Woman Surrounded By Dog Faces
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Why Do You Want a Puppy?

Before you get 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!

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Basket Full of Cute Puppies
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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.

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Puppy With Accessories
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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
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Sad Puppy Behind Baby Gate
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Puppy-Proof Your House

Like babies, puppies explore with their mouths. To keep them 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.
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Puppy Eating Kibble
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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. The 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.

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Sleeping Chihuahua Puppy and Big Bowl
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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 their health. How much food they need depends on their size, age, and health. Ask your vet for advice on how much food to give your puppy.

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Puppy Sleeping with Teddy Bear
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Use Dog Beds and Maybe Crates

Puppies may sleep from 14 to 20 hours a day, so keep your pup comfy while they nap. For bonding, many experts say your puppy should sleep in your bedroom at first, whether in their 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.

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Little Puppy With Big Bone
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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 them warm, and a shady spot to keep them cool. Make sure they have plenty of fresh water.

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Mom and Daughters Petting Puppy
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Bringing Your Puppy Home

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

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Puppy Being Housebroken
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Housebreak Your Puppy

There are two signs your pup needs to potty. They'll sniff the ground to find a good spot, or will race around wildly. When you see them act this way, pick your puppy up and place them outside. After they have peed in the right place, praise them. Puppies relieve themselves every few hours, so expect a few accidents. You can train them to use potty pads inside, too -- just make sure you’ll be OK with them using them for good. Keep them in the same spot if you go this route.

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Obedience Training Class for Dogs
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Take Training Classes

Even if you can teach your puppy yourself, you might want to take your puppy to obedience classes. They'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 them. With a little time, kindness, and patience, you can teach your rough-and-tumble puppy better behavior.

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Man Playing With Puppy
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Play With Your Puppy

Playing is fun! Spend time every day playing with your pup because it helps them in many ways. They get rid of energy, work on coordination, and bond 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.

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Puppy on Walk with Leash
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Take a Walk

Even if your puppy has a great yard, you'll need to take them 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 an illness while out and about.

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Baby Playing With Puppy
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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.

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Puppy Getting Coat Brushed
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Care for Your Puppy's Coat and Claws

Brush your pup's coat daily. It will help them get used to grooming. Talk to your vet about the right brush for your dog's breed. Keep their 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 they'll be OK with clipping. Your vet can show you how.  

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Puppy Looking at an Array of Food
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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 dogs, 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.

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Puppy Looking at Stack of Brownies
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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.

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Puppy Looking at White Flowers
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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.

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Scared Puppy Looking at Syringe
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6-9 Weeks Old: Time for Vaccines

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

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Flea in Dog Fur
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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.

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Hookworms Inside Dog
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Get Rid of Puppy's Parasites

Your puppy will probably need deworming medication at their first vet visit. This is a good idea for their 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.

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Puppy with Veterinarian
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16-24 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 old, but most vets wait until age 4 to 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.

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Sick Puppy on White Blanket
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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 owners are around. You may notice some common signs of illness in puppies and dogs, such as not eating, eating less, vomiting, coughing, sneezing, fever, diarrhea, or sleeping more. If you see any of these signs, call your vet.

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Veterinarian Checking Puppies Heart Rate
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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.

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Boy and Puppy Running on Beach
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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!

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 05/28/2020 Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 28, 2020

(1) PhotoAlto, Jupiter Images Unlimited, iStockphoto
(2) Jean Louis Aubert /PhotoAlto
(3) Steve Starr/Index Stock Imagery, iStockphoto
(4) Steve Lyne/Dorling Kindersley
(5) Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/The Image Bank
(6) Crystal Cartier/Brand X
(7) Heinz Krimmer /Voller Ernst
(8) iStockphoto, Mark M Lawrence/Flirt Collection
(9) Brand X Pictures
(10) DK Limited/CORBIS
(11) Sean Murphy/Riser
(12) Ryan McVay/Photodisc
(13) Erin Vey/Photolibrary
(14) Jim Craigmyle/Corbis
(15) Dorling Kindersley
(16) Photolibrary, Jupiter Images Unlimited, iStockphoto
(17) Jupiter Images Unlimited, Fancy
(18) age fotostock, webstend61
(19) Nordic Photos, Jupiter Images Unlimited
(20) Nigel Cattlin/ Visuals Unlimited
(21) CDC
(22) GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Taxi
(23) Koki Iino/MIXA
(24) Larry Williams/Blend Images
(25) Chris Cheadle/All Canada Photos


American Veterinary Medical Association: "What You Should Know About Household Hazards," "What You Should Know About External Parasites," "What You Should Know About Choosing a Veterinarian for Your Pet."

ASPCA: "Where We Stand on Puppy Mills: The ASPCA's Policy and Positions," "Finding the Right Vet."

Benjamin, C. The Chosen Puppy: How to Select and Raise a Great Puppy From an Animal Shelter, Howell Book House, 1990.

Linda P. Case, adjunct assistant professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois; author, The Cat: Its Behavior, Nutrition & Health; co-author, Canine and Feline Nutrition.

Carrie Damewood, DVM, Cottage Grove, OR.

Davis-Wurzler, G. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, May 2006.

Fogle, B. ASPCA Complete Dog Care Manual, DK Publishing, Inc., 1993.

Humane Society of the United States: "What to Consider Before Adopting a Pet," "How Pets Help People," "Choosing a Veterinarian."

Johnson, N. The Complete Puppy & Dog Book: All You Need to Know to Keep Your Pet Healthy and Happy From Birth to Old Age, Galahad Books, 1977.

Klever, U. The Complete Book of Dog Care: How to Raise a Happy and Healthy Dog, Barron's Educational Series Inc., 1988.

The Monks of New Skete. The Art of Raising a Puppy, Little, Brown and Company, 1991.

Veterinary Partner: "Crate Training Puppies."

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: "Parasitic Roundworm Diseases."

Wrede, B. Before You Buy That Puppy. Barron's Educational Series Inc., 1994.

Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on May 28, 2020

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

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE VETERINARY ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your pet’s health. Never ignore professional veterinary advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think your pet may have a veterinary emergency, immediately call your veterinarian.