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Puppies 101 - Your Starter Guide for a new Dog

Updated: May 27, 2021

Congratulations! You’ve decided to adopt an adorable new puppy.

It’s such an exciting time that will change your life forever. Puppy care can be full of both fun and stress yet can be so rewarding. Bringing a new puppy home takes a lot of preparation, work, patience, and love. The good news is that if you do it right, it can be a wonderful experience. With all of the right groundwork, you’ll wonder how you survived without a dog in your life. Whether you’re getting your first puppy or just need a refresher course, here's what you'll need to know to get your puppy on the right track to adulthood.

Choosing the Right Puppy

First, examine your lifestyle and consider what you are looking for in a puppy. Purebred or mixed breed dog? Big or small? There are even more factors to consider, such as grooming and exercise needs, temperament, and potential health issues. Know your puppy’s breed and what that breed was developed to do. Next, you need to decide where to look for your new puppy. Will you visit an animal shelter to adopt your new dog? Maybe you’ll find a responsible breeder. Research and patience are important throughout this process.

If you decide to get a puppy from a breeder, make sure they have enough information about you to help them choose the right puppy for your family. Tell them about yourself, your lifestyle and your expectations of your new puppy. This will help them to make the best possible match.

Good questions for the breeder to know:

  • Do you have kids?

  • Are you home during the day?

  • Do you want a male or female?

  • Are you an active person?

  • What activities are you looking to do with your pet?

  • If you are getting a poodle mix do you have a preferred hair type?

  • Are you looking for an energetic or calm pup?

  • Do you want them to be independent or eager to please?

An experienced breeder will get to know the puppy’s individual personalities and traits. By the time the puppies are ready to be picked, the breeder should have a good idea of what each puppy’s temperament will be like as an adult and which will be the best fit. If you’ll be picking your own puppy from a litter on your own, there are some important things to look for. When you first visit the litter, observe the pups’ interaction with each other. Look for an outgoing pup that is neither excessively submissive, nor dominant with the other pups. When you first interact with the puppies, look for ones that approach you with their heads held high and tails wagging. These are signs of socially well-rounded pups that have had the right start in life. You want to pick from a litter of puppies that are friendly, curious, and trusting around their siblings and you. They should be showing signs of interest and trust like smelling your feet and legs, crawling on you and looking for attention. The ideal pup should want to be with you and follow you around and play with you when initiated.

Getting Your Home Ready for Puppy

Before bringing your puppy home, you need to ensure that your home is as safe as possible, both for your new puppy and your belongings. Like babies and small children, puppies are naturally curious and love to explore. The puppy-proofing process is similar to toddler-proofing a home, but there are differences. A good idea is to get down to your puppy’s eye level and see from their vantage point. Remember that your puppy can jump, climb, chew, and scratch, so place what you can very high up or in a locked cabinet.

Make sure the following items are out of reach from your new puppy:

- Electrical items and cords

- Window and curtain cord

- Chemicals and toxins

- Plants

- Rugs

- Breakables

- Valuables

- Trash (Invest in a tall, heavy duty trash can with a lid that’s difficult to tip over.) Install durable baby gates or pet gates if you need to keep your puppy away from certain rooms of your home. Proper puppy-proofing not only keeps your puppy safe in his new environment, but it also gives you peace of mind.

Essential Puppy Supplies

Your new puppy will need certain items from the very start. Some are essential for your pup's well-being, while others are quite helpful. Some important and helpful items include:

- leash

- collar with identification

- good quality dog food specific for puppies

- water bowls

- chew toys

- comfortable dog bed

- sleeping crate

- puppy treats

- non-toxic dog shampoo It's also important to properly prepare for the expenses associated with dog ownership. Create a budget and try to stick to it. Be sure to allow extra money in your budget for unexpected costs.

Choosing Your Puppy's Food

Your puppy's diet can make all the difference in its future health and well-being. Feeding your puppy high quality food is key to keeping your pup healthy. Make sure that it’s a nutrient-dense dog food that is suitable for growing puppies. There are seemingly endless types of food to choose from so make sure that you do your research. Talk to your vet, other pet professionals, and fellow dog owners. Some owners like to feed premium foods, while many feel that holistic/natural diets are best. Homemade and raw diets are also becoming increasingly popular. While researching puppy food, consider the quality of ingredients, proper nutrients, and taste. Make sure to choose a food that is appropriate for growth—not adult dog food or "maintenance" formulas. The food should be healthy for your puppy and your dog should enjoy eating it. Don’t forget to always keep a bowl full of water available. Here’s an important list of things NOT to feed your dog as it can present risks to their health:

  • Chocolate

  • Grapes and raisins

  • Chicken bones

  • Raw fish and raw meat

  • Sugar

  • High-fat foods, such as macadamia nuts and avocados

  • Dairy

  • High-fat meats, such as bacon

  • Onions and garlic

  • Caffeine and alcohol

Keeping Your Puppy Healthy

Take your new puppy to the vet for a general exam as soon as possible. Your vet can help identify any potential health problems early on, and advise you on caring for your dog long-term. Your vet is an excellent resource, so ask as many questions as you need to and keep those doors of communication open. When it comes to the wellbeing of your pet, you can’t ask too many questions. Some questions to ask are:

  • What is the vaccination schedule?

  • When is the best time to spay or neuter (this is typically around 6 months of age)

  • When is it safe for my puppy to be around other dogs?

  • What parasite protection is recommended for my puppy?

  • What health problems should I watch out for in this breed?

  • Should I microchip my puppy?

Tip: Bring a notepad or smartphone to take notes.

It’s a good idea to take steps to make it a good experience so your puppy will be less likely to fear the vet's office. Lots of cuddles, praise and treats will make it a positive experience. To help keep your puppy's expenses down, you may consider purchasing pet health insurance.

Bonding With Your Puppy

The bond you have with your puppy begins the moment it comes into your life and never stops growing. You can nurture this bond through affection, training, grooming, playtime, general exercise, and participation in various activities.

Spend as much time as you can during these early months to allow you to get to know your furry little friend better. You’ll start to learn his personality, charms, and quirks. Take turns letting everyone in your household supervise the puppy and he’ll feel well-cared for and each will create their own bond.


Smart Tip: Start training your new puppy right away!

One of the first lessons to teach your puppy is where to go to the bathroom. Potty training your puppy will prevent accidents and problems down the road. You should begin house-training as soon as you bring your puppy home, but remember that it takes patience. Puppies are generally not able to control their bladders and bowels until about 12 weeks of age. Consistency and giving them the most opportunities is key. You should take your puppy to the designated "potty spot" immediately after eating or drinking, when they wake up and before they go to bed. However, accidents happen, so be patient.

Crate training is actually the easiest way to establish good sleep habits (and bathroom routines). It also prevents them from getting into trouble while you’re sleeping, which keeps both them and your belongings safe. When introduced correctly, puppies don’t view their crate as a negative space but rather as a safe place, as we often feel in our own bedrooms.


By teaching your puppy good manners, you’ll set your puppy up for a life of positive social interaction. They need to learn the rules and will be able to grasp them quickly with good and consistent effort. Don’t let your new family member get away with anything just because he is a tiny, cute, little puppy. If you don’t want a 60-pound snoring dog in your bed, then don’t allow it to sleep there as a puppy.

Teach them basic manners using positive reinforcement methods. Obedience training will help forge a stronger bond between you and your puppy. Teaching your pup to obey commands such as sit, stay, down, and come will help keep your pup safe and under control in any potentially dangerous situations. Another essential skill is teaching your puppy how to be alone. A puppy that can entertain themselves even without humans around, is a puppy that won’t go looking for trouble.

Just remember that puppies are curious, active, and teething. They put everything in their mouths, including your hands. Work with this by replacing the inappropriate object with an acceptable toy or safe chew. Distract your dog from mischievous behavior by offering something more attractive, like a game, walk, or other activity. Reward your puppy with treats or praise for shifting his attention. Much of what dog owners call “problem” behavior is actually dogs being dogs and puppies being puppies. One of the best ways to prevent trouble is to teach them safe and appropriate ways to express their instincts. For example, it’s not practical to expect them to never chew or bark. The key is getting them to chew the right things and bark at the right times. Remember that bored puppies will look for ways to entertain themselves. Lack of physical exercise and mental stimulation can lead to anxiety, frustration, and destructive behavior. When you devote time each day to play and exercise, train for good behavior, and meet your puppy’s instinctive needs, you’re building a solid foundation to give your dog confidence and will make for a happy pup.


A bored dog can become destructive, digging up your garden or chewing on the furniture for example. This is especially true of puppies because they are naturally curious and full of energy. You can help him to use that puppy energy in a productive way.

For a healthy, confident, and socialized puppy, it’s important to provide physical exercise and mental stimulation.

Your puppy needs a daily workout. But how much exercise your puppy needs a day depends on age and breed. You shouldn’t overdo workouts because your puppy’s bones are still growing. Choose safe and appropriate ways to play and exercise together keeping in mind that how you allow your puppy to play, will translate into how you allow your grown dog to play (think 5 pound ball of energy compared to 80 pound ball of energy).

Here’s a great tip: Don’t give your puppy old shoes and stuffed animals. Invest in appropriate toys that belong solely to them so your puppy knows the difference between his rubber ball versus your child’s favorite stuffed animal and your brand new sandals.

SOCIALIZATION A new puppy needs lots of love and cuddling, rest and sleep, lots of good, nourishing food and then… more love! Give him time with you and your family, and give him the feeling of being safe and secure in his new home.

It’s essential to take your puppy to new places and introduce him to a variety of sights, sounds, people, other animals and experiences. It will teach him to be comfortable in the world around him.

Let him meet adults and children, the postman and other visitors. A well-socialized puppy will be able to cope with all of the situations he’s likely to experience later in life, rather than growing up shy or fearful. When you’re walking through your neighborhood let your puppy see, smell, and hear unfamiliar things. Be sure to let your pup set the pace and never force your dog into an encounter. All these new experiences are great mental stimulation and will prevent trouble, like anxiety and fear later on.


You’re now ready for your new furry family member!

Make you take a look at this MUST READ: The Best Chew Toys for Puppies in 2021

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