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  • Writer's pictureLiz MacHaffie

Getting a Puppy? Your First 5 Steps

Puppy first day on the way home

My college roommate contacted me this week, excited and overwhelmed because she's getting a new puppy. (Hooray!!!) Like so many soon-to-be puppy parents, she was nervous about missing something or doing something wrong.

The good news is getting a great start for your puppy is simple! You just need to know what to do.

Here are the first 5 things you should do when you know you'll be bringing home a new family member.

1. Schedule your first vet visit (yes, now)

Find a vet you trust and book your new nugget's first visit. Your puppy should see a vet within a few days of coming home, even if he's up to date on his vaccines. You want to know your puppy is healthy, and it's great for him to have a positive experience at his new vet clinic!

Most breeders will require your pup sees a licensed vet within 2-3 days of going home. (This often keeps your contract valid.)

Bonus points: Find a vet that's Fear Free Certified! These clinics have taken the extra time to educate their staff on how to help pets have great vet experiences.

2. Find a great trainer

Training from the start helps you and your puppy live with more joy and less stress! A truly great trainer can make your life with your pup SO much better.

Here are my top 3 tips for finding a great puppy trainer:

  • Look for a positive-based trainer. (Puppies and punishment are a terrible mix! Science rules now :) )

  • Look for a trainer with a CPDT-KA, KPA, or CTC certification. These trainers have earned meaningful, science-based, positive certifications. (Use the links to go right to the searches for your location.)

  • Ask to sit in on a class! This will give you a much better feel for whether you like the trainer and how they work. (If you aren't allowed to watch one puppy class, don't use that trainer.)

  • Choose a class where the senior trainer is teaching. Many facilities will have their newest trainers as puppy class instructors. A senior trainer should at minimum be assisting in every class. They can catch and help correct things (like fearfulness or inappropriate play) much earlier than most green trainers.

3. Decide the house rules

Where will the puppy sleep? Is he allowed on the furniture? Will he get people food? Is it okay if he jumps on people for attention?

Your whole family will be glad you decided on these rules beforehand. Agree to the rules you want.

Some info to help you decide on your rules:

  • Furniture is a personal choice. Most dogs love the comfort and being able to be close to their people. Some owners don't like fur on their furniture.

  • Don't worry about "dominance": being allowed on furniture will not make your puppy think of world domination.

  • Feeding your dog people food won't necessarily make him more likely to beg at the table. Feeding him from the table will!

  • I recommend having your puppy sleep in your bedroom in his crate for the first few months of life. This is a great way to help with housetraining and helping him feel comfy with some independence! If you're not consistent and start letting him sleep in the bed, he'll likely have something to say when you try and crate him overnight again!

4. Make a schedule

Your busy life needs room for a puppy! Planning a schedule ahead of time, and who will take on what roles, helps keep things consistent for your little nugget. (And it's easier for your family, too!)

Some things to consider:

Who will feed the puppy? When?

Who will take the puppy out? Where is his potty spot? (Choose the same spot to take him to during housetraining. Don't use walks as potty breaks yet!)

When will the puppy be crated/in his pen for nap and rest time?

How will the puppy get outside during the work day? Do you need to hire a dog walker? Do you need to set up an elimination station? Young pups should not go any longer than 2-3 hours without a potty break during the day. (The general rule of thumb is to take their age in months and add and subtract 1 hour around that number. For example, a 3 month old puppy would be able to go 2-4 hours during the day between potty breaks if needed.)

5. Prioritize to socialize!

Life gets busy, and it's not slowing down just because you got a puppy. You need to really purposefully socialize your puppy. She'll be hitting 14 weeks old (the end of her official socialization period) before you know it!

Schedule trips to the park, friends' houses, your vet clinic, dog-friendly stores, and more. (Socialization is FUN!)

Think of all the places you'd like your dog to be able to go as an adult and bring her there to have great experiences! (Except dog parks.)

This is just the beginning of your adventure with your new puppy! Following these tips can set everyone up for success and long-term happiness! Happy training!

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