Guide For The First Year of Your Puppy's Life
Bringing home a new puppy is an absolute joy, but make no mistake about it, adopting a puppy also means taking on lots of new responsibilities. Not only that, there is a bit of an art to raising a puppy. To help you understand what to expect each step of the way, and what you will need to take care of, our vets provide you with a stage-by-stage list of guidelines for providing your puppy with the best possible care throughout their first year.
0 - 8 Weeks - Preparing To Bring Your New Puppy Home
Depending on where your new puppy is coming from, and how old your pup will be when they join your household, the first three steps may be taken by the breeder, adoption agency or by you.
- Between the ages of 6 - 8 weeks your puppy should receive their first round of vaccinations.
- Early stage toilet training should begin
- Begin early socialization by introducing your puppy to new people and dogs that you know have been fully vaccinated
Before you bring your puppy home here are a few things you need to do to prepare for your new four-legged family member.
- Create a dedicated space in your home that is just for your puppy with a comfy bed and puppy-safe toys. The area should be protected from drafts but somewhere not too isolated. You will likely want to purchase an appropriately sized crate to keep your puppy when you aren't able to supervise, or indoor fencing to create a small pen for your pup.
- Purchase puppy-safe soft toys and chew toys. Be sure to choose items that are a good size for your new fur-baby. Do not give large breed puppies toys that are designed for small or toy breeds as these can pose a choking hazard for your puppy.
- Puppy proof your home! Remove all plants that are poisonous to pets, clean up children's toys and store them out of your puppy's reach, and ensure that all chemicals (such as cleaning solutions) are stored safely out of your puppy's reach.
- Choose a veterinarian that is close to your home and offers all the services your puppy will need to stay healthy throughout their lifetime. Be sure to check the veterinary clinic's opening hours to see if they are convenient for you.
- Enrol your fur-baby in puppy classes. Classes operated by reputable trainers can fill up fast, particularly in busy urban areas, so sign up early so you and your puppy won't miss out.
8 - 12 Weeks - Welcoming Your Puppy Into Your Home
Is there anything more exciting than bringing your new puppy home? No doubt you will be smitten by your delightful puppy's unique personality, but it's important to remember that what they learn in these early days will have a huge impact on their future behavior.
- When you pick up your new puppy ask if you can have a blanket, toy or other fabric that was used by your puppy's mother, siblings or human caregiver to help your puppy feel more comfortable in their new home.
- Keep in mind that until your puppy receives all 4 rounds of vaccinations and booster shots. If your puppy hasn't had their first round of vaccinations and parasite prevention yet, booking your puppy's first vet appointment should be your number one priority.
- Socialization at this stage is essential for building your puppy's social skills and confidence. Have friends and family stop by to meet your puppy and continue to introduce your new fur-baby to other pets that you know are fully vaccinated.
- Introduce new experiences gradually such as grooming, having their ears or feet touched, and being carried or held by family members.
- When out in public carry your puppy until they are fully vaccinated. Some highly contagious, potentially life threatening conditions can be contracted through even very brief contact with an infected dog's urine or feces.
- Establish routines at home for feeding times, play times and bedtime. Also begin setting rules by positively reinforcing good behavior and when safe ignoring bad behavior. Positive reinforcement will help you puppy to learn acceptable behavior quickly and help you to form a deep and lasting bond with your pet.
- Choose a reputable, nutritious food for your puppy and stick to it. Changing foods frequently can lead to tummy trouble for your pup and some very messy accidents. Begin with the food being used by your breeder, then gradually introduce the new food a little at a time in order to avoid GI issues.
- Begin to leave you puppy alone for short periods of time then gradually increase the time as your puppy becomes comfortable with being alone.
- Continue toilet training, be sure to always use positive reinforcement to encourage appropriate toileting habits.
12 Weeks - 6 Months - Puppy Training
These weeks are often considered to be the most fun and the most challenging as your puppy begins to have fun and explore their world. Remember that positive reinforcement is best.
- Once your pup is fully vaccinated it's time to head out and explore the neighborhood with on-leash walks, stopping to say hi to new people and other dogs along the way.
- Begin puppy training classes to establish good obedience and on-leash behaviors.
- Get some good insight into your puppy's likes and dislikes so that you can utilize their favorite toys and activities as part of positive reinforcement during training.
- Don't be alarmed if your puppy sleeps more than you had expected. Puppies are growing and learning fast which means they need a lot of sleep to keep up with this learning curve.
6 Months - Adulthood - Ongoing Training, Parasite Prevention & Reproductive Surgery
Your puppy may be getting much closer to adult size but remember their brains and personality development are still in the early stages.
- Speak to your vet about when you should have your dog spayed or neutered. Recommended ages vary widely these days, your vet is in the best position to give you advice that applies to your pet's size, breed and lifestyle.
- Now that your dog is out exploring more of the world and meeting other dogs parasite prevention becomes increasingly important. Speak to your vet to learn about parasites in your neighborhood and how to protect your pet.
- Continue to attend obedience classes and work on your puppy's on-lease walking skills.
- Gradually switch to a high-quality adult dog food. Speak to your vet for advice on which brands or foods would be best for your dog based on their size, breed and lifestyle.
How you care for your puppy during their first 6 months of life will have a profound impact on your lifelong relationship with each other. Positive reinforcement, quality time spent together playing and training, plus taking care of your puppy's healthcare requirements will help to build a fabulous relationship that you will both treasure. Have fun!
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.