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Art of Raising a Puppy: First Year Guide

Art of Raising a Puppy: First Year Guide

While adding a puppy to your home and family will be a great joy, there will still be a number of expectations to consider. Today, our Sacramento vets share some information that can be helpful in raising a puppy through the first year of their life.

Caring For a Puppy Through the First Year

Raising a puppy is an exciting and adorable experience, but does come with some challenges. For first-time puppy owners, the task can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don't really know what you're getting yourself into. Our vets at Elkhorn-Walerga Animal Hospital hope to further prepare you for the experience so your pup can grow up to be a happy, healthy, and well-behaved doggy.

Puppies are very energetic as well as curious about everything going on around them. Puppy owners will need a lot of patience to keep them out of trouble, instruct them on acceptable behavior, and teach them about the world in a safe manner. 

Luckily, you will get some breaks throughout the day as puppies tend to sleep a lot. That being said, they don't always sleep through the night which can result in them whining and/or barking throughout the night due to being left alone.

Your pup will likely be motivated to chew on just about anything as their adult teeth come in, which can result in the not-so-cute destruction of items around the house. On the bright side, this behavior won't last too long as your pup will be all grown up by the time they turn a year old, as most of those types of puppy tendencies will be left behind.

Caring for a puppy is a big obligation and a large time investment. If you're thinking about getting a puppy, you should ensure you can always have someone home with them. This will allow you to let them out to go to the bathroom as well as monitor their behavior to ensure you can put an end to undesirable habits they may partake in if they were left alone.

Puppy Proofing Will be Your New Focus

No matter how hard you try, it is virtually impossible to provide your curious, energetic pup with around-the-clock supervision. To minimize the trouble your puppy can get into when you aren't around, you should puppy-proof your home before their homecoming. Secure electrical cords and move potentially toxic plants or substances, such as cleaning supplies and insecticides, out of reach.

It's a good idea to crawl through your home to get a puppy's-eye view of their surroundings. Remove anything they might be tempted to chew or swallow and close off vents, pet doors, or any other openings that might allow them to become lost or stuck. Not only will this help keep them safe, but it will also ease your anxiety that your new pup is lost.

You'll need to be ready to start house training your pup as soon as you bring them home. If you plan to crate train them, have your crate ready to go. Make it comfortable by lining it with blankets or a dog bed, but make sure it's large enough that they'll have plenty of room to stand up, turn around and lie down. Slowly introduce them to the crate by leaving the door open and letting them explore it on their own. You can help tempt them to go in by throwing in a toy or using treats. The more comfortable they are with going into the crate, the easier it will be on both of you during training.

Nutritional Need of Puppies

Puppies have different nutrient and energy 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. It's a good idea to consult your veterinarian about how much and how often to feed your pup.

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 daily with controlled portions to prevent complications, such as stomach bloat.

When your pup is 6-12 weeks old, a good feeding structure would dictate they are fed 4 times a day. At 3-6 months, 3 meals a day should be provided. After 6 months and on, as your pup matures and grows into an adult dog, 2 meals a day will suffice.

Some of the Things You Will Need

When you are getting ready to bring your puppy home you will want to make sure that you have these items at 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
  • "Pop" sound when walking
  • Pet-safe home cleaner
  • Patience

Caring For Your New Puppy at Each Stage

0 - 8 Weeks - Preparing To Bring Your New Puppy Home

Depending on where your new puppy is coming from, and how old your pup will be when they join your household, the first three steps may be taken by the breeder, adoption agency or by you.

  • Administering the first round of vaccinations.
  • House training for toilet purposes.
  • Socialization with other vaccinated pets.
Before you bring your puppy home here are a few things you need to do to prepare for your new four-legged family member.
  • Have a dedicated space for your new puppy.
  • Purchase puppy-safe soft toys and chew toys.
  • Puppy-proof your home including kids' toys and houseplants.
  • Choose your new puppy's veterinarian.

8 - 12 Weeks - Welcoming Your Puppy Into Your Home

Bringing your puppy home is exciting but you will also need to continue focusing on protection and a positive start.

  • Continue with vaccinations and routine care.
  • You can bring them out for socialization when possible.
  • Establish your new routine and behavioral expectations at home.
  • Decide on food suitable to your puppy's nutritional needs.
  • You can begin to leave your puppy in a safe space at home for short periods of time.
  • Continue to build and enforce good toilet habits.

12 Weeks - 6 Months - Ongoing Puppy Training

These weeks are often considered to be the most fun and the most challenging as your puppy begins to have fun and explore their world. Remember that positive reinforcement is best.

  • Your fully vaccinated puppy can now safely explore the neighborhood with you.
  • Enroll your puppy in obedience training.
  • Pay attention to your puppy's preferences at this stage.
  • Your puppy may have a change in sleeping habits which is entirely normal.

6 Months - Adulthood - Training, Preventive & Reproductive Surgery

Your puppy may be getting much closer to adult size but remember their brains and personality development are still in the early stages.

  • You can now speak with your vet about spaying and neutering surgery.
  • Parasite prevention should now be considered to protect your dog.
  • Continue with a focus on obedience training.
  • You can now make the change to adult dog food.

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.

Have you added a new puppy to your family? Contact our Sacramento vets to schedule an initial visit for a checkup and routine vaccinations.

New Patients Welcome

Elkhorn-Walerga Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Sacramento companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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