Preparing to welcome a new puppy to your pack? Congratulations! You're about to receive the greatest gift life can give: a dog's love. Our fur-babies bring an infinite amount of joy, affection, and cuteness into our lives — but raising a puppy isn’t always a walk in the dog park. We've all read stories and seen videos of those oh-so-adorable puppies ripping our favorite shoes to shreds, peeing on everything we love, and just misbehaving in general.
The first thing you should do to prepare for a puppy? Your homework! Research everything you can about your puppy’s breed. Our very own dog breed guides are a “grrreat” resource for pet parents, featuring detailed information on everything from common health problems to feeding recommendations.
Now without further ado, let's dig into everything you need to know about preparing for a puppy. (And yes, we do mean everything — from finances, veterinary care, and grooming to training, feeding, and sleeping, we've covered all the bases!)
The costs of raising a healthy, well-mannered dog add up quickly! You'll need to cover your puppy's adoption fees, vet costs, pet products, dog food, training classes, and miscellaneous costs throughout their life. That's not including grooming, pet insurance, and doggy daycare.
- Remove plants that are toxic to dogs, or keep them out of reach. The list of plants that are toxic to dogs is a long one, so do a quick check around the house and in the garden.
- Unplug chargers and wires when not in use. This one's easier said than done, particularly for appliances that are always plugged in, like the TV. Fortunately, deterrent sprays and cord covers work wonders!
- Keep trash secure. A hands-free trash can or a garbage bin with a sturdy lid will prevent your pupper from digging through the trash.
- Gate off rooms if needed. Puppies love to meddle and push boundaries. If you want to keep your fur-baby out of certain rooms or areas of your home, consider installing baby gates or keeping the doors closed.
Additional doses of these core vaccines will be administered every 2 to 4 weeks until the age of 16 weeks. The rabies vaccination is administered at the age of 12 weeks. Puppies living in an area where bordetella is endemic may receive their first bordetella vaccination at the age of 3 weeks.
The World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s vaccination guidelines provide more detailed information on canine vaccination schedules.
Puppies receive booster shots of their core vaccines at the age of 6 months or 12 months. After that, your hound will be happy to hear they won't be poked or prodded nearly as often! Follow-up boosters of core vaccines are readministered every three years, depending on the duration of immunity. Some rabies vaccinations have a duration of immunity of just one year. Other non-core vaccines may be readminstered annually.
Our handy guide on dog vaccines and vaccination schedules provides a detailed overview of every stage of your puppy's vaccination needs.
Puppies develop roundworms from their mother's milk and tapeworms from infected fleas. Deworming your puppy of all those pesky parasites is a non-invasive process. How often should you deworm your puppy? That depends on the situation and the medication you use. Puppies are typically dewormed every 3 weeks, then monthly with routine heartworm prevention.
Annual fecal examinations are recommended to ensure there aren’t any resistant parasites. For dogs not on heartworm prevention medication, which also treats other parasites, deworming every 3 months is a good idea. Dogs with clinical signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite may need deworming more often.
An assortment of flea preventatives and treatments are available at major pet retailers, including collars, oral medications, and topical treatments. Remember to treat your home as well as your puppy. Wash all linens in hot water, vacuum thoroughly, and consult an exterminator to treat the yard.
Lend a helping paw in the fight against pet overpopulation by spaying or neutering your puppy. Not only does spay/neuter help prevent diseases like uterine cancer and prostatic cysts, but it also promotes good behavior! Spaying or neutering your dog helps prevent aggression toward other dogs of the same sex. Read more on the benefits of spaying or neutering your dog.
When should you spay or neuter your dog?
Although it's safe to spay or neuter a dog as young as 8 weeks old, most dogs are spayed or neutered between 6 and 9 months old. Complications are more likely in adult dogs as well as those who are overweight or have pre-existing conditions.
TIP: Keep your sessions short, 5 minutes max, to avoid overwhelming your fur-baby’s brain. Aim for 15 minutes of training per day. Treats will come in handy, but as your pup gets the hang of it, phase out treats gradually and replace them with praise.
7 – 8 weeks:
- Potty training. Creating a schedule for bathroom breaks will go a long way in training your puppy to go potty. Puppies need to go more often than adult dogs, roughly every 2 hours. Use a verbal cue or clicker to mark the behavior. Puppy mats and crate training will come in handy.
- Crate training. Training your dog to use a crate will help them feel safe and secure in your home (while also protecting your furniture from your teething pup's wrath). Make their space as comfy and appealing as possible with plush bedding and their favorite toys.
- Socialization training. The socialization period lasts from the age of 8 to 15 weeks and is crucial to instilling calm behavior in busy environments. Expose your puppy to a wide variety of social situations to prevent undesirable behaviors, like aggression. Plan pup playdates, take walks in public parks, and visit as many dog-friendly places as you can.
- Basic commands, like sit, stay, down, and leave it. Focus on one command at a time, keep your sessions short, and use positive reinforcement methods like treats and praise to reward good behavior. Our blog post on simple tips for training your puppy is chock full of helpful info.
- Good behavior, like not jumping and sitting still for grooming. When training your dog to sit still while you brush their coat and teeth, maintain a calm yet firm demeanor to establish yourself as pack leader. Be gentle to avoid reinforcing a negative association.
- Wait: Training your dog to wait calmly by the door instills patience (and ensures you don’t get bowled over by an excited puppy). This command builds on the “sit” and “down” commands.
- Come when called. Flawless recall skills are essential to protect you, your dog, and other animals during your off-leash adventures. Instead of calling your dog’s name, set a verbal cue, like “come”. Start practicing in a safe (preferably fenced) environment free of distractions.
- Be quiet/stop barking. The key to training your dog to stop barking is to establish yourself as pack leader. Ignore excessive barking entirely and remove any stimuli. For example, if they bark at passersby through the window, close the curtain.
- Walk calmly on a leash. You should get your dog used to wearing a collar or harness as soon as you bring them home. Address leash pulling first. When your pup pulls, come to a full stop until they calm down. Keep practicing and work your way up to the “heel” command.
- Long stay. Once your dog has got the basic idea of “stay,” it’s time to kick it up a notch. Increase the distance and duration of the command incrementally until your puppy can stay for a full minute without releasing. Keep working at it until your pup knows to release their stay on your command.
- Go to their bed. You might want to command your puppy to go to bed when you’re busy cleaning or if you’re hosting a party. This command is related to the long stay — the ultimate goal is having your dog stay in bed until you say it’s okay to get up.
- Structured walk. Now that your dog knows how to walk calmly on their leash, it’s time to introduce the structured walk. The goal is to have your dog stay close to you and keep their on you to minimize distractions. For a successful structured walk, teach the “watch me” command.
- Polite greetings. Through the socialization period, you want to teach your dog how to greet other humans and animals politely. At first, you’ll want to keep your distance from other dogs on your walks until you’re sure your dog won’t react aggressively. Decrease the distance over time, and keep practicing.
Hounds are notorious for their endless appetites. Many pet parents struggle to stop their dogs from begging at the dinner table or perking up every time they hear the crinkling of food packaging.
Different breeds have different dietary needs, but most puppies should be fed small amounts of kibble specially formulated for puppies 3 to 4 times per day. Feed according to the directions on the packaging. As your puppy grows into an adult, gradually introduce adult food before making the switch. Check out our wellness guide on feeding your puppy for more information.
Even low-energy mutts need a walk around the block every day. Puppies are particularly rambunctious, but it's important not to overexercise their developing bodies. Providing the right amount of exercise goes a long way in preventing joint problems later in life. That's why it's important to research your dog's breed and consult your veterinarian for advice when in doubt about how much exercise your dog needs.
A handy trick for determining the duration of daily exercise is multiplying your puppy's age in months by 5 minutes, then doubling it. For example, if your dog is 3 months old, they'll need 15 minutes of exercise twice a day.
Not only do daily walks keep your puppy as fit as a fiddle, but the change of scenery also stimulates their minds and allows them to put their senses to good use. Mindfully walking your puppy and making the effort to be present will help solidify the bond between you. Most puppies won't need more than 30 minutes of walking per day (ideally split into 2 walks). Avoid walking long distances or along strenuous routes.
Swamped with work, or stuck in traffic and can't make it home to walk your puppy? There's an app for that — the Wag! Walking app, to be exact! Book a walk with a pet caregiver near you to ensure your puppy gets the exercise they need when life gets hectic.
You might be surprised to find that your puppy is a couch puptato! Did you know puppies sleep for up to 20 hours per day? Expect your fur-baby to take frequent naps lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Learn more about how much puppies should sleep and how you can encourage healthy snoozing habits.
And that just about covers everything you need to know about preparing for a puppy! As you can see, welcoming a puppy into your home is a serious, long-term commitment. We don't need to tell you how many puppies end up in adoption shelters after the honeymoon period ends. That's why we created this comprehensive guide on preparing for a puppy so you know what you're getting yourself into! Now that you know everything there is to know about caring for a puppy, you're well-prepared to shower your woofer with the love, affection, and quality time they need for a happy, fulfilling life.