Many people love dogs—in fact, dogs were voted the world's second-favorite animal in a recent Animal Planet survey!
Shrink those dogs down to adorable, squeezable puppies, and even more people fall in love.
Because we love our puppies so much, we want to make sure they grow up to be healthy, well-trained dogs.
But raising a healthy, happy puppy takes knowledge, nurturing, and work as you grow your puppy up into the dog of your dreams.
In fact, most people don’t know exactly what goes into keeping a puppy healthy, let alone training them.
That’s why we’re here.
In this article, we’ll explore the steps you should take when you bring your puppy home so that you can have a healthy, well-behaved puppy.
Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
How To Keep Your Puppy Healthy
There are several steps you should take before your brand-new puppy ever enters your home, which you can learn more about by reading our blog, 22 Easy and Practical Steps to Prepare for a Puppy.
But once the puppy arrives in your home, how do you keep them healthy?
Let's go over some important factors.
Visit the Vet with your puppy
It’s never too soon to take your new puppy to the vet. No matter how much you learn, your vet is still the expert and should be your go-to resource when caring for your puppy.
Registering your puppy with a local vet is an especially good idea. Many vets don’t offer 24/7 emergency service to customers who are not directly registered with them.
As a bonus, registering your puppy with a local vet begins a critical relationship. Just as a family doctor knows how to care for you when you’ve been their patient, so a vet better knows how to take care of a puppy when they know their history.
It's a good idea to give your puppy a few lessons on vet etiquette before you go. Here are a few things to remember:
- Be on time. Vets are on a schedule like everyone else. When you’re late, you ruin their schedule and diminish the care and attention your puppy gets.
- Have your puppy on a leash. This is a good idea even if you have a dog crate or are carrying your puppy in your arms. Puppies that are 8-10 weeks old are surprisingly quick!
- Do not allow your puppy to approach other pets. This isn’t just about your puppy attacking other pets - it’s about respect. Some other animals in the vet’s waiting room may be nervous about your puppy - especially if he is in their face! It’s also a matter of safety since your puppy or other animals may be sick with a contagious disease.
- Don’t approach others’ pets without asking permission first. Again, this is a matter of respect. Most people don’t mind if you stroke or talk to their pet, but always ask first.
- Allow your puppy to potty before you enter the building. Accidents happen, but no one likes them, so do everything you can to make sure your puppy doesn’t have to go to the bathroom in the vet’s office.
- If you have a particularly frightened animal, ask if you can stay outside or wait in your car. This is the best policy for everyone: you, your puppy, the vet, and others in the waiting room.
- Take along any previous records. Your vet will need to see any previous records your puppy has, such as shots given by the breeder’s vet.
With these tips in mind, your time at the vet can go well!
At your first visit, the vet will likely complete a general well-being checkup.
They look at your puppy’s skin and coat, weigh them, examine their teeth, listen to their heart, and take their temperature.
Your vet should send you a reminder when your dog’s vaccinations are due or provide you with a puppy vaccination schedule to help you keep up-to-date.
One thing to make sure you ask about is protection from fleas, ticks, and worms. Your vet can advise you on preventative measures for all of these—and you should follow your vet’s advice.
For more tips on visiting the vet or saving on vet costs, see this blog post on 5 Ways To Save On Vet Costs.
Remember, prevention is always better than cure!
Exercising Your Puppy
Puppies are little bundles of motion and energy. But because they are growing quickly they need plenty of rest as well.
So, do puppies need exercise outside of their general playing and running?
Regular exercise has many benefits for your puppy:
- Prevents obesity and associated health risks
- Strengthens heart and muscle health
- Reduces digestive problems
- Increases physical agility
- Builds confidence and trust, especially in timid puppies
- Lessens destructive behaviors like chewing, digging, scratching, and biting.
But be careful - too much puppy exercise results in exhaustion and joint damage, especially in larger breeds.
So, how much exercise does your puppy need?
Each breed needs a different amount of exercise, so a good place to start is understanding your breed of puppy. Large species grow quickly and mature slowly, which means you may have to put off some agility and training exercises until they are older.
Toy breeds mature more quickly but require small, frequent feedings throughout the day, which means you may need to adjust their exercise schedule.
Your puppy’s exercise needs will also change as they grow.
For example, you should limit young puppies to short walks and play sessions throughout the day. On the other hand, a six-month-old dog might be capable of taking long walks or even short jogs.
While there are no fixed rules for exercising your puppy, consulting your vet is an excellent place to start.
And even though we all want to get it right, don’t worry too much about “how much exercise is too much.” Just watch your puppy carefully for signs of excessive tiredness or lameness.
Most importantly, remember that not getting enough exercise over a lifetime is more dangerous than too much.
Your puppy won't know how to behave on their first several walks. That’s ok - they need to learn just like us. But here are a few tips to make the first few times easier.
- Find a quiet and secure place to start. Distractions make learning difficult for your puppy!
- Be cautious of places where there could be loud, startling noises or busy roads.
- Begin with short walks, taking frequent breaks
- Purchase a halter to avoid strain on your puppy’s neck
Once your puppy is trained and excited about routine exercise, you’ll both be happy!
Give Your Puppy the Grooming They Need
Everyone loves to have an adorable, good-looking puppy. But grooming your puppy goes far beyond appearance! Grooming your puppy also helps to keep them healthy.
It’s a good idea to occasionally take your pet to a professional groomer.
Professional groomers closely inspect your puppy's ears for mites, infections, and other irritations. They also check for any unwanted pests like fleas or ticks.
However, it is a bad idea to rely on professional groomers to maintain your puppy's hygiene entirely. If you always wait for the groomer to do their work, your puppy may suffer in between visits.
So what can you do to maintain good puppy hygiene at home?
Bathing Your Puppy
You should bathe your puppy at least once every three months. Some puppies may require more frequent baths if they spend a lot of time outside. You can depend upon it - they will get dirty!
Thankfully, bathing your puppy is not rocket science!
- Give your puppy a good brushing to remove dead hair and matted fur, then put them in a tub or sink filled with three to four inches of lukewarm water.
- Completely wet your pet.
- Gently massage in shampoo, working from head to tail. Rinse and repeat as needed!
- Dry your puppy by giving them a rub with a large towel.
Just remember to use a shampoo formulated for your puppy breed, and always keep the water and shampoo out of your puppy’s eyes, ears, and nose.
Brushing Your Puppy
Regular grooming with a brush or comb keeps your puppy’s hair in good condition by removing dirt and spreading natural oils throughout their coat.
The way you brush your puppy - and how often - largely depends on their coat type.
Short-haired breeds only need brushing once a week. Puppies with medium, dense fur need brushing about once a week as well, however, you may need to use a slicker brush to remove tangles. Puppies with long coats, like a Yorkshire terrier, need daily attention.
Dental Care for your puppy
Dental care is probably most puppy owners’ least favorite part of hygiene.
We get it. It’s not fun, but it is important.
Many dogs show signs of gum disease by the time they are four years old because they didn't receive proper dental care when they were young.
If you can’t bring yourself to brush your puppy’s teeth, buy them quality chew toys. This helps clean their mouths.
If you can, give your puppy’s mouth a quick cleaning 2-3 times a week.
To begin, get your puppy used to the idea of having their teeth cleaned.
Start by gently massaging your puppy’s mouth for 30 seconds a day. When your puppy gets used to this, move on to the teeth and gums. Eventually, you can upgrade to a pet toothbrush to get those teeth clean and healthy.
Ear Care for your puppy
It’s best to leave serious ear cleaning to the experts. However, there are a few things you can do at home to lend a helping hand.
First, keep an eye on your puppy’s ears. If you notice excessive earwax or dirt, you may gently clean your puppy’s ears - just make sure not to clean so deeply you cause irritation in your puppy's ear.
Simply fold your puppy’s ear back and wipe away any debris or earwax that you can see on the underside of his or her ear.
If your puppy’s inner ears appear dirty, clean them with a cotton ball or piece of gauze dampened with mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide, or a liquid ear cleaner specially formulated for this purpose.
Trimming Your Puppy’s Nails
Puppies are known for their fierce, sharp little nails. When you allow those nails to grow too long, they can cause serious problems for your puppy, not to mention that annoying clicking sound on your floors!
As a rule of thumb, a puppy’s nails should be trimmed just when the nails begin touching the floor. When your puppy’s nails start clicking or getting snagged on the carpet, it’s time for a trim.
To trim your puppy’s nails, hold your trimmer so that you’re cutting the nail from top to bottom at a slight angle, not side to side, and insert a minimal length of the nail through the trimmer’s opening to cut off the tip of each nail.
Cut a little bit of nail with each pass until you can see the beginning of a circle—still nail-colored—appear on the cut surface.
The circle indicates that you are nearing the quick, which is a vein that runs into the nail, so it’s time to stop that nail and move on to the next.
Giving Your Puppy The Proper Nutrition
High-quality puppy food is one of the most significant ongoing expenses of having a puppy, but vets agree that the investment is worth it.
A lot of people ask, “What should I feed my puppy?”
Different breeds, sizes, and ages of puppies require different foods. No formula fits all, so do your research. You can also get advice from your vet or breeder on feeding your puppy.
What is the main key in puppy food?
Making sure you are feeding your puppy food designed for them.
Puppies grow much more quickly than adult dogs and need special nutrition to accommodate those needs. Look for a label that proves the food is made for puppies, and check to make sure it has the correct ratio of protein, fat, carbs, and fiber.
And remember, your puppy may be slow to eat at first. This is probably not a health issue - they are just nervous in their new surroundings.
Once you’ve determined what to feed your puppy, you should figure out how to feed your puppy.
If you are changing food types from what the puppy is used to, do so gradually. Ask the breeder what the puppy is used to, and mix the food you prefer with this old food for several days.
Most puppies need three meals a day until they are around four months old. After that, it’s time to start scaling back to 2 meals a day.
But what if your puppy always acts hungry?
In this case, you know better than them. Some puppies don’t know when to quit eating, so stick to your feeding schedule.
You may even consider a slow puppy feeder bowl to slow down your puppy’s gobbling. Eating too fast is a problem; just like eating too much.
And even though feeding puppies table scraps is a lot of fun, it’s generally a bad idea. At the very least, make sure you consult a list of foods puppies shouldn't eat.
How To Properly Train Your Puppy
Training a puppy is an enormous topic—more than we can cover in this article—but let's look at the two most crucial aspects of training a puppy that's new to your home: potty training and crate training.
Providing your puppy with regular, loving, and consistent training is essential to having a healthy, happy, well-trained dog. Consistent love and training also helps smaller and yappier breeds overcome small dog syndrome.
Potty Training Your Puppy
Potty training your puppy takes time and patience. Expect mistakes, but remain consistent, and your puppy will be house-trained in a few weeks.
What is one of the biggest parts of potty training your puppy?
Setting a consistent routine!
Take your puppy outside at regular intervals every day, making sure to use the same place for pottying over and over again. (Puppies are motivated to continue soiling in areas that smell like urine or feces).
Praise your puppy or give them treats immediately after they relieve themselves. This will reinforce the idea that going to the bathroom outdoors is what’s expected of them.
Although you must have a potty training schedule to encourage consistency, you have a lot of flexibility in how you set it. However, we recommend giving your puppy a chance to potty after sleeping and after eating and drinking.
Generally speaking, a puppy can control their bladder for one hour for every month of age. So, if your puppy is two months old, they can hold it for about two hours.
But if you exceed that time, your puppy is bound to have an accident!
Another vital part of establishing a routine is setting a puppy feeding schedule.
Puppies under four months of age need to be fed three times a day.
If you consistently schedule feeding times, your puppy will need to potty at consistent times as well, making housetraining easier for both of you.
If your puppy has trouble pottying at night, try taking their water bowl away 2½ hours before bedtime.
But what should you do when your puppy has an accident?
Keep it simple:
- Interrupt your puppy when you catch them in the act of pottying in the house.
- Don’t scare them, but give a command like “Outside!” and immediately take them to their bathroom spot. Praise them if they finish outside.
- Don’t punish your puppy for mistakes in the house, especially if you don’t catch them in the act.
- Clean the soiled area thoroughly.
If you consistently supervise your puppy with these tips in mind, you’ll have a housetrained puppy in no time!
Crate Training Your Puppy
To crate train or not to crate train, that is one of the many questions pet parents face when they bring home a new puppy!
Although you may feel sad and guilty about putting that sweet little puppy behind bars, remember that crate training can give your puppy a sense of space and calm her anxiety once she gets used to it.
Also, free-roaming puppies can get into treacherous situations, including chewing power cords, falling downstairs, or eating dangerous objects.
And when you think about how pets under the age of one are two-and-a-half times more likely to have an injury or illness than older dogs, keeping your puppy safely in his crate when you’re not home seems like a good idea! So don't feel guilty about crating your puppy.
But, how do you go about crate training a puppy?
First of all, It is essential that your puppy doesn’t associate their crate with punishment. Instead, they should see their crate as a safe and secure, den-like environment that keeps them safe from harm.
When it comes to getting puppies to enjoy their crate, there are several things to try:
- Choose a crate that is big enough for your puppy to turn around, lie down, and stand up - but not so big that they can potty in one corner and lie in another. (You might need to upgrade as your puppy grows)
- Create a ritual for your puppy. Before putting them in their crate, talk to them, and give them positive reinforcement. Then allow your puppy to potty before putting them in the crate.
- Make the crate a comfortable space for your puppy. Put a soft, warm blanket in the crate along with a toy.
- Give lots of praise and a treat once the door is closed, so your puppy learns how delightful it is to be in the crate.
- Let your puppy spend short amounts of time in the crate at first and slowly increase the amount of time they are in the crate.
Just like potty training, consistency is key to crate training. If you go several days or weeks without putting your puppy in their crate, they will begin to forget what they have learned.
By using these tips and remaining consistent, you’ll have your puppy relaxed and safe when you are away from the house.
When you bring home a new puppy, you take on a lot of responsibility. Of course, you want to be proud of your puppy—how healthy and well trained they are—but those things don't happen without intentional care, consistency, and effort.
If you are still looking for the perfect puppy, check out Infinity Pups.
All of our puppies have a one-year health guarantee and come from reputable breeders.
And if you want more information about which dog breed would be a good fit, check out our breed-specific blog posts, including:
- Everything You Need to Know About the Mini Australian Shepherd
- Your Guide to the Bernedoodle Puppy
- Golden Retrievers: Everything You Need to Know
- Is a Mini Aussiedoodle Puppy Right for You?
- The Ultimate Guide to the Goldendoodle
- Everything You Need to Know About German Shepherds
We look forward to helping you choose the perfect pup for your home!