Congratulations on your new fluffy bundle of joy. Nothing brings more light and laughter to your home than a new puppy, although sleepless nights, chewed shoes, and puddles of pee also accompany the new addition. But, with our seven tips, you can start your pup off on the right paw, and she’ll soon be a potty-trained, crate-trained, well-mannered dog, who will fill your life with love and affection.

#1: Accustom your puppy to good dental hygiene

Dental care is a vital part of your pet’s overall health care, since oral bacteria can leach into the bloodstream, attacking the heart, liver, and kidneys. Up to 85% of pets have some form of dental disease by age 3, so acclimate your pup early to toothbrushing and periodic at-home oral exams. Since puppies love putting everything in their mouths, sneaking in a toothbrush shouldn’t be an issue—although getting it back out is another matter. Always use a pet-friendly toothpaste for your puppy that is safe if swallowed, and avoid human toothpaste. With time, your puppy will view the toothbrush as a treat-delivery system, and look forward to her daily toothbrushing sessions. 

#2: Socialize your puppy in a positive manner

Socialization is key to raising a happy, well-adjusted dog. While many people think that socialization should take place only when you first get your puppy, exposing your pet to new places, sounds, smells, and people in a positive manner should be a life-long process. However, the more you expose your puppy to positive experiences before her prime socialization period ends at 14 weeks, the less anxiety and fear she will face throughout her life. Dr. Sophia Yin’s checklist of novel experiences that will help socialize your puppy, and Victoria Stilwell’s in-depth socialization discussion are helpful resources.

#3: Implement a preventive-care plan for your puppy

While most people know puppies require a series of vaccinations, they may not always consider parasite prevention, nutrition, and preventive care based on the pup’s breed, lifestyle, or inherited conditions. For example, English bulldogs require special care to keep their skin folds clean and infection-free. You should acclimate your bulldog to routine skin-fold and ear cleaning as a puppy, to make both your lives easier, healthier, and happier.

#4: Begin crate training the first day your pup is home

Your puppy’s crate not only provides an excellent place to keep her out of mischief, but also makes potty training easier. Keep in mind that the crate should never be used as punishment, or crate-training your puppy will be difficult. Choose a crate that is big enough for your puppy to stand, turn around, and lie down only—any larger, and she’s likely to eliminate in her crate. Unless you have a small-breed dog, you will likely need to purchase a larger crate as your puppy grows, or you can use crate dividers.

Begin by feeding your puppy in her crate with the door open, teaching her that good things come from inside the crate. Slowly work toward closing the door, and leaving your pup inside while she is focused on a tasty, long-lasting treat. For more in-depth tips on crate training your new puppy, follow Karen Pryor Academy’s positive crate-training guide.

#5: Learn good manners in a puppy training class

A variety of puppy classes are available to help your pup get off to a good start. Depending on your puppy’s age, you may start with a beginner class that offers potty- and crate-training tips, socialization techniques, problem-behavior prevention, and positive play time with other puppies. Older pets can benefit from obedience skill courses with increasing advancement levels.

#6: Practice grooming techniques on your puppy

Whether you welcome home a short-haired pup or a long-coated shedding machine, routine grooming is essential to keep your pet’s skin and hair coat healthy. Begin brushing your pet when she’s young to prevent uncomfortable matting, clean her ears regularly to avoid painful ear infections, and trim her toe nails to ensure comfort. A nail trim is one of the most dreaded experiences for dogs visiting veterinary clinics, because they were not properly exposed to positive nail trims as puppies. Load up on tasty treats, take things slowly, and teach your puppy that nail trims can be a fun, rewarding activity.

#7: Keep emergency contact info handy

Since puppies are adorable balls of fluff with faces you can’t possibly refuse, they can get into much more mischief than they should. If gaps are left in your home’s defenses, despite your extensive puppy-proofing, we can guarantee your new pup will inevitably find trouble, whether she swipes your chocolate chip cookies off the counter, knocks over the trash can, or snacks on your dirty laundry. Ensure you can reach help quickly, and always keep your family veterinarian’s phone number on hand.

If your pup needs emergency assistance after hours or on the weekend, we will be here for you. Hopefully, she won’t need to visit our hospital during her first year, but keep our contact info handy also, to be prepared for any situation that may arise.