First time owners guide to raising a puppy
Bringing your new puppy home is one of the best feelings in the world, but it isn’t without its challenges!
It can be a very scary experience for your puppy, and even yourself, especially if you’re a first-time pet parent!
Both your worlds are about to change forever, and the first few days, weeks and months are the most important.
Getting your new puppy settled, relaxed and into a routine as soon as their home will prevent any anxiety or behaviour issues from developing early on.
I speak to so many pet owners during my consultations that are concerned they may not be doing the right thing.
The truth is, there is no one size fits all puppy parenting guide! What works for one pet owner, won’t work for another.
Whether you crate train or let them sleep in your bed is entirely up to you.
But ask yourself, are you happy for them to stay in your bed every single night? If not, you may want to reconsider letting them sleep in the bed the first night you bring them home!
Are you also willing to change your bedding in the middle of the night if your puppy has an accident?
You should ask yourself these questions to manage expectations, not only for yourself but for the sake of your pup.
Sleepless nights, waking up to mess and committing lots of time to puppy training are about to be your reality.
And there are plenty of things you need to do and think about to prepare for your pups' arrival.
But with a lot of love, patience and our top tips, you can get off to the best start possible.
New Puppy Checklist:
- Water and food bowls
- Puppy food
- Toilet training pads
- Poo bags
- Puppy training treats
- Collar and lead
- Crate or pen
- Dog bed
Most responsible breeders/rescues will give you a new puppy pack, which includes the food your pup has been weaned onto.
And if you’re lucky maybe some puppy pads and other little extras!
If this isn’t given, ask the breeder what brand of puppy food they have been feeding to prevent tummy troubles. And stick to that food for at least two weeks.
If you want to change your puppy's food, make sure you do so gradually and slowly over a couple of weeks.
If you need help with this or getting your new puppy settled our vet nurses can help you from home!
Book a free video consultation here or head to live chat here.
As well as all the above, there are other important things you need to arrange and organise for your pup.
Diet and Feeding Schedule
It is entirely your choice as to what type of food you want to give long-term (dry, wet, cold pressed, home-cooked prepared frozen foods, raw feeding etc).
There are plenty of opinions online on what you should feed your pup, but every pet is individual, and every household is different. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your buddy and budget!
We recommend a high-quality complete diet specifically for puppies or small, medium or large breeds.
It’s important that your dog has good nutrition, especially in the first year of life when they are growing, and their bones and joints are forming.
Dogs like the routine of consistency with the food they are given and regular mealtimes to avoid them becoming fussy.
Puppy feeding schedule:
- 8 weeks old - 4 smaller meals a day
- 3-6 months usually 3 meals per day
- 6 months and older 2 meals per day
Free access to water should always be given.
If you are unsure whether the diet you are considering or are giving to your pup is the best choice, speak to a Buddy nurse for a veterinary but unbiased chat.
Provide a safe space
Crate training or just having a dedicated area for your pup to retreat to gives them a quiet, comfortable space they can relax and sleep.
They also can start to have a little independence to prepare them for being left on their own for short periods and gain confidence.
Make the crate or area nice and comfortable with a comfy bed, and blankets over to create a cosy retreat, with some toys, access to water etc.
Encourage your pup to go into this area with treats or place them in the area when they are ready for sleep.
They will soon learn this is a quiet place they can go to on their own. Always make this a positive experience and give plenty of praise and encouragement.
Crate training is not the only option for your pup and it’s entirely your choice as to where in the home you provide a space for your pup.
If this is a space for resting and sleeping and to retreat to when they want to go chill, please make sure this is in a quiet traffic area in the home where they can rest and feel safe undisturbed.
If this is also a safe area that they can be left in when you leave the house this would also make your life easier, as pups like the routine of having that area they know they can go to to relax.
Vaccinations and Microchipping
All dogs legally require a microchip. Sometimes this will be done by the breeder in advance before you bring your pup home.
However, your details will still need to be registered with the chip. Check with the breeder to see if they're doing his or if you need to do it yourself.
Always keep the details such as address and telephone numbers up to date.
Occasionally you may need to pay a small fee to have the ability to change your details yourself online. This is worth the money and makes life much easier to keep the details up to date.
Regular vaccinations against infectious diseases will protect your pup against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus and kennel cough.
These diseases can cause serious illness and even death, so it is important to keep your pup protected. Depending on the age of your pup, they may come from the breeder/rescue centre with some vaccinations already.
If you’re unsure which vaccinations your pup has had, check with your local vet for advice on what to do. As veterinary professionals ourselves, we strongly recommend vaccinations for your pup because skipping them isn’t worth the risk.
As a vet nurse of 20 years, I have nursed many puppies who have contracted the infectious diseases named above.
It’s heartbreaking to see pet owners sick with worry whilst their pup suffers and fights to pull through and recover. Or even worse, having to witness the ones that don’t make it.
The more effort you can put into toilet training the quicker your pup will learn.
The best thing to do is create a routine and learn when your pup needs to go to the toilet.
As soon as they wake up, finish eating, had a play session and pretty much every hour, allow them to go to the toilet. Whether that means letting them out in the garden or placing them onto puppy training pads.
Some breeds are notoriously difficult to toilet-train. If yours is one of them, you may want to set a reminder for toilet time every 30 mins instead!
It might sound like a lot of effort but imagine how quickly your new pup will be housebroken! And your furniture and floor will thank you!
It’s good practice to use a command word whilst toilet training to remind your pup what he should be doing.
A command word or phrase is something chosen by you to instruct your dog to do something. So just like you teach your puppy to ‘sit’ or ‘come‘, you can use other command words for toilet training.
For example, when your pup goes for a wee, the command word could be “go wee wee”. And if it’s number two, you could say “Go poo poo”.
Whenever they pee or poo (even if it’s in the wrong place) repeat the command words calmly and gently to your pup.
The only difference is, if they have toileted inside then they get no praise after you’ve repeated the command phrase. Simply clean the mess as normal.
Every time they go toilet in the correct place give them lots of positive praise and fuss. Make out like they have just done the best thing in the world!
If your pup is food motivated, a little treat or small bit of their usual food can also work well.
Overnight your pup will not be able to hold its bladder so will either soil where they are sleeping or ask to be let out to the toilet in the night.
We have years of experience toilet training puppies and we are happy to help and share our knowledge.
Flea treatment and deworming
It’s advisable to deworm your pup every month until the age of six months and then every three months thereafter.
If you're conscious about your pup's toxic load and prefer a non-chemical alternative to regular worming treatments, try a worm egg count.
It’s better for your pet, the planet and better for your pocket as it can save you a few pounds!
A small sample of your dog's faeces is sent to the laboratory where they check for any evidence of worms (such as eggs or larvae). Here they will also identify what worms they are.
You can then choose to treat accordingly with advice from your vet.
Flea and tick treatment can be given usually monthly or every three months depending on the product.
There is a choice of spot-on medications, oral tablets, or even collars.
If you are not sure which would be the best choice for your pup, please speak to a Buddy vet nurse here for advice.
Vet bills can be quite expensive and are rising even further due to the cost-of-living crisis.
It's not surprising that many pet owners may not have the savings for a rainy day to cover unexpected veterinary costs.
There are many different choices for insurance, but you need to research which is best for you and your budget.
Think about how much you would be happy to pay per month and what you would like your policy to cover you for.
Some pet insurance providers cover surgeries, hospitalisation, diagnosis of disease, treatment for disease, advertising for lost pets, euthanasia costs, dental work, referrals etc.
But if you want your insurance to cover you for all or some of the above, this can increase the monthly premium you pay.
I know it’s tedious but take time to read the terms and conditions carefully, so you know exactly what’s covered.
If you don’t fancy pet insurance, it’s wise to put money regularly into a pet savings account to cover vet costs.
And there you have it!
We hope our top tips and expert advice empower you to feel confident in raising your new fluffy family member.
If you need more puppy parenting tips or help getting your buddy settled, come and speak with our vet nurses for free.