Taking Care of a New Puppy

Bringing home a new pet is a big commitment and it’s important you start training right away. Here are a few tips for you to keep you and your pet safe and live a happy, quality, life!

“When you bring that soft, sweet-smelling little ball of puppy fuzz into your home, you know right away that she depends on you for, well, everything. It’s up to you to give her all the care she needs every day. It can be a little intimidating — she needs the best puppy food, plenty of attention, gentle training, safe toys, puppy socialization, a comfortable home, and proper veterinary care. And that includes puppy shots throughout her first year.

Which Shots Do Puppies Need?

Going to the vet repeatedly over several months for vaccinations, and then for boosters or titers throughout your dog’s life, may seem like an inconvenience, but the diseases that vaccinations will shield our pets from are dangerous, potentially deadly, and, thankfully, mostly preventable.We read about so many different vaccinations, for so many different illnesses, that it can sometimes be confusing to know which vaccinations puppies need and which ones are important but optional. Here is an overview of the diseases that vaccinations will help your pet to avoid.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica

This highly infectious bacterium causes severe fits of coughing, whooping, vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures and death. It is the primary cause of kennel cough. There are injectable and nasal spray vaccines available.If you plan on boarding your puppy in the future, attending group training classes, or using dog daycare services, often proof of this vaccination will be a requirement.

Canine Distemper

A severe and contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), and nervous systems of dogs, raccoons, skunks, and other animals, distemper spreads through airborne exposure (through sneezing or coughing) from an infected animal. The virus can also be transmitted by shared food and water bowls and equipment. It causes discharges from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and, often, death. This disease used to be known as “hard pad” because it causes the footpad to thicken and harden.There is no cure for distemper. Treatment consists of supportive care and efforts to prevent secondary infections, control symptoms of vomiting, seizures and more. If the animal survives the symptoms, it is hoped that the dog’s immune system will have a chance to fight it off. Infected dogs can shed the virus for months.

Canine Hepatitis

Infectious canine hepatitis is a highly contagious viral infection that affects the liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, and the eyes of the affected dog. This disease of the liver is caused by a virus that is unrelated to the human form of hepatitis. Symptoms range from a slight fever and congestion of the mucous membranes to vomiting, jaundice, stomach enlargement, and pain around the liver. Many dogs can overcome the mild form of the disease, but the severe form can kill. There is no cure, but doctors can treat the symptoms.

Canine Parainfluenza

One of several viruses that can contribute to kennel cough.


The canine coronavirus is not the same virus that causes COVID-19 in people. COVID-19 is not thought to be a health threat to dogs, and there is no evidence it makes dogs sick. Canine coronavirus usually affects dogs’ gastrointestinal systems, though it can also cause respiratory infections. Signs include most GI symptoms, including loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctors can keep a dog hydrated, warm, and comfortable, and help alleviate nausea, but no drug kills coronaviruses.


When your puppy is around 12-to-16 weeks, talk to your vet about starting a heartworm preventive. Though there is no vaccine for this condition, it is preventable with regular medication that your veterinarian will prescribe.The name is descriptive — these worms lodge in the right side of the heart and the pulmonary arteries (that send blood to the lungs), though they can travel through the rest of the body and sometimes invade the liver and kidneys. The worms can grow to 14 inches long and, if clumped together, block and injure organs.A new heartworm infection often causes no symptoms, though dogs in later stages of the disease may cough, become lethargic, lose their appetite or have difficulty breathing. Infected dogs may tire after mild exercise. Unlike most of the conditions listed here, which are passed by urine, feces, and other body fluids, heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes. Therefore, diagnosis is made via a blood test and not a fecal exam.

Kennel Cough

Also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, kennel cough results from inflammation of the upper airways. It can be caused by bacterial, viral, or other infections, such as Bordetella and canine parainfluenza, and often involves multiple infections simultaneously. Usually, the disease is mild, causing bouts of harsh, dry coughing; sometimes it’s severe enough to spur retching and gagging, along with a loss of appetite. In rare cases, it can be deadly. It is easily spread between dogs kept close together, which is why it passes quickly through kennels. Antibiotics are usually not necessary, except in severe, chronic cases. Cough suppressants can make a dog more comfortable.


Unlike most diseases on this list, Leptospirosis is caused by bacteria, and some dogs may show no symptoms at all. Leptospirosis can be found worldwide in soil and water. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be spread from animals to people. When symptoms do appear, they can include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe weakness and lethargy, stiffness, jaundice, muscle pain, infertility, kidney failure (with or without liver failure). Antibiotics are effective, and the sooner they are given, the better.

Lyme Disease

Unlike the famous “bull’s-eye” rash that people exposed to Lyme disease often spot, no such telltale symptom occurs in dogs. Lyme disease (or borreliosis) is an infectious, tick-borne disease caused by a type of bacteria called a spirochete. Transmitted via ticks, an infected dog often starts limping, his lymph nodes swell, his temperature rises, and he stops eating. The disease can affect his heart, kidney, and joints, among other things, or lead to neurological disorders if left untreated. If diagnosed quickly, a course of antibiotics is extremely helpful, though relapses can occur months or even years later.


Parvo is a highly contagious virus that affects all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies less than four months of age are at the most risk to contract it. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal system and creates a loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and often severe, bloody diarrhea. Extreme dehydration can come on rapidly and kill a dog within 48-to-72 hours, so prompt veterinary attention is crucial. There is no cure, so keeping the dog hydrated and controlling the secondary symptoms can keep him going until his immune system beats the illness.


Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that invades the central nervous system, causing headache, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death. It is most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. Treatment within hours of infection is essential, otherwise, death is highly likely. Most states require a rabies vaccination. Check with your vet about rabies vaccination laws in your area.Of course, your veterinarian should weigh in and can always provide more information and guidance if needed on necessary and optional vaccinations.

Puppy Vaccination Schedule

The first thing to know is that there is not just one puppy vaccination schedule for all dogs. Factors such as which part of the country you live in, and your dog’s individual risk factors will come into play. Some dogs do not need every vaccine. This decision is between you and your veterinarian. Always discuss puppy vaccinations at your regularly scheduled appointments.That said, here is a generally accepted guideline of the puppy vaccination schedule for the first year.

Puppy’s Age Recommended Vaccinations Optional Vaccinations
6 — 8 weeks Distemper, parainfluenza Bordetella
10 — 12 weeks DHPP (vaccines for distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parainfluenza, and parvovirus) Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
12 — 24 weeks Rabies none
14 — 16 weeks DHPP Coronavirus, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis
12 — 16 months Rabies, DHPP Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 — 2 years DHPP Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 — 3 years Rabies (as required by law) none

Puppy Vaccinations Cost

How much vaccinations for your puppy will cost depends on several factors. Where you live is one: Veterinarians in crowded and expensive urban areas will charge more than a rural vet in a small town. In other words, there are significant differences in price. But no matter what the range in costs, some vaccines, such as the “core vaccines,” and for rabies, are necessary.Vet Info has a helpful guide for the approximate cost of puppy vaccinations for her first year.

  • The average cost will be around $75—100. These will include the core vaccines, which are administered in a series of three: at 6-, 12-, and 16 weeks old.
  • The core vaccines include the DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza). Your pup will also need a rabies vaccination, which is usually around $15—20. (Some clinics include the cost of the rabies vaccination.)
  • Often animal shelters charge less for vaccines — approximately $20 — or are even free. If you acquired your dog from a shelter, he would most likely have been vaccinated, up until the age when you got him.

The initial puppy vaccination costs during the first year are higher than during adulthood.

Vaccinations for Adult Dogs: Boosters and Titers

There is a difference of opinion about having your adult dog vaccinated every year. Some vets believe too many vaccinations in adult dogs pose health risks. But others disagree, saying that yearly vaccinations will prevent dangerous diseases such as distemper. Talk with your vet to determine what kind of vaccination protocol works for you and your dog.Many dog owners opt for titer tests before they administer annual vaccinations. Titer tests measure a dog’s immunity levels, and this can determine which, if any, vaccinations are necessary. One key exception to this is rabies: a titer test is not an option when it comes to the rabies vaccine. This vaccination is required by law across the United States. Your vet can tell you the schedule for your particular state.And it’s all worth it. For your effort and care your puppy will lavish you with lifelong love in return. This critical first year of her life is a fun and exciting time for both of you. As she grows physically, the wonderful bond between you will grow, too.

Stuck at home with a new puppy? Training your dog during COVID-19 can be difficult without access to normal training classes. That’s why we’re here to help you virtually, through AKC GoodDog! Helpline. This live telephone service connects you with a professional trainer who will offer unlimited, individualized advice on everything from house-training to behavioral issues.” — AKC.ORG


Adjusting to a new Home

“You’ve chosen a puppy, bought supplies, puppy-proofed your home, and established some household rules. Now it’s time to bring your new puppy home. Of course you’re excited and eager to start this new bond, but try to imagine what this is like for the puppy. He’s just been taken from his mother, siblings, the only humans he knows, and his familiar environment. This can be scary and confusing for a puppy, but there are several things you can do to help him adjust to his new life.Your first instinct may be to bring him in the house, let him explore and immediately meet his new family. But, take things slowly.

Tips for Bringing Your New Puppy Home

  1. Choose a potty spot: Start by taking him to the outside area where you want him to go potty. If he does relieve himself, use a command that you’ll stick to, like “go potty” or whatever you’re comfortable with and remember to praise him.
  2. Introduce him to his new home: You’ve already prepared a puppy-proof area of your house, right? This is where you’ll bring him. Many people erroneously think they should just let the puppy loose to explore the house at will, but this is a sensory overload. Too many new places, smells, and people at once may just confuse him. Instead, let him explore a designated area. Perhaps where his food and water are. Or he can familiarize himself with the small, puppy-proofed space where you’ve placed his crate. Let him get used to this space before you go on further exploratory missions. Then introduce him to the rest of the house, one room at a time, skipping the rooms you’ve decided are off-limits.
  3. Introduce him to his new family members: Preferably one person at a time, although this will be difficult with all the excitement about a new puppy. But try to give him a chance to meet each of you quietly.
  4. Puppies like to chew: Provide appropriate and safe puppy chew toys for him, and if he starts to chew on anything else, redirect him to his chew toy. Here are some other tips about living with a chewing puppy.
  5. Show him his sleeping place. Puppies sleep between 15-to-20 hours a day, and although they’re often likely just to drop in their tracks, bring him to his crate or dog bed when he seems to be ready for a nap and at bedtime. Contrary to what you may think, crates are not “doggie jail.” Dogs prefer the security and safety of a den, and this crate will become his safe place, with some encouragement.
  6. Keep a close eye on your new puppy. He should be supervised or at least within your vision in his “doggie den” at all times during these early days. Take him with you from room to room, giving him a chance to explore under your watchful eye.
  7. Start enforcing rules. Although it may seem too early to you, he needs to learn the house rules from the very beginning. The more structured and consistent his day is, the better adjusted and happier he’ll be. Whether it’s chewing or any other behavior you don’t want to encourage, use gentle redirection. Yelling at him or punishing him will only frighten and confuse him, not teach him. Remember that he is only just starting to learn what’s expected of him. Praising good behavior and deflecting unacceptable behavior is an effective way of helping him learn.
  8. Most of all, take things slowly. Gradually expand his environment, under your supervision, of course. With lots of affectionate contact with the family, consistent rules and routine, rewards for good behavior, and gentle corrections for unacceptable behaviors, he’ll quickly learn his place in his new “pack.” Not only that but, And most importantly, as he adjusts to his new environment, you will establish a bond that will endure throughout his life.” — akc.org

Setting Puppies up for Success

“Many first-time puppy ownersfeel overwhelmed in the early weeks of bringing home their newaddition. As a responsible breeder, there is much that can be done to alleviate some of the more common issues owners have with new puppies before you send your precious litters out to their new homes.Addressing common problems before they begincan set your puppies up for success in their new homes. By working with puppies earlyyou can take advantage of their early socialization periods and developing brains to build confident resilient young dogs. Early training can improve the chances of an easy transition into a new home for both the puppy and your client. 


An enriched environment creates an enriched brain. Exposure to novelty before a puppy’s first fear period (8-9 weeks of age)helps them to build resiliency to things they may experience later. 

  • Provide a variety of toys, including ones that move, light up, or make sounds.
  • Provide different surface textures to play on, such as artificial turf, metal, rubber mats, mulch, etc.
  • Offer wobble boards, balance pillows, and other moving obstacles to develop body awareness.
  • Rotate toys and obstacles often.
  • Introduce recorded sounds such as traffic, thunderstorms, fireworks, and barking. Doing this at feeding time can help build a positive association with noisesthat commonly worry dogs.


Housetrainingshould be the firstthing on a new puppy owners to-do list. While puppies are still young, they can begin to learn preferences for where to eliminate. Encouraging puppies to eliminate in a litterbox and outdoors early can go a long way to helping owners have quick potty-training success.

  • Provide puppies with a separate elimination area by 3-4 weeks of age. It’s good for the substrate in this area to be tactilely different from the rest of their pen.
  • Feed puppies on a schedule. Once weaned, feeding puppies on a schedule helps to regulate their developing GI tract. Always follow your veterinarian’s advice on how often to feed puppies.
  • What goes in on a schedule, goes out on a schedule. Predictability of bowel movements will help owners with making their potty-training schedule at home.

Crate Training

Crate training is another skill that puppy owners often struggle with. Being suddenly separated from their dam and littermates can be very distressing for young puppies. Familiarizing puppies with crates early will help them be more comfortable when they are brought to a place full of strange people and smells.

  • Start with an open crate in the litters playpen or kennel and put treats and toys insideit.
  • Feed puppies separately in open crates.
  • Put sleepy puppies in crates so they are more likely to settle and rest inside.
  • Crate puppies for short periods of time and let them out before they begin to stress.
  • Allowing puppies to “cry it out” can create negative associations with being crated.

Handling and Grooming

Everyone knows puppies should be handled to make them comfortable with human touch.  We can go even further by teaching puppies to enjoy handling and grooming. This is important for all breeds, not just coated ones. Puppies that are relaxed for husbandry procedures like nail trims, teeth brushing, ear cleaning, and brushing will make it easier for owners to care for them at home. 

  • Do grooming in short sessions to not overwhelm or flood a young puppy.
  • Pair grooming and handling with food treats to make it a positive experience.
  • Rather than expecting the puppy to “get used to it,” teach them to look forward to grooming.
  • Have puppy playtimes in the bathtub, grooming tubs, and on grooming tables. Likewise, give lots of treats so the puppies learn these areas are fun.

Resource Guarding Prevention

Puppies can learn early on to happily give up resources like food and toys.Learning to give up highvalue items can prevent puppies from developing resource guarding down the roadSharing food bowls with littermates can create anxiety around food and lead to resource guarding in the future. Intensity around food items and toys can lead to ingestion of foreign objectsconflicts between a puppy and other pets in the home, or the owners. 

  • Teach trades. Use treats and other toys to trade puppies for their toys.
  • Feed littermates in separate bowlsto reduce competition over food.
  • Teach them to associate people coming near their food by dropping treats as you walk past.
  • Never forcefully remove food or toys from a puppy’s mouth.
  • Teach a “Leave It” cue that owners can use as a potentially life-saving tool.

Early Socialization

Entire books have been written on how to successfully socialize puppies. Good early socialization is perhaps the most important thing breeders can do before sending puppies home. In this category,quality is better than quantity. Puppies should be learning that the world is safe and fun, not scary.Make early socialization experiences fun with treats and play. Don’t force unwilling puppies intosituations of which they are unsure. Give each puppy in the litter individual attention, separate from their littermates, for short periods of time. Confident puppies who are comfortable in various environments have the most success with their new owners. Exposure to other elements like car rides, strangers, other dogs, and new locations can also help develop early socialization skills.

Reliable Recall

One of the most lifesaving skills we can teach dogs is to come when called. Instilling a strong recall cue on a dog can protect them should they ever accidentally get loose. Since puppies can learn a strong recall cue at a young age, this early learning often stays with them for years

  • Associate a cue with feeding time. Call the litter before you put down their meals.
  • Highpitched repetitive vocal sounds make good cues e.g. “Pup, Pup, Pup!”
  • Always follow the cue with a positive reward such as food, treats, or play.
  • Don’t call the puppies for things that may be unpleasant, such as baths.

Focused Training

Puppies can begin learning more focused skills as early as five weeks. Dogs destined for the show ring can begin learning to stack. Puppies can easily learn to sit politely when they want food or play. Puppies should be introduced to collars and leash walking early on as well. Sending puppies home with some basic skills will set their owners up for success for future training. 

  • Introduce training in short sessions.
  • Use food treats to make positive associations with learning.
  • Teach basic skills such as sit, stay, come, and loose leash walking.

Successful Puppies Equal Successful Homes

The more early socialization and training puppies have in their breeders’ homes, the more success they will have in their new owners homes. Of course, new owners often have the same difficulties with puppies. Housetraining, crate training, and early basic training takes some of the early stress out of the process.
Owners will gloat far and wide about how easy it was to train their puppy based on how well trained they were when they came home. Early socialization and training not only makes for more confident and resilient dogs, but happier clients who will continue to refer to your breeding program.  Setting owners and puppies up for a lifetime of success starts in the early weeks of a puppy’s life and will reflect on a breeders program for many years. ” – AKC.ORG

Potty Training

“Housebreaking, house-training, or potty training— no matter what you call it, all new dog owners want to teach their new puppy not to mess inside their new home. The best way to achieve this goal is by establishing a timeline to follow, and sticking to it.

While you’re adhering to your timeline, it helps to firmly establish the rules for where your puppy should and should not eliminate, and crates and puppy pads can be very useful training tools to assist you in establishing your potty training plan.

When You Wake up

Each day begins the same for you and your puppy. When the alarm clock goes off, wake up and get your puppy out of the crate and outside to do their business. Don’t stop to make coffee, check emails, or brush your teeth.

Keeping the crate in or near your bedroom lets you hear a whimper or a whine if your pup needs to go out during the night or before your alarm sounds. When they’re still small, you may be able to pick your pup out of the crate to carry them outside. This will prevent them from stopping and peeing on the floor on the way to the door.

Always head out the same door to the same area where you want your puppy to potty, and keep them on a leash outside while training (even in a fenced yard), so you can see what’s happening and react immediately.

After Meals

Another morning ritual will be breakfast. After you take your puppy out to potty, they will be ready for their first meal of the day. Try to keep this scheduled at the same time each day. This will aid in regulating elimination, so you can set your watch to potty time.

After the meal, only wait between 5 and 30 minutes to take your puppy outside. The younger the puppy, the sooner they should be brought out after a meal to potty. As the puppy grows older, they will gain bladder control and learn to hold it longer each day. Most puppies eat three to four meals a day when they are growing, and most puppies will have to poop after meals, so paying attention to this short follow-up period is important.

Also, remain watchful when the puppy drinks water. Treat this just like a meal, and take them out to potty soon afterward. Choosing a puppy food that digests well and avoiding feeding within two hours of bedtime will help.

After Playtime And Naps

There are many other times that a young puppy will need to go potty, besides the first thing in the morning and after each meal. These instances include periods after naps and playtime.

Naps are mini-versions of the morning routine. Make sure that whenever your puppy is sleeping, you take them outside the moment they wake up.

During playtime, the stimulation of the digestive tract may also give your pup the urge to have a potty break. Some seemingly random clues that a puppy needs to go out can include sniffing the floor or carpet, wandering away from the family, becoming overexcited with zoomies, whimpering, or running to the door. If you see any of these signs, take your puppy out to potty immediately.

Praise for Potty Training Success

As you establish the routine of taking your puppy out after sleeping, eating, and playing, you also must focus on what to do once you are outside.

Find a spot that will become the “potty spot”, and always take your dog to the same spot. Stand quietly and wait until they are ready, and as they commence, give a voice command or signal to “go potty” or “do your business.” Then wait for the results, and praise lavishly if your puppy goes. Say “good boy/girl!” then give the pup a yummy treat.

Do this every time you are outside (or indoors if using puppy pads or dog litter boxes), and soon enough, the puppy will understand that doing their business in the proper spot will bring lots of love and treats. Also, after they eliminate outside, play with your pup for a few minutes before rushing back inside.

If your pup doesn’t go when you’re outside, you may have to take them inside and come back out again in a few minutes. Even they do go, they may need to head back out very soon, so stay vigilant.

Remember, if there are accidents indoors, do not punish your puppy. If you catch them in the act, you can make a noise or say “uh-oh” to get their attention, and they will likely stop. Immediately, gently pick up your puppy, take them outside, and praise them heartily when they finish up. Always be sure to sanitize soiled indoor areas with appropriate cleaning products, so the pup isn’t drawn to the same spot again.

Many owners have great results by also placing a bell on the door handle, and training their puppy to ring the bell when they need to go out. Start by ringing the bell as you exit with your dog, and praise the puppy as soon as they learn to ring the bell on their own.

Leaving Home and Last Call

When you have to leave home for several hours and your puppy needs to stay in a crate during the day, remember to plan ahead. If you’re unsure about how long your puppy can hold it, use the month-plus-one rule. Take the age of your puppy in months and add one, and that is the maximum number of hours that your puppy should be able to comfortably hold it between potty breaks. A 3-month-old puppy plus one equals 4 hours that they should be able to stay in the crate without a mess.

Remember that the last thing you should do before you go to bed for the night is to take your puppy out for one last potty break before bedtime. However, your pup will usually be able to hold their bladder for a longer period when they are asleep and not active.

“When it comes to how long potty training takes, it depends on the puppy and the schedule you keep,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, AKC chief veterinary officer. “If training begins early, a 6-month-old puppy is usually able to be depended on most of the time to eliminate outside. However, if you feel that you’re not making progress, you should have the puppy checked out by a veterinarian. They may have a urinary tract infection or some other health issue causing the delay in house-training.”

By scheduling meals, walks, playtime, and other activities in a daily routine, you and your pup will be on your way to success in potty training, but it won’t happen overnight, so remember to be patient.” — AKC.ORG