Getting a new puppy can be a wonderful time full of new adventures, however, many questions may arise once your new puppy arrives home. Here is an abbreviated list of common concerns that can help you get a jump start toward that perfect canine companion.

It is very important to have your puppy seen by your veterinarian within the first few days of arriving home. During this appointment, your veterinarian can identify if there are any medical concerns that need to be addressed and to design their personalized parasite and vaccine plan. We will also discuss microchip identification, spay/neuter recommendations, what type of food and how much to feed, and even how to brush your dog’s teeth.

Now that you know your puppy is healthy it is time to start training. This includes everything from potty training to obedience and socialization. The endless resources that are available can be overwhelming. I recommend “Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right”, by Dr. Sophia Yin and “The Perfect Puppy”, by Gwen Bailey, 2017 edition. The SPCA for Monterey County website also has good resources and offers local classes. Starting with obedience training at home and progressing to classes once vaccinated can be very beneficial to your relationship with your new family member. These interactions early on can help set a puppy up for a well mannered relationship with the family and other pets.

It is very tempting to show off your puppy but keep in mind the world is a potentially hazardous place for young puppies. Places to specifically avoid prior to full vaccination are dog parks, the beach, hiking trails, the pet store and even your front yard. The goal is to limit a not fully vaccinated puppy’s exposure to places that may have been visited by wild animals or domestic animals that could be carrying disease or parasites until your puppy is fully protected (usually by 4 months of age). Some infectious diseases can survive in the environment for more than a year. Your fenced yard and inside your house are likely the safest place for your puppy. Friends can bring their adult, fully vaccinated dogs over to your house for supervised play and socialization.

Puppy training classes are a very important part of their development. It allows them to socialize with other people and dogs as well as learn manners and obedience. Remember that training your dog is as much about training yourself as them. Make sure that the class has vaccine requirements that are being enforced to limit infectious disease risk.

Puppies also love to eat and put everything in their mouths. While many things are benign, others can be toxic or get stuck in their intestines. Some of the more common exposures we see are chocolate, toxic plants, raisins, and xylitol (artificial sweetener). If your pet has consumed one of these or any other substance that you are not sure is safe, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline immediately. Common things that I have removed from inside puppies include dog toys and the stuffing, socks, undergarments, string, fishing line, fishing hooks, corn cobs, dish towels and childrens toys. Please provide age and size appropriate toys and discourage access to other potentially dangerous items.

A puppy is a lifelong commitment and if you invest heavily at the beginning it will pay dividends in the long run. Enjoy that puppy breath while it lasts!