A New Puppy: What to Expect

Puppy held by female hand
A little research will help ensure your dog has a positive experience.

When you bring a new puppy into your home, it’s a time of great excitement for everyone involved: you, your kids, your neighbors, and even the dog. Here’s our guide on what to expect and how to handle the transition without losing your mind.

Feeding

By the time you bring your puppy home, he or she will most likely be fully weaned. You can start feeding puppy food immediately. If you bought your dog from a breeder, ask what type of food they were feeding your puppy, and continue that brand at least in the near term. Shelters often feed whatever is donated, usually all mixed together, so continuity is not quite so important.

Young dog eating from dog dish
Learn how to feed your dog depending upon your dog's age.

Just as with human babies, puppies require more frequent feedings than adult dogs. The general recommendation is for three meals until approximately six months of age, then switch to two meals, approximately twelve hours apart. Feed puppy food until the dog reaches one year of age. The back of the puppy food bag will tell you how much to feed your dog, according to his or her expected adult size.

As your dog reaches maturity, you can use Dog Food Advisor’s dog food calculator http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/dog-feeding-tips/dog-food-calculator/ to determine how much to feed. A good general rule is that a medium-sized dog will require one cup of food twice each day. Bigger dogs get more; smaller dogs get less. Adjust as needed to keep your dog at an optimal weight where he or she has a waistline, and the ribs are close enough to the surface that you can feel them when you pet your dog.

Young puppy lookint at mcaera
Try to figure out House Training sooner rather than later for you new pup.

House Training

If you are not willing to have your floors watered and fertilized on a regular basis, you should not bring a puppy into your home. Accidents will happen, and you cannot punish your dog for being a baby. Dogs are not naturally drawn to leave their waste in a particular spot like cats do. They simply leave their presents wherever they happen to be when the urge strikes.

However, there are things you can do to encourage your dog to figure out house training sooner rather than later. You should expect that your puppy will need to go outside about every hour to hour-and-a-half. The best way to house train a dog is to simply take him or her outside before the urge to go strikes. With luck, the dog will make good use of his or her time outdoors, and you can praise the animal as if going to the bathroom were the most important thing in the world.

Dogs like to please you, so they will eventually learn that their going outside before defecating or urinating makes you very, very happy. When your dog makes a mistake, simply say “no!” in a firm voice and take him or her outside immediately after the mistake. If you don’t observe the lapse in training, it’s likely too late to try to impress upon your dog that a mistake has been made. The dog will have no idea what you’re upset about. Simply clean it up, and move on.

Young puppy lookint at mcaera
Puppies, like all babies, love to chew, which is healthy. But...be prepared. Puppy proof as you would human proof your own baby.

Teething

As anyone who has ever raised a baby will tell you, bringing in new teeth is hard, painful work. Gnawing on something hard seems to help the teeth poke through the gums. Don’t expect your dog to know the difference between a teething biscuit and your Louis XIV chair leg. To them, anything chewable is simply a means to an end.

The best defense during teething is a good offense. Put away your shoes in an area where the dog cannot get to them. Tie up lamp cords, drapery pulls, and other things that might look like a chew toy to your dog. Provide the dog with a washcloth that has been dampened and placed in the freezer. The icy cold will feel good on their sore gums and may entice them to chew on the rag rather than on other, room-temperature items.

Dog ready for vaccination at the veterinarian's office
Take the time to develop some realistic expectations before you bring a dog into your home. Learn about the characteristics of your dog breed!

Know your breed

If you know a bit about your dog’s heritage, it goes a long way toward providing alignment between your expectations and the reality of having a new puppy in the house. Some breeds are known for having long puppyhoods. Most dogs begin to mature between the ages of 18 months and two years. Other breeds may take as long as three years before sanity begins to sink in.

Some breeds bark extraordinarily loudly; others howl instead of barking. Some like to jump while others are content to keep all four paws on the ground. Grooming requirements vary drastically. Every breed has its own foibles, and every dog within that breed is, to some extent, an individual.

One of the biggest reasons given for relinquishing dogs to shelters is that the family simply didn’t know what to expect. Dogs grow at an alarmingly fast rate, and if you were expecting your puppy to stay little forever, that can be a little disconcerting. Take the time to develop some realistic expectations before you bring a dog into your home. If you’re not prepared for the work and the mess associated with a puppy, consider getting a fish instead.

Remember: the reason God made puppies so cute is that we need a reminder that they’re lovable when they are chewing our shoes and peeing on our Oriental rugs. Otherwise, the species would never have survived. Before you make a commitment to bring an animal into your home who is likely to be your companion for the next 10 – 15 years, be sure you are up for the challenge

Find the breed that's best for you at our breed slector and breed guides.

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