What could be better than bringing home a new puppy? There’s so much to love—all that jaw-dropping cuteness, the boundless energy, and those silly antics! But a puppy is a lot of responsibility too.
Your little furball will need all sorts of supplies from leashes to puppy chow as well as veterinary care, plenty of walks, and good training. Use these new puppy care tips to help you give your little pal a great home.
Before you run out and adopt a new puppy, you need to make absolutely sure that this is the right decision for you and your family. Puppies need a lot of care, so everyone in your household should be on board and ready to help out.
If you don’t own your home, you should also talk to your landlord about getting a new puppy. It can be heartbreaking to bring home a new puppy only to find out that pets are not allowed.
Remember too that puppies don’t stay puppies forever. Depending on the breed you pick, your small friend could grow into a big adult dog. Make sure you have the space to accommodate a growing dog. Outdoor space, whether it's a backyard or nearby park, is important for your four-legged friend to enjoy the fresh air and get lots of exercise.
Before you run out and adopt a new puppy, you need to make absolutely sure that this is the right decision for you and your family.
You also need to be committed to keeping your puppy healthy over the long term. This means getting your puppy routine preventive care, such as yearly exams, vaccines, and annual heartworm testing. It can also mean paying for treatment when your puppy suffers from an unexpected injury or illness, which can be costly depending on the situation.
Luckily, you can get help managing the costs of your puppy’s medical needs with an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. Get a quote now to see what kinds of options are available and how much they would cost.
Once you’re set on adopting a new puppy, you can visit your local shelter to see who might be waiting for you. Shelters are great places to adopt from since you’ll be giving a deserving animal a loving home and helping to address pet overpopulation.
I recommend checking out the ASPCA’s national database of adoptable puppies and dogs at shelters in your area. If you’re in the New York City area, you can visit their shelter on the Upper East Side.
Every shelter will have its own adoption process, but it’s usually pretty straightforward. You’ll probably need to fill out an application, which will likely ask for your contact information, proof of age, and history of pet ownership. Some shelters have a waiting period, usually 24 hours or so, before you can bring your new puppy home. This is to help ensure that you’re sure about and comfortable with your decision.
There may also be a fee involved, but it’s usually less than if you had bought your puppy from a breeder or pet store. Some shelters also ask that new puppy parents cover any veterinary costs that their adoptee might have needed before the adoption.
If you’re a first-time puppy parent, you probably have a lot of questions about good puppy care. What should I feed my new puppy? When should my puppy go to the vet? How do I potty train my puppy? Your veterinarian is the best resource for answering questions about puppy care, but these suggestions can help.
By the way, if you need to find a veterinarian for your new puppy, you can search for one in your area using this Vet Clinic Finder. Keep in mind that you can use any licensed veterinarian in the US or Canada with an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan—not only the ones listed in our Vet Clinic Finder. This also includes veterinary specialists like dermatologists, cardiologists, and neurologists.
A healthy diet is important for a growing puppy, so stock your pantry with plenty of brand name puppy food. Talk with your veterinarian about good options for your puppy’s breed and age.
And while a few treats now and again are fine, don’t overdo it. Store bought treats can be packed with sugar, fats, and salt. You can try offering your puppy pet-safe fruits and veggies as a healthy alternative.
No one likes getting shots—ouchie! Vaccines may cause a little pinch, but they can protect your puppy against serious diseases that can result in much more pain and suffering than a quick injection.
Ask the shelter where you adopt your puppy for a copy of your pal's health records, including vaccinations. That way you can have them in-hand when you take your puppy for the first veterinary visit. This initial visit should take place within the first week after adoption. During that exam, the doctor will make sure your puppy is healthy and recommend a vaccine schedule.
Puppies typically get vaccinated for Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza, and Coronavirus, which can be done in a combination vaccine. Puppies will also need a rabies vaccine and possibly one for Lyme’s Disease.
There are also other vaccines that may be recommended as your puppy gets older depending on the situation. For instance, if your pooch will be around other dogs a lot, such as at a doggie day care or kennel, your veterinarian may recommend vaccines for Bordetella (also called Kennel cough) and the Canine Influenza Virus (CIV). These are highly contagious diseases that can get passed easily between dogs in close quarters.
Your veterinarian will let you know what shots your puppy needs and when to get them. Here is example of a typical puppy shot schedule:
This is only an example. Your veterinarian may have different guidelines that could change based on your puppy’s age, breed, and overall health.
As a new puppy parent, training your puppy falls squarely in your court. It’s your job to make sure your puppy learns to behave and matures into a healthy, happy, and well-mannered dog. Of course, your grown dog won’t be saying please and thank you, but your pooch should listen to your commands and act appropriately in different situations.
Training your puppy won’t happen overnight. It requires plenty of patience, perseverance, and consistency. The methods you use to train your puppy will depend on your personal style, your puppy’s personality, and the task or behavior you’re working on.
Always go at your puppy’s pace and never yell at or hit your pooch. Instead, you can try techniques like these:
With a time out, you stop paying attention to your puppy until the unwanted behavior stops. Time outs can be especially useful when you’re teaching your puppy not to jump up on your legs when you come in the door. In this case, you would stand quietly and wait to give your puppy attention until all four paws are on the ground.
Be sure to pile on the praise when your puppy complies with your command or behaves correctly. A small treat never hurt either! You can also try to catch your puppy doing something right, like chewing on a toy rather than your shoe, and offer lots of kind words to reinforce the behavior.
Clicker training is a method of positive reinforcement where you use a clicker (which you can buy at a pet store) to make a clicking sound at the exact moment your furball does what you want. For instance, you would say, “Sit,” and hit the clicker the second your puppy’s rump touches the floor. Your puppy will eventually associate the clicking sound with a job well done. See more on how to clicker train your puppy.
Some puppies pick things up pretty quickly while others take longer to get the hang of it. It can also depend on what you’re trying to accomplish. For instance, teaching simpler tricks like sit and stay will likely be easier to teach than those with multiple steps, such as roll-over or fetch.
Keep in mind that using the same commands is important to help the process go smoothly and perhaps more quickly. If you use “down” and “off” alternately to get your puppy off the couch, your pooch may get confused.
You don’t have to go it alone. In addition to getting advice from your veterinarian, there are lots of options for training your puppy. For example, you can sign up for one-on-one sessions with a professional trainer, send your furball to group lessons at a puppy school, or enroll in individual puppy classes.
You can even join puppy socialization groups, which can help puppies get used to being around one another. These can be very helpful if your puppy was weaned early and didn’t have enough time rolling around with siblings. Puppies learn a lot from their littermates as well as their dog mama, which is why it’s important not to separate them too soon.
It’s smart to stock up on puppy supplies before you bring your little furball home. You can ask if the shelter has a new puppy checklist, but these are some of the items you’ll need to have on hand.
Although you can’t take your puppy for walks in the big world outside until all core vaccines have been given, you can introduce your puppy to a collar and leash right away. Getting them familiar with these accessories can help your puppy get used to the idea of going for a walk on a leash.
Try leaving the leash on the floor at first for your puppy to sniff. If your puppy starts to chew on it, say “No” and gently take the leash away.
There are quite a few different choices when it comes to leashes, including synthetic, leather, chain, and extendable or “flexi” styles. A popular choice for puppies are synthetic leashes, typically made of nylon. They are usually the least expensive of the bunch and tend to last longer, which can come in handy with a puppy who may drag the leash around and be tempted to chew on it.
As far as a collar, you should find one that fits your puppy comfortably—not too big so your little furball can slip out and not so tight that it is uncomfortable. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to slip two fingers between your puppy’s skin and the collar. Make sure you put an ID tag on that collar too. You never know if your puppy will get lost, and an ID tag can help make sure your puppy gets returned home.
Check out these Dog Walking Tips to find out more about dog walking gear and how to train your puppy to walk on a leash.
You’ll need a small dog crate to bring your puppy home and for future outings and veterinary visits. You should also crate train your puppy to provide a cozy place to retreat and rest. Just remember never to leave a puppy in a crate for long periods of time, and never use it as a form of punishment.
Your puppy should fit comfortably in the crate, but avoid getting one that seems to swallow your puppy whole, which can feel intimidating. A small puppy in a big crate can slide around and get hurt when you’re carrying it or driving around. Your puppy may also be more likely to tinkle in a larger crate. If your puppy is going to the bathroom in the crate, put an old towel or puppy pad inside.
Let’s face it. Puppies can be messy especially before they’re fully trained to do their business outside! A good enzymatic cleaner, which you can find at a local pet store, can be your best friend when it comes to cleaning up and getting rid of the smell.
Enzymatic cleaners contain enzymes to help break down pet waste odors and eliminate the stink. Be sure to follow the instructions and store this and any other household cleaning products safely.
Puppies love to chew! It’s good for them too—it helps alleviate the pain and pressure of teething, strengthens their jaw muscles, and relieves boredom and anxiety. Puppies also chew to explore the world. Since you won’t be able to stop your puppy from chewing, be sure to offer safe teething toys. Your socks and shoes will thank you!
Other items you might need are food and water bowls (of course!), a doggie bed for cozy naps, puppy pads for help with potty training, and a puppy playpen to establish a safe area for your puppy to play in either indoors or outside.
You can help keep your puppy safe by carefully puppy-proofing your home. For example, tape down or hide cords and wires that might trip your puppy up or be tempting to chew.
Store your cleaning products, medications, and anything else that might be toxic to your puppy securely out of paw’s reach.
Check out 101 Thing You Didn’t Know Could Harm Your Pet for more tips on making your home safe for your puppy and to download our free pet-proofing guide!
Unfortunately, try as you might, you can’t always keep your puppy out of trouble. Fortunately, you can get help managing your veterinary costs with a pet insurance plan. In fact, it’s a great idea to enroll puppies when they’re healthy and young, so you can be ready if and when they get hurt or sick. You can also get coverage for wellness care to help cover the costs of vaccines, yearly check-ups, spaying/neutering, and more! Learn more about puppy insurance.