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So You Got a Puppy: What's Next?

Posted By SLCo Animal Services
January 30, 2023

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So You Got A Puppy:

Bringing home a puppy or any new dog is a special and exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming (and not just because of their overwhelming cuteness). They can interrupt your sleep, have accidents, or destroy household items. The good news? One look at your pup’s adorable face and you’ll forgive almost anything, and with proper training and equipment, those behaviors will be easily managed.

Where To Start:

Start by getting to know your puppy’s personality, temperament, and breed-specific needs. This information will help you understand your pup’s ideal diet, exercise routine, grooming, and more. Your puppy’s vet and reputable websites such as American Kennel Club will be very helpful in providing this information.


Necessary Puppy Supplies:

  • bed
  • brush
  • cleaners (paper towels, disinfecting spray, lint rollers)
  • collar
  • crate
  • food
  • food/water bowl and stand
  • harness
  • leash
  • identification tags
  • nail trimmer
  • poop bags
  • shampoo
  • tooth brush/paste
  • toys


Helpful Puppy Supplies:

  • blankets
  • calming supplement
  • chews
  • clicker for training
  • hip/joint supplement
  • multivitamin
  • pet first aid kit
  • pet gate
  • pet hammock for car
  • pet stairs
  • puzzle toys/kongs
  • sweaters/coats/boots for winter
  • travel carrier
  • towels
  • treats


Puppy-Proofing Your Home:

Puppy-proofing your home is a necessary step in keeping your puppy safe and protecting your valuable possessions.

  • use doors and puppy gates to section off the part of your home you feel comfortable giving your puppy access to
  • put their crate, food/water bowls, and toys in that safe space
  • cover outlets
  • relocate electrical cords
  • remove any breakable or sentimental items
  • relocate all human food to an out-of-reach cupboard
  • remove toxic house plants, cleaning products, fragrances, weed killers, ect.
  • check your yard for possible escape routes


Mental and Physical Exercise:

A good puppy is a tired puppy! All dogs need both physical and mental exercise but exact exercise needs can vary greatly from breed to breed.

  • Physical Exercise:
    • walking
    • running
    • playing fetch
    • playing with other dogs

Note: Be careful not to over-exercise young puppies because that can lead to joint issues later in life. The general rule for exercising a puppy is to provide five minutes of exercise for each month of their age two times a day. So a four month old puppy would need twenty minutes of exercise twice a day while a six month old puppy would need thirty minutes of exercise twice a day.

  • Mental Exercise:
    • training/learning new tricks
    • sniffing out treats
    • playing with puzzle toys or kongs


Leaving Your Puppy At Home:

Although leaving so much cuteness at home is incredibly difficult, there will be times you’ll have to part with your precious pup. Creating a safe and relaxing environment for your puppy will make the experience less stressful for both of you.

  • use a crate to keep your dog safe and out of trouble
  • fill their space with exciting distractions like toys, a Kong filled with peanut butter, or an up-beat tv show
  • give them a calming supplement to ease separation anxiety and decrease destructive behavior
  • take them on a walk before leaving them alone
  • give them an extra long potty break before leaving them alone
  • leave them with fresh drinking water

Note: DO NOT leave a dog unsupervised with a hard chew or a toy that could be a choking hazard (AKA toys that can break off into small bits of rubber, scraps of cloth, or have plastic squeakers).


Preventative Healthcare:

The best resource on preventive healthcare is your pup’s veterinarian, so it’s important to get your new puppy in for a visit as soon as possible. It’s important to consult your vet before giving your dog vitamins, supplements, or over-the-counter medication. Learning about your puppy's breed can also help you protect against disorders/diseases that are more common for their breed.

  • Vaccinate:
    • helps protect against dangerous diseases such as parvovirus, distemper, rabies, heartworms and more
  • Spaying/Neutering:
    • prevents homeless pets
    • helps protect your dog against specific types of cancers, behavioral issues, infections, and more
  • Multivitamin:
    • helps protect their joints as they age
    • aids in fighting off illnesses
    • improves coat quality and shine
  • Deworming:
    • consult veterinarian on how often to deworm
    • can help prevent a build up of parasites
  • Dental Care:
    • brushing your dog’s teeth helps prevent tooth/gum infections
    • regular dental check-ups remove built-up plaque and prevent tooth/gum infections
    • providing safe chews naturally prevents plaque build-up
  • Harnesses
    • use on walks to protect your dog’s neck and trachea


Healthy Digestion:

No one wants a stinky puppy. Helping your pup’s digestion can prevent smelly gas and stool, keep them healthy and active, and improve their quality of life.

  • find a high-quality food brand
  • use a puppy-specific food for small dogs under 7-12 months and large dogs under 1-2 years
  • use a slow-feeder
  • feed your pup on an elevated surface
  • use their meals as a training reward to slow food intake
  • don’t give them too many treats
  • introduce over-the-counter probiotics

Note: Some chews such as rawhides or bones can be very difficult for dogs of any age to digest, so it’s best to avoid these treats as they could cause intestinal blockage.


Start Training:

Training sets important boundaries for how your puppy interacts with their environment which includes you, your family/friends, and other dogs. Training also helps you build a relationship with your dog and teaches them to trust and respect you.

  • Basic Commands:
    • sit (redirects action when your pup wants to jump, chase, or pull)
    • laydown (redirects action when your pup wants to jump, chase, or pull)
    • stay (teaches impulse control)
    • come back (teaches recall and allows dog to play off-leash)
    • break (teaches to resume play on your command)
    • heal (teaches to not pull on the leash)
    • leave it (teaches impulse control)
  • Negative vs. Positive Reinforcement:
    • Positive reinforcement: treats, praise, rewarding with food/toys (proven to be effective, builds your relationship with your dog, leads to positive behaviors)
    • negative reinforcement: yelling, hitting, taking away food/toys (ineffective, destroys your relationship with your dog, leads to negative/aggressive behaviors)
  • Where To Learn How To Train Your Dog:
    • schools/programs in your area
    • online coaches/programs
    • local library
    • Youtube

Note: Information you find online can vary in credibility, so it’s important to cross reference the information with a trusted source.


Socializing Your Dog:

Socializing a young puppy is important for their development, builds their confidence, and helps prevent reactive behavior. The key to proper socialization is providing your puppy with positive experiences outside their everyday environment.

  • Generally Positive Ways to Socialize Your Pup:
    • introducing them to new people who respect the dog’s boundaries
    • letting them play with older dogs whom you trust to be play appropriately
    • putting them in a puppy training program
    • taking them to dog friendly stores, markets, and restaurants
  • Potentially Negative Way to Socialize Your Pup:
    • taking them to a dog park where there’s too many dogs
    • letting them play with a reactive dog


Are We Done Yet:

Yes! Well no…learning to care for another living creature is a never-ending process which is part of why it’s so rewarding. In this incredible journey with your new pup, you’ll learn even more about how to better your pup’s life and, of course, how that pup will better yours.