Few things are more exciting than welcoming a new puppy into your life. Raising a puppy brings many joys—the puppy breath, the warm, wiggly little body, and the wet nose, to name a few. However, challenges also abound. Like all babies, puppies require a lot of preparation, patience, and effort. Fortunately, the Billings Animal Family Hospital team has information to share that will help set your puppy—and you—up for success. 

Create a safe environment for your puppy

Before you bring your puppy home, it’s important to know that puppies explore the world with their mouths. Spend some time looking around your home and yard, and place anything that can harm your puppy well out of reach, including:

  • Cleaning products
  • Human and pet medications
  • Toxic plants
  • Toxic foods
  • Fertilizers and herbicides
  • Rat and mouse poison
  • Cocoa mulch
  • Mushrooms growing in the yard
  • Electrical cords
  • Essential oils
  • Cosmetics and personal care products
  • Garbage bins

Puppies instinctively need to chew, and they don’t know the difference between a puppy chew toy and something that’s not safe. 

Hold a family meeting to discuss how to keep your puppy safe. Establish an “off the floor” agreement that lists common, unsafe items that puppies find, and make some house rules. For example, puppies will often find unsafe chew “toys” in backpacks, coat pockets, and purses, so make the rule that these must never be left on the floor.

Supplies for your new puppy

The first two weeks with a new puppy can be stressful, but being prepared with the right supplies on hand will help everyone feel comfortable. The right tools will help with your puppy’s training and daily management, and ensure everyone uses the same methods. Before your puppy comes home, it’s important to have:

  • A leash, harness, and collar with ID tags
  • Food and water bowls
  • A crate
  • Appropriate puppy food
  • Pet stain remover
  • Toys 
  • Brushes, a toothbrush, and a nail trimmer

Training your puppy

Puppies are creatures of habit, so beginning with and sticking to a routine will help your puppy learn successfully. Ensure every family member is on the same page about the rules to be enforced, so your puppy is never confused about what’s allowed and what isn’t. Take all training slowly, and offer plenty of praise and positive reinforcement as you go.

  • Crate training — A crate provides your puppy with a sense of security because they have a natural denning instinct, and can also help make their house-training easier. The crate must be large enough for the puppy to turn around, stand up, and lie down, and to contain their bedding. Crate training involves placing food in the crate and leaving the door open until your puppy goes inside with no hesitation, and then closing the door as they become comfortable in the crate as a safe place to stay and sleep.
  • Housetraining — When you bring a new puppy home, you can expect a few accidents—it’s part of the joy of a puppy. Never punish or scold your puppy after an accident. Instead, praise them lavishly when they go outside. Pay close attention to your puppy’s schedule to learn when to take them outside before it’s necessary, usually first thing in the morning, and after each meal and drink of water, a nap, and playtime. When your puppy is circling and sniffing, it’s time to take them outside. Use the same cues and the same outdoor area. Soon, your puppy will have the right idea and ask to go outside.
  • Obedience training — Teaching your puppy good manners is vital for setting them up for success. According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, behavior issues are the number one reason pets are relinquished to animal shelters—not medical problems. Prevent problem behaviors by starting obedience training early. Puppy classes can help you teach your puppy the basics of “Sit,” “Stay,” “Down,” and “Come,” and also provide socialization in a fun, safe environment. Most classes accept new puppies between the ages of 4 and 6 months, once they have received the basic vaccinations.

Socializing your puppy

Speaking of socialization, give your puppy a wide range of new experiences early. From 3 to 14 weeks of age, puppies have a socialization window when they are more sociable than fearful, and should be gently and slowly exposed to a variety of people, places, and situations. Offer praise and treats when they behave appropriately, to reinforce the positive experience. These early experiences will help shape your puppy’s future personality and teach them to confidently approach new people and situations as an adult. 

One good place to start is gently handling your puppy’s body until they become used to their ears, feet, mouth, and body being touched. This simple step can help ensure that their veterinary visits are less stressful and enjoyable for everyone involved. 

Puppy veterinary care

Your pup’s first trip outside the house should be a visit to our Billings Animal Family Hospital veterinary team the first week after you bring them home. We love to see puppies, and will perform a complete physical exam to ensure your pet is free from developmental problems and disease. We’ll answer your puppy care questions, set up a vaccination series tailored to your puppy now, and as their immune system matures, and discuss flea, tick, and intestinal parasite prevention. At the later visits, we’ll discuss your puppy’s overall health, nutrition, behavior, training, and exercise. 

You should also purchase a pet insurance policy as soon as you bring your puppy home, before they develop any pre-existing conditions. Pet insurance provides financial assistance in the event of an accident or unexpected illness and helps ensure you never have to make a financial decision when your pet has an emergency situation. Some plans also provide coverage for basic wellness care, such as physical exams, vaccinations, and dental care. 

Bringing home a new puppy is always exciting, and these tips can help ensure you set up your puppy for success. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Billings Animal Family Hospital team any time with your questions or concerns, or to schedule an appointment. We are here to help.