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How to Raise a Puppy: Guide for the First Year

While puppies are devilishly cute, raising a puppy doesn't come without challenges. In this post, our Carlsbad vets share some tips on how to raise a puppy to help you get through the puppy stage and ensure your canine companion grows up to be a healthy, happy and well-adjusted dog. 

Getting Started: What to Consider When Getting a Puppy

You might compare life with a puppy to life with a human toddler. While raising both can be rewarding, you'll need a lot of patience to keep them out of mischief and teach them about the world in a secure, affirming and positive fashion. 

Because they use their mouths to explore their new world and will be teething shortly, puppies are compelled to chew excessively as their adult teeth emerge. You may find the doggy equivalent of a teething ring in your living room rug, your favorite sweater or even on your hand. 

Having a dog also means taking responsibility for another creature's happiness, health and safety. It means being able to afford vet fees if your dog gets into something it shouldn't, and always planning for his or her care when you can't be around. It means having the emotional intelligence to remember that because your dog does not speak English, he won't understand the words, "Stop chewing on the furniture!"

Preparing Your Home

It's imperative to prepare your home before bringing your new dog into it. Secure any electrical cords and move any potentially hazardous chemicals or plants out of reach of your dog's curious nose. Close any doors, vents or other openings that could lead him into danger or leave him stranded. 

We also recommend being prepared to start house training your new puppy as soon as you get him home. If you intend to crate train him, prepare the crate beforehand by lining it with blankets or a dog bed to make it a comfortable space for your new pet. Check that it's large enough for him to stand up, turn around and lie down. 

If you plan to crate your puppy, dedicate a tiny area such as a kitchen corner or powder room, where he can still be in the house but confined away from small children and other dogs. Purchase some puppy training pads to catch any accidents, along with food and water bowls, a dog bed and a toy or two. 


Part of raising a puppy is ensuring they have the right diet and nutrition to keep them healthy and energetic. High-quality puppy food has been specially prepared to help puppies grow and develop as they should. It's a good idea to ask your veterinarian for advice about how much and how often you should feed your dog, as the appropriate amount of food will be determined by your dog's breed, size, age and more. 

To make sure some tiny breeds of dogs get enough nourishment, it may be best to free feed. Toy and tiny breed dogs mature faster physically than larger breeds and can graduate to adult dog food and adult-sized portions between the ages of nine and twelve months. 

Larger breeds should eat many properly portioned meals each day to avoid issues such as calcium and protein buildup or stomach bloat. Here is a general guideline for a large dog feeding schedule:

  • Six to twelve weeks old: Four meals a day
  • Three to six months old: Three meals a day 
  • Six months and up: Two meals a day


Dogs strive to avoid soiling their bed and the area around it naturally. Create a potty pattern for your puppy, bearing in mind that small puppies will often need to go out every couple of hours. Take him to a portion of the yard where he won't be exposed to other animals until he's had all of his vaccines, and never punish your puppy for a mistake.

It's usually preferable to ignore undesirable behavior or to correct your dog with a simple but strong "no." Never smack or yell at your dog. When he exhibits bad behavior, attempt to redirect him to something positive. Consider enrolling him in an obedience lesson as soon as he is old enough. This will not only teach him proper behavior, but will also aid in socialization.

Proper socialization is critical to the success of rearing a puppy. He needs to be introduced to as many new people, places, experiences, and circumstances as possible to grow into a well-adjusted canine. While you should wait until he has had all of his vaccines before taking him out in public or allowing him to interact with other animals, you may begin socializing your puppy right away by simply playing with him and introducing him to new people, sights, noises, smells, and textures.

Working with your dog to reduce even minor resource guarding habits protects everyone, including the puppy. Always supervise children while they are around your puppy's food or favorite toy.

One of the most crucial lessons is to teach pups not to bite. Establishing your position as pack leader will help your puppy remember that he must earn your respect and obey you, which will assist him in controlling this behavior. Keep in mind that your dog desires your approval but also requires your direction. If your puppy nips or bites, discipline with a calm but firm "no!"

Exercise & Play

Bored dogs are more likely to engage in aggressive or improper behavior, so provide him with puzzle toys and outdoor exercise (walking, playtime) to keep his mind stimulated. Your dog must understand his place in your home, but this can only be accomplished by consistency and a firm, caring touch.

Your First Vet Visit

If you don't already have a veterinarian, ask around. Your family, friends, and coworkers will almost certainly be able to supply you with numerous references. One of the first things you should do after getting a puppy is to make an appointment with a veterinarian for a health checkup. At Carlsbad Animal Hospital, we're always ready to accept new patients.

Your veterinarian will most likely recommend a parasite control program to keep fleas, ticks, and heartworms at bay. They'' also advise you on when to bring him in to be fixed, which can help lessen the chance of health and behavioral issues as the puppy ages.

They can also advise you on puppy care issues such as tooth brushing and nail cutting, and even show you how to do it. Your veterinarian can also help you with any questions you have regarding care for your dog, such as what kind of food to feed them.

While you're there, you can also try to schedule his 6-month vet checkup to check on his growth and progress. They can also start to give you advice on how to prepare for the adolescent years, which can be difficult for pet owners. This is also a wonderful time to discuss what to expect as your puppy matures into adulthood.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you the proud new owner of a sweet little puppy? Contact our Carlsbad vets today so we can help keep your pup healthy for years to come.

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Carlsbad Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced veterinary team would love to get to know you and your pet. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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