Bringing a new puppy into your family can be an exciting but daunting prospect. Taking care of your new four-legged friend in their early age is easier when you're armed with good information. In this article, you'll find a loose guide to what you can expect from the first year of owning a puppy.

Puppy-Proofing Your Home

While raising a dog from puppyhood can be an thrilling experience, in some ways it is also more difficult than adopting an adult dog. Not only will you be responsible for forming the puppy's behavior and temperament in those early days, you'll also need to have more patience and give your pooch lots of attention. Since puppies are curious, rambunctious creatures, they're more likely to hurt themselves accidentally. 

The first year of your puppy's life is critical to their behavior and personality. To start off on the right foot, you can begin by puppy-proofing your home. Make sure your new pooch can't reach anything dangerous like household chemicals or plants that will be poisonous if they are chewed or ingested.

If there are stairs in your home, create a physical boundary at the top and bottom of the staircase (like placing a baby gate) that your puppy will be unable to hop over and potentially hurt themselves. 

You'll also need to get ready to house-train your puppy as soon as they come home, If you plan on crate training them, place blankets and toys in the crate and place these in a nice, calm spot in the house before your pup arrives. 

The Art of Raising a Puppy 

Your new little companion will seem to have and endless amount of energy to explore their world. Be prepared to help them do this safely by teaching your puppy boundaries from a young age. This can help keep them safe and healthy as they mature. 

Fortunately, puppies tend to sleep a lot, so you'll have some non-puppy time to yourself during the day. That said, they don't always sleep through the night. You may hear them bark or whine during the night as they get used to being left alone. 

Because your pup will likely chew on anything they can find to soothe the pain in their mouth as their adult teeth come in, you'll likely find your puppy has destroyed more than a few items around the house during their teething phase. However, this behavior shouldn't last past their first birthday, as they will be grown by the time they turn a year old. 

There's a lot of time and commitment involved in raising a puppy, Make sure you can have someone with your four-legged companion at all times if you're thinking of bringing a new pup home. This will help establish bathroom and sleeping routines during that all-important first year.

You'll also be able to nip undesirable behaviors in the bud that could become entrenched if your puppy were to spend too much time alone. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to recognize any health issues that require a veterinarian's attention. 

Your Puppy's Diet 

Puppies have different nutrient needs than matured dogs. Look for some high-quality puppy food that is specially formulated to support puppy development and growth. The proper quantity of food depends on factors like age, size, and breed. Consult your veterinarian to determine the appropriate amount for your pooch!

For some small breeds, it can be best to free-feed young pups to ensure they receive adequate nutrition. Toy and small breed dogs reach physical maturity faster than larger breeds and can be switched over to adult dog food and adult-sized portions between 9 and 12 months of age.

Larger breeds can take a full two years to reach physical maturity and have different nutritional needs than small breeds. They should be fed puppy food specifically formulated for large breeds. Talk to your vet about the best time to switch your growing large-breed dog to adult food. They should also be fed multiple meals each day with controlled portions to prevent complications, such as stomach bloat.

When your pup is between 6 and 12 weeks old, a good feeding structure would dictate they are fed four times a day. During the three-to-six-month phase, they should receive three meals a day. After six months and on, as your pup matures and grows into an adult dog, two meals a day will suffice.

What You'll Need

Here is a list of resources you should get before bringing your puppy home:

  • A crate or dog carrier
  • A dog bed
  • Food and water dishes
  • High-quality puppy food and healthy dog treats
  • Fresh, clean water
  • A dog brush or comb
  • Puppy-safe shampoo
  • Puppy-safe toys
  • A collar with ID
  • Dog toothbrush and dog-safe toothpaste
  • Nail trimmers
  • Poop bags
  • Travel bag
  • Pet-safe home cleaner
  • Patience

Veterinary Care for Your Puppy 

It may seem as if your puppy's first few months to a year pass by in a blur of training, teething and activity. Fortunately, our veterinary team at Gentle Doctor Animal Hospital is here to provide guidance, advice and professional veterinary care for your canine companion as they mature into a healthy adult dog. 

Our vets are always happy to meet new patients and address any questions or concerns you may have during your puppy's first physical exam, which should be done when your puppy is around six weeks old. During this wellness checkup, your vet will look for external parasites and confirm there are no congenital defects or other health problems. We will also administer your puppy's first round of vaccinations, along with medications for hookworm and roundworm. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have questions about how to care for your new puppy? Call our experienced vets in O’Fallon to schedule an appointment.