Your First Puppy!
So you’ve done your research and you’ve decided it’s time to join the new puppy family!
Being a new puppy owner is an exciting time in your life. You’ve done your research and you just know that you’re ready!
They’re so dang cute and funny, and everything is all new and happy!
But then it hits – the crying all night, the potty runs every 30 minutes, only to have them come in and piddle on the floor, the chewed up shoes, furniture, and anything they can get those little puppy teeth on.
And you sit there and think, ‘WHAT HAVE I DONE???’
We’ve all been there. It’s a bittersweet time in our lives. They’re so adorable and comical, but then in a flash, you’re pulling your hair out. As your first puppy, it can become overwhelming.
I’m going to go through some of the top tips that new puppy owners should know and/or have to make that first-time puppy experience a little easier and more enjoyable for everyone in your house.
So here we go……
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1. Puppy-proof your home.
Remove poisonous plants, pick up cords and wires, removing anything that he can chew.
Take a step back and look at each room that your puppy will be in. Even get down on your knees and look at it from his level.
2. Get a crate.
I know that some people say yay, and some people say nay to having a crate. Honestly, growing up, we NEVER crated our dogs, and the first time I had to do it as an adult (in order to preserve the inside of my house), I felt AWFUL!
But then, something miraculous happened. My dog LOVED it! He would go in there to sleep even when we were home. He was so happy and much more relaxed. Given the choice of the couch or the crate – the crate won out every time.
Now on the flip side, I’ve had dogs that DESPISED the crate, so……but these were fully grown dogs that probably had never been crate trained. Train your puppy from the beginning, and you should have no problems.
But back to the reasons that crates are necessary for puppies. Well, there are a few major ones:
- By crate training your puppy, it will become a safe place for them at night when you’re sleeping.
- When you have to run errands and cannot take them with you.
- A safe place for them when you cannot keep your eyes on them.
This leads me to the next point.
It keeps your puppy safe. Those little guys will get into anything, and everything and some of those happenings could severely injure your puppy.
It is a great tool to assist in potty training, as well.
3. Baby Gates.
Ok, let’s talk about baby gates. This is another must-have for puppies – of all ages – and beyond!
- Puppies need to be contained and watched at all times. Baby gates can provide a safe area for your puppy without having to keep him in his crate 24/7.
- Puppy proofing one room is MUCH more realistic than an entire house.
- By keeping him in one small area, it is easier to potty train.
Things to keep in mind:
Keep the following in mind when picking out a gate for your new puppy:
Plan For The Future
If you have a Great Dane puppy, you will not want to get a 3-foot high gate.
You never know how long you will want to use the gate for, and if you have a puppy that will grow into a large dog, there will come a time that he can just step over the gate – then you will need to upgrade.
Save yourself some money and get a gate appropriate for your breed of dog.
Another thought to keep in mind…..Puppies Chew! So you may want to get a gate that is chew-resistant so that it is not destroyed in a matter of days.
Remember, you will have to use it also! So, do not get one that would take Houdini to get through.
Types of Mounts – Which Is Best For Your Home?
And the last thing to consider is how you will mount it.
Pressure-mounted vs. screw mounted. Pressure mounted will take pity on your woodwork and is easier to move from room to room if you need to.
Screw mounted will be much sturdier but not moveable and will leave holes in your walls when you are done with it.
4. Supervise your puppy at all times!
When he cannot be supervised, make sure that he is either in his crate or in a puppy-proofed room or area.
5. Puppies need lots of sleep and exercise.
Sleep – Young puppies need ALOT of sleep. They can sleep up to 16 – 18 hours a day. Your puppy should not be disturbed while it’s sleeping.
This would be a good time to put him in a crate in a quiet part of your house.
Exercise and interaction with your puppy are essential.
However, do NOT do anything strenuous or any type of prolonged exercise, as this can cause injury while your puppy is still growing.
Keep activity more to playing, mental stimulation, and running around the yard. And keep it to short sessions throughout the day.
6. Never give your puppy ‘people food’.
I know the heartache it can cause to be sitting on the couch, with your puppy or dog looking at you like if they don’t get some of what you’re eating that they will starve to death. It is REALLY difficult. But you must restrain from doing this.
When dogs learn that they can get fed from your plate, the counter, or anywhere else, they will start to whine and beg for food. This is not a behavior that you want to encourage and can be challenging to correct.
There is nothing worse than having people at your house for dinner, and your dog is causing a commotion because they want some of what they’re eating. It’s best not to start that habit – one less behavior you will need to fix later on.
By feeding your dog people food, you risk their exposure to toxic food. You are also giving them extra calories that they do not need.
That excessive weight can cause them to have mobility issues, joint, bone, and ligament problems, along with many other medical issues.
Why bother buying him that healthy $50 dog food if you’re going to feed them people food?
7. Routine, routine, routine! A daily routine for the puppy – keep him on a schedule.
Routines are essential for your puppy. Adapting him to a routine will not only help him now but when he is full-grown.
Routines will help him adjust to his new family easier and quicker because he will learn what is expected of him.
8. Puppies need lots and lots and lots of toys.
Make sure that the puppy has lots and lots and LOTS of toys!
Puppies chew – A LOT! So you want to make sure you have plenty of different toys for the puppy that will keep him busy, entertain him, and indulge his chewing needs. This is an excellent time to start teaching him what is and is not his.
I would also recommend that you do not keep anything on the floor, as this will help avoid him from getting confused over what he is allowed and not allowed to have.
I’d like to note that although those adorable squishy toys are so dang cute – they may not be best for your little chewing beastie!
If your puppy is a hard chewer, do not allow him to chew on stuffed toys or anything with a squeaker. The stuffing or squeaker can come out, and your dog could digest it in a matter of seconds. This can cause severe health issues and very pricey vet bills.
9. Learn what types of food are poisonous to all dogs, not just puppies.
- Citrus fruits
- Xylitol (can be found in some brands of peanut butter)
10. Treat-dispensing toys.
By this, I do not mean the fancy, expensive electronic treat-dispensers. I am referring to the fun types of balls or toys where you put food inside of them and then they work to get them out.
For my most recent puppy, I used a Kong treat-dispensing toy. You open it up, fill it with however much food you want to give them, close it back up and then they push it all over the floor to get the food to come out of the hole.
He always got his breakfast with that and after he was done he would settle down for a nice nap.
Lots of fun for them (and for us to watch them) and fairly inexpensive.
11. Teething toys.
Make sure to have plenty of things for your puppy to chew on. They make great teething toys for puppies.
But always watch your puppy with any toy they are chewing on. Just because it says ‘indestructible’ does not mean it is. You do not want him to bite a piece off and swallow it!
12. Take your puppy to the vet and keep his vaccine schedule.
This is super important. Keeping your puppy’s vaccine schedule is vital for the health and safety of your puppy. Look at your puppy’s vaccines as the equivalent to your baby’s immunizations.
Also, by taking your puppy to the vet regularly when he is young, he will get more adjusted to going to the vet and won’t be as likely to be traumatized when he gets older.
13. Start socializing your puppy with new people immediately.
This is HUGELY important.
It will help avoid aggression toward people later on in life. It also helps prevent shyness and timidity.
The best age to socialize your puppy is from 3 weeks to 12 weeks. After that, it can become more difficult for them to adjust to new things and people. This is very important if you want to have a well-socialized adult dog.
One of our rescue dogs, Sadie, was adopted at one-year-old and it became quickly apparent that she was never socialized as a puppy. She becomes very scared outside of her usual surroundings, and that can cause her to react unpredictably.
We continue to work with her, but I doubt that she will ever be 100% socialized, which is sad because she misses out on so many fun things that she could be doing otherwise.
Don’t let this happen to yours!
14. Start training your puppy early.
You will save yourself a lot of frustration if you start their training as soon as you bring them home.
Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks, BUT they learn so much quicker when they are babies.
And you want them to develop good habits from the start. It’s easier to teach them right from the beginning than have to go back and fix what is wrong.
15. Do not let your puppy run free around the house.
The name of the game is supervision. That puppy must be supervised as a toddler would. When he cannot be supervised, keep him in a puppy-safe room/area or his crate.
IF you do allow him to roam free (which I do not recommend), keep a leash on him so that you can grab him quickly.
Doing this will allow you to train him quicker and easier and prevent him from getting injured.
16. Puppy training games.
Puppies love to play, so why not incorporate training into play?
Use fun training games to stimulate his mind, expel some energy and at the same time get some training done. It’s a win-win for all!
17. Get your puppy a collar with an ID Tag.
A good collar is also essential. When around the house or yard, I prefer a break-away collar so if they get held up on something, they do not choke themselves.
When you are out and about, a sturdier, non-breakable collar is recommended. You don’t want your puppy to give a good tug and their collar pops off.
As for an ID tag, you may be wondering ‘why have one if they are microchipped?’. If your dog does get away and someone finds him, it’s a lot easier to call the number on the tag than to take the puppy to a vet or shelter to check him for a microchip.
That being said, you must also keep your dog’s ID tags updated with the correct information.
One other thing I would like to mention here. I’ve had dogs that lost their ID tags, so I’ve started getting collars with their name and phone number stitched right into the collar. They are much less likely to lose their collar than they are their ID tags.
Bottom line, I like to make sure that my dog has the best chance of finding his way back home – so I make sure they have visible ID as well as a microchip.
18. Get a good, well-fitting harness.
I feel strongly that all puppies and dogs should be walked on harnesses, even if you have a dog that does not pull. Having any type of movement pulling on a puppy or dog’s neck can cause a collapsed trachea.
It’s also much more difficult for a puppy or dog to slip out of a harness than a collar.
Teach that puppy how to walk on a harness and keep that as your go-to walking gear. For me, the only thing that collars are used for is ID purposes.
19. Get a good leash.
Stay away from retractable leashes. They can break very easily and leave your puppy vulnerable with no control.
My favorite leashes are rope or rounded nylon leashes. They are very sturdy and easy to hold on to. And if you have a puller, you want to stay away from the flat nylon leases as they really do hurt when they slide through your hands.
When going out, I would also recommend that you have a back-up leash. Many times I’ve been at the park and saw someone running after their dog because their leash broke.
20. Encourage curiosity, not fear.
New sights and sounds can cause your puppy to be very nervous and they may cry or cower away. This is an excellent time to encourage them to explore these new experiences and reward their calm behavior.
This will teach them to be more curious and less scared in the future when encountering new things.
21. Introduce your puppy to lots of new and strange things.
This is VERY important. You want your puppy to be well-adjusted and not scared of everything, so the sooner you start doing this, the better they will be at adapting to new things.
22. Stay away from dog parks!!!
I cannot stress this enough! I have seen horrible things happen at dog parks.
People will take their dogs there that are unsocialized, untrained, and unpredictable. Your job is to keep your puppy safe, and by letting it loose with other unleashed dogs, you have no control over anything. And if a fight does break out, it is very difficult and dangerous to try to separate them.
A better solution would be to arrange play dates with other puppies or dogs that you know. Maybe you and your puppy clicked with someone at puppy class, and you can plan times for your puppies to play in a safe and controlled environment.
I believe dog socialization is essential to start at a young age – but it needs to be done safely and in a controlled environment.
23. Get your puppy used to being separated from you.
This is VERY important! Earlier I referenced a puppy that I had adopted that had never been on a leash before. This is the same puppy that was also never left alone for most of those four months. The result…..SEVERE separation anxiety. We couldn’t even walk into another room without this little guy completely losing it. It was equally frustrating as it was heartbreaking.
He had also never been crate-trained, so we couldn’t use the crate as his ‘safe place’ because he hated the thing. We brought trainers to the house and it was definitely a ‘no-go’ with the crate.
There are many reasons for a puppy to have separation anxiety, but teaching your puppy to be independent at an early age is a big thing. And sadly, sometimes that puppy/dog can never be ‘cured’ of it. That is a horrible way for a dog to live its life.
24. Do not make a big fuss when you leave or come home.
Making a big to-do when leaving or coming home will cause anxiety in your puppy. You want to come and go as if it’s just a regular thing, like walking into the kitchen or bedroom.
My two dogs pay absolutely no attention when we leave or come home. Sadie is in her crate and barely even looks up. Ubu will be lying on the couch and sometimes won’t even look up either. That is a healthy attitude and one that you want to teach your puppy early on.
25. Create a calming environment for your puppy.
The more hectic his environment, the more hyper they are. And a hectic environment can cause anxiety. Anxiety can cause bad habits.
If your puppy, who is already hyper because he is a puppy, is continuously around screaming kids who are always running around, your puppy will do the same thing. By keeping things calm, your puppy will have less anxiety and will likely settle down much quicker.
I know if you have children, this may be very difficult, but it is something to think about when getting a puppy.
26. Get your puppy used to taking car rides.
Be sure to get your puppy used to being in the car right away.
Going back to that puppy I had previously adopted. (He is a poster child of what NOT to do!). He had rarely ever been in a car, and he was deathly afraid of it. Luckily he wasn’t a huge puppy, and we were able to pick him up to get him in and out of it because he absolutely would not go in or out by himself. And once he was in there, he cried and barked continuously. It never ended….EVER! No amount of training worked.
Get them used to the car right away. It will save both you and your puppy a lot of issues in the future.
27. Introduce your puppy to cats at an early age.
Now, if you don’t have cats and don’t think you ever would, then I wouldn’t worry too much about this. However, my two rescue dogs were both adopted at one year old, and I genuinely believe neither had seen a cat before we brought them home.
Now I’d like to point out that neither one is vicious or mean, but they look at these cats as playthings. Luckily we have 3 (no wait, make that 2) laid back cats that take it with a grain of salt.
But not introducing and training your puppy on how to appropriately act around cats could cause the cat to be injured or, worse yet, killed.
Always be careful when introducing your puppy to a cat, and teach him how to behave around them appropriately for the safety of both your cat and your puppy (those cats have claws!!!).
28. Take lots of pictures!
They grow up so fast; you won’t want to miss a single part of their life!
If you are going to give your puppy bones to chew – do NOT give them rawhide bones.
Also, look into getting pet insurance while your new puppy is a baby. It’s cheaper and you don’t run into pre-existing conflicts as he gets older.
Remember, your puppy is a baby. And as with a human baby, puppies need to be taught everything. Please be patient with them and do not expect them to know what you want without training them first.
Please keep in mind that a puppy is a HUGE commitment. They consume your life 24/7. Be sure that you are ready emotionally AND financially for the responsibility of a new puppy.
I hope that these puppy tips help you regardless of whether you are getting your first puppy or if you’re a seasoned puppy owner.
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