The ultimate guide
to caring for a
new puppy

So you’re getting or have gotten a new puppy.

 

You may be thinking, now what?

First things first, congratulations on your new furry family member! Get ready for endless cuddles, licks and precious moments together. Few things are as exciting in life.

Your great puppy ownership also comes great responsibility. As cute as your furry friend may be, he or she will require lots of your love, attention and energy to raise. 

It helps to be as prepared as possible, so this guide covers all the puppy products and advice you’ll need to consider before (and after) the big day: from bringing them home, to tips on food, housing, socialisation and much more, all of which will help your puppy adjust to their new home more easily. 

Before you know it, you and your puppy will be enjoying a paw-some new life together!

 

Beautiful girl with a cute little puppy

1: What to prepare before you get a puppy

New puppy checklist ⁠— Your puppy starter pack

 

It pays to be prepared for the arrival of your pup, but there are SO many items to consider!

At the minimum, make sure you’ve thought about the following products:

  • A bed — Somewhere warm and safe for your puppy to relax and sleep.
  • Premium pet food — If your puppy is not currently on a premium food then introduce it to them slowly otherwise you may upset their stomach.
  • A food bowl and a water bowl
  • Crates — This gives them a safe-haven and also makes house training easier.
  • Toys — Puppies love to play, and toys will keep them from getting bored. Be sure to include some chew toys to assist with teething.
  • Collar and lead — Ensure your collar is the right fit for your puppy and don't forget to include an identification tag.
  • Poop bags and training pads — Poop bags and training pads make clean up easier.
  • Treats — Great for rewarding your puppy and can also be helpful with training.
  • Grooming products — Shampoo, conditioner, brushes, and nail clippers will keep your puppy looking and feeling great.
  • Flea and worm treatment — It’s important to stay on top of treatments as well as ensuring you choose ones best suited to your puppy.

Curious to find out what else you might need? Check out more puppy products here.

 

A guide to puppy-proofing your house

 

Besides preparing food, bedding and other products, you should puppy proof the inside and outside of your house before your puppy arrives home.

It may seem overly cautious, but remember that your puppy is in many ways like a toddler! They’ll explore, chew on things and end up in all sorts of predicaments.

To make sure your puppy is as safe and secure as possible around the house, here’s what you should focus on in each area of the home:

Here’s a list of potential hazards to be aware of in your house:

 

Indoor hazards

Kitchen

  • Rubbish bins
  • Household cleaning products
  • Food scraps on countertops

Living room

  • Certain types of household plants
  • Electrical cords
  • Furniture that your puppy can get trapped in
  • Curtains and blinds cords
  • Batteries

Bedroom

  • Bags, purses, backpacks etc. lying around
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Small objects

 

Outdoor hazards

Backyard

  • Fencing
  • Garage
  • Pools, ponds or water features

 

Choosing the best food for your puppy

 

One of the most IMPORTANT things on your new pup checklist is their food and diet.

Fun fact: Puppies use about 50% of their total energy just for growing.

The food your puppy eats provides the building blocks for everything from their coat, internal organs and bones to energy levels. 

Feeding them premium pet food that has quality ingredients and better digestibility is essential—the higher digestibility, the better your puppy will absorb the nutrients needed.

Though there are many benefits to a premium pet food diet, we recommend that you feed what the breeder, pet shop or pound has been feeding your puppy for at least the first week as they transition into their new home.

You could also try gradually mixing in the new food with the old in increasing ratios until it has fully changed over. This is to ensure that your puppy does not feel the added stress of a sudden diet change after arriving into a new house! 

 

Choosing puppy beds and crates

 

Your puppy needs their own quiet place to snooze, snuggle and dream.

But not all beds are made equal—ask yourself the following when choosing the perfect bed:

  • What is the size and breed of your puppy (and how much larger will they get)?
  • Will they sleep inside or outside? 
  • Is the bed fabric/cover removable and washable?
  • What is your puppy’s coat like? Is it naturally insulating or will they need an extra snuggly bed?

In any case, make sure that you also have a sleeping area set up with a comfortable and warm bed. It would be a good idea to crate-train your puppy after they arrive home. Here’s a lesser known fact: dogs have a natural instinct to be in a den! They find it to be a natural safe space/retreat and so they take to crates (which mimic dens) very well.

 

2: Meeting your puppy and getting through the first few days

With a clear house, puppy food/bedding/toys ready and products to clean up any potential mess, you should now be ready to bring your puppy home! For more detail on preparing your home for the arrival of your pup, check out this section on puppy proofing your house.

Bringing home your puppy for the first time is exciting, but it also pays to be cautious and prepared. Remember, it will be a stressful time for your pup as they are about to separate from their previous family and litter. Your role as their pet parent is to soothe their worries and help them make the most successful transition possible. 

What should you bring along when picking your puppy up from the breeder?

 

When you go to pick up your puppy from the breeder, pound or pet shop, you’ll want to bring along a blanket, collar, leash, snacks and water as well as cleaning products in case your puppy gets carsick or soils the car.

The overall list of things you might want to bring include:

  • Any necessary registration papers filled out in advance to save time.
  • A small blanket that the puppy can nestle into to feel more comfortable. After meeting the breeder, you may want to leave this towel with the puppy’s litter or mother for a while so that it will bear a more familiar and comforting scent.
  • A leash and small collar with an ID tag attached containing your name, number and the puppy’s name.
  • A little snack and some water in a travel-friendly bowl so that puppy does not go hungry or thirsty in the car, especially if it’s a long drive.
  • A towel or paper towels in case they are carsick or soil themselves.
  • A puppy-safe chew toy (such as a Kong) to keep them busy during the ride home.
  • A crate or dog carrier that the puppy can rest in if they are tired or overwhelmed.

You may also want to ask the breeder for the following:

  • A small quantity of the food they are currently feeding puppy, so that you can mix it in with your own puppy food during the first week.
  • Recommendations on any additional products you might need, as well as tips on vaccinations, grooming or anything else you want clarification on.

 

Travelling with your new puppy in the car

 

Traveling with your puppy in the car is a key time for the two of you to bond. This may be your puppy’s first time traveling, so bear in mind that they may already be feeling a little frightened or anxious from all the new sights, sounds and smells.

To help your puppy have the smoothest car ride home, consider the following:

  • Ask a friend to help drive you home so that you can sit in the passenger seat with puppy in your lap and begin bonding straight away!
  • Keep the atmosphere quiet and relaxed in the car. Talk softly to the puppy and pet them gently. 
  • If they become disruptive, set them down at your feet or place them in their crate. If they soil themselves, have cleaning products and towels ready to go. Don’t scold or punish them, as this would only worsen their stress.
  • Go straight home. The puppy may be overwhelmed, so try not to make any pit stops or detours to further heighten their anxiety. If you need to stop for food or a toilet break, try to avoid places where other dogs may be as your puppy isn’t yet vaccinated and could be vulnerable to different diseases.
  • Finally, try to pick your puppy up on a long weekend, holiday period or when you have a few days off in a row. This gives you more time to bond with them and help them feel at ease in their new surroundings. 

 

Taking your puppy home to meet the whole family

 

Make sure that you have all or at least most of the preparations for your puppy’s arrival in place before bringing them home.

Ideally you should bring your puppy to a quiet, relaxed household where only the core family members are present — don’t invite friends or other family members over on the first day.

 

Before entering the house

Give your puppy a chance to go to the toilet before entering the house — take them to a designated potty area in your yard and spend a few minutes there. If they go potty, give them praise and a treat. It’s best to start creating these associations sooner rather than later!

 

As you enter the house 

Make sure everyone is calm and that the house is free of loud noises as you walk in. Take your puppy to a place in the house where there’ll be lots of activity (so they don’t feel isolated), and make sure that the floors are easily cleanable too. For example, the kitchen or a hardwood living room floor (you may want to temporarily remove any rugs lying around).

It’s also common for new puppy owners to create warded-off sections in their house using baby gates — find out more in our section on puppy proofing your home. 

 

What happens if you have other dogs/pets?

If you already have other dogs at home, make sure to minimise any territorial conflict before they meet the new puppy. 

Put away their favourite toys so there’s no chance of fighting over them, and create separate spaces in the home for both. It’s also a good idea to purchase two separate food/water bowls and place them far apart from each other, since dogs tend to get very territorial over food.

When introducing both for the first time, it’s best to have them on leashes and held by different family members.

Let them get acquainted with each other and have a sniff. If there is aggression, separate and distract them but do not punish — this will cause them to associate the other with negative reinforcement. 

Instead, stay positive and treat them every time they exhibit good behaviour; this will help them associate one another with positive rewards and experiences. 

Make sure you are supervising the entire interaction closely and remember to remain as calm as possible. They will look to you for how you react; so the more stressed you feel, the more they will sense that!

 

How to get your puppy to stop crying at night

 

If you find that your puppy is crying at night for the first few nights in your home, remember that this is completely normal!

There are a few tactics you can use to help ease the crying:

  • Tire your puppy out. Keep your puppy busy well into the evening to make sure that they’re knackered by the time you take them to their crate or bed. 
  • Make their crate a more comfortable place.  If you’re crate-training, place a warm blanket in their crate, add an old t-shirt of yours (something with your scent on it), or leave a long-lasting treat that’ll keep them entertained for a long time. 
  • Move their bed a little closer to your room or inside your room. The further away you are, the more insecure they might feel. However, it’s important at this stage that you don’t let them sleep on the bed as this can confuse their sense of the pack hierarchy. 
  • Take them to the potty or give them a chance to before sleeping. Sometimes, your puppy might be crying because they need to relieve themselves. Since it’s difficult to tell one reason from another, it’s best to make sure you work their potty time into their evening routine before they settle into their crate. 
  • Try not to respond every time they cry. As counterproductive as this sounds, puppies can develop 'learned crying' which means that if you continue to respond or soothe them, they will associate the crying with a reward and the behaviour is then reinforced.

Typically, it takes a few days or up to a week for the puppy to adjust to their new surroundings. As time goes on, their nightly crying will start to die down. 

 

How much sleep does my puppy need?

The amount of sleep your puppy needs will depend on their age. In general, an 8-week old puppy will need to sleep 18 to 22 hours a day.

Here’s a breakdown of their average hours of sleep per day based on age:

Age

Hours of sleep needed per day

8-10 weeks 18 to 22 hours
4-6 months 16 to 18 hours
1+ year  14 to 18 hours

 

3: Life with your new puppy ⁠— what you need to know

Puppy training: what to teach your puppy and when

At a minimum, you new puppy may need the following:

  1. Toilet/potty training
  2. Crate training

 

Toilet/potty training

Timeframe: Most puppies will learn this at a very early age and should be reasonably trained by 4-6 months, however some are not 100% reliable until they are 8-12 months of age.

Potty training is accomplished when you reward your puppy for recognising where you want them to go (outside) and where it is unacceptable to go (inside the house). Part of this will include teaching them to learn how to 'hold it in'.

A handy tip to remember is that most puppies can usually hold their waste for the same number of hours as their age in months (i.e. a 3 month old can hold it in for 3 consecutive hours).

Here’s what you should focus on when potty training your pup:

  1. Keep their feeding routine consistent so they can develop a regular potty schedule.
  2. Take puppy outside on a consistent schedule. All puppies should go out first thing in the morning, last thing at night and once hourly if possible.
  3. Know where your puppy is at all times and supervise them so you can detect early signs of them needing to eliminate, such as pacing, whining, circling or leaving the room.
  4. Accompany your puppy whenever outside and reward them whenever they go potty outside. For best results, take them to the same place each time to go.
  5. If you catch puppy doing the deed indoors, clap sharply twice (just enough to startle them). If they stop mid-stream as a result, encourage them to go outside immediately. Once they finish outside, reward them with happy praise and small treat.

For indoor accidents, there are various puppy clean up products that you should have on hand to save the situation!

How to crate train your puppy

 

Time frame: Unfortunately, there is no definite answer. Depending on how you and your puppy go, it could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to properly crate-train your puppy.

As natural den animals, crate training can help your puppy to feel safe and secure. Crate training can speed up their toilet training too since dogs don’t like to go to the toilet in their dens or crates, this gives you more time to take them outside to relieve themselves.

Make sure you have chosen a crate that is just large enough for puppy to stand up and turn around in, and will also accommodate to their adult size once they’ve grown up.

Here’s how you can crate-train your puppy:

 

1. Introducing your puppy to the crate. 

Place the crate in an area where the family spends a lot of time, like the living room. Put a dry bed in the crate. Open the door and let your puppy explore at their leisure. You can also try tossing treats in a line leading into the crate, until your puppy walks all the way inside. This step may take anywhere from a few minutes to days, so make sure that you remain calm and use happy voice tones to encourage your pup throughout the process.

 

2. Lengthening the crating periods.

After your puppy is happily eating treats in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short periods of time while you’re home. Lengthening the crating periods should be a gradual process repetition is key here, as you start off leaving them for a few minutes and gradually build up to longer periods of time. Overall this may take several days or weeks. 

 

3. Crating puppy when you leave.

After your puppy can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can leave them crated for short periods while you leave the house. When you return home, don’t reward your puppy by greeting him in an excited, enthusiastic way. Keep your arrival low key to avoid increasing any anxiety over when you will return. 

 

Like all good things, crate training does take some time to perfect and your puppy may have some potential problems along the way (such as late night whining). The more you stay patient, positive and avoid punishing your puppy when there are missteps, the better results you’ll see. 

 

How to stop your puppy chewing and other dental tips

 

A puppy’s teething phase starts at around 12-16 weeks.

By the time they’re 7-8 months old, all their permanent teeth should be in.

It’s totally normal for your puppy to want to chew on things this is their way of learning about their environment and is also part of their teething phase. As a pet parent, it’s healthy to give your puppy an outlet where they can chew on things freely.

The problem is when you come home and find out they’ve been gnawing on all the wrong things! How do you get them to chew on the right things and leave those shoes, rubbish scraps and dangerous electrical cords well enough alone?

 

Here are 5 ideas to help you ease your puppy’s chewing problem:

  1. Puppy proof your house. Prevent access to anything you don’t want puppy to chew on or accidentally swallow by keeping them out of reach. When out of the house, keep the doors to all rooms closed.
  2. Provide them with plenty of chew toys instead, such as Kongs that can be filled with tasty treats.
  3. Reduce their separation anxiety. If puppy is chewing incessantly because of separation anxiety, you may want to consult a trainer or your veterinarian for more advice.
  4. Spray no-go items with dog repellent. These bad-tasting sprays will discourage puppy from destructive biting, chewing and licking.
  5. Keep your puppy stimulated and well-exercised. Sometimes, chewing can happen out of boredom. Tire your puppy out each day, and they’ll be much less likely to resort to destructive habits to release their pent-up energy.

Aside from chewing, it’s important to pay attention to the overall health of your puppy’s teeth as they grow up! 

 

Here are some ways you can improve your puppy’s overall dental health:

  1. Feed them a quality diet.
  2. Give them something to crunch on.
  3. Brush their teeth with specially formulated dog toothpaste.
  4. Give your pup dental treats or chews.
  5. Avoid toys that may damage their teeth.
  6. Feed them raw meaty bones (not cooked bones).
  7. Get their teeth examined and cleaned by your vet.

 

How to get through your puppy’s first bath time

 

Grooming your puppy strengthens your bond together, and it’s good for puppies to get accustomed to grooming (especially bath time!) at an early age.

It is not necessary to bathe your puppy daily or too frequently. Instead, try to save your baths for when puppy is more dirty or smelly.

You should also wait 1-2 weeks after puppy is vaccinated before giving them their first bath, in case they experience stress that may impact their immunological responses. 

 

Here are some recommended products to help you be fully prepared for your puppy's first bath time:

 

Remember to make bath time a comforting, positive experience for your puppy stay by their side, make plenty of contact and remain gentle with the sponge.

Do not apply water or shampoo over their eyes or ears this may cause them to feel suffocated.

When you have gone over your puppy’s body with a sponge, rinse them thoroughly with warm water and make sure all shampoo is removed. Wrap them in a towel, and once most of the water is removed, you can gently blow dry their coat on a cool setting anything louder may scare your puppy. 

If your puppy doesn’t like water, you can try applying a dry shampoo instead and brushing it through their coat.

Wherever possible, make bath time fun for both you and pup! Give them praise, a few treats along the way and playfully splash the water around them.

 

Training your puppy to be home alone

 

As much as we want to spend every waking moment with our furry friends, most pet parents work either full or part-time. There’ll be periods where your puppy needs to be left alone at home while you’re at work. But how long can you leave them alone at home before it might become an issue?

This can be tricky in the early stages of your puppy’s life. The general rule is that you can only leave a puppy alone for one hour for each month of their age due to their bladder control (a 3 month old puppy could hold their bladder for 3 hours, etc). 

With the right routine, preparation and potty schedules however, you will be able to develop a system that works for both you and your puppy.

Here’s a look at the level of supervision you’ll need to consider at different stages of puppy’s life:

 

Your puppy's age

Level of supervision required 

8-10 weeks

  • Your puppy is still new to the home and therefore more prone to stress if left alone. 
  • As he is still potty training at this stage, he will need to be taken to his toilet area frequently.
  • We recommend that you bring puppy to work (if possible), arrange for a friend or family member to be home with him, or for someone else to look after him while you are at work.

10-12 weeks

  • Your puppy’s bladder control may have improved by this stage, but they are still likely to be prone to accidents and will not be able to hold longer than a few hours.
  • We recommend you visit puppy during your lunch break to let him out, or arrange for someone to drop by and let him out a couple of times a day.

3-6 months

  • Your puppy should by now, be able to last for 3-4 hours without going to the toilet, however may still be prone to accidents. 
  • We recommend you continue to drop by during your lunch break, or have somebody visit once a day to let puppy out.

 

Apart from bladder control, you may encounter a few other issues with leaving your puppy alone at home. They may experience separation anxiety, boredom/destructive behaviour such as chewing and digging or bark incessantly

It’s important that you address these issues before they become ingrained in your puppy as they grow up. Keep training them consistently or take them to a specialist/dog sitter if the problems persist. 

 

How to protect your puppy against fleas and worms

 

Worms are a common problem for puppies annoying, we know! In fact, all puppies become infected with roundworms when they feed on their mother’s milk and tapeworms from ingesting fleas. If left untreated, this can lead to problems such as loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhoea.

Your puppy should be wormed every two weeks of age until twelve weeks. From twelve weeks until six months of age, we recommend monthly worming and then every three months thereafter for their lifetime with a good quality wormer

Flea treatment should also be given regularly as they can be a year-round ongoing nuisance to your puppy. Puppies can be given a topical flea treatment as early as 6-8 weeks old, and we recommend that you treat your puppy for fleas every 4-6 weeks depending on what product you’re using. 

 

Puppy vaccinations — what you need to know

 

It is vital that you get your puppy vaccinated! This will protect them against infectious diseases, ranging from mild to even fatal.

At 6-8 weeks of age, your puppy should receive their first vaccination with a followup vaccination at 10 weeks. That means by the time you get your puppy, they should have already received their first vaccination. You should check with your breeder/vet when the next one is due. 

Puppies are vaccinated against a range of diseases including:

  • Parvo.
  • Distemper.
  • Hepatitis.
  • Leptospirosis.
  • Kennel Cough.

The average cost of vaccination will be around $160-$200, depending on where you are located and your veterinarian of choice.

 

Tips for properly socialising your puppy

 

In order to raise a happy and well-behaved dog, socialisation is absolutely vital for your puppy! The most critical socialisation window occurs between 12 weeks - 5 months. 

Your puppy should be exposed in a pleasant way to all of the following things (see here for a full puppy socialisation checklist):

 

  • Children and adults, both men and women
  • Other animals and pets, livestock and any wild animals in your area
  • Locations including parks, clinics, beaches and other people’s homes
  • Noises including anything loud inside and outside such as vacuum cleaners, thunderstorms and more
  • Handling such as being held, having their teeth checked or putting on a harness.
  • Surfaces both wet and dry, inside and outside

 

Some great ways to properly socialise your puppy include:

  • Joining a local puppy class
  • Taking your puppy for a walk in a stroller, bag or sling
  • Inviting friends over to your house
  • Getting them used to all kinds of noises
  • Introducing them to children
  • Introducing them to other dogs
  • Visiting your vet

 

Toys & games to enjoy with your puppy

 

Above all, you and your puppy should be enjoying a fun and happy life together! 

There are countless creative and entertaining ways to interact and bond with your puppy, as well as keeping them stimulated when you’re not around.

Here are some fun, puppy-safe games you can try together:

  • Ball throwing/fetch: this can be around the house, garden or at the park. Teach your puppy how to bring the ball back or chase them around. 
  • Tug-of-war: this intensive game will easily tire your pup out in a matter of minutes! Remember though not to tug upwards (only from side to side) as this can injure your puppy’s spine.
  • Frisbee: similar to fetch, except that frisbees tend to fly much further which lets your dog run over longer distances.