Are you planning to adopt a puppy soon? Congrats! Bringing home a puppy is such an exciting and special time, but it can also be a little overwhelming for new Pet Parents. From puppy-proofing and crate training, to vet visits and vaccinations, there’s a lot to do!
It’s totally normal to have some questions during this process. We spoke with Dr. Libby Kaladeen, Medical Director at Bond Vet, to get some vet-approved answers to all of your new puppy FAQs.
What are the first steps a new pet parent should take in the 2 weeks before getting a puppy?
- Find a veterinarian near you so you’ll be ready for your puppy’s first visit and know where to go if your puppy shows any signs of illness.
- Obtain all needed supplies including puppy food, food and water bowls, a crate, a bed, training toys, etc.
- Puppy proof the home and set up a safe spot (a crate or small room, for example) for your puppy to stay when you can’t supervise them directly.
- If there are other pets in the home, have a plan for separating them at first and making a slow, supervised introduction over time.
What are the first steps Pet Parents should take when they bring their new puppy home?
- Have everyone in the home remain calm, quiet, and gentle, as moving to a new home is a big change and puppies may be nervous.
- Take your puppy to their designated potty spot frequently and reward them with praise/attention/a treat if they “go” there. This will help them learn faster.
- Try to maintain a predictable daily schedule or routine. This will help a puppy feel more secure because they will know what to expect.
- You can begin simple training right away. This can be as simple as discouraging behaviors you don’t want to see (like biting) by ignoring the puppy when they bite and then resuming attention/playtime when they sit calmly or interact gently.
What role should a veterinarian play in the process of bringing home a new puppy? Where should Pet Parents involve thier veterinarian, what types of questions should they ask, etc.?
You’ll want to bring your puppy for a vet visit within a few days after adoption to check that they are healthy. Depending on your puppy’s age, they may also need to continue their vaccinations and receive standard puppy dewormings. Common new puppy owner questions concern what/how often/how much to feed, bathing questions and advice, when to spay or neuter, and whether certain things (such as hiccups, car sickness, etc.) are normal. You can check with your vet regarding any behavior or physical symptom you’ve noticed if you want to be sure it’s okay. Definitely bring up anything you’re concerned about, such as potential symptoms of illness like vomiting or diarrhea, skin lesions, itchiness, etc.
Some pet parents also seek a veterinary consultation prior to adopting their new puppy. This is especially common when there are other pets in the home to make the transition as smooth and stress-free as possible for the new puppy and other pets alike.
How should pet parents puppy-proof their home to keep their new puppy safe? What common hazards should they look out for?
The most important thing is to have a “safe zone” where your puppy can go anytime you can’t supervise them directly—including overnight, while you’re at work, or even when you’re absorbed in a task. Think of new puppies like babies; without direct supervision, it’s important to limit the things they can get into. This safe zone could mean their crate, a large playpen, or even a room that can be blocked off by closing the door or putting up a baby gate. Make sure this area is comfortable with any supplies your puppy needs. Make it fun for them with chew toys for teething, etc., so they are comfortable going there and it doesn’t feel like a punishment or time out.
As puppies get a little older and better trained, most can slowly be allowed to have more independence as a pet parent becomes more confident that their puppy won’t get into anything harmful.
Pet parents should keep up EVERYTHING they don’t want to be turned into a chew toy, including purses, shoes, hats, socks, toys, pens, phones, laptops, etc. Additionally, potentially hazardous items should be kept well out of reach (too high for puppy to reach or in baby-proofed/locking drawers or cabinets). While one list can’t cover every potential hazard, common things to look out for include: electrical cords (risk of electric shock or burns in the mouth), toxic substances like cleaning products, medications (prescription AND over-the-counter alike), houseplants, small toys or objects that could be swallowed (coins, hair ties, batteries, Christmas ornaments, etc.), and fabrics that could be chewed and swallowed (items from the laundry basket may become stuck in the intestines if swallowed). Additionally, it’s best to avoid people food and table scraps for now, to prevent an upset stomach.
What are your essential pet products that every new puppy should have?
It’s important to have a space for your puppy that is all their own. It can be a place your puppy hands out when you can’t supervise them directly, but it’s also a place that’s their territory, where they feel safe and cozy. Often, a crate is a good choice. Using a playpen or blocking off a small room can also work. Within the crate or room, make sure your puppy has all the other supplies they’ll need, too.
Food and water bowls are important. A dog bed or comfy place to sleep is also a necessity, with the rare exception of pups who chew up their beds.
An appropriate food is crucial. Make sure it is puppy food, not adult food (food labeled for “all life stages” can also be appropriate). Large breed puppy food is best for large breed puppies specifically. If at all possible, try to find out what your puppy was eating before you adopted them and continue to feed that same food for at least a couple of weeks. Changing the food suddenly, along with all the other changes of moving to a new home, can cause stomach upset. If you plan to change to a new type of puppy food, you can then do so gradually once your puppy is settled in.
Healthy treats are also a great way to bond with your new puppy, as well as begin their training. Training treats are a good option available at many pet stores. They come in very small sizes so they can be used during training without a dog intaking too many calories. Overall, treats of any kind should only account for 10% or less of a dog’s daily calorie intake.
Toys are crucial for puppies. Play is natural for them, and they need both physical activity and mental stimulation. Puzzle feeders are a good option, in which treats or peanut butter can be hidden inside. Puppies will stay occupied for a while as they get the tasty stuff out. Chew toys can also be very helpful during teething. Some can be placed in the freezer so they are soothing to chew on. Also have toys you can use for playing together with your pup, such as a tug rope, ball for fetch, or stuffed or squeaky toy.
Why is crate training a valuable tool for young puppies?
A crate can feel like a den, which is something dogs are naturally drawn to for comfort and safety. Although it may take time to get a puppy used to their crate, it can become their safe space where they like to hang out or nap. Soon after adoption, a crate can also help a puppy learn potty training faster and get used to the routine of the home, such as sleep schedules.
What tips, tricks, and tools do you recommend for helping make the crate training process smoother for new pet parents?
It helps to make the crate as comfortable and friendly of a space as possible. First, make sure it is the right size. A puppy should have plenty of room to move around, as well as distinct areas for food/water and sleeping. Place a cozy bed inside. Offer safe toys, too. This means toys that can’t be easily chewed up, and that will help keep a puppy entertained, such as puzzle feeders and chew toys.
If at all possible, try to get your puppy used to the crate gradually. Let them spend a small amount of time inside with the door open. Offer praise and treats. Then, gradually increase the length of time and begin closing the door. If your puppy ever goes inside the crate on their own, offer praise or treats.
It might not always be possible to get a puppy used to the crate gradually, especially overnight or while you’re at work. Try to have a friend check on them during the day. Also, when your puppy goes into their crate, offer a special treat in their treat toy—something they only get when you’re leaving for work, for example, so it’s seen as an exciting moment rather than a stressful one when you leave for the day.
A crate helps with potty training because puppies will learn that they don’t like to go to the bathroom right where they sleep and eat. However, puppies can’t “hold it in” for very long, so this only works if you can take your puppy out to their potty spot frequently. Otherwise, a puppy will have to “go” in their crate even if they don’t want to. Another alternative, especially during training, is to put a potty area (such as a puppy pad or artificial turf) inside the crate that is separate from the eating and sleeping areas. Obviously, the crate will need to be large enough to accommodate this.
What are the most common stressors you see with new puppy parents? What advice do you have for handling these?
Puppy biting, especially during teething, is a common complaint and stressor. The best way to discourage this behavior involves redirecting, as well as avoiding anything that accidentally encourages biting. For puppies, any attention can be a good thing, even if you are upset. So, if you react by making noise and waving your hands, that inadvertently teaches them that they will receive attention when they bite. They might also view your reaction as your way of playing with them.
Instead, calmly withdraw your hands. Don’t pay attention to your puppy. Turn your back to them if needed. If your puppy is really excited and won’t let up, give them a small time out in isolation. All of this teaches them that biting leads to the end of playtime and a lack of attention from you.
It’s also important to give your puppy something else to do instead of biting. During teething, it’s unrealistic to expect a puppy to not bite or chew on anything. Just offer a good chew toy as a replacement for your fingers. Or, teach your puppy basic commands like “sit” and have them do this when they first begin to bite. Reward the sit with a treat or attention, then offer a chew toy.
Any final advice to help pet parents have a happy and safe transition home with their new puppy?
Remember that puppies’ immune systems are still developing. While it may be tempting to take your new pal everywhere with you, taking them out too soon can put them at risk of deadly infectious diseases like Parvovirus. To be safe, ask your vet when it is okay to begin taking your puppy for walks outside or to places like dog parks.
Socialization during puppyhood is important for having a well-adjusted adult dog who is open to new experiences and less likely to develop anxiety. So, it can be okay to take your puppy to a well-run puppy socialization class, where all puppies are at least partway through their vaccination series. Ask your vet team if they know of any puppy classes in your area, or check with local dog groups.
We hope this advice has helped you prepare for your new pup. If you have any questions about Diggs or our products, feel free to reach out by sending an email to email@example.com. We’re here to help!
NYC-based Pet Parents: be sure to check out Bond Vet! As a full-service veterinary clinic, they offer both urgent care and routine care at 11 convenient locations throughout NYC. Their mission is to strengthen the human-animal bond through better pet care with personalized treatment and a focus on wellness.
Use code DIGGS when booking your next appointment for a $25 credit to any Bond Vet location.
The Diggs Team
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