Take Care of Puppies
A puppy is a fun, exciting, and adorable addition to your family. Puppies are also a lot of work, but if you remain committed and stick with it, you will be rewarded with a loyal, happy, and loving companion. Your new puppy should be at least eight weeks old. Pups are usually weaned at eight weeks, and it's unhealthy to remove them from their mothers before then. If your puppies are younger than this, check out How to Care for Newborn Puppies.
Bringing the Puppy Home
- Make sure that the puppy you are getting is right for you. Does its coat suit your climate? Is it small enough to live in your apartment or house? Does its energy level suit the amount of exercise you can provide? Careful consideration of these questions will ensure your puppy's well-being and will also impact the happiness of your household.
- Puppy Proof Your Home. Puppies love to explore with their mouths. To keep your puppy and house safe, you'll need to take a few precautions.
- Remove breakable items from the area where you plan to keep your puppy.
- Keep all electrical cords raised or covered, and close all low windows.
- Lock away toxic cleaning supplies/chemicals.
- Get a trash can that is too tall for him to get into and too heavy to knock over, or store the trash can in a cabinet.
- Consider getting a folding gate or exercise pen to keep him confined to a certain room or area.
- Provide space for the puppy. The kitchen or bathroom is an ideal place for his bed during the day because those rooms are usually warm and have washable floors. At night, keep your puppy in his crate in your bedroom. This will allow you to hear him during the night, so you will know if he needs to go outside to relieve himself.
- Buy two metal (stainless steel) bowls — one for food and one for water. These are better than glass because they do not chip and stay cleaner. If you have other pets, be sure to give each pet their own food and water bowls to avoid conflict. At feeding time, you will separate them to prevent fighting over food and to ensure each pet gets the nutrition they need.
- Provide a puppy bed. You might consider a crate with a crate pillow, a snuggle nest, or a wicker basket with a lot of towels. Whichever option you choose, make sure it is always soft, clean, comfy, and dry. Have a blanket on hand in case of cool weather. To avoid conflict, each pet should have their own bed.
- Shower him with toys. Your puppy will be a ball of boundless energy, so make sure you get plenty of toys, including both chew toys and soft toys. The toys should be sturdy enough to prevent choking hazards. Don't give rawhide to puppies as a toy; use it only as a treat and watch him as he chews.
- Choose the right puppy treats. Training treats should be healthy, small, and easily chewed or swallowed. Their purpose is to communicate quickly that the puppy did something you liked, but you don't want to wait around for them to finish eating when you want to continue the training.
- Consider “Bil Jac” or “Zuke’s Mini Natural” treats.
- Look for treats about the size of a pencil eraser head. If your treats are larger, break them up into smaller pieces.
- Make sure you get a variety: crunchy and soft. The soft will be good for training, and the crunchy will help clean teeth.
- Get him quality puppy food. Kibble, canned food, home cooked food, and a raw diet are all options for a puppy, but discuss each with your veterinarian. When you first get your puppy, ask the breeder, rescue group, or shelter what food your puppy was eating with them. You can continue that diet when they first come to their new home. If you want to make a change, do so after a few weeks, and transition to the new food gradually, over a week or so. Changing foods abruptly can cause vomiting or diarrhea.
- Buy a puppy food with no dyes, artificial flavors, or preservatives, as many dogs are allergic to these additives.
- A raw or home-cooked meal is a serious commitment, as you will need to take extra steps to prepare the food and ensure your puppy's nutritional needs are met. Discuss these options with the veterinarian first.
- Buy the basic grooming tools. At the very least, every dog owner needs a bristle brush, comb, rubber gloves, nail clippers, dog shampoo, dog conditioner, dog toothpaste, dog toothbrush, and towels. Grooming isn't just about keeping your dog pretty. These tools will keep him healthy and happy, too.
- Provide a nylon harness, flat collar (webbed nylon or leather), and metal tag. Poorly sized collars can hurt puppies' necks and injure their throats. Remember when sizing the harness or collar that your puppy will grow.
- Get the puppy comfortable in your home. Your puppy might be frightened when introduced to his new home for the first time. Give him extra love and attention those first few days. While wearing a light leash, let your puppy investigate different parts of the house and yard while you follow him around. You don’t have to show him everything on the first day, but the common areas are a good start.
- Do not let your puppy roam free because accidents will happen.
- Have your puppy sleep in your room in his crate at night so he doesn't feel isolated or alone.
- Pet him often. It's important to stroke your pet's body, legs, and head often throughout the day. This will not only make him feel loved, but also allow you to create a strong bond with your puppy.
It will also get him used to being touched and handled.
- Pet your puppy and stroke down his legs, touch his paws, and his belly so he will be comfortable with this contact in the future when you need to have him groomed or clip his nails.
- Handle your puppy with care. Puppies, like human babies, are fragile. Gently scoop your puppy into your arms if you need to pick him up. Keep one hand under his chest at all times and support his bottom with your other hand.
- Protect your puppy. Puppies are naturally curious, and even with the most attentive care they sometimes escape the yard and get lost. Make sure your puppy wears a comfortable adjustable collar with a tag that lists your contact information. The tag should include your puppy's name, along with your address and phone number.
- Many jurisdictions require you to Get a Dog License in Pennsylvania. It's a good idea to get your puppy licensed even if it's not required.
- Your puppy will need to have its rabies vaccination to receive his dog license.
- Have a microchip implanted. The microchip is tiny — about the size of a grain of rice — and is placed under the skin, behind the neck and above the shoulders. You will register the microchip with your contact information when the vet implants it in your puppy. If he ever gets lost, a vet or shelter will be able to scan the chip and call you to reunite you with your pet.
- Even if your puppy has a collar and tag, experts recommend that all pets have microchips that can't be removed.
- Provide a safe area for him to play. A securely-fenced yard is ideal. Experiment a little to find out which toys he likes best. Indoors, use an exercise pen to confine your dog in his own “playpen” or play area until he is house trained.
Feeding Your Puppy
- Choose the right dog food. While it's tempting to go for the cheap stuff, this is not the best choice for your dog. Look for foods that incorporate high-quality proteins from fish, chicken, lamb, beef, and/or eggs. Talk to your veterinarian about diet choices. If you plan to change his food, do so gradually to reduce the chance of an upset stomach.
- Feed your puppy properly. Give him small amounts of food formulated for puppies several times a day. The amount of food for each meal depends on the breed and size; look up the recommended amounts for your breed. Feed your puppy only the smallest amount recommended for his breed, age, and size. Increase the amount if the puppy seems too thin, or as directed by your veterinarian. The number of daily feedings depends on the puppy's age:
- six – 12 weeks: three to four times daily
- 12 – 20 weeks: three times daily
- 20+ weeks: two times daily
- Follow the special feeding guidelines for small or toy breed dogs. Very small breeds (Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, etc.) may be prone to low blood sugar. These puppies often need access to food all day long (or every two to three hours) until about 6 months of age. This prevents their blood sugar from dipping too low, which can lead to weakness, confusion, and even seizures.
- Avoid buffet-style feeding. Meal feeding will help with housebreaking and prevent your dog from gorging on food. Furthermore, your puppy will bond with you by associating good things like food with the humans in the household. The puppy should have a limited time, probably 20 minutes, to finish its food.
- Watch your puppy eat. Watching your puppy eat is a good way to gauge his health. If he seems uninterested in his food all of a sudden, take note of it. The behavior may be due to a simple food preference issue, but it could also be a medical concern.
- It's your job to notice any change in his behavior. Follow through with a call to your veterinarian, and take the proper steps to uncover the cause of the change.
- Do not feed your dog table scraps. It may be tempting, but remember that human food can make your dog unhealthily obese. Alongside the serious health risk, feeding your dogs table scraps can train them to beg — one of the hardest habits to break.
- To ensure good health, feed your dog food specifically designed for him.
- Ignore him completely while you're eating at the table.
- Check with your veterinarian about “people” foods that are safe for dogs. These might include roasted chicken breast or fresh green beans.
- Foods high in fats can cause problems like pancreatitis in dogs.
- Protect your dog from toxic foods. Your puppy’s body is very different from yours. Some of the foods you are able to digest are dangerously toxic to him. If your puppy eats something toxic, call the Animal Poison Control Center immediately (888-426-4435 in the US) and your veterinarian. A partial list of foods of such foods includes:
- Xylitol (a sweetener)
- Provide adequate fresh water. Unlike food, you should leave a full bowl of fresh water out for your pets at all times. Be aware that your puppy will have to urinate shortly after drinking a large amount of water. Take him to your fenced backyard on leash so he doesn't have accidents in your house.
Keeping Your Dog Healthy
- Keep your puppy's environment safe. An unsafe or dirty environment can be harmful to his overall wellbeing and can cost you a lot of money in veterinary bills.
- Wash dirty bedding right away. House-train your puppy, and replace bedding ASAP if you find urine or feces.
- Get rid of harmful plants. There are many common plants that are toxic to puppies who like to chew. Keep lily of the valley, oleander, azalea, yew, foxglove, rhododendron, rhubarb, and shamrock far away from your puppy. Refer to this list from the ASPCA to learn more about which plants are safe for your home when you have pets: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants
- Make sure he gets plenty of exercise. Different breeds need varying amounts of exercise. (This is a factor you should consider when choosing a puppy). Take your puppy into the yard or garden on leash after meals to explore and get a little exercise. Begin taking him on short walks outside the yard when your veterinarian says it is safe. It is normal for puppies to have short bursts of energy followed by long naps.
- While your puppy's body is still developing, avoid rough play and strenuous exercise. Save long (over one mile) runs until he's at least 9 months old.
- Give your puppy about an hour of walk-time a day, broken into two to four walks. Allow him to interact with other (friendly) dogs he meets. (Do this only once your puppy has finished his vaccination series).
- Choose a veterinarian if you don’t already have one. Ask your friends for veterinarian recommendations. Once you have a few options, visit each clinic to see which one you like best. Choose a clinic that is friendly, well managed, and smells clean. Ask questions to the vet and the staff—they should always answer to the best of their ability. Be sure you feel comfortable with whichever vet you choose.
- Vaccinate your puppy. When he's six to nine weeks old, take him to the vet to begin his vaccination series. Talk to the vet about distemper, parainfluenza, canine hepatitis, and parvovirus. They may have suggestions for other important vaccines as well, depending on the risks of your particular dog and your specific area.
- Make sure to talk about deworming medication during your first vet visit. The veterinarian may recommend deworming for routine parasites like roundworms right away. Or, he or she may want to get a stool sample for fecal analysis to verify parasites before prescribing medication.
- Deworming is a good idea not only for your puppy's health, but also for your own. Many of the parasites that infect your puppy can be passed to humans and cause health problems in your family.
- After your first visit, return to the vet for a rabies vaccination when your puppy is 12 to 16 weeks old. Ask your veterinarian about the recommended (and legally required) rabies vaccination protocol for your area.
- Socialize your puppy. The prime socialization period for puppies is from seven to 16 weeks of age. You should strongly consider puppy preschool to acclimate him to other dogs before that period runs out. Puppy preschools provide safe, supervised play for puppies still finishing their vaccination series. Most puppies have completed their distemper/parvo series of vaccines by the age of 16 weeks.
- Get your puppy spayed or neutered. Talk to your veterinarian about their recommendations for the timing of of the surgery. Vets usually recommend waiting until after the vaccines, but there may be other considerations.
- For instance, spay procedures are more complex and expensive for larger breeds. The vet may recommend spaying before she reaches 50 or 60 pounds if your dog is particularly large.
- Spay female dogs before their first heat cycle. This reduces the risk of pyometra, ovarian cancer, and mammary tumors.
- Make vet trips fun. Bring treats and toys to vet appointments to teach your puppy to enjoy (or at least tolerate) the experience. Before his first checkup, introduce your puppy to having his feet, tail and face touched. That way, it won't be so strange for him when the vet inspects him.
- Watch for health problems.Keep an eye on your puppy to catch any problems early. The eyes should be bright, and the eyes and nostrils should be free of discharge. The puppy's coat should be clean and shiny; watch out for matting or thinning. Check your pup for bumps, inflammation, or rashes on the skin, as well as signs of diarrhea around the tail.
Grooming Your Puppy
- Brush your puppy daily. Brushing keeps your pet clean and healthy and allows you to check his skin and fur for problems. Brush type and other washing and grooming requirements vary by breed. Check with your veterinarian, groomer or breeder for more information.
- Brush all over the puppy, including his belly and hind legs.
- Start when your puppy is young so that he isn't afraid of the brush.
- Start in short lessons, using treats and toys. Brush him for only a few minutes at a time at first to avoid overwhelming him.
- Do not brush the face and legs with instruments that may cause pain.
- Trim your puppy's nails. Ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you the proper nail-cutting technique. Improper technique can hurt your puppy if you cut into the quick of his nail. This is especially important if your puppy has black nails that make it hard to spot the quick.
- Nails that are too long can cause strain to your dog's wrists, as well as damage floors, furniture, and possibly people.
- Plan to trim your puppy's nails every two to four weeks unless directed otherwise by your vet.
- Use treats and praise, and start with only trimming a few at a time to avoid overwhelming him.
- Keep your puppy's teeth and gums healthy. Chew toys help a puppy keep his teeth healthy. Toothbrushes and toothpaste made specifically for dogs are also helpful in keeping your pup's teeth clean and healthy. Acclimate your puppy to having his teeth brushed slowly so that it is a positive experience for him. Don’t forget to shower him with treats and praise!
- Only bathe your puppy when he needs it. Washing more than necessary can dry out your dog's skin and strip important oils from his coat. Gradually introduce your puppy to water and the process of getting bathed. Give him treats and praise, as always.
Training Your Puppy
- Housebreak your dog. Start this process the first day you bring your puppy home. The longer you wait, the more mess you'll have to deal with, and the harder it will be to train your dog. Consider using training pads for the first few days. While these should not replace taking him outside, they're useful as an intermediate stage. Consider them especially if you don't have a backyard.
- Remember that a puppy has a tiny bladder and may need to go outside as frequently as every 30 minutes.
- Confine the puppy with the newspapers or training pads in the exercise pen when unsupervised.
- Don't let him wander the house. If you are not playing with him, place him in his crate or exercise pen, or tether him to your belt or sitting area.
- Pay attention to cues that he needs to eliminate, and take him outside immediately. Take him to the same spot each time.
- Praise (and treat) him immediately for using the outdoors!
- Consider crate training your dog. Crate training is helpful for many reasons. It curbs destructive behavior, allowing you to sleep and leave your dog alone without worrying. It is also an effective method of potty training (when used correctly).
- Teach your dog basic commands. A well-mannered dog is a joy to have in the family. Start out on the right paw by teaching good habits early, and you and your pet will have a better relationship. It's harder to break bad habits than to create good ones in the first place.
- Get your dog used to car rides. Take your puppy on regular car rides to get him used to traveling with you. Otherwise, the car ride can cause anxiety. If your puppy gets carsick, talk to your veterinarian about medication to manage the nausea. This will make the ride more pleasant for both of you.
- Make sure your dog is secured in the car. Consider a dog car seat, safety harness, barrier, or crate to avoid accidents and keep your dog safe.
- Remember to never leave your dog in the car on cold or warm days. The temperature inside a car can rise rapidly on warm or hot days, endangering your dog's life. On an 85°F (29.4°C) day, the temperature inside a car can rise to 102°F (39°C) within 10 minutes, even with the windows cracked. If it is too cold outside, dogs can freeze when left in the car.
- Enroll in an obedience class for puppies. This will help you better train your dog, of course. But it will also socialize him, helping him learn how to act around unfamiliar dogs and people.
- Be careful with small children and make sure everyone knows the rules for the puppy (e.g. holding, no rough housing, etc.)
- Make sure your puppy gets an adequate amount of rest (at least 6 to 10 hours).
- Give your puppy lots of love, positive attention, and gentle (but also firm) guidance about good behavior.
- If you got the puppy for a child, be prepared to look after it yourself because younger children often lose interest and will not know how to train the dog properly.
- Wash your puppy's food bowls daily with warm water and a little dish soap. Or, just throw them in the dishwasher. Washing food bowls prevents illness and bacteria from growing. It also makes each mealtime more enjoyable.
- Instead of trying to brush your dog's teeth, you can give your dog cow ears or something similar for it to chew on. When your dog chews that item, it will scrape their teeth.
- Be careful, for other dogs or animals can attack and/or kill your puppy. It's your responsibility to take care of it. If going out without a fence, then try to have it on a leash. Puppies can easily wander off, and because they are so small, it can be hard to find them.
- Call your puppy by its name regularly. The puppy will recognize its name in time.
- Make sure to spend a lot of time with your pup.
- Puppies are playful, they need lots of exercises but remember, they still need their rest!
- Make sure you play with your puppy and give him/her attention throughout the day.
- Don't expose him to unfamiliar dogs without all their vaccines finished. You should socialize your puppy early with friendly, vaccinated dogs on uncontaminated property.
- Do not leave anything lying around that your puppy could choke on.
- This page is only for puppies eight weeks old and older. You should not buy or adopt a puppy younger than eight weeks old because they are too young to go to a new home. In some states, that is the law.
- Love Your Puppy
- Groom a Dog
- Groom a Longhair Dog
- Take Care of Your Dog's Basic Needs
- Deal with a Dog Pregnancy
Sources and Citations