How to Take Care of a New Puppy 101: The 1st Year [Vet-Approved]

Happy and healthy new puppies running on the grass
Download - The Ultimate Pet Parent's Guide: Puppies 101

Congratulations on your new puppy! Embarking on this joyous new chapter as a puppy parent is an exciting journey. 

To support you along the way, we've prepared a downloadable new puppy guide. This downloadable resource includes valuable information on new puppy care, puppy vaccine schedules, a new puppy shopping list, and more. This article goes over the tips in our downloadable puppy guide — feel free to hit the download button on this page so that you can have our handy reference saved.

Note: Feel free to download The Ultimate Pet Parent's Guide: Puppies 101, a handy resource covering the fundamentals of great puppy care!

What’s in This Guide?

I. New Puppy Shopping List

First things first, here are tips on getting the best food, accessories, and supplies for your new puppy!

A. Choosing the Best Food for a New Puppy

Opt for AAFCO-certified dog food that is specifically formulated for puppies. This is generally recommended until a puppy reaches 1 year of age. 

Our veterinarians also recommend avoiding grain-free diets or plant-based diets. Grain-free diets are associated with canine dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease involving the degeneration of the heart muscle. Meanwhile, plant-based diets carry the risk of not providing enough daily nutrients when not stringently formulated for the pup’s individual needs. 

Following the suggested quantity, frequency, and timing on the food label is generally a good practice, but always consult with a primary care veterinarian for personalized guidance; our vets can guide you on dietary changes needed based on your pup's development.

Note: Keep an eye out for soft or very dry stools, excessive itching, or vomiting, which could be signs of food intolerance or dog food allergies to certain ingredients 

B. Choosing the Best Toys for a New Puppy

Puppies adore toys—squeaky, chewy, fuzzy, you name it. Beyond entertainment, toys offer essential mental and physical stimulation, aiding development while also providing comfort during teething

When choosing toys for a new puppy, make sure to avoid toys with small parts or stuffing that can become choking hazards. Pet parents should also avoid excessively tough toys, as they can pose the risk of tooth fractures in young pups.

To assess the toy's suitability, attempt to indent its surface with a nail. If the material allows indentation, it has enough give, reducing the risk of fractured teeth.

Note: Regardless of the puppy toy’s quality and make, it’s always best to regularly inspect toys for signs that parts could have been bitten off and accidentally ingested. In addition, our veterinarians recommend supervising puppies as they play with their toys. This helps reduce the chances of accidental foreign body ingestion, which is harmful to pups.

C. Choosing the Best Accessories & Supplies for a New Puppy

Time to get some vital accessories for your new pup! Here are some of our veterinarians’ tips when choosing each puppy accessory:

1. Collar and Leash 

Ensure your puppy wears a properly fitted collar with your phone number for identification. Adjust the collar as your puppy grows (every 1 to 2 weeks) and opt for a flat, soft collar for comfort. Use a short leash (around 3 feet) for the best guidance and proximity during walks.

2. Blankets

Blankets provide comfort for puppies during bedding or lap time. However, if your pup chews or shreds the blanket, remove it to prevent ingestion. Be cautious about leaving unsupervised pups with items to ensure their safety.

3. Puppy Bed

Choose a bed that fits your puppy's size, allows room for growth, and is durable and chew-resistant. Opt for designs with raised edges or bolsters for added security, and select a bed with a removable, machine-washable cover for easy cleaning.

4. Crate

During a pup’s first few weeks in a new home, the best place for them to sleep is inside a crate that is near their pet parent’s bed or bedroom. Make sure to get a crate that has enough room for the puppy to lie down and turn around.  Consider crate designs with removable panels or dividers for size adjustments as your puppy grows. Last but not least, opt for a crate with great ventilation and easy-to-clean materials.

5. Brush 

Regular brushing not only reduces the need for constant vacuuming but also prevents painful matting in their fur, keeping it free of dirt, dander, and allergens. The kind of brush your new puppy needs will depend on their fur type. Consult your local pet shop or veterinarian for the best brush for your pup. 

6. Shampoo 

To start, our veterinarians recommend using an oatmeal-based dog shampoo once a month to moisturize your pup’s fur and skin. As your pup grows, their needs may change (itchy skin relief, anti-matting). 

7. Nail Clippers

Opt for clippers specifically tailored to a puppy's needs. Ensure the blades are sharp to make clean, precise cuts without causing any discomfort.

8. Toothbrush &  Toothpaste

Opt for a toothbrush specifically designed for dogs, featuring soft bristles to prevent irritation to their gums and teeth. Some toothbrushes for dogs can even be worn on the finger, to ensure ease of handling. 

Pair your new puppy’s toothbrush with dog-friendly toothpaste in a flavor they enjoy, such as poultry or beef. Dog-friendly toothpaste is free of ingredients that are toxic or harmful to dogs which can be present in human toothpaste.

9. Pee Pads and Poo Bags

Due to limited bladder control, puppies need frequent bathroom breaks—aim for every 2 hours to reinforce positive behavior and prevent accidents. Pet parents can also consider using pee pads strategically around the house, especially in preferred spots.

In addition, make sure to stock up on poo bags for your pup. While various types are available, compostable bags are recommended for their effectiveness and environmental benefits.

II. New Puppy Schedule - Vaccines & Veterinary Care

A puppy’s first year is important for creating a foundation of great health. We recommend finding a primary & urgent care veterinarian for your puppy so that your puppy can receive a broad range of care from one familiar and comfortable clinic like Sploot Veterinary Care.

Once you have a veterinarian for your puppy, here is everything a new puppy needs when it comes to routine care:

A. Puppy Exam: As Soon As You Get the Puppy

We highly recommend bringing in a puppy for a puppy exam at the soonest possible time after they are brought home. A puppy exam involves a thorough, nose-to-tail physical examination; veterinarians can also be consulted for nutritional optimizations, behavioral issues, and more.

Essentially, an early puppy exam allows a veterinarian to assess the puppy’s development and recommend timely routine care procedures to ensure the most health benefits and the best protection against common diseases.

B. Puppy Vaccines Schedule: Starting at 6 Weeks of Age

Regular vaccinations are essential for maintaining a new puppy’s health and preventing the spread of infectious diseases. The following vaccines are commonly recommended:

  1. DHPP vaccine (6 - 8 weeks) - protects against several canine diseases, including distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza. Some of these diseases are fatal to puppies.
  2. Bordetella vaccine (8 weeks) - helps prevent the contraction of contagious kennel cough.
  3. Leptospirosis vaccine (12 weeks) - addresses a dangerous bacterial infection that can affect dogs and humans.
  4. Rabies vaccine (16 weeks) - prevents a deadly viral infection that can affect dogs, cats, people, and other mammals. This vaccine is often required by law.
  5. Canine influenza vaccine (veterinarian’s discretion) - helps protect against the highly contagious dog flu. 
Note: Although the above timeframes are recommended for each dog vaccine’s initial shot, we recommend consulting with a veterinarian for personalized recommendations. We also advise pet parents to take note of the vaccination dose schedules and revaccination schedules given by the veterinarian.

Learn more about dog vaccines, dog vaccine schedules, and the diseases that dog vaccines prevent in this complete guide: The Ultimate Pet Parent’s Guide to Dog Vaccines.

C. Heartworm Preventives: No Later Than 8 Weeks of Age

Heartworm prevention is a vital aspect of ensuring a puppy's overall well-being. Heartworm, a type of parasite that is transmitted through mosquito bites, can cause severe health issues, including heart and lung damage. Puppies are susceptible to heartworm infection, and preventative measures are crucial to safeguard their health.

The American Heartworm Society advises initiating heartworm prevention for puppies as early as permitted by the product label, and no later than 8 weeks of age. Once heartworm prevention is started, it is crucial to administer preventives on schedule (typically every month). 

→ Learn more about Heartworm and the different types of heartworm prevention for dogs: Heartworm in Dogs & Cats: Causes, Prevention, & Treatment

Note: To complement heartworm prevention, our veterinarians also recommend regular heartworm testing. Sploot’s veterinarian, Dr. Ashton Fox explains: ”Heartworm testing is recommended at 7 months of age — due to the lifecycle of the parasite, puppies will not test accurately until this time. [Upon reaching adulthood], heartworm testing is recommended annually if preventives are administered consistently, on schedule OR every 6 months if preventives are NOT given consistently.”

D. Spaying at 6 Months — or Neutering at 6 - 12 Months

Spaying, or ovariohysterectomy, involves the careful removal of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus in female pets. Neutering, or orchiectomy, entails the careful removal of the testicles in male pets. 

Spaying and neutering have plenty of health and behavioral benefits for female and male pups respectively. On top of preventing pregnancy, spaying and neutering helps prevent certain types of cancers and infections — while also reducing reproduction-related behaviors like barking at potential mates, wandering, or trying to escape to find a mate. 

It is generally recommended that female dogs get spayed at around 6 months of age. Meanwhile, male dogs can be neutered between the ages of 6 and 12 months. As these are general recommendations, please make sure to consult an experienced veterinarian to develop a plan that will match your pet’s individual needs. 

E. Sploot Vets App for Pet Care Notifications

Get reminders on new puppy care delivered straight to your mobile phone with the Sploot Vets app. The Sploot Vets app helps pet parents stay on top of vaccination schedules, heartworm preventives, and more. 

By downloading our app, you can also arrange veterinary appointments in our clinics with just a few taps and seamlessly refill heartworm preventives straight from your mobile phone. 

→ Learn more about how the Sploot Vets app is making pet parenting a breeze!

III.  New Puppy Grooming: Schedule & Tips

Wondering how often a new puppy needs a bath, nail clipping, and so on? Here’s everything you need to know for a clean, healthy pup:

A. Nailclipping for New Puppies: Once a Week

Typically, puppy nails grow faster than an adult dog’s. For this reason, a weekly nail trimming is generally recommended.

Make sure to take a gentle approach by trimming a small amount at a time, using positive reinforcement, and avoiding the puppy’s nail quick, which is sensitive and can bleed if cut. When in doubt, reach out for help: a veterinary professional would be able to demonstrate proper techniques for nail trimming.

Note: Here at Sploot, we’d be happy to trim your puppy’s nails and show you the safest techniques. Book a puppy wellness exam today!

B. Toothbrushing for a New Puppy: Daily or 3x/Week 

Acclimatizing a pup to toothbrushing can begin as soon as their baby teeth are in place at around 8 weeks of age. It is recommended to gently brush a pup’s tooth no less than 3 times a week — but ideally, daily

Acclimatizing pups to regular toothbrushing will help in the prevention of tartar and plaque throughout their life. This helps prevent tooth decay and the potentially fatal periodontal disease.

It is recommended to be patient with your pup during toothbrushing. Toothbrushing, similar to nail clipping, is not part of their natural behavior. Thus, getting a new puppy used to toothbrushing may take time and lots of positive reinforcement

C. Bathing New Puppies: Once a Month or As Needed

Puppies can generally start bathing at around 8 weeks old. After this first bath, we recommend bathing a new puppy once a month using a dog-friendly, oatmeal-based shampoo. Bathing a new puppy more than once a month can lead to dry skin and a dull coat. 

However, puppies can deviate from the recommended monthly bath schedule if they get dirty or muddy — or if advised by the veterinarian due to specific conditions (e.g. seasonal allergies or atopy).

IV. New Puppy Training: Vital Skills

Puppies can be trained as early as 8 weeks of age. The most important skills that puppies need to learn during their first year include the following: 

  • Acclimation to baths, toothbrushing, and nail clipping (can begin before 8 months of age)
  • House training (pee pad training is optional)
  • Leash training
  • Crate training

→ Learn more from our training articles: Potty Training Tips for Puppies Guide and Leash Training for Dogs: A Step-By-Step Guide

Final Thoughts on New Puppy Care

This wraps up our comprehensive guide on new puppy care. We hope this resource has provided you with valuable insights on this exciting journey of puppy parenthood. If you have specific questions, reach out to our team; we’re always here to help!

Sploot Veterinary Care is a primary and urgent care veterinarian with unparalleled availability in our convenient clinic locations. Our modern veterinary clinics are open for extended hours, 365 days a year (including holidays!) 

Whether you need routine care for your puppy or you’d like to consult our experienced veterinarians regarding your new puppy’s health or well-being, you can easily schedule an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app

Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!