The early days with your new doggie are important—here’s how to get it right.

By Hannah Harper
December 16, 2019

First Impressions

It’s tempting to smother your new pet with love and invite friends and family over to do the same. “Some affection is nice, but give them time to just get settled,” says Gary Richter, DVM, author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide. Otherwise, you may overwhelm your pup and cause anxiety. Also smart: “Don’t let them access the whole house at first,” says Jeff Werber, DVM, president and chief veterinarian of the VCA Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles. Puppies feel safer when they have a small area that is theirs. Once they get used to their surroundings and are house-trained, you can start trusting them with access to larger areas.

7–12 weeks is the best age for a puppy to be adopted. Earlier than that, pups should really be with their mom and littermates.

12–24 months is when a puppy will reach its full size.

Set Up a Schedule

Following a routine can ease a new pet’s anxiety and help you determine natural patterns. Feed your dog at the same time each day, and adhere to a walk schedule. In the beginning, lots of short walks are needed—experts suggest six to eight times a day (plus, take your pet out after each meal). Another thing to understand: Accidents will happen, and how you react matters. Yelling or scolding can be confusing and harmful to a puppy’s development. “We think they understand that they’re being reprimanded for going to the bathroom in the house, but to them, they’re being reprimanded for just going, period,” says Dr. Werber. Instead, give treats when they go outside to reinforce good behavior and no treats when they have an accident.

Tone Down Trouble

You’ve likely done a bit of puppy-proofing—hiding electrical cords, gating off certain areas, that kind of thing. Watch your pup carefully for the first few days, and you’ll be able to identify what you may have missed. Maybe he is drawn to your houseplant or gnaws on the corner of the coffee table. Paying close attention will allow you to make adjustments and cater to specific troublemaking tendencies.

Visit the Vet

Bring your pup to your local veterinarian as soon as possible to confirm she’s in good health and up to date on vaccinations. “Depending on where they came from, it’s variable the kind of care they were getting,” says Dr. Richter. He recommends bringing any paperwork you have from the adoption source so you can make a plan with your vet. The four core vaccines are typically administered four weeks apart, starting at eight weeks.

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