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Whether you have adopted a new puppy, are considering getting a puppy, or are an experienced puppy owner, this care guide information that will help provide all the information you need from the very first step: picking the right puppy for you and your family. Follow along, and we'll answer all of the most common questions about puppy care to help you have a happier, healthier pup into adulthood!

Choosing the Right Puppy

What is the best breed of dog for me?

When choosing a breed there are several things you should take into consideration. It is wise to thoroughly research the breed you are considering. Below are some ideas to get you started.

Your lifestyle
Lifestyle considerations would include your activity level, how much time you have to spend with a puppy or active adult dog, whether you have other pets, and whether you have children or are planning on having them. Read up on prospective breed activity levels and compatibility with children and other pets to help find the best match for your household.
Living environment
If you live in an apartment, rental home or mobile home park, your landlord may have breed and/or size limits for your living space, and small breeds are often best for these situations due to smaller living quarters. If you choose a high energy or working breed, fenced in yards or country living is generally more appropriate for these dogs. If you are considering a large or giant breed dog it is wise to have a large home or yard as they just plain take up more space!
Costs
The initial costs the first year for a puppy can be high and certain breeds such as large or giant breed dogs can be double those of a small or medium size dog throughout their life span. Many breeds are prone to genetic issues which can be costly to repair or treat as well.
Breed characteristics
Most breeds, at one time or another, were bred to do a certain job or function within their living environments and many behavioral characteristics will be somewhat ingrained into the dog. For instance, certain breeds will be chasers, others will be hunters or diggers, and still others will be more territorial.

Where do I find my puppy?

Once you have chosen a breed, there are several options available for obtaining a puppy. You can purchase from a breeder or adopt from a humane society, dog pound, breed or private rescue organization. Humane organizations, shelters and breed rescues often have litters of purebred puppies available. While sometimes you are unable to get background information on the puppy’s parents, many of these organizations include first vaccines, deworming and spay or neuter in the price of adoption. Almost all of them have had health screens prior to releasing for adoption as well. You are helping to rescue a homeless dog while gaining a wonderful pet!

How do I find a good breeder?

A good place to start is your veterinarian or local breed club. The AKC has some good resources on their site as well. Reviews from past puppy buyers or personal recommendations are helpful as well. There are certain things to look for that may help you decide if the breeder you are speaking to is reputable or not. Below is a list of a few questions to ask yourself when considering a breeder.

Does the breeder have more than 1 or 2 breeds that they are trying to sell?
If so, you may want to re-think purchasing from them. They may be a puppy mill.
Is the breeder knowledgeable about all aspects of the breed including hereditary health and temperament issues?
Does the breeder screen their breeding dogs to help eliminate unwanted traits in their line?
These include but are not limited to eye, orthopedic issues (hip and elbow dysplasia), neurologic disorders such as epilepsy or potential temperament issues like fear aggression.
When possible, does the breeder perform testing on puppies for genetic disorders (such as kidney or heart disease)?
Can you go meet the parents of your puppy and view their living environment?
If they say no, move on, this is a big red flag.
Does the breeder ask questions of you such as past ownership, veterinary references, living conditions?
Does the breeder give a health guarantee when you purchase your puppy?
A reputable breeder will always have a health guarantee.
Is the breeder willing to take back the puppy or help you find a new home if you are unable to care for your puppy or he isn’t a good fit for you?
Most breeders will do so if they care about what happens to the puppies they produce. Sadly, many do not.
Does the breeder keep the puppies until at least 8 weeks of age?
If not, they may be violating the law as well as cutting short an important behavioral learning time with mom and siblings.

Preparing For My New Puppy

What should I expect during the ride home?

The first ride in a car can be stressful for your puppy, but there are a few things you can do to help make the ride less traumatic. Take a crate with you and make your puppy a nice bed or nest of blankets or something soft to snuggle against. Having that enclosed space to “hide” often helps. Keeping your puppy in a crate also prevents accidental escape or injury.

How do I prevent my puppy from getting sick in the car?

Try to not feed your puppy for several hours before riding in the car. If you are going to have a very long car ride and must give food, try giving a smaller amount and allow at least an hour before getting back into the car. Keeping your puppy in a crate may help with motion sickness also, but take towels and extra blankets with you just in case!

How often should we stop to allow our puppy to relieve herself?

Puppies need to relieve themselves often. To figure out exactly how many hours between potty breaks, a good rule of thumb is to take your puppy’s age in months and add one. For instance, a 3 month old puppy will need to go potty approximately every 4 hours. Keep in mind that the stress of the car ride may decrease that time. Remember to take a collar and leash or a slip lead with you to keep your puppy safe wherever you end up taking him to relieve himself. Avoid high traffic or noisy areas which may cause fear.

How do I introduce my puppy to other pets in the house?

Walk your dog around his new home on a leash. Show him his food, water and bedding. Take him outside and show him where you want him to eliminate and praise him when he does. If he seems very anxious, you may want to confine him to a small area of the house at first. You can use special "calming" products to help him feel comfortable.

DAP Dog Appeasing Pheromone
Available in a spray, a diffuser or a collar, this hormone mimics the natural pheromone released by the         mother dog 3-5 days after having a litter of puppies, causing a calming and reassuring effect on the dog.
Vetri-Science treats
Calming treats can be offered in any fearful situation
 

Should I keep my puppy in a crate when I am not at home?

Crates are excellent training tools if the puppy is not house trained already or is likely to be destructive when left alone. Puppies will chew on everything, get into just about everything, and will learn appropriate places to potty much more quickly if crate training is used. Puppies innately do not want to urinate or defecate where they sleep, so you’ll encourage bladder and bowel control by crate training. You’ll also keep puppy safe from all of the hazards in your home when you’re not there to closely supervise!

Petnation Indoor/Outdoor Pet Home
Lightweight, durable, foldable, ventilated soft crate
Newport Pet Crate End Table
Attractive enough to keep in the living room
 

How do I introduce my puppy to other dogs in the house?

If you already have another dog, the best way to introduce your new puppy is outside of your other dog’s territory. Have them both on a leash and closely supervise them. There will be much sniffing, posturing and occasional growls, all of which are normal. It is not unusual for your older dog to be unhappy about the presence of a new puppy and she may growl and be uncomfortable at first. Give them some time to get to know one another before moving into the house. Always supervise both pets when they are together until you are certain that your other dog will not harm your new puppy. This could take a few days, up to a few months.

How do I introduce my puppy to my cat?

If you have a cat, do not allow your puppy to chase him. This is the number one behavior that causes problems between cats and dogs. Cats are very territorial and may exhibit some behavioral issues during the transition. Give your cat time to acclimate to your puppy’s smell by keeping them separate initially, then gradually make time spent together rewarding for both. Reward the cat for approaching your puppy without hissing, and reward your puppy for avoiding or ignoring the cat. This will help encourage peace and harmony between the species!

Food and Water

Where should I give my puppy his food and water?

Your puppy should be fed in any area of your home that is quiet and has low traffic. For instance, the front door hallway would be less than ideal, as would feeding your pet next to a noisy washing machine or dishwasher. Pick a location that will have limited foot traffic and low noise from people or appliances so your puppy can eat and drink in peace.

Should I feed my puppy dry food?

Dry food is less expensive, easier to store, and less messy than canned food. However, it is not without pitfalls. Many dry foods contain a lot of fillers and less than nutritious ingredients. Dry food is also heavily processed, which means many vitamins and minerals are destroyed as it is made. The decision to feed dry food needs to be made based on your lifestyle, your habits, your financial means, and the ingredients or manufacturing process being used for the potential food you’ve selected.

Products on Amazon

Should I feed my puppy canned food?

Canned wet food and soft moist pouches contain a lot of water, which makes them more expensive and also subject to spoiling if the dog doesn't eat it all in one meal. However, canned food is less heavily processed than dry, which means natural vitamins and minerals are often maintained during the manufacturing process. Canned foods often contain fewer “fillers” as ingredients and offer moisture that is essential to helping your pet’s urinary tract stay healthy. Ultimately, you must decide which type of food is most convenient for you.

Products on Amazon

How do I know what dog food to buy?

There are many quality foods available. However, during the first week, it is recommended to keep your new puppy on the same brand previously being fed by the shelter or breeder. Once adjusted to your home, you can slowly introduce a new brand if desired. Look for high-quality, pure meat ingredients, limited artificial flavorings, and pure starches like potatoes, peas, and whole fruits. Try to avoid ingredient lists that include byproducts or anything described as “meal” in the first five ingredients.

Products: Orijen, Acana, Fromm, Great Life, Pure Vita, Wellness, Natural Balance, Avoderm, Halo, Solid Gold, Merrick, Nutro Ultra, Purina Proplan, Newman’s Own, Purina One
Made in the USA
No history of food safety recalls in the past
 

Does my dog need a diet labeled for puppies?

Many dogs can continue to eat an adult dog food their entire life, but puppies have different nutritional needs because they are growing so quickly. Puppy formulas are made with the nutritional needs of puppies in mind without having to increase the volume being fed. If you’re feeding an adult or non-puppy formula diet to your puppy, make sure you are following the manufacturer’s guidelines for amounts to feed puppies, which is often up to double that recommended for an adult dog of the same weight.

Are grain free diets better for my puppy?

Dogs, unlike cats, are not true carnivores, therefore fruits and grains are a healthy part of their diet. Many grains provide protein as well as fiber to their diet. Many people believe that grains are the only ingredients that cause food allergies, when the fact is that many dogs are allergic to the meat sources such as chicken and other proteins like egg. Grains are not a bad thing, but should be included as whole grains, not “meals” like “soybean meal”. Look for peas, corn, carrots, cranberries, and other whole foods in the ingredient list.

Are homemade or raw diets safe for my puppy?

The American Veterinary Association does not recommend raw diets at this time. The basis for their recommendation is the potential for parasites, salmonella and other bacterial poisons, which are especially concerns for puppies. Raw and homemade diets should be avoided when a puppy is still growing and developing her immune system. If you are considering a homemade or raw diet, always consult with a veterinary nutritionist to make sure you are providing the right balance of vitamins and minerals, as well as choosing safe sources of protein and carbohydrates.

How often should I feed my puppy?

Puppies should be offered food at least 3 times a day. For small and toy breeds under 4 months of age, it is recommended to feed even more often, as many have issues with low blood sugar. Feed your puppy on a schedule, leaving the food down for about 15 minutes and then pick up the dish. Allowing free access is not recommended, as this will make house training and monitoring intake much more difficult.

How much food should my puppy get in a day?

This depends on the type and brand of food you are giving. Higher quality foods are more nutrient dense, so you would feed less and have smaller stools. Cheap or bargain brands require significantly more as they are comprised of fillers and cheap protein sources. Puppy formulas often require less volume, while adult formulas will often require you to double the amount. Follow the recommended guidelines on the bag or can and adjust according to your puppy’s weight, growth, and development. Activity level should also be taken into account. If your puppy plays at puppy socialization class, he will likely need more food that day than on a day when he was simply playing around the living room.

What human food is ok to feed?

A begging puppy is hard to resist. However, you should avoid feeding from the dinner table unless you want a demanding dog later on! If you wish to give your puppy a treat, do so after you are away from the table or require your puppy to sit, lie down, or perform some other task before earning the reward. Do not reward begging or whining at the table, standing up on chairs, or other unwanted behaviors. Many human foods can be dangerous for a dog, but there are some that can be used as safe and tasty treats. Always add new foods in small amounts, one at a time, and discontinue if your puppy gets an upset tummy. Also remember that human food should never be the main staple in your puppy’s diet.

Peanut butter
Peanut butter is high in protein but also pretty high in fat. It is best given as a treat or to hide pills. If your pup gets sick, giving any prescribed medication in peanut butter is an easy way to ensure he will get it down. Try using peanut butter in a kong or sterilized bone as a binder for treats or food to provide hours of sticky and hard-to-get distraction and fun!
Carrots
Carrots are crunchy, packed with vitamins and low in calories. They are relatively high in sugar so only give in small amounts. Too much of anything can cause an upset stomach.
Green Beans
Green beans are low calorie and a good source of fiber. They can be added to their diet as a filler if your puppy gets a little pudgy when older and you need to reduce the amount of food he is eating. Both canned and fresh are fine, however avoid canned beans that have added salt.
Chicken
Chicken is low in fat, high protein and easily digested. Be sure to remove any skin that may have seasonings as some can be toxic or cause an upset stomach. Make sure there are no bones that can cause obstructions or internal bleeding.

What human foods should I avoid?

Many, many human foods are toxic to dogs, even in small amounts. Avoid giving your puppy any of the foods below and contact whiskerDocs or your veterinarian immediately if he happens to accidentally eat or drink any of the following foods.

Alcohol
This includes any drinks, disinfectants and cleaning products containing alcohol as well as unbaked bread or yeast dough.
Apricots, peaches, plums and cherries
Leaves and stems of trees and pits/seeds all contain cyanide.
Avocados
The fruit, leaves, stems and pit/seed have the highest toxicity levels.
Caffeine
Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, diet pills and chocolate all can cause toxicity depending on amounts ingested and there is no antidote available.
Chocolate
Dark and bitter chocolates (ex. bakers) are the most toxic, however milk chocolate is toxic as well.
Cinnamon
Powdered, sticks, decorations, essential oils and trees can cause systemic and topical toxic effects.
Currents
Depending on the type, toxic effects can be seen in any amount and some are small grapes which can cause kidney failure.
Decaying meat carcasses, garbage
Rotting food scraps and bones are toxic in any amount. Rotting meat can cause Botulism while bones pose a risk for obstruction and internal bleeding.
Garlic and onions
All types and forms of either can cause life-threatening anemia.
Grapes and raisins
Grapes, either fresh, dried (raisins) or juice can cause kidney failure.
Hops
Hops are used for home brewing and the exact lethal amount is unknown, so all amounts are considered life-threatening.
Macadamia nuts
Avoid giving the nuts or foods containing them.
Mushrooms
While the majority of mushrooms are not toxic they can be difficult to identify, therefore it is best to avoid them all.
Moldy foods
Avoid giving any food that has mold on it. Try and keep trash up so your puppy does not ingest any potentially toxic leftovers.
Nutmeg
Nutmeg can be found in many baked goods and all forms can be toxic. When ingested in large amounts it can cause neurological conditions and death.
Rhubarb
The leaves are the most toxic part of the plant, however the stems are toxic as well. Severe toxicity can cause low blood calcium levels and kidney failure.
Salt
Salt is found in many forms including any cooking salts, salt water, paint balls, homemade playdough, de-icers and enemas.
Starfruit
Ingested in large amounts can cause low blood calcium and kidney failure.
Sugary or artificially sweetened foods.
Sugary sweets can cause hyperactivity. Artificial sweetners such as Xylitol, the most toxic of this category, are found in sugar free gums, candy, foods and medications.

Should I leave water out for my puppy all the time?

It is important for your puppy to have free access to water but only when you can be there to monitor his intake. Shortly after drinking, take him outside to eliminate. It is not recommended to keep food or water in your puppy’s crate during alone times or overnight as housetraining will be difficult and he may have accidents in his crate. Pull up his water dish at least an hour before bedtime.

Bathing and Grooming

How often should I bathe my puppy and what kind of shampoo is best?

Unless your puppy gets himself muddy or smelly for some reason, it is best not to bath him more than once a month. Frequent bathing can dry out her skin and hair coat. Frequency of bathing can also depend on the breed or hair type of your dog. Smooth coated breeds can often go longer between baths than curly coated breeds. Some double coated breeds do not need to be bathed more than twice a year, because regular brushing will keep them clean and odor free. When bathing, be sure to use a shampoo that is labeled for use in puppies or a gentle brand with primary ingredients of oatmeal and/or aloe.

At what age can I start bathing and brushing my puppy?

You can start bathing and brushing your puppy any time, and the sooner and more regularly you do so, the easier it will be when your puppy gets older. Like everything new, you will need to desensitize your puppy to the process, going slowly and using plenty of treats and praise. Avoid getting soap in your puppy’s eyes and water in the ears. You can place a cotton ball just inside the ears to help with this, as long as you remember to take them out and don’t push them in too far! Use gentle pressure when brushing and, before you know it, your pup will look forward to the love and attention. Always make sure you dry your puppy’s coat thoroughly after bathing.

Should I cut my puppy’s hair?

Some breeds such as Poodles and Schnauzers need regular haircuts. For others, a nail trim and trimming the hair on the pads is sufficient. Many people will shave down thick or double coated dogs in the summer thinking that will help keep them cool when, in fact, their coats are designed to protect their skin from the heat and sun. Most puppies will not require hair cuts until they are older than 4 months.

How do I trim my puppy’s toenails and how often should they be trimmed?

Start out by getting your puppy used to having his feet handled, practicing daily with playing with his toes and pushing on his nails. When you first attempt to trim the claws, go slowly, since the noise and sensation (pressure on the nail/nail bed) of trimming can be frightening. If your puppy has white nails, look for where the pink runs through the nail from the bed and clip just the tip of the nail up to right before where the pink begins. Black nails are harder to determine as you will not be able to see the “quick” (pink area). For black nails, it is best just to take off the little hook at the end if you are unsure. Always have some styptic or other bleed stop product on hand just in case you clip too high. If you are uncertain about how to do a proper nail trimming or how far back to cut, ask your veterinarian or a technician at your vet’s office to show you. Make sure you purchase a quality set of clippers, avoiding the ones with the guard on them or any that require you to put the nail through a hole, as these can cause injury or accidental cutting of the quick.

Do I need to brush my puppy’s teeth?

You should absolutely begin teeth brushing when your puppy is young, as brushing can help prevent the need for major dental work later in life! Tooth paste made for dogs is usually flavored and safe for dogs to swallow and is available at most major pet retailers. You can use a finger brush or a regular toothbrush to clean your puppy’s teeth. There are also dental chews, sprays, water additives and gels available for your dog. With training, your dog can learn to enjoy this process and will remind you to do this every day!

Petrodex Enzymatic Toothpaste Dog Poultry Flavor
Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Dog Dental Spray
Arm and Hammer Toothbrush and Finger Toothbrush Set for Dogs
Emmy's Best Premium Pet Water Additive
 

Exercise and Play

How do I play with my puppy?

Puppies want to play a lot. Experiment with a variety of toys for fetching, chasing, and chewing. You can teach your dog to play even if he has never done it before. However you choose to play with your puppy, though, avoid using your hands or body as toys. Those gentle little jaws have tiny dagger-like teeth, and the jaws will become much stronger with age. Allowing your puppy to use your body as a toy will create habits that are difficult to break later in life.

KONG pet stix dog toy
For tossing and tugging
KONG Classic dog toy
Can be filled with peanut butter or treats to encourage interaction
Chuckit! Indoor Ball
Soft and harmless
 

How do I get my dog to exercise when I am not home?

Some puppies keep themselves busy, but your puppy will most likely sleep for quite some time when you aren’t home! Most likely, your puppy will be crated when you aren’t home, so you’ll want to provide appropriate chew or squeaky toys that he can’t destroy so he can self-entertain until you’re back. As your pup grows and graduates from crate confinement to an entire room or free-roaming, you can hide treats for your puppy to find. You can also use electronic or treat filled toys.

PetSafe Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug Meal Dispensing Toy
Fill with food to keep him busy
Bark Bazaar Squeaky Ball
Fill with treats
Nina Ottosson's Interactive Dog Toy
Your dog has to solve a puzzle to get the treats or food
iFetch
Interactive on demand ball launcher lets dogs play fetch without human assistance (small dogs only)
 

Can I take my puppy for long walks?

It depends on the puppy’s age and size. The younger and smaller they are, the less distance they can tolerate. It will take some time to get your puppy used to walking nicely on a leash, but going for regular walks is a great way to incorporate exercise, bonding, and training into your pet’s routine.

Comfort Control Dog Walking Harness with padded vest
   Safety, control and comfort all wrapped into one
Flexi Explore Retractable Belt Dog Leash
   Allows your dog additional freedom when walking but can also be locked shorter for tighter control
Halti Opti Head Collar for Dogs
   Helps control pulling by an untrained or especially energetic dog
 

Healthcare

How do I find a good veterinarian for my puppy?

If you don’t currently have a veterinarian, recommendations from the shelter, breeder, friends, family and co-workers are often the best resources. There are several online review websites that you can visit as well. When you find one that may be a good fit, stop by and view the facility and meet the staff. If you want to meet a particular veterinarian, it is a good idea to call ahead and find out when would be a good time to do so. Avoid any clinics that look dirty, smell foul, are in ill repair, or where the staff appears unfriendly or unwelcoming to pet parents and patients.

When should I take my puppy in for his first visit?

Even if your puppy is not due for his first vaccines, it is recommended to have him examined within a day or two after you get him. Be sure to take any prior medical records and a stool sample with you on your puppy’s first visit.

After his puppy vaccines are all done, how often should my puppy be examined?

As long as the puppy is in good health and depending on your puppy’s particular vaccine schedule, a yearly exam is recommended until around 6 years of age or a little older (depending on his breed and size). Once your puppy is considered middle aged to senior (average 6-8 years), he should be examined more often as the onset of many metabolic and age related diseases start. Yearly blood panels are recommended for all dogs, even puppies. When he reaches senior status, every six months is best.

When does my puppy need his vaccines and what kinds should he have?

Your puppy will need to receive “core” vaccines on a particular schedule, which include distemper, adenovirus/hepatitis, and parvovirus (given together in a single vaccine often called “distemper”, DHPP, DHLPP, or DAP) and rabies. Puppies will need several “boosters” to load the immune system when they’re young, starting at 8 weeks old and repeated 3-4 weeks apart, with the final vaccine of the distemper series given at 16 weeks of age. For rabies, a single vaccine is given between 12 and 16 weeks. Depending on your puppy’s lifestyle and where you live, additional vaccines such as bordatella, lyme, leptosporosis, and venom vaccines may be recommended.

The distemper combination (DHLPP, DHPP, DAP) protects your puppy from several viral and bacterial diseases, some of which can be fatal (parvovirus) and all of which are contagious to other dogs. Leptosporosis (the L in the DHLPP version), is not a core vaccine, but is against a bacterial disease that can be transmitted to humans. Depending on the disease, there are several body systems that may be affected including the respiratory tract, digestive tract, nervous system, liver, kidneys, blood vessels and heart. After the initial puppy series, the vaccine is given on a yearly or every 3 year schedule depending on the type that is used.
Rabies is a fatal infection which affects the central nervous system and it is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal. There is no testing for rabies until the animal has died. Most states have laws requiring all dogs, cats and ferrets have a current rabies vaccine. Some states require yearly vaccination while others require every 3 years. Check with your veterinarian or local government for requirements in your area. Rabies can affect all mammals and humans.
The bordetella vaccine protects your dog from airborne bacteria that cause “kennel cough”. This vaccine is recommended for any dogs that will be boarding, groomed, attend puppy or obedience classes or frequent any areas where high concentrations of dogs may be. This vaccine is given during the initial puppy series, boostered once and then given every 6 months to 1 year depending of the type given. It should be noted that this vaccine protects against the most common bacteria causing symptoms, however there are some strains that may still affect your dog. Compare this to our flu vaccines, where sometimes there are strains that can still cause illness.
Lyme vaccine protects your dog from a multi-systemic disease spread by infected ticks. If you live in an area that has a high tick population, live or spend a lot of time in wooded areas or travel with your dog, this vaccine is highly recommended. You can give this vaccine during his puppy series and it will need to be boostered once, then is given yearly.
In certain areas where snakes and other venomous creatures reside, there may be vaccines available to prevent life threatening illness. Discuss this option with your veterinarian if you live in one of these areas or will be traveling to one.

Are there any side effects to vaccines?

Some ingredients and types of vaccines can cause side effects. Most are mild and resolve within 24-48 hours. Mild reactions might include pain and mild swelling at the injection site, reduced appetite, stomach upset, lack of energy, and mild diarrhea. Serious reactions, while not common, can occur and would include severe vomiting or diarrhea, tremors, seizures, lack of coordination, collapse, difficulty breathing and death. Most serious reactions occur within about an hour of getting a vaccine. If your puppy develops any symptoms that appear serious, get him to your veterinarian or nearest emergency clinic immediately.

How do I prevent my puppy from getting worms?

Many puppies contract intestinal worms before birth and while nursing. Normally puppies are given deworming medication at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age, regardless of whether a fecal sample tests positive. The most common types of intestinal worms are roundworms, hookworms, whipworms and tapeworms. The larvae of many of these worms can affect people, most often children, and other pets. Monthly oral preventatives and treatments are available to prevent infestations, or you can deworm your puppy every six months after his initial deworming series.

When should I start my puppy on flea and tick prevention and how long should he stay on it?

Depending on the type of prevention you are using, most are started at around 8 weeks of age. There are some flea preventions available for puppies as young as 6 weeks of age. Preventatives are best given year round, but if you live in an area where the ground freezes and he has no risk of exposure inside from other animals, you can take your puppy off preventatives after the first heavy frost late fall and start him back on at the beginning of spring. Discuss with your veterinarian which product is best for your puppy, including whether she should have additional preventatives as part of her flea and tick routine.

Does my indoor dog need to be on heartworm preventatives?

Heartworms come from mosquito bites and all puppies are at risk for exposure when they go outdoors for walks or to eliminate. If your puppy lives at very high altitudes, consistently cold temperatures or exclusively indoor, he may not need preventative. Some puppies will need preventative all year round and others only during the warmer months. Discuss your dog's individual risk with your veterinarian.

Should I spay or neuter my puppy?

Unless you are prepared for the costs and time involved in being a dedicated breeder, it is best to spay or neuter your puppy. By doing so, you prevent unwanted litters and health risks associated with leaving your puppy intact. Female dogs that are left unsprayed are at risk for accidental pregnancy, pregnancy complications, life threatening infections (pyometra), mammary tumors and false pregnancies. Male dogs left intact are prone to testerone dependent diseases such as prostate, testicular and anal tumors. Behavior issues such as urine marking, roaming and mounting are all common in un-neutered dogs as well.

At what age should I have my puppy spayed or neutered?

It is generally recommended to have your puppy altered prior to the onset of puberty to prevent medical and behavioral issues. Depending on their size, onset can be from 4 months to a year. Small breed dogs usually enter puberty earlier than large or giant breed dogs. To be on the safe side, spaying or neutering should be done around 5-6 months. There is much debate as to whether altering at this age causes health issues later on. At this time, there are no reputable studies to back up this theory, but there is significant evidence of the health risks associated with waiting much longer and risking the dog entering heat or reaching puberty before neutering.

Does my puppy need pet insurance?

Pet insurance is a wise investment for all pets. The monthly premium is often quite low, especially when you take into account that a single emergency room visit can cost thousands of dollars. There are many types of pet insurance available, from those that help with routine care visits to those that are designed to cover only catastrophic or unexpected injuries or illnesses. Be careful to read the fine print to see what’s included and not included in your plan, including any hereditary or genetic conditions.

Should my puppy be microchipped?

Microchipping is advised for all pets. The procedure is quick and practically painless, and is often done at the time of spaying/neutering. A microchip will provide your puppy with a permanent identification method. Tags and collars can fall off, but a microchip will stay in place for life. Just remember to update your contact information through your microchip company any time you move or get a new phone number!

How do I keep my puppies teeth clean?

In addition to brushing your puppy’s teeth at home, your veterinarian will evaluate his dental health at his regular checkups. Your vet will make recommendations for timing of a professional cleaning, which often needs to be done every 1-3 years depending on the dog and your home care regimen.

How do I know if my puppy is sick?

Watch for anything out of the ordinary--you will get to know your dog! Any sudden or noticeable changes to your puppy’s eating, drinking, sleeping, urinating, defecating, or playing patterns should be evaluated by your veterinarian. Your puppy should also be growing and gaining weight, and if he is not, needs a vet visit. In addition, ingesting foreign objects and potential toxins is quite common in puppies, and should be treated by an emergency facility right away.

Housebreaking and Potty Issues

Can I allow my new dog to run loose outside?

Dogs who go outdoors unprotected can be injured by cars, exposed to toxins, get lost, and attacked by other dogs. This is especially true for a young, vulnerable new puppy. In addition, these dogs are more likely to be infected with intestinal worms, heartworms, bacteria and fungus. Keep your dog safely secured with a collar or harness and leash. Make sure the collar is tight enough that it cannot slip over your puppy’s head. Also make sure your puppy can be easily identified by a microchip, ID tag, or collar with your name and number in the event that you do become separated.

Rivet-On custom engraved dog ID tag
Go Tags Custom Embroidered Collars
Lucky Pet ID tag bone shape custom engraved dog tags
   Personalized with your dog's name and phone number, in case she gets lost
HomeAgain Microchip Implant Kit for Administration by Veterinarian
QR Code Pet ID tag Accessory w/Smartphone GPS Tracking
   Combined with online registration to provide retrievable information
 

Can I allow my puppy to go out into my fenced yard by herself?

For the first couple of weeks, you should go out into your fenced yard with your puppy and watch carefully to make sure your pup has no intention of digging under or climbing over the fence. Even after you have confirmed this, you should watch her through a window as much as possible. You should only allow her out unattended if your fence is very secure. If your puppy is especially small, be aware that predators like birds of prey, foxes, raccoons, and even other dogs may be able to get into your fence and cause her serious injury.

Ideal Pet Products Pet Door with Telescoping Frame
Allows your dog to go outside whenever he needs to in your absence, but should be locked at night to keep your dog safely inside
Friendly Pet Products Wireless Dog Fence
Technology to reinforce or replace a physical fence; keep in mind that wireless fencing does not work to keep outside predators out!
Perimeter Technologies Wire-Free Wifi Dog Fence
Technology to reinforce or replace a physical fence; keep in mind that wireless fencing does not work to keep outside predators out!
 

Does my dog need a collar or harness for leash walking?

A puppy should always have a harness when leash walking, as pulling on a leash can cause damage to a developing trachea. As your puppy grows, depending on the size of him as an adult, the pressure of a collar alone can cause the trachea to collapse. The safest option is to use a harness, regardless of your dog’s weight, size, or leash walking manners.

How often should I take my puppy out to eliminate?

The general rule is that your puppy can hold his bladder for the number of months he is in age, plus one hour. So for instance, your 3 month old puppy can hold his bladder for roughly 4 hours. Getting on a schedule and sticking to it will help housebreak your puppy quickly. Also be sure to make a trip outside every time your puppy eats, drinks, wakes up from a nap, or has just finished a play session.

Can I train my puppy to use a litter box, artificial turf or a pee pad indoors?

Puppies may have a difficult time adapting to a brand new location for elimination. It is best to continue to use whatever location the puppy is already used to, especially at first. Some people find beginning with pee pads then gradually moving to outdoors more effective than going directly outdoors, while others find it harder to later transition to outside only because the pup has learned that going inside is acceptable. You have to decide what works best for your puppy and your lifestyle.

PoochPad Reusable Potty Pads for Mature Dogs
Large and extra absorbent
PetZoom Pet Park Indoor Pet potty
Synthetic grass material that looks and feels real
Lowes large plastic storage containers
Cut an opening for your small dog to enter and exit . Fill with sand or cat litter
 

Sleeping

Where should my puppy sleep?

A puppy will usually play hard and then sleep harder, sleeping up to 18 or 20 hours a day when he’s 3 months old, and then decreasing as he gets a little older. Avoid disturbing a sleeping puppy, so encourage him to sleep in a quiet room or low-traffic location. The best place for them to sleep depends on what they are used to, their size (can they get on and off a high bed?) and their personalities. Your puppy may like sleeping on the bare floor, in a crate, or prefer a rug or a bed.

Armarkat Pet Bed Mat
Mud River Crate Cushion
For dogs who prefer the floor but could use a little cushion.
 

Do I need to keep my house at a certain temperature for my puppy?

Very young puppies under the age of four months will need their environment to be a bit warmer consistently and/or have loose blankets and warm bedding to snuggle up with when they’re sleeping. Older puppies can live comfortably in your home’s regular living temperature.

What kind of dog bed should I buy?

There are many different kinds of dog beds, from plush beds to thin beds to beds made of memory foam. You may have to use trial and error to see what your dog likes. Big, soft, cushy surfaces are often more attractive to puppies who are used to sleeping with siblings or with mom.

AKC Casablanca Round Solid Pet Bed
Coolaroo Elevated Pet Bed
Milliard Premium Orthopedic Memory Foam Dog Bed
K&H Manufacturing Lectro-Soft Heated Bed
 

Can my puppy sleep in bed with me?

Of course! Your puppy may prefer a little more privacy for sleeping, but most of the time, she’s going to want to sleep with you. Crate training, especially when your puppy isn’t housebroken, is a smarter decision, though. Accidents are common, especially at night, when your puppy still hasn’t learned that he needs to let you know that it is time for a bathroom break. Crating deters this behavior and encourages them to cry when it’s time to go out, instead of making a mess where they’re trying to sleep. Also, consider your puppy’s size and whether it’s safe to allow them to sleep in bed until you’re used to having them around. We, as pet parents, will subconsciously toss and turn less when we’re used to having puppy around, but during the first few weeks, we may not!

Pet Gear Easy Step II Pet Stairs
Miles Kimball 3 step Pet Stairs
Convertable Pet Steps/Ramp
Can help your puppy dog get up on your bed
 

Traveling with Puppies

How do I take my dog in the car?

This depends on what your puppy already knows about traveling, but it’s important to get started early. With experience, your puppy will learn to love riding and will sit on the seat and wear her seat belt like an angel. If she has never been trained, she may be hyperactive or anxious in a car. It is best to start this puppy out in a crate, where she will feel and be safer! A dog loose in the car is at risk for escape, injury or may even cause an accident. Once your puppy gets used to car travel, you can get a car seat or car harness and seat belt system to begin training for that method if preferred. Take frequent short trips in the car so your puppy gets used to traveling!

EzyDog Seat Belt Restraint for Dogs
Tru-fit Smart Harness Seatbelt Loop
Kurgo Skybox Dog Booster Seat
These are safe and comfortable for pet travel. Smaller Dogs may do better in a seat belt/booster seat combination
 

Do dogs get car sick?

Unfortunately, some dogs will get car sick. If this happens, call your veterinarian for car sickness medication. It also helps to start with short trips and then gradually increase them. You might also want to experiment with whether your dog does better in the front seat vs. back seat, crated vs. in a seat belt, and/or being able to see out windows (most do) vs. the windows being darkened (you can accomplish this with baby sun shades on the windows) or vision otherwise obstructed.

Can my dog fly with me?

Puppies should never fly in the cargo area of a plane. Only bring your puppy on a flight if he can safely travel with you in the cabin. If he can’t, then it is highly recommended that you look into other options for arriving at your destination or ways to keep your puppy at home while you’re away.

Can my dog stay in a hotel with me?

If your puppy is an experienced traveler and does well on visits to friends and family, she should do very well in a hotel. Make sure he is well behaved and that you bring your crate with you. Make sure your puppy gets outside often enough to relieve herself or is crated when you are not there to prevent accidents and damage to hotel property.

www.petswelcome.com, www.vetstreet.com
www.hotels.com/pet-friendly-hotels, www.pettravel.com
Many websites provide information for traveling with your pet and hotel availability
www.AVMA.org, www.pettravel.com, www.aphis.usda.gov
These websites provide additional information about health certificates for air travel and international travel requirements. Your veterinarian can also help you with this.
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