When welcoming home a new puppy, you may be so focused on cuddles on the couch, games of fetch, and that puppy breath smell, you may forget about all the work that goes into raising a puppy. Setting your puppy up for success takes a great deal of effort, but the work is totally worthwhile to ensure a happy, healthy, well-adjusted adult dog. All the important tasks needed to help your puppy build a solid foundation fall into three categories—let’s look at each in-depth, so you have the tools that will ensure your new best friend grows up happy and healthy.

Socialization success for your puppy

As puppies grow, they go through a socialization period from around 3 to 14 weeks of age. During this time, puppies form an opinion of their world, such as whether cats are scary, strange people are nice, or thunderstorms are terrifying. So, socialization is indeed about “socializing” your puppy, but includes much more. When socializing your puppy and exposing them to new situations, places, people, and pets, ensure each experience is positive and proceeds at your pet’s pace. Never force them into something they’re unsure about. 

During your puppy’s socialization period—and throughout their entire life—expose them to a wide variety of unusual circumstances, items, and living things, including:

  • Other pets 
  • New people
  • Various floor textures (e.g., grass, asphalt, gravel, wood, tile)
  • Loud noises
  • Different environments and places

Socialization is also useful for teaching your puppy that grooming is fun and comes with rewards. For example, teach your puppy to cooperate for nail trims, brushing, ear cleaning, and baths with a rubber Kong filled with peanut butter or spray cheese to distract and reward them. And remember—the socialization period lasts for only a short time, but your furry pal should always experience new things. 

Training success for your puppy

A lot of training goes into making your puppy a well-behaved family member. House, crate, and obedience training will help your pup learn the household rules and how to behave in most situations. As with socialization, ensure your puppy’s training experiences are positive and followed with plenty of praise and rewards. Consistency is also key. For example, always take your puppy to the same door and the same spot outside, and use the same cue or command to “go potty.” Another example, which is a common sticking point in many families, is one family member teaching the pup to stay off the furniture, while another lets them hop up and snuggle. Your puppy will not understand why they are allowed on the furniture sometimes, but not all the time. If everyone in your household is not on the same page, training your new puppy will be a challenge.

Health care success for your puppy

While teaching your pup right from wrong is incredibly important, so is creating a foundation for good health. Like children, puppies require more frequent health checkups and vaccination boosters to ensure their immune system develops properly, and they stay in good health as they grow. For their first few months, we will see your puppy every three to four weeks at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital. During their visits, we’ll discuss proper nutrition for a growing puppy according to their breed requirements. We’ll also offer tips for house and crate training, and problem behavior prevention. As your puppy grows, we’ll talk about the best age for their spay or neuter procedure, based on their growth, development, health status, and expected adult size. At each visit, we’ll perform a thorough physical, monitor growth and weight gain, choose the best parasite prevention for your pet’s weight category and needs, and vaccinate appropriately based on lifestyle and exposure risk. These first few veterinary visits are the perfect time to ask all your questions about raising a puppy, as our team is here to help.

Have you recently welcomed an adorable bundle of puppy breath into your family? We’d love to give your new puppy a Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital welcome. When you visit, we’ll perform a comprehensive new puppy checkup that covers care topics, a physical exam, parasite prevention, and lifestyle-appropriate vaccinations. Give us a call to schedule your new pup’s first wellness visit.