Lists are a handy way to stay organized, reach goals, and ensure nothing gets forgotten during busy or chaotic times—and welcoming home a new puppy is certainly one of those times. To help you conquer your puppy’s first year without losing track of the important stuff, the Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team created a list of essential must-do’s for you and your new best friend.

Stay up to date on your puppy visits

Regular puppy visits at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital ensure your new furry friend is growing and developing appropriately. These early visits can identify present and possible future problems, including congenital abnormalities and orthopedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia and luxating patellas. Puppy visits are also a great time to discuss basic care, proper nutrition, training, and appropriate behavior. 

Vaccinate and deworm your puppy

Puppies are vaccinated at regular intervals early in life, beginning at 6 to 8 weeks of age, and continuing in a series every three to four weeks until they are 4 months old. Vaccines are crucial for building your puppy’s immune system, which was previously dependent on passive immunity inherited from their mother. As passive immunity naturally fades, vaccine-induced immunity takes over, and protects your puppy against deadly threats, including:

  • Parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Adenovirus
  • Parainfluenza
  • Rabies

Additional vaccines may be recommended based on your puppy’s lifestyle and exposure risks. If your puppy will attend training classes, or boarding or grooming facilities, they’ll need many of these vaccines. Elective vaccines include:

  • Bordetella (i.e., kennel cough)
  • Canine influenza
  • Leptospirosis
  • Lyme disease

Intestinal parasites are common in puppies, and not necessarily a sign of poor husbandry or care. Because these parasites—including roundworms, hookworms, coccidia, and others—can not only make puppies sick, but also be transmitted to humans, we recommend frequent fecal testing and deworming for young puppies.

Socialize your puppy

Socialization, or the act of introducing your puppy to new stimuli, is essential for raising a confident puppy who becomes a well-adjusted dog. In addition to meeting new people of all ages and appearances, carefully introduce your puppy to new things and concepts, including:

  • Sounds
  • Sights
  • Experiences
  • Surfaces
  • Movements
  • Travel

Proper socialization helps puppies learn that new things are fun, not frightening. To that end, never force your puppy to participate in an activity, or to meet someone new, if they show fear or nervousness—pushing a puppy to interact, or overwhelming them with new, loud, or unpredictable stimuli, can teach them to be nervous, insecure, or aggressive when faced with something unfamiliar. If your puppy is uncomfortable, take them away from the situation, or let them observe things from a distance. Always prioritize their confidence and safety.

Spay or neuter your puppy

Spaying or neutering your puppy is one of the best decisions you can make for their good health. Surgical sterilization prevents unwanted litters, reproductive emergencies, heat cycles, some behavior issues, and certain cancers. Have your puppy microchipped at the same time.

While 4 to 6 months of age is standard age for the majority of spay or neuter surgeries, veterinarians often advise waiting to spay or neuter large-breed dogs, to ensure appropriate bone growth and reduce future orthopedic problems. Your Columbia Pike Animal Hospital veterinarian will help you choose the right timing for your puppy.

Establish a basic puppy care routine

Teaching your puppy basic care skills makes their lifetime care easier. By introducing health care activities slowly, and pairing them with tasty treats, praise, and play, your puppy will always look forward to these tasks rather than running in the other direction.

By the time your puppy reaches their first birthday, they should be comfortable with basic health care tasks, including:

  • Toothbrushing with pet-safe toothpaste
  • Nail trimming and paw handling
  • Ear cleaning
  • Bathing
  • Brushing 
  • Gentle restraint

Feed your puppy a high quality balanced diet

Puppies are not adult dogs in miniature—their growing bodies and minds need specialized nutrition designed for puppies, to ensure proper development. Puppy foods contain higher fat and protein to fuel their rapid metabolism, and many formulas include omega-3 fatty acids for brain and nervous system development. 

Because puppies can range from toy- to giant-sized, you’ll need to consider your puppy’s adult size when selecting their food. Large- and giant-breed puppies need a diet that promotes slow and steady bone growth, with carefully balanced calcium, phosphorus, and protein. Toy- and small-breed puppies have a rapid metabolism, and need higher fat concentration than their medium-sized friends.

Begin puppy training on day one

Puppy training begins when you bring your puppy home, and continues throughout their life. Puppies and dogs are constantly learning through positive and negative interactions, and their owners must shape their experiences.

Once your puppy has received their initial vaccinations, sign up for a positive-reinforcement-based training class. Group classes build a strong behavior foundation for your puppy and teach lifelong skills, including:

  • Crate training
  • Focus and attention
  • House training
  • Basic manners (e.g., “Sit,” “Down,” “Stay,” “Come,” and loose leash walking)

Protect your puppy from parasites

External parasites are an equal opportunity health threat—fleas,ticks, and mosquitoes that carry heartworm disease prey on puppies and adult dogs, making safe and effective parasite preventives an absolute necessity. Your veterinarian will help you start your puppy on a heartworm, flea, and tick prevention protocol right away.   

Build on your puppy’s foundation

While the first 12 months are instrumental in creating a strong bond and healthy foundation for a puppy, lifelong dog ownership is a dynamic journey. Let us be there for you and your puppy every step of the way. Contact Columbia Pike Animal Hospital to schedule your next puppy visit.