How to look after a puppy

Buying a puppy and bringing them home is exciting and a bit daunting. Our guide to puppy care will help you give your puppy the best start in life, and avoid any potential problems later on.

Up to 8 weeks - before you bring your puppy home

Your puppy's first year infographic © RSPCA

Wherever your puppy came from the previous owner should have done a few things including:

Before bringing them home you'll need to prepare your puppies new home by:

  • Providing time and space for your puppy to play, and toys to keep them stimulated.
  • Providing a crate, hiding places and/or cosy bed in a quiet, draft-free place where your puppy can rest undisturbed.
  • Taking a blanket from the puppy's first home away with you for familiarity and comfort.
  • Removing anything poisonous or that you don't want them chewing.
  • Finding a vet, puppy classes and getting pet insurance.

8-12 weeks - bringing your puppy home

This is an important time for your puppy, what they learn and experience now will shape future behaviour. Your puppy isn't fully vaccinated yet but it's important to continue socialisation by exposing your puppy positively to experiences like:

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.
  • Continuing 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, also ask your vet about worming, flea treatment and neutering.

  • Once your puppy is fully vaccinated, you can socialise them outside.
  • Good puppy classes are a great way to boost their confidence and learn basic training.
  • Knowing what your puppy likes (favourite food or toys) can motivate them during training.
  • Growing and learning is tiring so let them rest regularly and keep training sessions short and fun.   
  • If your puppy's crate trained let them use it as a safe haven.

6 months onwards - further dog training and neutering

Puppies are still learning so continue reward-based training and keep all experiences positive.

  • Speak to your vet if you have any concerns about your puppy.
  • If your puppy is ready to progress onto more advanced dog training classes.
  • Dietary needs will change and your puppy will need to gradually move to adult dog food.
  • If you haven't already, ask your vet about neutering.

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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