Puppy: A Guide for First Time Puppy Parents

Yes, they are adorable. The little pitter-patter of their tiny feet as they follow you around, the tiny yips and barks, even the puppy-breath smell is irresistible. So arm yourself with knowledge so you know just what you're getting yourself into.

What about the costs?

The cost of obtaining the puppy is only the beginning. Even if you are given the puppy for free, owning a dog is not. Let's look at what expenses are involved so you are fully prepared to bring your puppy home!.

You'll need some equipment. 

  • Start with a crate. Dogs are by nature den animals, and once your puppy is used to the crate, he'll go there on his own anytime he wants some alone-time. (Never use his crate as punishment. NEVER.) 
  • You'll also need some steel or ceramic bowls to feed and water him. (Always keep his water bowl full of fresh water. FRESH.) 
  • He'll need a good leather or canvas leash of about a six-foot length and a soft, leather collar. Rolled leather collars will not break the hair on his neck. (NO CHAIN OR SPIKED COLLARS!) 
  • Get him a bed (or two so you'll have one for when you're washing the other). 
  • Buy a few high-quality chew toys (but avoid rawhide, which can be swallowed and cause intestinal blockages). 
  • Lastly, you will want to invest in a pet gate (or a baby gate) to partition off areas where you don't want him to go or to keep him confined to a "safe place."

Puppy-proof your home before you bring him home.

  • Get down on his level. What does he see? Can he chew on it? Can he knock it over? Can he get tangled up in it? If any of the answers are yes, change the environment so that all the answers are no.
  • Get a trash can he can't open. Believe me, if you don't, he will.
  • Put his new crate in your room, near your bed. It may make for a few nights of sleeplessness, but in the long run, you'll be glad you did.
  • Watch the clutter. If you're in the habit of leaving your shoes by the door, don't. Shut doors to rooms that have expensive furnishings. Close closet doors and keep your stuff out of his reach.

Sign up with a vet and consider pet insurance.

If you have friends with dogs, ask for their recommendation on veterinarians. Make an appointment to meet the vet and ask about pet insurance. Get his or her advice on puppy food and routine vaccination schedules. Then set up your first appointment to bring your new puppy in for a check-up. It is best to schedule this visit within two or three days of bringing your pup home.

Supervise your new puppy!

Your puppy should only be out of his crate or a small area you have set up for him (his room) when you can watch his every movement. By supervision, I mean your eyes on him. No telephone calls, TV, or other distractions. The second you take your eyes off your puppy, he'll get into trouble or disappear. If you must take care of something else, put him in his safe place first.

  • Take him outside to his "potty place" every time you let him out of his crate. Carry him outside and wait for results. 
  • Set a routine and stick to it. Potty training goes much easier if your puppy knows what's coming next. Feeding and immediate play outside should be the same time every day so that digestive upsets are minimized and potty training is easier.

Make sure everyone is on the same page.

Don't leave a child with the sole responsibility of caring for your new puppy, and be sure that every member of the family knows the rules and routine for his care. It's fine to have more than one person caring for your pup, but designating one person as the main caretaker will smooth the transition from pup-less to puppy as a member of the household.

Don't expect good behavior unless you train him to know what that means.

Enroll your new puppy in a "kindergarten" class. In these pre-training classes, puppies and their owners learn how to socialize with other dogs. This is a very important part of dog-training so that your puppy develops a confident, non-aggressive social personality. Without this kind of training, your puppy could end up being timid or aggressive around strangers or strange dogs. DON'T SKIP THIS ONE!

After your pup "graduates" from kindergarten, enroll him in the next training class so that you can learn how to train him to be a happy, healthy member of your household. It's best to have one person doing the training. Don't switch out another family member because it's as important for the person training the puppy as it is for the pup to learn the details and develop the techniques that will result in a well-trained dog.

Embarking (pun intended) on your new adventure with a puppy will be immensely rewarding. You will gain a friend that will love you no matter what, loyal and constant. Throughout his life, you and he will find out what other dog-owners before you already know. A dog is man's best friend.