How to look after a puppy
Buying a puppy and bringing them home is exciting and a bit daunting, but should be lots of fun for you both!
Our guide to puppy care will help you give your puppy the best start in life and avoid any potential problems later on.
Click our infographic to see what you can expect during your puppy's first year. Keep reading to find out what to do as your pup gets bigger.
Up to 8 weeks - before you bring your puppy home
Wherever your puppy came from, the previous owner should have done a few things, including:
- Organising their first puppy vaccination
- Started toilet training
- Started socialising them by introducing them to new situations and people
Before bringing them home, you'll need to prepare for your new puppy's arrival by:
- Creating space and buying toys: you'll need to provide space for your puppy to play, and toys to keep them occupied.
- Providing somewhere for them to rest: provide a crate, hiding places and/or cosy bed in a quiet, draught-free place where your puppy can rest undisturbed.
- Taking a blanket from the puppy's first home - bring this back with you so they have something familiar and comfortable to snuggle in.
- Removing anything poisonous or that you don't want them chewing.
- Finding a vet - use our link to find your local vet.
- Organising puppy classes - these can get booked up, so find a class and sign up once you know you're getting a puppy.
- Getting insurance - find out more about RSPCA pet insurance.
8-12 weeks - bringing your puppy home
This is an important time for your puppy, as what they learn and experience now will shape their future behaviour. Your puppy isn't fully vaccinated yet, but it's important to continue socialisation by giving your puppy positive experiences like:
- Introducing them to other pets - let them meet other healthy, fully vaccinated dogs and cats.
- Carrying them around outside to introduce them to new people, sights and sounds.
- Gradually introducing them to other experiences, such as the car, grooming, being handled and having their ears, eyes and other body parts checked.
You should also:
- Begin to leave them alone for short periods to prevent separation-related behaviour.
- Establish a consistent routine and rules - reward good behaviour and ignore bad behaviour.
- Feed them the same puppy food as they had before and keep the same routine with small, regular meals.
- Continue puppy toilet training by rewarding them when they go outside.
12 weeks onwards - puppy training and socialisation
Your puppy can have their second vaccinations around now. While you're at the vet, ask them about worming, flea treatment and neutering.
Around this age, you can also:
- Socialise your pup outside once they're fully vaccinated.
- Take them to puppy classes - good puppy classes are a great way to boost their confidence and learn basic training.
- Understand what they like - knowing what your puppy likes (such as their favourite food or toys) can motivate them during training.
- Let them rest regularly - growing and learning is tiring, so let them rest regularly and keep training sessions short and fun. If your puppy is crate trained, let them use it as a safe haven.
6 months onwards - further dog training and neutering
Puppies are still learning at this age, so continue reward-based training and keep all experiences positive.
- Speak to your vet if you have any concerns about your puppy and ask them about neutering if you haven't already.
- Move onto more advanced dog training classes if your puppy is ready to progress.
- Move them onto adult dog food as they get bigger and their dietary needs change.
By keeping experiences positive from day one, you'll help your puppy grow into a confident adult dog, making life more enjoyable for you both.
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