Caring for new puppies: an expert guide for pet owners


By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM

The big day has arrived. After careful deliberation you finally decided to get a puppy. Congratulations, and welcome to a fun, exciting, educational and rewarding journey.

Caring for new puppies

is a big responsibility: but with help from experts, including your veterinarian, anyone can learn the right steps to help their new puppy thrive throughout the first few months of life – and for many years to come.

Getting started

First things first: when you get a new puppy, schedule an initial physical exam with a veterinarian.This appointment is very important, as it allows for assessment of your pet from nose to tail, pinpointing any possible health problems and ordering appropriate immunizations.These vaccines, known as “puppy shots,” are designed to protect against highly contagious diseases including distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, bordetella and parainfluenza, and are administered in a series at three to four week intervals after your puppy’s first veterinary visit. In addition, a one-year rabies vaccination is usually administered after the “puppy shots” series is complete. Your veterinarian will determine if additional vaccines are necessary given the puppy’s age, vaccine history and lifestyle.


Vaccines are critical precautions for new puppies; but so too are simpler considerations like the safety of your home environment. Make sure your home is “puppy proof” by cleaning up stray objects, socks and shoes, cleaning supplies, loose power chords – in short, anything a puppy might be tempted to eat or chew on that could be a choking or toxicity hazard.


During the initial vaccine series, it is essential for pet owners to limit their puppy’s exposure to other pets and the environment. However, once you receive approval from your vet, go ahead and start socializing your puppy with other people and animals. By introducing your pet to a variety of people, animals and circumstances, you can diffuse the fear and aggression that some dogs feel in strange environments.


Puppy training classes are an ideal way to socialize your pet while instilling reward-based techniques for good behavior. These classes can help new pet owners teach their pets to cheerfully accept grooming, handling, taking medication and visiting the vet. The more well trained your puppy is, the easier it will be for her to safely enjoy her freedom. As for potty training, patience and consistency are a pet owner’s greatest virtues. Expect that your puppy will be ready to eliminate after waking, playing, excitement, sniffing and meals. Throughout the day, most puppies can hold their urine approximately one hour longer than their age in months. Therefore, plan accordingly – and prepare a dog-proof area with paper for elimination if your puppy will be left alone for more any significant length of time. Teach your pet to eliminate outdoors using commands like, “Outside,” and “Get busy,” and be sure to praise and reward them when they succeed.

Diet & Exercise

Feed your pet fresh, high-qualify puppy food and provide fresh water daily, beginning with two to three meals per day and reducing to two daily meals after the puppy is four months old. Keep food dishes clean. As for exercise, make sure that physical activity is part of your pet’s daily routine, and discuss food and protein needs with your vet if your puppy is particularly active.

Routine Health Care

This list is just the beginning when it comes to establishing a healthy, happy routine for your new pet. To learn more, ask specific questions or schedule an initial appointment, get in touch with us at

La Jolla Veterinary Hospital