
- Consider enrolling in a puppy training class
- Provide a balanced and nutritious diet
- Feed your puppy according to their age and weight
- Avoid feeding human food, which can be harmful to new puppies
With this checklist, you can ensure that you have everything you need to provide a happy and healthy dog's life for your new puppy.
At this point, you have everything from vaccination to dog apparel covered. It’s time to relax and enjoy the joys as well as the pains of being a new dog parent.
For most things, you just need to trust your gut. At the end of the day, your love for your new companion will give you the right instincts to give them the best care possible.