Written by: Nicole Ellis - Professional Dog Trainer
You must be over the moon with your new adorable puppy! And you also probably have 500 questions of what things to do first and what can wait, and that’s completely normal.
I’m a certified professional dog trainer and fear-free certified specializing in puppy training, tricks, and building the bond with your dog. I’m really excited to share some of the first things you should embark on, jump into, or read about for your new puppy.
Vet visit - The very first thing you’ll want to do is set up a vet appointment to ensure your puppy is healthy and thriving. Puppies don’t have much of an immune system and easily catch things, so running a fecal test, and other recommended tests are a good idea. Till your puppy has all their shots, you’ll want to avoid busy, populated areas with lots of foot traffic that could lead to your puppy catching something - I avoid putting a puppy down at places like airports and avoid going to parks with lots of dog traffic.
Insurance - Looking into pet insurance right away. Pet insurance works differently than human insurance in that anything that happens before having insurance is considered pre-existing and won’t be covered for the life of your dog. That means that the sooner you get it, the more that will be covered. Pet insurance gives peace of mind so decisions can be made on your pet’s care and quality of life and not on the bill. When bills for single things like surgery for a knee ligament can be upward of $8,000, having pet insurance will give you some peace of mind.
Training - I start training just a few days after bringing my puppies home. It’s never too early, and by starting soon, we are giving them the fundamentals they need for a strong foundation; you can escalate all your other training as well as get them listening and bonding with you more. At a young age they are little sponges… with short attention spans; by 12 weeks-old my dog Rossi knew his name, come, sit, shake, circle, and more - teaching all of that, we definitely grew our bond which will last us a lifetime and more. For puppy training, I do short sessions, even 5 minutes a day can make a big difference. Consider also training with your pup’s breakfast or dinner.
You can sign up for puppy training classes, work one-on-one with a trainer, or even watch some online training tutorials.
Socialization - Proper socialization is crucial to your puppy and the adult your puppy will grow into. There is a lot of confusion on puppy socialization, it isn’t just puppy playmates and meeting the other dog in your household. It’s preparing your dog to accept new stressors without getting stressed. Socialization for a puppy means learning to be comfortable and confident in the world and society we live in; filled with kids at parks, dogs of all sizes, other animals, fireworks a few times a year, dinner parties and so much more. Exposure to all things, including dogs, should be in a calm, positive manner - that means not letting your dog run up and meet other dogs but also not putting them in situations that can be stressful and instead working up to them slowly.
Unlike training, which can be done at any time, socialization is on a tight timeline. The optimal time to socialize is before the puppy turns 6 months, with the most crucial between 8-12 weeks of age continuing up to 6 months.
While proper socialization can prevent a dog from being fearful of children, cars, fireworks, skateboards and other real-world sights and sounds. Improper socialization can lead to behavioral problems stemming from fear and lack of confidence later in life. These behavioral issues manifest as reactivity, fear-based aggression, anxiety, and more. So of course you want a socialized puppy and it’s time to start right away.
Crate training - Crate training can give your dog a safe place to be, help prevent separation anxiety, make grooming and vet visits less stressful, speed up your potty training, and so much more.
Potty training - I recommend starting potty training right away, be sure to go out frequently - especially after eating, drinking, and playing, and reward right away with a tasty treat and some verbal praise immediately when your pet goes potty outside. For accidents inside, clean them up properly with one of the Skout’s Honor great plant based cleaning solutions to avoid future accidents, as pets may be drawn to the smell of a previous potty accident.
Get them used to life - Our dogs live different lives depending on our lifestyle and what we do with our dogs, but we should do our best to set them up for success, this will vary in each household but could include car rides, grooming, visitors to the home and more. Set your pup up for success by starting these things early, so they become second nature to your pup. Don’t keep your puppy in a bubble but instead set them up for that life he/she will have, so turn on music and dance around if that’s what you like to do!
Have various toys - This will help with teething from those little short teeth (some super sour chew spray will help too). Be sure to keep your toys on a rotation to keep them exciting. I love having different types including a soft toy, a harder chew toy like a Kong and a tug toy to chew on. You can put the toy in the freezer too which will feel good on those teething gums.
Take lots of photos! They grow up SO fast, and you’ll be happy you have those puppy moments to look back on.
While puppies can be fun, they can be exhausting, so be sure not to get frustrated with yourself and remind yourself you’re doing a great job. Enjoy the puppy kisses and give your pup an extra belly rub!