7 Things to Know Before Getting Your First Puppy

Terrier puppy dog looking upward.

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Puppies are beloved by animal lovers. They're tiny, adorable, playful, affectionate little beings you can carry around everywhere. What's not to love? Puppies are certainly hard to resist. Perhaps this is why many people end up getting a puppy before they are ready or before they know how to prepare for one.

There are a lot of decisions to make and factors to consider before you decide to bring home a new puppy. Don't give in to impulse and take home a puppy at the wrong time. Do your research first. Learn if you are ready to have a puppy and find out how to get one responsibly. Get educated on how to prepare for your new puppy and how to raise that puppy well.

  • 01 of 07

    Are You Ready for a Puppy?

    Labrabull puppy running with a red tennis ball in its mouth.

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    Puppies may be irresistible, but they are also extremely time-consuming. If you have never had a puppy, then you might not realize what you're about to get into. It's one thing to be ready to get a dog, especially an adult dog. Raising a puppy requires an even higher level of commitment.

    Young puppies need to be fed three to four times a day. They need to be taken outside immediately after eating or drinking so they can eliminate appropriately and become house trained. Puppies will have accidents in the house while they are still being house-trained. That can mean a lot of clean up.

    A puppy might wake you up several times during the night. It might be because the puppy needs to go outside, or it might just be because the puppy is bored.

    A young puppy can't be left alone for more than a few hours. The puppy should stay in a crate when alone; this aids in house training and keeps the puppy from chewing up everything in your house. However, after a few hours, a puppy can't hold its bladder (and sometimes bowels too).

    Puppies can be destructive. They want to explore, chew, lick, and possibly even eat things in their environment. They don't know manners and may act unruly or hyperactive. All puppies need to be trained and socialized; they also need a lot of exercise. These things take a lot of time.

    Are you prepared to come home from work midday to care for your puppy? Can you handle being woken up in the middle of the night? Are you able to spend several hours a week working on training and socialization? What about any other pets or people in your home? Will a puppy be too disruptive?

    If you get a young puppy, be prepared to spend a lot of extra time with it, especially for the first few months. If this sounds like too much, but you still want a dog, consider adopting an adult dog.

  • 02 of 07

    What Kind of Puppy Is Right for You?

    Several Labrador puppies sitting on a woman's lap.

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    So you've weighed the pros and cons of puppy ownership and decided that the time is right for you to bring a puppy into your household. Congratulations! Now it's time to go look for your new little companion. But where do you begin?

    First of all, decide what kind of puppy is right for you. Make a list of features or traits you must have, those you prefer, and those that you definitely do not want.

    • How big or small do you want your dog to be? Small dogs often do better in smaller spaces. Food, supplies, and medications are more expensive for large and giant dogs.
    • Do you want a dog that stays very active as an adult, or would you rather have one that will likely calm down in a year or two? How much exercise can you provide?
    • Consider hair coat type as well. Are you willing to deal with shedding? Or, do you want a dog that sheds very little? Low-shedding dogs often need to make regular trips to the groomer. Can you afford this?
  • 03 of 07

    Where to Find Your New Puppy

    Little girl playing with Dalmatian puppies

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    Once you have gotten an idea of what type of puppy you want, its time to begin your search.

    If possible, consider adopting a dog first. Mixed-breed dogs are absolutely wonderful and extremely underrated. Your local animal shelters and pet rescue groups have adorable mixed-breed puppies just waiting for homes. Even if you are not sure a mixed breed dog is for you, it's worth a trip to your local shelter or rescue group to meet some of the puppies. You might just fall in love!

    You may truly have your heart set on a purebred dog. Many people have a favorite breed or need to know more accurately what to expect when the dog is grown. Factors like the size and coat type are very predictable in a purebred dog. Health concerns, temperament, and energy level are somewhat predictable but not guaranteed.

    If you choose to buy a purebred dog, then you need to be responsible. Look for an experienced dog breeder with a stellar reputation. Avoid backyard breeders. Never buy from pet stores, as their dogs often come from puppy mills. Don't buy a dog from a flea market or a classified ad; these puppies have unknown backgrounds and may be unhealthy.

    When you find the right puppy for you, it will just feel right. Most owners will tell you that their canine companions actually chose them, not the other way around!

  • 04 of 07

    Puppy-Proof Your Home

    Black puppy destroying a red pillow with the stuffing everywhere.

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    Before your little friend comes home with you, it's essential that you prepare your home. Do your best to puppy-proof every area of your home. Destructive puppy behavior is common, frustrating, and can be dangerous for your dog. Your puppy is sure to find all the little things that can hurt it.

    Warning

    Get down to a puppy eye-level and look for hazards:

    • Hide all electrical cords as best as possible.
    • Lock cabinets, especially those that contain food or medications, toxic chemicals, and other household items that may be dangerous.
    • Keep houseplants up high where your dog cannot chew their leaves.
    • Get a trash can with a locking lid or keep the bin behind closed doors.
    • Keep laundry, shoes, and other small items out of reach. Puppies sometimes chew on and/or swallow these.

    The best way to keep your puppy safe is to supervise it at all times. Keep your puppy in a crate while you are away (just avoid leaving for more than a few hours when your puppy is still young). A puppy should not have the full run of the house until it is older and well-trained.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Stock up on Puppy Supplies

    Puppy in a brown dog bed with toys.

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    You're going to need plenty of dog supplies before you bring home your new puppy. Start with the basics before you end up with a bunch of stuff you don't need such as toys your puppy doesn't enjoy or beds your puppy won't sleep in. You'll definitely need a few essentials to begin:

    • Basic four- to six-foot leash (later you can get an extra-long one for training)
    • Adjustable collar with ID tags
    • Metal or ceramic pet bowls for food and water (avoid plastic as it may cause skin irritation and is easy for puppies to chew up)
    • Puppy food
    • Simple dog bed with room to grow
    • Dog crate with room to grow
    • A few simple dog toys (try one of each: a squeaky toy, a plush toy, a chew toy)
    • A brush, comb, or grooming mitt appropriate for your puppy's coat

    As your puppy grows, you will find you need other items, such as grooming supplies and preventive products. Your vet can help you decide which items best fit your dog's needs.

  • 06 of 07

    Find the Right Veterinarian

    Dog on a table in a vet's office looking with sad eyes.

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    Your new puppy should visit your veterinarian for the first time within a few days of coming home with you. It is important for the puppy to have a physical examination, even if no vaccines are due. This is a chance to make sure there are no health problems that went undetected by the breeder, shelter, or rescue group.

    It's best to find a good veterinarian before you bring home your puppy. Then you will have the vet lined up and not have to rush to find one. Look for a veterinary office with a great reputation in a convenient location for you. Make sure their prices are affordable for you. The best way to find a good vet is to ask around and research. Talk to friends and family members with pets. Look at online reviews. You might even want to go take a tour of the hospital and meet the staff to get a feel for the place.

    On your puppy's first visit, be sure to bring all the paperwork provided by the breeder or adoption group. Your vet will do the examination and discuss the puppy vaccination schedule with you. Puppies should be first vaccinated between six and eight weeks of age. Vaccines need to be boostered up until they are about 16 to 18 weeks old. Expect to visit the vet every three weeks or so until then.

  • 07 of 07

    Learn How to Raise Your Puppy Correctly

    Training puppy with commands

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    All puppies need special care to make sure they grow up healthy and happy.

    • Choose a healthy diet made specifically for puppies.
    • Begin house training from the moment your puppy comes home. Understand that this may take many weeks to months.
    • Begin obedience training at home, but start small. Be patient and consistent. However, don't be too strict; let your puppy be a puppy!
    • Socialize your puppy well. Take your puppy lots of different places so it can experience sights, sounds, people, and pets that are new. However, be sure to only let your puppy meet healthy, vaccinated dogs.
    • Sign up for puppy training classes with a good trainer. Not only will this help your puppy learn, but it will also provide socialization.
    • Establish a routine that includes exercise.
    • Stay on-schedule with puppy vet visits and vaccines.
    • Make time for bonding and play. You can even teach your puppy some fun games.

    If there is more than one person in your home who will interact with the puppy, set up the structure in advance. Who is responsible for feeding and walking the puppy and when? Make sure all parties agree on rules about where the puppy is allowed to go. Work together to make sure the training is consistent. If there are children in the home, make sure they know how to behave around dogs. If there are other pets in the home, be sure they are properly introduced and well-supervised at all times.