National Puppy Day is March 23, but we like to celebrate all year long. If you’ve decided to add a puppy to your life, here are some things you need to keep in mind to make sure your puppy is set up for success. 

Prepare before you get the puppy

  • Set up first veterinary appointment before you bring home your puppy
  • Sign up for puppy training class and start learning about crate training.
  • Gather appropriate puppy needs (leash, collar, food bowls, food, crate, etc.).

Start puppy proofing now

Puppies may be adorable, but they have a well-deserved reputation for getting into anything and everything. Puppies are naturally curious and easily distracted, which makes your household a prime target for chewing. By about 6 months of age, the puppy should have all of its adult teeth, and around 6 to 12 months of age, puppies go through a chewing phase as part of doggie adolescence.

Here are some things to keep in mind before bringing your puppy to your house: 

  • Put away potential toxins. Some foods humans love—like chocolate, onions, and stone fruits—are toxic to dogs, so make sure to store food out of reach and make sure your puppy can’t get into the trash. Houseplants can also be toxic, so make sure they are put out of reach as well. 

  • If you have a fenced-in yard, check it carefully for any holes. Your puppy might find a way to escape.

  • Clean up floor clutter. Anything on the ground is fair game for a puppy, including socks, and shoes, legos, blocks, and children's toys.

  • No-chew spray is your best friend. Some puppies love to chew on table legs and other furniture, but a no-chew spray from your local pet store can act as a deterrent. 

Puppy potty training requires patience 

Puppies don’t automatically understand where it’s acceptable to relieve themselves. They will naturally avoid eliminating (pooping or peeing) where they sleep, but puppies won’t hesitate before eliminating on your carpet or in your kitchen.

The process of potty training your puppy will take time, patience, and accidents along the way, so here are a couple quick tips: 

  • While your puppy is awake, take them outside once an hour, and also immediately after a play session, waking from a nap, and after eating. Set an alarm on your phone to make sure your puppy can go where and when they need to go.  It is also a good idea to take your puppy out immediately after a play session, waking up from a nap, and after eating.

  • Routine is everything. Sticking to a schedule for your puppy’s meal times can make its digestive process more predictable, so you’ll know the best times to take the puppy outside. 

  • General rule of maximum time they can hold their bladder between potty sessions in a crate is 1+ the months of age the puppy is, so 4 months of age +1= 5 hours.

  • When your puppy relieves themselves outside, praise them! Positive reinforcement is key to making sure your puppy understands where to go. Keep a jar of their food near the door to grab treats to use as rewards for successful potty time.

  • Don’t punish your puppy for eliminating in the house. It may seem counterintuitive, but punishing your puppy in that way can make it afraid to eliminate in front of you and can result in a dog who hides when it’s “gotta go” or sneaks off to another corner of the house. 

Prepare to be social 

It’s very important to expose your puppy to new situations so they won't react in fear or aggression later in life. A lack of socialization can lead to unpleasant or downright dangerous behavioral problems down the road.

Here are some things to keep in mind when socializing your new puppy: 

  • Variety is the spice of life. Try to find a variety of new people, places, sounds, and textures your puppy can experience. As the American Kennel Club puts it, "Think of it as a scavenger hunt!”

  • Keep it positive. Make sure your puppy knows that new experiences are a positive, exciting thing. 

  • Work your way up. Monitor your puppy to make sure it isn’t feeling overwhelmed by too many new stimuli. Remember, you want your puppy’s experience to be a positive one. 

  • Be safe. It’s recommended to wait 7 to 10 days after your puppy receives its full series of vaccinations before letting your puppy be around other dogs.  This means no dog parks or meeting unfamiliar dogs in stores until they are fully vaccinated.

Look out for your other pets

You might already have older animals at home before you add a puppy to your family. The addition of a new furry family member can be stressful for a pet, so it's important to make that transition as comfortable as possible. 

  • Let older dogs communicate. Puppies are still learning proper behavior, and an older dog can help them learn what is and is not acceptable. It’s OK if your dog growls at the puppy—however, if teeth are involved, it’s a more serious situation. 
  • Supervision is key to ensuring all your pets stay happy. Keep a close eye on your puppy and make sure to give your other pets space when they become overwhelmed. 
  • Sometimes, pets need some alone time. Give your puppy and your older pets their own spaces to decompress and relax. If you have an older dog at home, give the dog and the puppy their own separate crates. If you have a cat, make sure they have a safe room to escape to.

Prepare for veterinary visits

  • Handle their feet, ears, and mouth/lips etc daily
  • Crate train—this will reduce any anxiety if they ever need to be hospitalized
  • Basic commands of sit, stay, stand, roll over will help at veterinary visits
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