Everyone loves puppies – but taking care of them can be a lot more trouble than we expected! Puppies need their own feeding schedule, a lot of personal training, and vaccinations and health care that adult dogs don’t. How you approach your puppy has a huge impact on their behavior and health as an adult dog. They’re also at their most vulnerable in their first few months, and more susceptible to diseases such as Parvovirus and Leptospirosis. This puppy vaccinations, training and health guide is for both new and experienced puppy owners. Get your puppy started off on the right paw!
When you first get a puppy, you want to make sure you have all the supplies you need. This will make your life much easier as you welcome your puppy into your home:
Puppy food. You’ll want to do some research on this, but make sure it is food specifically for puppies (not adult dogs, they have different nutritional needs). Look for foods that contain high quality animal proteins. We do not recommend exotic diets, or grain-free diets due to recent health concerns from the FDA.
Treats. You’ll need some good treats when first training your puppy! We recommend Stewart’s dried beef liver treats.
Cleaning supplies. Unfortunately, every puppy has accidents. Make sure you have towels, deodorizing spray, and other cleaning products on hand.
Comfortably-sized dog crate. You want a crate that will allow your puppy to move around a bit as they grow, but not too spacious! If the crate is too large, the puppy is more likely to feel comfortable using the bathroom in their crate.
Non-tip stainless steel food & water bowls. Get some quality ones, that you won’t have to replace later.
Collar & training leash. You’ll want to get your puppy used to collars and leashes early on. Get an adjustable collar that can grow with your puppy (you should always be able to stick 2 fingers between the collar and your puppy’s neck).
Chew toys. Make sure you have some durable chew toys (Kongs are nearly indestructible!).
Prioritize your puppy’s nutrition from day 1 by sticking with good quality puppy food. Puppies have high caloric and nutritional needs as they grow up.
Try to feed your puppy around 3 – 4 times a day. By feeding them smaller, but spaced out, amounts you can make sure your puppy gets enough food. Frequent meals also keep your puppy’s energy levels consistent.
There’s no hard and fast rule for how much you should be feeding your puppy. All puppies have different metabolisms, sizes and caloric needs. Use your judgement with how much food your puppy needs by watching the size of your puppy – not the size of their food bowl. At around 6 months, you can start feeding twice a day for convenience.
Don’t feed your puppy table scraps! Not only does this ruin their appetite, it’s bad for training and for their health.
Be careful with treats! Your puppy should be getting most of their calories – 90% – from their food, not treats. Hard “chew” treats are a great way to keep calories down (and give them something to chew on besides your shoes).
Water is incredibly important! Puppies drink a lot, especially if they eat dry food. Make sure they have regular access to water throughout the day.
Make sure to feed your puppy on a very consistent schedule! If they’re whining for more in-between meals, increase their meal size – don’t change your schedule.
Once your puppy is finished growing (around 6 months), start moving to adult dog food. Once they’re adults they won’t have the same caloric and nutritional needs.
Puppies are more vulnerable than adult dogs to diseases and parasites. Be sure to keep them on schedule with vaccinations, vet visits and deworming. You’ll also want to make sure they stay inside as much as possible until they’re completely protected.
Puppy Vaccination Schedule: What Shots Do Puppies Need?
Puppies need 3 – 4 rounds of vaccinations as their immune system develops. It’s important to keep on track with these booster shots, and continuing those good habits as they become adults with their annual and tri-annual booster vaccinations.
Also known as the Distemper/Parvo vaccination, the DA2PP vaccination, or the 4-way vaccination, this vaccine protects against a combination of diseases. The two most important to know are distemper and parvovirus. Parvovirus especially is still fairly common (especially in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex), and puppies are very vulnerable to parvo. Puppies should get this shot 3 times – once at 6 – 8 weeks, once at 10 – 12 weeks, and once at 14 – 18 weeks. This will make sure they get immunity as quickly as possible.
This vaccine is commonly combined with the DHPP vaccine (making it a “5-way” or DHPPL vaccine). Leptospirosis is a deadly disease that all mammals (including humans) can get. Puppies should get this shot twice, once at 10 – 12 weeks and once at 14 – 18 weeks.
Bordetella, or “kennel cough”, is highly contagious. The vaccine Low Cost Pet Vax provides protects against a combination of respiratory diseases that cause “kennel cough”. Not all bordetella vaccines are created equal, so you may want to check with your veterinarian to make sure you’re getting the protection you need. Puppies should get this shot at least once, either at 10 – 12 weeks or 14 – 18 weeks.
The Rabies vaccination is required by law in Texas at 4 months of age. Puppies should get this shot once any time from 12 weeks to 18 weeks.
Parasites and Deworming
Puppies are usually born with certain parasites that they get from their mother, either in utero or through their mother’s milk. While typically harmless in an adult dog, they can overwhelm puppies and even be deadly in extreme cases.
Roundworms & Hookworms – Roundworms & hookworms are the two most common parasites found in puppies. They get these from their mother. It’s easy to get rid of these with a few rounds of deworming.
Tapeworms – Tapeworms are not uncommon to find in puppies (or adult dogs). Dogs get tapeworms from eating a flea. Tapeworms are completely harmless, but do appear in dog’s feces as white, segmented worms, similar to grains of rice. They can also appear on your dog’s rear end and tail. Regular deworming won’t get rid of tapeworms, but you can get rid of them by visiting your vet for specific tapeworm medication.
We recommend waiting to spay or neuter your puppy until they’ve completely matured. This is best for their health. The age your puppy stops growing depends a lot on their breed. Smaller breed dogs mature quicker, and larger breed dogs mature slower. Our general guide is as follows:
Smaller-size breeds (terriers, chihuahuas, etc) – 6 to 7 months
Medium-size breeds (collies, boxers, etc) – 8 to 9 months
Large-size breeds (german shepherds, golden retrievers) – 10 months to a year
Largest size breeds (great danes, bernards) – Over a year