Skip to content

    Slideshow: Taking Care of Puppy

    Why Do You Want a Puppy?

    Before getting a puppy, ask yourself a few questions. Why do you want a dog? Will you have the time, space, and money to care for and play with your pup? Which breed do you want? Know the answers before you start looking because once you look, you probably are going to bring home a puppy!

    Where to Get Your Puppy

    You have lots of options when choosing a puppy. Because there are so many homeless pets, it's great to adopt from a shelter, rescue group, or the pound. If you decide to use a breeder, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) says to look for a small-scale breeder who never sells to dealers or pet shops. Visit the breeder's home and kennel and meet the mother or relatives of your dog.

    Get Ready for Your Puppy

    You'll need a few things before you bring home your new pup:

    • Puppy food
    • Leash and collar with tags that include your phone number and your vet's
    • Water and food bowls
    • Dog bed
    • Grooming brushes
    • Folding gate or crate to keep your puppy in one area
    • Chew toys

    Puppy-Proof Your House

    Like babies, puppies explore with their mouths. To keep yours safe you'll need to do a few things before bringing your puppy home:

    • Move breakables and electrical cords from doggy level.
    • Close low windows.
    • Lock away cleaning supplies, motor oil and antifreeze, and medications.
    • Get a securely covered garbage can for trash.

    Choose Puppy Food

    Puppies need food specially designed for their smaller bodies. That's because a growing puppy needs more protein and calories than an adult dog. Puppy food is also easier on a puppy's smaller mouth and weaker jaw. Don't forget that puppies also need plenty of fresh, clean water.

    How Much Food Does Puppy Need?

    Dogs will eat a lot if the food is available. That's why you shouldn't feed your puppy buffet-style. Plus, it's good to watch what your pup eats, so you can keep track of his health. How much food he needs depends on his size, age, and health. Ask your vet for advice on how much food to give you puppy.

    Use Dog Beds and Maybe Crates

    Puppies may sleep from 14 to 20 hours a day, so keep your pup comfy while she naps. For bonding, many experts say your puppy should sleep in your bedroom at first, whether in her own bed or a crate. If you use a crate, use it only for sleeping, housebreaking, and travel. Dogs aren't meant to live in crates, so don't overuse it by closing your pet in all the time. But do leave the door open. Lots of dogs see the crate as a safe place and find comfort in being able to go in and out at will.

    Inside or Outside?

    Dogs are happiest when they're with their pack -- which might be you. If you keep your dog outdoors often, always make time for daily walks and play. Keep your dog safe with a fenced yard. Be sure it has a covered, dry, draft-free spot to keep him warm, and a shady spot to keep him cool. Make sure he has plenty of fresh water.

    Bringing Your Puppy Home

    Your puppy's first days in her new home are a big adjustment, so give her lots of loving attention. Play with her often. Bring her bed or crate into your bedroom at night, so she can be close to you. Soon after she settles in, schedule her first vet visit. Your vet will make sure she has no health problems and can answer any questions you have.

    Housebreak Your Puppy

    There are two signs your pup needs to potty. He'll sniff the ground to find a good spot, or he'll race around wildly. When you see him act this way, pick your puppy up and place him outside. After your puppy has peed in the right place, praise him. Puppies relieve themselves every few hours, so expect a few accidents. And if you can avoid it, don't use a newspaper or other indoor item to housebreak your puppy. When you do use it, you're teaching it that it's OK to go in the house.

    Take Training Classes

    Even if you can teach your puppy yourself, you might want to take your puppy to obedience classes. She'll get to be around other dogs and will have to listen while there's a lot going on. Plus, it will nudge you to do your homework and keep working with her. With a little time, kindness, and patience, you can teach your rough-and-tumble puppy better behavior.

    Play With Your Puppy

    Playing is fun! Spend time every day playing with your pup, because it helps her in many ways. She gets rid of energy, works on coordination, and bonds with you. When you play, use toys. Don't use your puppy's leash, your hands, or anything else, or they'll get the wrong idea.

    Take a Walk

    Even if your puppy has a great yard, you'll need to take him for walks. Walks give dogs physical and mental exercise. It lets them interact with other dogs they meet along the way. Plus, it lets them leave scent markings, which dogs like to do. Try to get at least 60 minutes a day, broken into two to four walks. And make sure your pet is properly vaccinated to avoid picking up some nasty illnress while out and about.

    Keep Kids and Puppies Safe

    As much as kids and dogs love to play together, a puppy is still learning the ropes and may play roughly. There's also the chance that rowdy kids could play too hard with their pup. Watch puppies and kids at all times so they both stay safe.

    Care for Your Puppy's Coat and Claws

    Brush your pup's coat daily. It will help her get used to grooming. Talk to your vet about the right brush for your dog's breed. Keep her nails short, as too-long nails can stress a dog's wrist joints, as well as hurt people and furniture. Trim nail tips weekly starting when your pup is young so she'll be OK with clipping. Your vet can show you how.  

    Watch the Table Scraps

    It's a bad idea to feed your puppy from your plate. Begging is a hard habit to break! More important,  some foods can be toxic to pets, including grapes, raisins, alcohol, garlic, onions, avocados, salt, and chocolate. Call the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or your vet right away if you think your pup has eaten something dangerous.

    Chocolate and Dogs

    Dogs have a hard time breaking down one of the key parts of chocolate.  Baking chocolate is the most dangerous type of chocolate for your dog. Though a little bit of white or milk chocolate might not hurt, dogs tend to eat whatever food is around. So remove temptation and keep chocolatey things away from your puppy or dog. Call the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or your vet right away to see if your puppy needs medical attention.

    Watch Plants and Your Puppy

    Puppies like to chew on everything, including yard and house plants. Some plants -- including lily of the valley, oleander, azalea, yew, foxglove, rhododendron, rhubarb leaves, and shamrock -- are risky for dogs. If you think your puppy has eaten a poisonous plant, call your vet right away or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

    6-9 Weeks Old: Time for Vaccines

    Vaccinations can help your puppy stay healthy. At 6-9 weeks it's time to get her vaccinated against distemper, parainfluenza, canine hepatitis, and parvovirus. At 12-16 weeks it's time to get her rabies shot. Other vaccine choices depend on your puppy's risks, so talk to your vet for advice.

    Fight Fleas

    It takes just one flea to start the flea cycle in your home. Signs your puppy may have fleas include flea "dirt" (tiny black flea droppings), mild redness, severe scratching, and skin infections. To fight fleas, ask your vet for flea control that's safe for puppies. Treat all pets in the house for fleas, not just the one that may have them.

    Get Rid of Puppy's Parasites

    Your puppy will probably need deworming medication at his first vet visit. This is a good idea for his and your health, since some dog parasites, like roundworms and hookworms, can also pass to people. Nearly all puppies have roundworms and hookworms (magnified here). Intestinal parasites are potentially deadly to your pup if untreated.

    16-20 Weeks Old: Spay or Neuter

    More than 6 million dogs and cats find their way into shelters every year. That's why it's a great idea to spay or neuter your puppy. Spaying can be done as early as 2 months, but most vets wait between 4 and 6 months. If cost is a problem, call your local humane society or shelter. Or call (800) 248-SPAY to find a low-cost spay program near you.

    How to Tell When Your Puppy Is Sick

    Dogs often won't show it when they're feeling bad. They do their best to stay social when their people are around. You may notice some common signs of illness in puppies and dogs, such as not eating, eating less, vomiting, fever, diarrhea, or sleeping more. If you see any of these signs, call your vet.

    How to Pick a Vet

    Ask friends for recommendations. Once you have a few names, visit each clinic. Pick one that's well-managed and looks and smells clean. The vet should listen to you and answer all your questions. Is the staff friendly? Just as with your own doctor, be sure you feel comfortable with the vet you choose.

    Enjoy the Journey!

    Puppies don't stay little for long! It's a special time that you'll treasure long after your puppy grows up. So make every day count for you and your little one with plenty of love, appropriate discipline, and play!

    Tips to Keep Your Dog Healthy

    Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 15, 2016

    Sources: Sources

    This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information: Disclaimer

    © 2016 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.