How to Take Care of a Puppy

Tips and tricks to put your best paw forward.

how to take care of a puppy

They call it “puppy love” for a reason. Your brand-new four-legged bundle of joy is going to bring so much fun and affection to your life—but puppies are a lot of work, too.

We’re here with everything you need to know to keep that pup happy and healthy.

Here’s what we’ll cover: 

Before you adopt

Choose the right puppy for you
Puppy-proof your home
Buy the basics

Welcome home!

Make introductions
Take your puppy to the vet
Sign up for pet insurance
Begin house training

Raising your puppy

Leash training & basic commands
Socialize your puppy
Bond with your puppy

So, you’ve decided to adopt a puppy…

Dog ownership is a major investment, both emotionally and financially. Before adopting, keep the costs of owning a dog in mind. Once you’re confident about becoming a pet parent, there’s a few decisions you’ll have to make.

Choose the right pup for you

Do you live in a tiny apartment or have a giant backyard? Are you looking for a companion to join you on long runs, or do you envision your pup mostly snuggling up with you while you binge Ru Paul’s Drag Race? Are there kids at home? What about cats?

If you’re interested in a particular breed, it helps to think about your own living situation and how it may jibe with that breed’s personality.

You should also note that while pure-bred dogs are definitely adorable, they tend to have some more health problems than mixed breed dogs (aka mutts) who are just as adorable. 

Puppy-proof your home

Much like human babies, puppies can get themselves into trouble pretty easily. Before you bring your puppy home, prepare your home to keep your new doggo (and your stuff) safe.

  • Put away breakable items. Vases, ceramics, or crystal decorations should all be kept well above puppy-eye-level. 
  • Secure electrical cords. Little puppy teeth love to chew through cords! Cover the cords with a spiral wrap or PVC piping, or keep them above your puppy’s path of destruction. 
  • Keep toxic foods and chemicals out of reach. This includes under the sink storage and food left out in the open. 
  • Invest in puppy pads. Trust us, your floors will thank you later. 

Get the basics

Make sure your puppy already feels right at home by having all the basics on-hand when they arrive: 

  • Food. Get enough high-quality puppy food to last you a couple of weeks. Chat with your vet about the best dog food formula for your puppy, and then invest in a bulk order. 
  • Treats. A softer, chewable treat will be easier for little puppy teeth to handle. 
  • Toys. A variety of toys give you a great opportunity for you to bond with your pup, while promoting healthy brain development. (Just make sure none of them are a choking hazard for puppy’s).
  • Bed. Despite those wild bursts of energy, puppies sleep around 18 to 20 hours a day. Check out this comprehensive list to find the right bed for your weary pup. 
  • The Basics. Food bowls, crate, leash, collar, brush, shampoo, dental care accessories. 

Welcome home, little doggy! 

Now that you’ve brought your pup into your home, here are some steps you can take to help guarantee your puppy’s adjustment goes off without a hitch.

If there are some bumps along the way, our friends at The Humane Society encourage new puppy parents to take it in stride, “Establishing a routine early on will help with getting your puppy adjusted to his or her new home. If your puppy has an accident or destroys a pair of shoes, keep your cool! Dogs engage in behaviors that might seem annoying and messy for us but are perfectly natural for them, like digging in the dirt or howling at odd hours.”

“Dogs engage in behaviors that might seem annoying or messy for us but are perfectly natural for them, like digging and howling at odd hours.”

Make introductions 

Get your puppy acquainted with their new digs by showing them around your home, room-by-room, on a leash. If you have a yard, take them around outside and let them explore. If you have other dogs, make introductions slowly, and with care. 

For the first few weeks, set your puppy up in your bedroom at night on their bed (or in their crate). This will prevent them from feeling isolated. As you house train your pup, this will also make it easier for you to hear your pup’s, ahem, “gentle requests” to go outside. 

Take your puppy to the vet 

Within a few days of coming home, you should have a visit booked with a trusted vet. They will give your pup a general wellness exam and check for any medical issues. 

Come prepared with a list of questions to ask your vet:

  • When should I schedule their vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and microchip implantation? 
  • How should I protect my puppy against fleas and parasites? 
  • What’s the best diet to feed my puppy? How often should I feed them? 
  • Is it safe for my puppy to hang out with other dogs? 
  • Do you recommend pet insurance to help cover my vet bills? 

On these first trips to the vet, be sure to give your pup lots of positive reinforcement, so they can associate the experience with love and treats, not needles and exams. 

Sign up for pet health insurance

Before your puppy’s first birthday, you may have spent hundreds of dollars at the vet. Pet health insurance can help take the bite out of some of those bills.

Lemonade Pet now offers a preventative care package designed especially for puppies and kittens. If you sign your puppy up for pet insurance, you can get them covered for up to 6 annual vaccinations or boosters, spaying or neutering, microchipping, two annual wellness exams, heartworm and flea medication, and an array of blood and fecal tests. 

As your dog ages, they may require more veterinary care—another reason why it’s important to sign up for a policy when your pet is young, and before they’ve developed what might be considered pre-existing conditions.

Begin house training 

Similar to potty-training human babies, house training your puppy can be a long, frustrating, and…messy process. It typically takes around 4-6 months to fully house train a dog, so don’t be surprised by the occasional accident. Consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement are key. 

Puppies can’t control their bodily functions until they’re around 12 weeks old, so until then, you’ll have to be patient (and invest in cleaning supplies). But just because you have a little pup doesn’t mean you can’t start establishing good habits. Take your puppy outside, to the same spot, every two hours, and reward them with treats and words of encouragement after they successfully “go” where they’re supposed to. 

When house training your pup, our friends at The Humane Society believe that being prepared is key. “Even the most diligent puppy parents will experience cleaning up a mess! It’s perfectly natural and common for puppies to have accidents, so investing in an enzyme-based cleaner to have on hand will help you during the potty-training phase of puppy parenthood. If house-training feels daunting, check out this article on some great tips.”

Dog enthusiast Rachel Fusaro has 5 helpful hacks for puppy potty training, and managed to potty train her dog’s new pup in just one week (also, check our more of our favorite puppy training videos here.) Check it out:

Raising your pre-teen pup

Now, you can move on to making the most of this next phase of your puppy’s life, and help them to become the best adult dog they can be. 

Leash training & basic commands 

Enjoying long walks with your dog is one of the singular pleasures of dog ownership, but a pushy pup can turn your daily constitutionals into a bit of a nightmare. 

Start by taking your pup out on a leash for about an hour every day, spread out over 2-4 shorter walks. Get a long leash, and train your pup by standing your ground if they pull, only continuing to move forward when they walk by your side, leaving some slack. This will let your puppy know who’s boss. 

These early walks are also the perfect opportunity to teach your puppy to sit, come, stay, and heel. Come armed with a handful of puppy training treats, these treats are small and soft, so you can give a quick reward without breaking your stride. 

how to take care of a puppy
“This leash thing takes some getting used to…”

Socialize your puppy

After a puppy is four months or older, it becomes much harder to get them comfortable with different environments and stimuli, so it’s best to start early. 

Your daily walks will allow your puppy to get familiar with trees, cars, street signs, bicycles, and, of course, other people. 

Our friends at The Humane Society encourage new puppy parents to carve out time and energy to train your puppy properly, “The first four months of a puppy’s life will set the stage for how they interact with the world for years to come,” they explain. “Joining a puppy class that utilizes positive training is the most effective way to ensure you and your new puppy have support from a trainer and gives your puppy time to socialize appropriately with other dogs.”

“The first four months of a puppy’s life will set the stage for how they interact with the world for years to come.”

Introduce your puppy to people of all ages and genders. Instruct new people (especially small children) to pet your puppy with care, only touching them where their hands are clearly in the puppy’s view.  

After your puppy is fully vaccinated, they can safely interact with other dogs. You can get some doggy social time by going on a supervised trip to the dog park, enrolling your puppy in a group training class, or taking them along on a trip to the pet store. 

Bond with your puppy

Continuously creating bonds of trust and affection with your puppy will help them thrive in your home. 

Here are some tactics for healthy bonding with your pup: 

  • Get into a routine. Puppies thrive off of consistency. Create a regular schedule for meals, walks, naps, and playtime. 
  • Create boundaries. Help your dog understand that you’re the “alpha”, and they’ll automatically turn to you for instructions and guidance. Start by establishing rules around which furniture or areas in your house are off-limits to your pup, and stick to them.
  • Give them space. Taking in new sites, smells, and friends are loads of fun for your pup, but it can also wipe them out. Set up their bed or a crate in a quiet corner of your home so they can recharge in peace. Instilling some independence in your pup will make them less likely to form separation anxiety in the long run. 
  • Cuddle. Encourage your pup to settle down next to you to create bonds through physical closeness, petting, massaging, and grooming. Slotting in some cuddle time before bedtime can also help your pup understand when it’s time to settle down for the night. 

Before we go… 

For so many people, a new dog helps make a family feel complete. Remind yourself in the moments of chewed-up shoes, little accidents, and middle-of-the-night barking fits that these are small prices to pay in exchange for unconditional love and lasting companionship. 

While every puppy is different, regular trips to the vet are a universal reality for all new dog owners. With Lemonade pet insurance, you can get up to 90% of your vet bills covered, so you don’t have to think twice about giving your pet the medical care they need.

Eliana Sagarin

Eliana Sagarin is the Pet Product Communications Lead at Lemonade. She writes about fur friends, insurance, life hacks, and pop culture. Eliana has an MA in creative writing from Bar Ilan University.


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