The A-Z of raising a puppy

Puppies can be hard work - but they are worth it!  The A-Z of raising a puppy shutterstock 336435884

Puppies can be hard work – but they are worth it!

Keeping your new four-legged friend safe in your home is a major responsibility for any new puppy parent. He depends on you to meet all his needs – food, water, play time, sleep time, grooming and training.

All the supplies you need

Get all the necessary items ready before you pick up puppy. You’ll need: a dog bed and blanket, water and food bowls, food (ask the breeder/shelter what food puppy is eating), collar, selection of chew toys, a small grooming kit and a pet travel crate. Drop off a new blanket at the breeder’s. You can bring this home when you collect puppy and he will have something with the familiar smell of his family when he goes home with you.

Bring home the puppy

If you have small children rather leave them at home and take along another adult to help with the puppy while you drive. The kids can meet puppy at home. Remember to take the travel crate and a roll of paper kitchen towels to mop up any accidents. Collect your puppy pack from the breeder. This should include the puppy’s vet card and other important info from the breeder.

Call puppy by his name

Start using your dog’s name as soon as you bring him home. Repeat the name often, especially when you call him to you. Call him in a happy voice and praise him when he comes to you. Avoid names that sound like obedience commands like sit, heel, fetch or stay.

Diet and nutrition

Keep puppy on the same diet he was eating at the breeder’s house, at least initially. If you want to make a change later on, do so gradually. A quick change can result in a nasty stomach upset. Always consider the size of your breed – giant, large, medium or small breed – and choose a food nutritionally balanced for a puppy of this size. Speak to your vet for further advice.

Emergencies and first aid

Every pet owner should have basic first aid knowledge. Pack a first aid kit and include a note with your vet and an emergency pet hospital in your area’s phone numbers. Purchase a book on pet first aid and keep it handy with your kit. Know the signs of a serious emergency and when to see the vet. Consider taking out pet insurance to cover the cost of expensive unforeseen emergencies.

First few days at home

Some puppies settle in a few hours, others need time to adjust to the different surroundings. The key is to keep things calm during those first few days. Let puppy meet the immediate human family members first, but avoid a parade of guests through the home. Keep a close eye on him at all times but let him sleep when he wants to.

Grooming time

Handle your puppy during play time as this will help to make grooming much easier as he gets older. Touch his ears, his paws, individual toes, under his tummy, his back and his tail. You can introduce a soft comb or slicker brush and gently start to brush him.

House training

Routine is key. If you want to train him to use newspaper or the grass, take him to his toilet place every 20 minutes or so during play time. Also take him to the place about 10 to 15 minutes after a meal and straight after nap time. Accidents will happen, but always keep it positive. If you catch him using the wrong spot, take him to the correct spot but never shout at him or smack him.

It’s play time

Your new puppy needs a good selection of chew toys. Have a variety of toys – tough rubber chewies and safe fluffy toys that are washable. Keep a stash in the cupboard and switch them regularly to keep puppy interested. Avoid toys with small plastic bits and bobs that can be chewed off and swallowed.

Join a puppy class

Puppies have a window period for socialisation between eight and 16 weeks. Socialisation involves introducing your dog to the people, places and situations he is likely to encounter as an adult. Puppy classes are a great way to enhance your dog’s socialisation and also give you a chance to learn other aspects of dog care. If the mother was properly vaccinated, your pup can start classes two weeks after his first vaccination. Ask your puppy class instructor for more information.

Keep ticks and fleas at bay

Ask your vet about a topical ‘spot on’ treatment that is safe to use on puppies. If you keep up with a four to six weekly parasite routine throughout your dog’s life, you should be able to keep these nasty bugs at bay.

Lead training

A dog needs to learn to walk correctly on lead, without pulling or jerking his handler. Once puppy is used to a collar, you can attach a lead and let him walk around the house with it. Watch him carefully so he doesn’t snag it on things. Reward him when you put it on. Next, call him to walk next to you (on the left side) but don’t pick up the lead. Reward him when he gets it right. Once he is used to the lead, you can start the next phase – teaching him that you belong at the other end.

Meeting the resident older dog

Give puppy time to settle in before introducing him to other pets, particularly an older, larger dog. The introductions must take place in a controlled environment. Have another adult on hand to assist. Keep the older dog on lead and the puppy in a crate. See how they react to each other before allowing the puppy outside the crate. Keep initial introductions brief and very positive. Reward your older dog for good behaviour around the puppy. Always supervise interactions between them.

No to bad behaviour

Nip unwanted behaviour in the bud. Provide plenty of puppy-proof chew toys – never old shoes or household items. Teach puppy not to jump up. Praise him and give him a treat when he keeps all four paws on the ground or sits nicely when you or guests greet him. Don’t react when he jumps up. If you are struggling with a difficult behaviour problem, consult a reputable animal behaviourist for assistance – sooner rather than later.

Oral hygiene

Even though your puppy will lose his milk teeth between 14 and 28 weeks, you need to get him used to dental care. Lift his lips and gently rub your finger over his gums. Next, introduce a soft cloth with some pet toothpaste and then finally, a pet toothbrush. If your puppy retains his milk teeth after 31 weeks, see your vet.

Puppy-proof your home

This is best done before puppy comes home. Make sure electrical cords, blind cords, poisons and other harmful objects are safely out of reach. Don’t allow the children to leave their toys lying about, especially small toys that can be chewed and swallowed. Close up access to the areas under beds, behind the TV cabinet or computer stands.

Quiet time

Children must be taught to leave puppy alone while he is resting. Puppies need their sleep but they also need to learn to be on their own. Separation anxiety is a difficult behaviour problem to deal with later on and best prevented from puppyhood. Behaviourists suggest putting puppy in a quiet space for up to an hour each day. He should have access to fresh water and his bed. He may take a while to get used to the routine, but do keep it up. He needs to learn that you do come back.

Rules – for puppy and the kids

Start with a set of rules from the first day. Teach the children how to pick up the puppy correctly and make no hitting, poking, ear pulling or teasing the puppy a fast rule. The same goes for giving him ‘people’ food – it can upset his stomach and may even be harmful. Also think about other rules, like not putting puppy on the furniture or the bed if you don’t want him there as an adult.

Start obedience training

After puppy classes you can start obedience training. This will help to establish a line of communication between you and your dog and gives you a good foundation on which to build your relationship. Trainers will also be on hand to help you through your puppy’s ‘teenage’ phase when lessons and manners may go out of the window!

Travel safe

Always travel with your puppy in a travel crate – even short trips to the vet. You will have to train him to be comfortable in the crate in the car. Start with a few short trips around the block and reward him for good behaviour in the crate.

Understand your breed

Even if you have taken time to consider the right breed, keep learning about your new dog so you can understand his behaviour. Some breeds are hunters at heart and need to be kept on lead in open areas. Others are happy to re-landscape your garden! Knowing what to expect can help you identify problems and guide your dog appropriately. Be firm and gentle with your puppy and always consistent. Reward good behaviour with plenty of praise and an occasional yummy treat!


Puppies should be vaccinated between six and eight weeks and then every three to four weeks until 14 or 16 weeks of age – three sets. The first vaccine should be handled by the breeder. Check on the vet card when the next vaccinations are due. Vaccines will help to build your puppy’s immune response to the diseases administered in the vaccine and are important for good health throughout your dog’s life.

Worms, unwanted wigglies

Breeders usually deworm the puppies several times before they go to their new homes. Your vet will also deworm puppy when he gets a vaccination. Adult dogs should be dewormed every three months.

XYZ… moving ahead

The first year of your puppy’s life will pass quickly. Take plenty of photos along the way! At one year, you should see your vet for a wellness check and for any vaccinations that are due. This is also a good time to discuss adult nutrition and when to switch to an adult diet. If you are planning to get involved in any of the dog sports, these next few months will be exciting! Good luck and enjoy your journey together.

Text: Gina Hartoog

Click here to read more about welcoming a new puppy into your home.


Check Also

A broken home: what about the pets?

Earlier this year, Stats SA released the latest marriage and divorce statistics ...