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6 Tips New Puppy Owners Might Not Know

A little girl kissing a Samoyed puppy on the head.
Helen Sushitskaya/Shutterstock

Few things can add joy to your life faster than bringing home a fluffy little puppy. Most first-time dog owners will already know the standard tips about which supplies to get, the importance of vet checkups, and how to puppy-proof their homes. However, there are some less obvious tips that can seriously improve the lives of both you and your dog.

From choosing the right food to creating a calm environment, if you’ve found your way here, you’ve most likely already read the basic tips for first-time puppy parents. There are some things the dog experts don’t always cover, though, and they’re some of the most important doggone things to know!

That’s why we’re sharing these six helpful hints for new puppy owners.

Take Plenty of Car Rides

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of a car-friendly dog until you’re trying to load a 60-pound animal into the backseat who doesn’t want to be there. Even if everything in your dog’s life is within walking distance, load her into the car once or twice a week so she can get used to the experience.

Your puppy will be safest in a soft carrier that keeps her constrained and allows you to keep an eye on her. She’ll also be less stressed and have a more positive car experience if she can see you. You can even clip her into an open-top carrier if you prefer.

Just make sure your pup’s leash is secure, so she can’t fall off the seat or touch you while you’re driving. As she grows and becomes more comfortable with being separated from you, you can move her to the middle or back seat.

Visit the Vet for Fun

Golden retriever puppy being held by a vet with a stethoscope in his mouth.
Roger costa morera/Shutterstock

The vet is a new and, often, scary place for a pup because it’s full of strange smells, noises, and people. Few animals love going to the vet, but it will help you out a ton if your dog at least learns to tolerate it. Avoiding the vet can pose serious risks to your dog’s health. It can also make it more difficult for the veterinarian to examine your dog and provide the necessary treatment, which will only stress your doggo out more on each visit.

Puppies require a lot of shots and checkups to ensure they’re growing up healthy. On average, you’ll be heading to the vet about once a month until they’re 6 months old. After that, they’ll need to go once or twice a year for the rest of their life.

This is why it can be helpful to make some 100% positive trips to the vet. Ask your vet if you can drop by every few weeks with your new pet for a weigh-in or just to say hi. Give your pup plenty of treats and let the staff greet him. As he gets more comfortable at the vet, he might even be excited about his next visit.

Potty Train in Multiple Locations

Here’s one more thing to add to your potty-training routine: Don’t let your furbaby go in the same spot every time. If she learns to go to the bathroom in only one location (say, the patch of grass just outside your back door), she might think that’s the only place she’s allowed to go. She might also get picky and refuse to use different surfaces, which will become a big issue really fast.

Try to teach your pup to go on as many different surfaces as possible. Depending on where you live, these might include grass, dirt, gravel, or turf. If there are limited bathroom-appropriate surfaces near your home, take her on walks to potty, so she can experience all the new textures.

It will seem like a lot of work at first, but you’ll be really glad when your dog is comfortable enough to take care of business on any surface or texture.

Always Have Some Treats

It’s never too early to start training your puppy. Positive reinforcement is widely known to be the best training technique, so keep a small baggie of treats on you at all times to reward good behavior.

Whenever your puppy makes a good decision, like asking to go outside to potty or sitting whenever you tell him to, give him a treat right away. Puppies have short attention spans, so they’ll forget what the treat is for if they don’t get it within a second or two of the behavior.

Dry treats are better than the moist kind because they’re less messy to carry around. You can also use some of your puppy’s daily kibble if you’d rather not fill him up on dog candy.

Introduce Your Puppy to Other Dogs and People

Two beagles and a pit bull playing with a ball at the dog park.

Just like children, dogs tend to be nervous or shy when they encounter something or someone they’ve never seen before. They might bark, whine, or become agitated. This can happen when they come in contact with other dogs, vehicles, or people.

Most vets recommend you prevent your puppy from interacting heavily with other dogs until she’s received all her shots, though. Until you can set her free at the dog park or daycare, take plenty of walks so she can see other dogs and people.

Walk by the dog park, through different neighborhoods, or other public areas that are typically crowded with dogs and people. Make sure you give your pup plenty of space and don’t overwhelm her with too much stimulation at once.

The same rule applies to people, so take your pup to different parts of your city if necessary. If it’s cold outside or you live in a more rural area, take your dog to a pet-friendly store. There, she’ll get to meet at least a few other people, and, hopefully, a few dogs, too.

Avoid Splurging on Stuff Your Pup Will Outgrow (or Destroy)

A Schnauzer dog lying in the middle of a destroyed plush toy.

Puppies grow a lot during their first year. While it might be tempting to drop wads of cash on new collars, harnesses, and clothing, just remember they probably won’t fit your dog in a month or two. Wait until he’s fully grown to splurge on that $50 leather collar.

A similar train of thought can be helpful when it comes to toys. Wait to buy the more expensive items after you see how destructive your dog is. Some dogs will play gently with the same toy for years, while others will shred them in 15 minutes. Bigger dogs, in particular, tend to enjoy performing surgery on their squeaky toys.

So, you might want to hold off on ordering that adorable, custom-made teddy bear until you’re sure your pooch won’t destroy it as soon as he gets a hold of it.

Now that you’re equipped with all that puppy knowledge, you’re ready for anything your new best friend might throw at you.

If you haven’t yet settled on a name for your pup, you might want to check out the most popular dog names from last year to get some ideas.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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