Bringing your puppy home for the first time and caring for a new puppy can present you with challenges you never even expected. These include how to get your puppy to sleep, training puppy to be alone, how to keep your puppy calm around new people and in new situations, and importantly, how to make a dog happy.
Our new puppy advice and first tips for how to make a puppy happy include meeting both their physical and mental health needs. Let’s talk about taking care of a new puppy, from how to train a puppy when you work to finding a veterinarian, and of course, what puppies need to be happy and healthy as they grow.
Caring for a new puppy: Finding the right veterinarian
First thing’s first. Like human babies, puppies grow quickly and are born with limited immune function, so finding the right veterinarian for your pup is key to their growth, health and happiness. Researching veterinarians before you bring your puppy home is recommended.
Luckily, if you’re in the Charlotte area like we are, our pet-friendly city is home to dozens of great veterinarians. Hopefully, you can find one that is close to your home with lots of positive feedback from other pet parents online. For our recommendations on some of the best veterinarians in the greater Charlotte area, check out our resources page.
If searching on your own, look for certified and licensed vet clinics that have positive reviews from their patients' families and accept canine patients. Keep in mind that only some veterinarians offer emergency services, so finding your nearest emergency vet center (also part of our resources page) before an emergency happens is important.
The new puppy owner guide to vaccines
Because of their brand new immune systems, puppies need vaccines to protect them and help them stay healthy as they grow. Your new pup needs protection from distemper, rabies, and other pathogens that can cause illness and affect your pup’s health and growth.
Here is the recommended puppy vaccination schedule, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC) website:
6 — 8 weeks
Recommended Vaccinations: Distemper, parvovirus
Optional Vaccinations: Bordetella
10 — 12 weeks
Recommended Vaccinations: DHPP (vaccines for distemper, adenovirus [hepatitis], parainfluenza, and parvovirus)
Optional Vaccinations: Influenza, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease per lifestyle as recommended by veterinarian
16 — 18 weeks
Recommended Vaccinations: DHPP, rabies
Optional Vaccinations: Influenza, Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Bordetella per lifestyle
12 — 16 months
Recommended Vaccinations: DHPP, rabies
Optional Vaccinations: Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease
Every 1 — 2 years
Recommended Vaccinations: DHPP
Optional Vaccinations: Influenza, Coronavirus, Leptospirosis, Bordetella, Lyme disease per lifestyle
Every 1 — 3 years
Recommended Vaccinations: Rabies (as required by law)
Optional Vaccinations: None
What do you need when you get a puppy?
When deciding if you need to gather supplies for your puppy, think about what your first day home after you get your puppy will look like. You know your new puppy schedule will include feeding and drinking water, going for walks and having playtime both indoors and out, and lots of naps while your puppy grows.
But you might also be wondering what to do with a puppy at night, how to train a new puppy, and what you’ll need to accommodate those responsibilities.
First, make sure you have the basic requirements covered. The happiest puppies are well fed, have their vaccination and health requirements met, have a place to sleep, and access to regular bathroom breaks.
Depending on your access to outdoor space, you might want to get your puppy an adjustable harness or collar, a leash, and some puppy pads and cleaning supplies for expected accidents while you house train your happy pup. For more recommendations on leashes and accessories, check out our recent article, “How To Leash Train Your Puppy.”
If you want your puppy to sleep in a special bed or area that is not your bed, you’ll need the supplies to set that up. If you want your dog to sleep in your bed, consider whether the puppy can get into bed without your help, and whether you need accessories like a ramp or pup steps to help your furry new friend.
Make sure you have food and water dishes for your puppy’s first day at home, and that you have the right food for them, based on diet limitations, age, breed, or the recommendations from your veterinarian. It’s a good idea to expect puppies to be messy eaters, so you might also want to buy a tray to place underneath their dishes, to protect the floor.
It goes without saying, but to prepare for your new pet, few of these items actually need to be purchased. Most can be made or upcycled from materials you already have, like that old tennis ball you don’t use anymore, some blankets you’re willing to sacrifice for your pet’s bed, and any appropriately-sized dishes made from safe materials that can be used for food and water. Pet ownership doesn’t have to break the bank.
Puppy's first day home
Puppy-proofing your home is an important step, but we’re including it here because some puppy-proofing will be unforeseeable. As your little furball begins exploring, you’ll become aware of some new hazard or possession that you need to protect from your curious pup, or vice versa.
For your first day home with puppy, prepare your home by removing anything from the floor that can harm your new pup, as well as anything you want to protect from chewing while your puppy’s teeth continue to grow.
It’s a good idea to get low to the ground and notice what’s at your puppy’s eye-level, and what cool fun spaces you’d hide in if you were a tiny fur ball. Be especially conscientious about low hanging wires, chemicals stored on or near the ground, or any liquids at risk of spilling. If you’re a plant parent too, you’ll want to take care to remove any plants that can be a poison risk, and keep a watchful eye over others as your pup begins exploring.
Finally, you should expect accidents to happen in the first couple of weeks. You may want to puppy proof your home by protecting the floor with plastic sheeting or puppy pads.
On your puppy’s first day home, allow them to explore, encouraging them with positive affirmations and attention when they are well behaved, and redirecting them from obstacles, hazards, and spaces you want to keep them out of. Try to start building your puppy’s routine once they become comfortable with their environment, and make sure you give them plenty of outdoor time and bathroom breaks.
How to train your new puppy
Training puppies can be a challenge, but consistency is key. Expect your puppy, like a human child, to take some time to learn some lessons, which they can only learn through consistent patterns in your behavior. Remember that like a human child, puppies are very receptive to your emotional state, and that as they grow, they are forming their personality, habits, and perception of you.
The happiest puppies receive enough structure and positive reinforcement to make expectations around feeding, walking on a leash, behaving around strangers, and bathroom breaks second-nature. Check out our recent article about training a new dog to walk on a leash.
How do I know my dog is happy?
You can tell dogs are happy through indications about their physical and mental health. For example, a healthy puppy or dog is active, eating and drinking enough water, not overheated, has a soft, wet nose, is as sociable as usual, and has no visible limitations to movement.
Behavioral and body-language changes can indicate both physical and mental distress. For example, changes in eating or bathroom habits, sleep patterns (sleeping much more or less than usual), changes in movement (limping, sluggishness) can indicate a physical emergency, illness, or intense pain. Cowering away from loved ones, tucking the tail, excessive panting, licking, or chewing can indicate both physical illness and mental distress. It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s behaviors and patterns as they grow, so you can recognize when they need your help.
A happy pupper is one that is appropriately fed, loved, and cared for. The right care includes regular exercise, check ups with the vet, social engagement with humans and other dogs, and enough (but not too much) high-quality food and water.
Can I leave my puppy alone? How to care for puppy while you work
Okay, you’ve settled in with your puppy and you’re starting to build their routine. What about when you head into the office?
While some pet owners have success with it, we do not recommend locking your puppy in a crate at any time of the day or night, except in extreme circumstances (these might include friction/aggression with another animal in the house or danger to a small child due to your pup’s size and lack of coordination).
The home you brought your pet into is theirs, as well as yours, and pets have a much more limited world to explore. For this reason, pets should be trained to roam freely and respect your things while you’re away. In the beginning though, consistency is key, and that can be a hard balance when you have to work away from home.
Family and friends who can regularly stop by and walk your pet while you’re away will be a huge help! Make sure when you're away from home your puppy has access to plenty of food and water for the day, and expect accidents to happen. Puppy-proofing your home and teaching your pup to use puppy pads will reduce those risks significantly.
If you need help leash training your new pup, or want someone to take them on regular walks while you work, our reliable, experienced dog-walkers and pet-sitters can help you with that. Regular walks will help protect your home and keep your puppy happy by reducing anxiety, expending some of that puppy-energy, and allowing them adequate bathroom breaks and social stimulation.