Congratulations! You have decided to take the next big step in expanding your family — soon you will be welcoming a four-pawed bundle of love into your home. Raising a puppy is a wonderful experience, from the moment you start looking to the day your perfect pooch comes home. This new puppy guide will serve as your go-to resource for everything you need to know about raising a happy, healthy four-legged family member, from his first day home to his first birthday and beyond.

I can’t wait to come live with you in my fur-ever home! But before I become the newest four-pawed addition to the family, it’s a good idea to start getting the house and my new siblings — two- and four-legged! — ready so my homecoming is easy and safe.

"Bringing home a new puppy can be an exciting time, but just like welcoming a new two-legged family member, there is some preparation to do before puppy comes home! If you’re getting a new puppy, chances are you’ll bring him home when he’s 8 weeks old — before then, he’s still with his mother and littermates, developing his senses of sight and smell and learning basic social skills. While he’s busy growing, get your family started on the following puppy tip to-dos, so that he comes home to a safe, healthy and happy place."

Dr. Jules Benson

Petplan Chief Veterinary Medical Officer

homeward bound

A lot needs to be done before you bring your fuzzy bundle of joy home, but don’t despair! Start by ticking off the items on our quick checklist to make sure everything is in place before the big day:

puppy-proofing

  • This involves getting down on all fours for a dog’s-eye view! Watch for sharp edges that could cause injury, and place out of reach anything that your puppy could chew, lick or ingest. Puppies love to put their mouths on everything – shoes, toys and even wooden baseboards can be fair game if not protected or moved.
  • Secure bookshelves or televisions that could topple over, especially if the puppy jumps up on them or can crash into them.
  • Secure trash cans so that they cannot be pillaged or knocked over by a curious (or hungry) pup.
  • Make use of baby gates to keep your naturally curious pup out of off-limits or dangerous areas of the house, and away from stairs.

lap it up

  • Pick food and water bowls appropriate for your pup’s size.You may need to upgrade as your dog grows.
  • Ceramic bowls are easily cleaned in the dishwasher, but are easily broken. Aluminum and hard plastic are more durable choices.

crate

  • Your crate will be your puppy’s den, so select one that will grow with your puppy — many have removable sections. Also consider material: Choose from wire, solid plastic or foldable fabric.
  • Sizewise, it should be just big enough for your puppy to turn around in, stretch out while lying down and stand up without bumping his head (but not so big he can use the potty in one corner and then lie in the other!)
  • Get your pup to love his new bed! Check out some fun training tips from certified professional dog trainer Nicole Larocco Skeehan to learn how.

toy time

  • This is the fun part! Toss a variety of types of toys into your shopping basket. Some puppies prefer one “texture” over another, so try a mix of natural rubber, rope and soft plush.
  • Choose size-appropriate toys made for puppies, whose jaws and teeth can be hurt on harder toys made for older dogs.
  • Remember, there is no 100% "safe toy," so always monitor puppy playtime to prevent ingestion or choking.

Download our printable shopping list!

"Providing the right toys for your puppy can help save your home from destruction — and save your pup from the dangers of foreign body ingestion! If your pup goes for you coffee table leg, offer a chew toy instead and praise him for 'chew-sing' the appropriate option!"

Dr. Jules Benson

preparing your family

Welcoming a new puppy is exciting, but it can also be a big adjustment for people and other pets in the household. Minimizing everyone’s stress is the key to success, so follow these tips to put the right pieces in place:

feline friends: The whirlwind of new noises, smells and activity that comes with a new puppy can be stressful for cats. Follow these tips to help ease the introduction of puppy to cat, and start them on the path to acceptance — and eventually, even puppy love!

I’m Feline Good! Invest in feline “feel-good” pheromones a couple of weeks before you bring the puppy home. This will help to keep your cat relaxed as the big day comes and goes. Talk to your veterinarian about recommendations for brands like Feliway.®

Cat Sanctuary: Provide your cat with a way to avoid being cornered, frightened or even harmed by an enthusiastic new playmate. This can easily be done by using baby gates, or installing a cat door that allows for escape into a laundry room, basement or bedroom. Cat furniture, such as “cat trees” and “condos” can give your kitty a spot to safely observe high out of the puppy’s reach.

(Don’t) Use the Force: Remember never to force a confrontation between the puppy and your cat. This can frighten everyone involved, and your cat may hide under the bed for a week!

canine companions: Many dogs welcome a new addition immediately, but others may need a little time to adjust. Following these tips when introducing a puppy to an older dog can help ease your new addition into your household pack:

Common Ground: Always make an introduction between dogs on “common ground” such as a living room area, away from food bowls, favorite sleeping spots or toys. This will promote neutrality and can help prevent any “faux pas.”

Safety First: Both puppy and other dogs need to be leashed and under positive control during the introduction for safety’s sake. Even as they begin to bond, be careful that a larger adult dog doesn’t play too rough with a smaller, more delicate puppy.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Watch your dog’s body language closely when introducing a new puppy. If your dog is showing signs of being uneasy — including cowering, tucking his tail between his legs or licking his lips — stay relaxed and have him focus on you, offering treats when he glances at the puppy. This may seem counter-intuitive, but you’re not rewarding the nervousness — you are helping him to relax with distraction, focus and rewards. Food can turn a nervous situation into a positive one!

Know Your Dog: If your dog is well-socialized and never has problems with new dogs in your home or at the dog park, the first introduction and few days are likely to be relatively worry-free. I bet a lot of sniffing, running and jumping will help everyone sleep well!

Home Alone: Safety is always first, and you should never leave your puppy alone with other household dogs until it has been established that the dogs get along well.

two-legged tykes: There is nothing that warms the heart more than watching puppies and kids play. However, it is important to remember to keep everyone safe and start out on the right paw (or foot!)

Small children should be instructed to be as calm as possible when first meeting the puppy. Prompt them to:

  • Stay quiet like a mouse, as loud noises, shrieking and even laughter can easily startle a puppy.
  • Touch gently, not allowing infants or toddlers to grab the puppy’s ears, face or fur, as this can sometimes turn into a bite.
  • Leave puppy alone when he’s sleeping or eating, to avoid any inadvertent nips.
  • Remember the “puppy rules,” as young children can easily forget!

Older children should be instructed to:

  • Sit quietly on the floor and allow the puppy to approach them first (offer treats!).
  • Don’t chase or throw things at the puppy.
  • Don’t grab the fur, face, ears or tail.
  • Don’t sit on, lie on or jump onto the puppy.

As your puppy adjusts to your family’s daily routine, he or she should be able to take a little bit of ‘child’s play.’ However, parents should ensure the puppy’s and children’s safety by always supervising playtime to prevent accidental injury or abuse from occurring.

breed all about it

No matter where you find your next best friend, it’s important to think carefully about what type of puppy is best for your family — before you fall in love with the pick of the litter from a rescue group, animal shelter or breeder!

he's going to be how big?

  • Some people prefer a purse-sized pooch, while others like to run with the big dogs! Puppies start small, but consider how big he’ll be when he’s full-grown.
  • A good rule-of-thumb is that a 50-lb. dog has about the same strength as a 150-lb. human. That strength can be harnessed with appropriate training, but it is something for every pup parent-to-be to consider.

get into the groom

  • Some breeds have coats that require more care than others including daily brushing and/or professional grooming. Make sure your schedule and budget allow for it!
  • Dogs with double coats or long-haired breeds may be super cuddly, but may become uncomfortable if you live in a hot, humid climate.
  • If anyone in the family has allergies, consider a breed with a hair coat that sheds less.
  • If you are into low-maintenance, select a short-haired breed that does not require clipping or more than the routine bathing and brushing.

oh, behave!

  • Remember certain breeds are instinctually prone to certain behaviors. Intelligent herding breeds like shepherds love to “have a job,” and if they don’t have one, they will find one — some may even try to “herd” your children! These breeds need lots of mental exertion with games and exercise, or hobbies such as obedience training or agility.
  • Hunting breeds, such as Beagles and Dachshunds, have a keen sense of smell and a drive to track down prey. This may drive you (and them) to distraction if they start digging up the yard, so obedience training is a must for these active pups.