New puppy care isn't rocket science, but it can be a bit of a challenge.
Picking out a healthy puppy - then feeding, housebreaking, training and socializing him - takes time and effort.
Keeping him healthy means you need to be both proactive with preventative care and know how to spot the signs of trouble.
The whole process is a lot easier when you have some clear guidelines to follow and that's what you'll find on this page.
If you're looking for advice on caring for newborn puppies (including orphaned/abandoned pups) check out my Newborn Puppy Care page.
One of the first, and most important, things you can do is to make sure that you choose a healthy puppy in the first place!
All puppies are adorable and you wouldn't be the first (or the last) person to bring home a new puppy on impulse.
But picking out a puppy from a box in the local Walmart parking lot, or following some hand-written signs on the side of the road isn't the best way to ensure your new best friend has had a good start in life.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it... but if you aren't buying from a responsible, reputable breeder or adopting from a well-organized animal rescue organization, be prepared for some additional veterinary costs.
These may be just initially, or for the lifetime of your pup (if congenital or serious health issues show up).
It's important to have a realistic idea of the cost of dog ownership.
All too often people take home a new puppy with the best of intentions, only to realize that they simply can't afford to care from him properly.
This can have a sad ending for everyone, so do take time to make sure you can afford the financial commitment before you add a new dog to your family.
In the first week or so, your new puppy's behavior might have you a little worried, you might even be afraid that he's sick. Why? Because the stress of leaving his doggie family can cause your little pup to feel scared and sad.
He might show this by not eating, refusing to poop (or even pee) for the first day or so, or by seeming to be extra-sleepy and disinterested in the world around him.
Most puppies are a bit clingy and nervous at first, and this is normal. But hysterical or panicked behavior when left alone can be early signs of puppy separation anxiety. This can usually be eliminated pretty easily in puppies just by changing the way you interact with them and being aware of signs of trouble.
Many times this 'odd' behavior is a normal reaction to his anxiety and homesickness. BUT loss of appetite and lethargy can also be early-warning signs of some serious dog illnesses and diseases... including the highly contagious, and often deadly, Parvo Virus.
So although you don't want to panic, you do need to have your pup seen by your veterinarian if these symptoms last more than a few days OR if they're accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, extreme fatigue or muscle weakness. It's always MUCH better to be safe than sorry.
A big part of new puppy care is keeping your pup healthy... that includes protecting him by puppy proofing your home, preventing illnesses by making sure he gets all his vaccinations on time , protecting against parasites such as fleas, ticks and worms and making sure that you have a pet insurance plan in place in case of emergencies.
Keeping his teeth and gums healthy is also something that you need to think about. Luckily there are lots of ways that you can do this.
One of the most important ones is by brushing his teeth regularly. Find out how to do this properly here....
Questions such as 'how big will my puppy get?', how much should my puppy weigh at this age?' and 'why is my puppy behaving this way?' seem to create a lot more stress than they should.
Knowledge is power, and also brings peace of mind, so take the time to understand what to expect from your new puppy as he grows and develops... it's time well spent!
What you feed your pup during those early, fast-growing months, has a huge impact on his future growth and development.... even on how long he lives.
It pays to take the time, and do the research necessary, to be absolutely certain that you're choosing a well-balanced, highly nutritious, and breed-appropriate puppy kibble for your pup.
There are lots of great puppy foods on the market today, but that can make it confusing, and frustrating, when you're trying to pick one out! Take a look at my Best Puppy Food Choices page to learn how you can figure out which foods are good, and which ones aren't.
Also, take a look at these puppy food reviews for a closer look at some of the top brands.
To make the investigating, analyzing and comparing of dog and puppy food a bit less complicated, you might want to take a look at a unique and valuable method of comparing different dog food brands according to the quality of their ingredients.
Your new puppy is just a tiny baby, and right now he's operating pretty much on instinct... dog instinct that is!
This is often going to be at odds with the way the human world operates, and what you expect from him.
So some basic training is needed to help you and your pup live in harmony.
The first, and most important, aspect of puppy training that you need to work on is housebreaking.
An puppy who isn't taught where you expect him to pee/poop will grow up to be an adult dog who soils your home whenever, and wherever, he feels like it.
He's not being 'bad', he's actually following his inborn and 'natural' instincts, but it means he'll won't be fun to share a home with!
So, put potty training your puppy at the top of your 'to do' list. Crate training is the simplest and quickest way to housebreak a puppy...highly recommended!
After housebreaking, some basic obedience commands are the next step.
Your pup is the proverbial 'blank slate' (apart from those basic doggie instincts I mentioned a second ago), and he's willing and eager to learn everything you want to teach him.
When it comes to basic puppy training, I'd recommend starting off with simple stuff like teaching your puppy his name, how to sit, lie down and stay. Learning to walk nicely on a leash, how to 'stay' and the all-important 'come' command are all vital parts of his education too.
Other things such as making sure you give your little guy tons of positive socialization experiences, and learn how to discourage oh-so-common puppy behavior problems such as nipping and chewing (which tend to peak during the puppy teething phase) are also included in the curriculum!
Don't forget to puppy proof your home/yard/garage so that your inquisitive little guy won't hurt himself, poison himself, or destroy your valuable possessions while he uses his mouth to learn about the world around him.
Although new puppy care involves a lot of practical tasks like those above, there's so much more to it than that.
Following some simple steps and advice can help you keep your puppy healthy, feed him properly, speed up housebreaking and teach him to follow basic commands.
All of these are hugely important, but there's other 'stuff' that your little puppy needs from you... some of it tangible, such as essential puppy supplies including a premium food, a crate, appropriate toys, healthy treats and more.
Other less tangible needs include the NEED for love, attention, loving discipline, patience, understanding and your time.
These things are just as important to your new puppy.... because without them he may be physically healthy, but he will be emotionally troubled, sad and anxious.
Taking care of a puppy requires a huge commitment from you.
You need to be willing (and able) to spend large blocks of time with him - not to mention lose sleep, repair damage to your home and possessions, and spend a fair amount of money.
The good news is that all of this is more than worthwhile, and it will build the foundation for a relationship that will be more than you hoped for..... and one you'll cherish.
Good luck :)