Puppies are adorable and super sweet, but bringing home a new tiny four-legged friend can be overwhelming. Puppies require appropriate care to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adult dogs. Our Rustebakke Veterinary Service team never passes up a chance to snuggle with a puppy, and we provide an essential checklist for your puppy’s first year. 

#1: Puppy-proof your home

You should start preparing for your new family member before you bring your puppy home. Puppies can be mischievous, and they tend to get into everything. Take time to puppy-proof before bringing home your new pooch. Tips include:

  • Use childproof latches — Many foods and common household products are toxic to pets. Use childproof latches on lower cabinets and drawers to keep them from getting into toxins stored there and help prevent your puppy from becoming accidentally poisoned.
  • Secure medications — Many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications are toxic to pets, so be careful when taking medication, and store them out of your puppy’s reach.
  • Keep garbage in closed containers — Your puppy may not be able to resist the tempting smells coming from the garbage can, possibly resulting in garbage gut or a foreign body ingestion. Keep your trash in secure closed containers.
  • Close toilet lids — Puppies don’t know that drinking from the toilet isn’t hygienic. Keep the toilet lids closed to prevent your puppy from drinking contaminated water. Closing toilet lids also prevents them from falling in.
  • Check your houseplants — Many common houseplants are toxic to pets. Ensure all foliage in your home is pet-friendly.
  • Tidy your home — Puppies investigate their world with their mouth, and this can result in a foreign body ingestion. Keep all small objects, such as socks, small toys, and rubber bands, out of your puppy’s reach.

#2: Socialize your puppy

Puppies are most responsive to socialization during the first three months of their lives. This involves carefully exposing them to new people, other animals, and various experiences. Properly socializing your puppy helps them become a well-behaved and well-adjusted adult dog and can help prevent behavioral issues. To socialize your puppy appropriately, follow these tips:

  • Go slow — Avoid introducing your puppy to too many new situations too quickly. For example, don’t let your puppy’s first experience with new people be in a large crowd. Start small by introducing them to one person, and gradually building from there. 
  • Make each experience positive — The goal is for your puppy to realize that new experiences aren’t frightening. Praise your puppy lavishly and be generous with the treats to make each new experience positive.
  • Be patient — Never try to force an experience on your puppy. If they seem stressed or frightened, immediately remove them from the situation and try again at a slower pace another day.
  • Get them used to handling — An important socialization aspect is getting your puppy used to being handled. Look in their mouth and handle their feet, ears, and tail. This will facilitate veterinary visits and at-home care such as toothbrushing, nail trims, and ear cleaning.

#3: Crate train your puppy

Crate training your puppy has many benefits, including giving them a safe, quiet place when they feel overwhelmed or stressed and aiding in house-training. Crate-trained dogs are also less likely to have separation anxiety. To crate train your puppy successfully, follow these tips:

  • Choose the right crate size — Your puppy’s crate should be large enough that they can comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down. You can use dividers to adjust the crate’s size to allow your puppy more space as they grow.
  • Make the crate welcoming — Use toys, treats, and clothing you’ve recently worn to help your puppy view the crate as welcoming.
  • Feed your puppy in the crate — Introduce your puppy to the crate by leaving the doors open and letting them investigate on their own. Feeding them in the crate is a good way to help your puppy make a positive association with the space.
  • Gradually increase time confined — Once your puppy is comfortable in the crate, gradually increase the time you leave them crated. Start by crating them for about 5 to 10 minutes when you are in another room. Never leave your puppy crated for too long. The general rule is one hour for each month of age. So a 3-month-old puppy shouldn’t be crated for longer than three hours. 

#4: Schedule a veterinary appointment for your puppy

Puppies need vaccinations for protection from infectious diseases and they need deworming to eliminate intestinal parasites. Our veterinarian should also check puppies thoroughly to ensure they have no health issues. Puppies typically need veterinary care every three to four weeks starting from about 8 weeks of age until they are 4 to 5 months of age. 

Congratulations on your new puppy! Contact our Rustebakke Veterinary Service team today to schedule your puppy’s wellness appointment so we can meet your new addition and ensure they have a healthy start in life.