Now that you’ve found your new puppy, you need to get physically and mentally prepared to bring your puppy home. The only things your puppy really needs are food, water, love, and a safe place to sleep, but pet stores are just so much fun, and there’s so much you can buy….our puppy shopping list is a good place to start. Answers to non-retail related commonly asked questions are found below.
We have made sure your puppy is vaccinated, and you need to do so too.
Puppies receive multiple rounds of shots in the first four months of their lives. Depending on how old your puppy is when you take him home, you’ll be responsible for 1 – 3 rounds of shots. We typically vaccinate on a 6, 9, 12.5, and 16 week schedule. If you take your puppy home at eight weeks, you’ll be responsible for ensuring he gets three rounds of shots. If your puppy is 13 weeks old when you take him home, you’ll only need to get the final round of shots.
In addition to the standard puppy shots, the vet can recommend and administer heartworm medicine, dietary supplements (vitamins), and flea and tick control. Not all dogs need all vaccines, so be sure to speak with your vet about your puppy’s lifestyle (where he goes, what he’s exposed to – do you have a mountain home, etc.) to make sure he’s getting the right coverage.
Note: on occasion, the Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccine causes more harm than good. Google it; you’ll be terrified. If your puppy is not going to a day care or kennel requiring this vaccine, consider not getting it. If you must get it for your dog, ask for the inactivated version, rather than the modified live virus version.
Your puppy is microchipped. This step is not complete.
Your puppy is microchipped. The paperwork I give you will include the microchip number. You need to register the microchip at akcreunite.org with your contact information or else it’s kind of worthless. A microchip is not the same as RFID – you cannot track your puppy if he’s lost; it serves to find you if he’s found.
Is my puppy potty trained?
Nope. Your puppy has not had any formal potty training. He doesn’t know potty is exclusively an outside activity – this is something you will need to teach him through repetition. I am a fan of crate training but do not necessarily recommend an indoor fenced area / play pen with pee pad. The play pen / pee pad solution ultimately makes it harder to train them.
When you take him home, your puppy should be able to last for several hours without potty breaks. You’ll get a sense of his bladder / potty control your first night together. Don’t set your alarm to take him out. Just take him out right before you go to sleep – even if that means waking him up – and right when you get up. You’ll need to take him out in the middle of the night if he cries to alert you that he needs to go potty. For the first couple months, don’t let him walk out of his crate (he might pee right there on the floor). Pick him up and carry him to where you want him to go. In the early days I recommend limiting his freedom inside the house to avoid accidents – he should be held or crated almost all the time while inside. You can use a large plastic bin as a “mobile crate” in your home. That way he can be right where you are and have good visibility, and still not have any freedom. These photos illustrate what I’m talking about.
What is my puppy eating?
Your puppy is fully weaned onto dry kibble, which I moisten with water so that it expands before it gets in his stomach. This is a good habit to maintain as your dog grows – hydration is as important for dogs as it is for people. I’ll send you home with a small bag of the food he’s been eating. Mix that food 50/50 with whatever food you decide to buy until what I’ve given you is gone. Please do not wait until what I have given you runs out; that defeats the purpose of gently transitioning their food.
Bulldogs are known for having sensitive digestive systems, so we recommend feeding your dog a grain-free food that is red meat or fish-based (no chicken or turkey). We recommend Natural Balance LID (limited ingredient diet) Bison and Sweet Potato Puppy Food or Taste of the Wild Prairie Diet, but most importantly, want it to be a brand you can source relatively easily.
Additionally, consider combining any of the following into your dog’s food for added nutrition and digestive support: goat’s milk yogurt, baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, canned pumpkin, fish oil. Long term, adding a gently cooked egg and small bits of fruits and vegetables to your dog’s food provides added nutrition. However, please familiarize yourself with this list of people foods your dog shouldn’t eat.
If your puppy is a gas-making machine, let me know what he is eating and we’ll switch it up. Excessive gas is often a sign your dog is eating the wrong food and isn’t something you have to live with indefinitely.
When should I start my dog on flea medication?
I recommend starting your dog on preventative flea and heartworm medication before age 6 months. You can get a combination medication, such as Trifexis, or use two different medications to get the job done. For some dogs Trifexis can be a little hard on the stomach, which is why your vet may recommend two separate products. My personal preference is for pills, rather than a topical flea ointment or collar. Heartworm medications are issued with a prescription, which you’ll need to get from your vet.
If your dog has a flea outbreak before you have a chance to put him on meds, a bath in blue Dawn dish soap (seriously – suds him up and let it sit for five minutes) and Capstar will get rid of the little buggers.
Can my dog meet other dogs?
We recommend that you don’t let your puppy play with dogs you don’t know, unless it’s part of puppy training class, before he or she is completely finished with puppy shots. Your friends’ dogs are fine but avoid dog parks – too many germs, and too many big dogs – until your dog is more vaccinated. The concern is primarily related to how the dogs interact and whether or not a larger dog will be sufficiently gentle. Your puppy is well-vaccinated and is unlikely to pick-up any dangerous diseases from other well-cared for dogs.
What else should I be worried about?
At this age, the biggest health risk to your dog is pneumonia. Don’t spend a lot of time with him outdoors unless it’s warm. If he gets a cold (colored snot) he needs antibiotics. It’s important to treat a cold quickly as it can quickly escalate into something more severe.
Do I need to hire a dog trainer or attend puppy classes?
A well-trained dog is a joy and if you have any doubts about your ability to train your dog, it’s a worthwhile investment. We’ve seen people have really transformative experiences after just one session. After all, dog training is largely about teaching you how to communicate with your dog. San Francisco-based pet owners have a number of excellent training options available ranging from single one-on-one sessions to regular group walks and play dates, which we’re happy to share with our new puppy owners.
Additionally, this trainer has a good library with puppy-related articles.
Do I need to get pet insurance?
It’s a pretty good idea, especially if you’re getting an English bulldog. A separate post on this topic is coming soon.