A new puppy in your family is an exciting and often hectic time that involves a lot of preparation and planning. From puppy breath kisses and couch cuddles, to potty training and meeting new friends, your puppy’s first year will be a steep learning curve filled with discovery. Puppies are energetic fluff balls who, like human children, require supervision, attention, and care. Preparing your new companion to thrive and remain healthy through puppy-hood to their grey muzzle years is critical. Puppy-hood goes by quickly, so follow these tips from your Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team to ensure you set up your puppy for success in all aspects of their life.
#1: Purchase supplies for your puppy before bringing them home
The excitement of a new puppy can distract pet parents, who may forget that their new family member needs many supplies for their care. Consider purchasing essential supplies in the weeks before you bring your puppy home. Then, once you get to know your new furry pal, you may realize they need more items. Ensure you have the following:
- Fixed-length leash between four and six feet long
- Harness with a chest and shoulder clip
- Food and water bowls
- Dog toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste
- Poop bags—plastic grocery bags also work
- Pet stain and odor remover
- Variety of size-appropriate toys
- Dog bed
- Collar and identification tags
- Grooming supplies (i.e., brush, nail trimmers, puppy-safe shampoo)
- High quality puppy food and treats
- Pet gates
#2: Puppy proof your home
Puppies are naturally curious and can get up to mischief as they explore their new home. Constantly supervising your investigative pup will be difficult, so prepare your home before they are free to roam around. Consider putting up puppy gates to limit access to potentially dangerous areas such as kitchen entrances, or in front of stairwells. Additional home dangers may include:
- Electrical cords — Secure electrical cords out of paws’ reach to prevent electric shock or burns from chewing. Also, cover electrical sockets not in use.
- Cleaning supplies and insecticides — Ensure that all household chemicals are stored away and out of reach to prevent ingestion of toxic substances.
- Decorative plants — Many decorative, especially seasonal, flowers and plants are toxic to pets. Check the ASPCA toxic plant list prior to bringing them into your home.
- Toxic food — Common human foods such as grapes, onions, and chocolate are toxic when ingested by pets. Ensure that your puppy does not have access to human food, but if they accidentally eat something toxic, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, or our office immediately for guidance.
- Medications — Your puppy may mistake medications for a tasty treat, so ensure that all human and pet medications are stored out of reach. Many human medications can be deadly to pets, so contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet ingests a single pill.
#3: Schedule preventive care veterinary visits
Many pet parents are reluctant to take their puppy to the veterinarian for examinations and vaccinations. However, our Fear Free-certified team will ensure a positive, low stress experience for you and your puppy. Regular preventive care visits are the best insurance for keeping your pet healthy and disease-free throughout their life. Scheduling a veterinary exam shortly after bringing your new puppy home, so your veterinarian can perform a baseline physical exam and provide you with a vaccination schedule, is vital. During your pup’s first few months, they will require core vaccinations to build their immunity against common dog diseases. Core vaccinations include:
- Canine parvovirus
Depending on your puppy’s lifestyle, your Gentle Touch veterinarian may recommend additional vaccinations for leptospirosis or Bordetella. Puppies are commonly infected with intestinal parasites, so your puppy’s preventive care visits will likely include a fecal test and a series of deworming treatments. We will also recommend pet-safe flea, tick, and heartworm preventives to keep your puppy safe year-round.
#4: Begin teaching your puppy good manners
Puppies are sponges when it comes to learning, especially between the ages of 3 and 14 weeks. Teaching your puppy proper manners and socialization skills will prepare them to enjoy interactions and become comfortable in any situation. Begin training your puppy at home using treats and ample praise to positively reinforce and reward their correct behaviors. Once they have received all their vaccinations, you can begin socialization outside the home. Start by taking your puppy, always on a leash, to high foot-traffic areas such as a park where they can be exposed to a variety of sights, sounds, and smells. Immediately reward your puppy when they are calm and accepting of a new experience, person, or sound. Consider enrolling them in puppy training school to aid in learning new behaviors and manners.
#5: Schedule your puppy for a spay or neuter surgery
Once your puppy has received all their vaccinations, you should schedule them for a spay or neuter surgery. This procedure is typically performed at 6 to 12 months of age, but your veterinarian will recommend the best time based on your puppy’s health, behavioral, and lifestyle needs. Spaying or neutering has numerous benefits, including:
- Decreased incidence of homeless pets because of overpopulation
- Decreased desire for your puppy to roam and mark their territory
- Decreased risk of breast and testicular cancer
- Decreased aggression
Our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team looks forward to helping you care for your new puppy. Call our office if you have any puppy-related questions, or to schedule your puppy for their first preventive care appointment.