Puppy Jack Russell in the arm of its new owners

Check out this puppy checklist to prepare the arrival of your new puppy.

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Getting a puppy: 13 things you need to know before getting a new puppy

By Karen Wild, CCAB Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist Animal Behaviourist

Updated on the

A new puppy needs planning, care and attention. From finding a puppy training class, to pet insurance, when and how to toilet train… the non-stop whirlwind of a new puppy starts even before you bring your puppy home.

When you make the big decision to buy a puppy, it’s helpful to plan ahead. It’s more than what kind of food and water bowls the puppy will need. Finding a good breeder or shelter is crucial, as ischecking  for health problems, and getting your puppy enrolled into a good puppy training class too. Young puppies can be very hard work, and there is a lot to schedule in.

If you’re a first time owner, this guide gives you clear aims on what you can do even before you bring home your new dog. If you’re more experienced, use these handy checklists to plan ahead for positive experiences as your puppy grows into a happy and calm adult dog.

Here we guide you on the essential socialisation, first time learning and even making sure that trips to the Vet become easy.

What to do when you first get a puppy dog?

Schedule a visit for a check up with your puppy’s vet. Your puppy will make many trips to the vet during their lifetime. Experts explain that vaccinations, preventing health problems, healthy diet and of course, meeting people for the first time will all benefit your puppy. Your pup may already be microchipped, or your vet can help advise you on this as it is legal requirement.

Think about who will look after the puppy by making sure you have contacted a groomer, a registered, qualified puppy trainer (positive reward-based methods), dog walker and dog day care too. You never know when you will need additional pet care and there are a lot of services out there now that can help support your puppy’s care as they grow.

How do I go about getting my new puppy for the first time?

You should aim to get a puppy at around 8-9 weeks of age. Check on the Kennel Club website for an accredited breeder, who will often test for health problems, heart murmurs and any other breed health issues.

All pups are cute, but not all have had positive experiences from birth. Pet shop pups are happily a thing of the past, but you should aim to see puppy with its mother at all times.

You can ask at your local rescue centre as puppy litters may be available.

Things you need for a puppy: Getting a puppy checklist

  • Register with vet for check up
  • Register with puppy training class (positive reward-based training)
  • Food and water bowl
  • Puppy baby gates for home safety
  • Dog crate (puppy is trained to relax and settle here)
  • Food - your breeder and vet can advise you on healthy diet
  • Pet insurance
  • Pet care services - look for a groomer, dog daycare, and some great pet shops too.
  • Contact home boarders, pet sitters and boarding kennels for somewhere safe to place your puppy when you are away.
  • Make your house ‘puppy safe’ (move cables out of the way, block off stairs with a baby gate)
  • Socialisation plan - arrange for people your puppy can meet daily, as well as other dogs and puppies to play with.
  • Provide enrichment toys for play such as foraging, food containing items, and take a look at our tips for entertaining a dog at home.
  • Decide who will walk the puppy, feed them, take them on vet visits and of course, who will clean up after them when they toilet!

How to find a puppy

Ideally, adopt a puppy from a rescue shelter, as there are always young dogs that need a caring home. Whilst you may have a certain breed in mind, it is temperament and size that can make all the difference to your puppy’s life with you, rather than simply their looks.

If you want a dog that has a listed breed line, check the Kennel Club ‘Accredited breeder’ section of their website for available litters.

You may also find puppies listed for sale online. Always see the puppy with its mother and preferably father dog, too. You must ensure that any breeder follows the legal requirements for animal welfare and that they have the best interests of the puppy at heart rather than simply trying to make a sale. Some websites sell puppies with health problems, heart murmurs and other issues, so be very cautious and ask plenty of questions to make sure you have the right puppy for your family long before you bring puppy home.

A puppy that has not met a variety of people in the early weeks of its life could have severe problems as an adult dog. Even if the puppies you visit look cute, if you have doubts, be prepared to walk away.

Bringing a puppy home

Young puppies need a lot of rest, so you must provide a safe, cosy place for them to sleep. A dog crate provides an enclosed space, along with a larger puppy pen surrounding it, which is ideal to help with toilet training too. The goal is for a happy pup, so always provide a tasty chew toy inside their crate so they settle. You can transfer the crate to your car and simply take the crate for the ride with puppy safely secured within.

Although everyone in the family will be excited that there is a young puppy at home, you must keep your puppy safe. Do not let young children pull or scare the puppy, or overtire them. Instead, great socialisation comes from sensible house rules.

Be prepared for hard work. A new puppy is a non-stop whirlwind of waking, sleeping, eating, drinking and of course, toileting! Plan for plenty of socialisation with other dogs and lots of contact with people. Puppies need to learn that the presence of people is fun and enjoyable, and a wide variety of humans too. Pass them from person to person, with a treat to help them have a positive experience.

What's a good age to get a puppy?

This can vary slightly from one breed to another, but in general terms the puppy needs to be socialised and experience their new home from around 8-9 weeks of age. Beyond 11 weeks of age, the puppy finds it harder to adapt to new experiences - this is a natural developmental stage. If you get the puppy any older, vaccinations may delay socialisation and this delay has been shown to cause behavioural problems in adult dogs.

What should you not do when getting a puppy?

  • Don’t buy a puppy because you feel sorry for it. It may not be the right match for your family, and you are only making room for another sickly pup to take its place.
  • Don’t ignore possible health problems. Breathing difficulties in some breeds such as Pugs and French Bulldogs can cause lifelong issues.
  • Don't delay socialisation! Great socialisation starts early and continues for at least two years.
  • Don’t ignore pet insurance - all puppies should be insured. Vet treatment is important and can be costly.

Where should a puppy sleep the first night?

Your puppy can rest happily and safely in a dog crate, with safe and tasty chew toys to keep them entertained. Be sure anything around the puppy allows them to stay undisturbed - soft lighting or darkness is ideal. You can help your puppy adjust to being in their new home for the first time by staying near them for the first night or two, then gradually moving them to their permanent sleep area. Sweet dreams little puppy!

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