very happy puppy smiling at it's owner

Puppy Tips

Getting a new puppy is an exciting adventure. Whether you are a veteran dog owner or a first-timer, everyone can use a new tip or trick to help transform your puppy into a perfect canine companion!

Do Your Research

Every new puppy comes with added expenses. In addition to the cost of adopting or purchasing your new pooch, young puppies require vaccines, deworming, food, bedding, a collar, leash, and other items needed to properly care for them. Be prepared to take on those costs before bringing your furry little friend home. 

If you choose to adopt, ask if your puppy has any vaccinations, has been microchipped, or if the adoption center has a spay/neuter program. For those who are purchasing puppies, make sure you are buying from a responsible breeder and make sure to ask if they have done any vaccinating or deworming? Also make sure the puppies have records with their birthdate and description. Any puppy should ideally not be separated from its mother until 7 weeks of age.

Veterinary Care

Puppies should receive their first physical exam, vaccinations, and dewormer by 8 weeks old. This ensures that their immune system develops protection to disease before the immunity their mother provided through her milk is gone. On the first trip to the vet’s office, you should expect a thorough physical exam to make sure your puppy is healthy. A fecal test should also be performed to check for any intestinal parasites they may have picked up. A deworming and vaccination schedule will be provided.

Over the next few weeks, your puppy should receive 4 DHPP (distemper, parvo) vaccines. This is critical to your puppy’s health as this vaccine helps to protect them against canine distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza, and adenovirus — all of which are dangerous diseases. Any additional vaccines (bordetella, canine influenza, leptospirosis, lyme) can be added in at following visits. Once your puppy is 16 weeks old, they can receive their rabies vaccine! After their rabies vaccine they are considered fully vaccinated until their annual boosters. 

Most young dogs are ready to be spayed or neutered at 6 months of age. Some of the smaller breeds may not be ready until they are a little older due to their size. By spaying or neutering your pet when they are around 6 months old, we can drastically decrease their risk for certain health conditions and cancers that can be deadly. Some examples include pyometra (a uterine infection), prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer. A veterinarian will help you decide the appropriate age for your pet!

Potty Training

Potty training should begin as soon as you bring your puppy home. Initially, keep your puppy in a small area. As they begin to control their bladder, you can expand the area and give them more freedom. You will need to keep a close eye on your puppy while he or she is potty training. If they begin to whine, circle, sniff, bark, or scratch the door, they most likely need to go outside to relieve themselves. 

We have outlined some tips that can help make the potty training process easier!

  • Stick to a regular feeding schedule and pick up the food bowl in between feedings.
    • Your puppy will learn to eat at a designated time and need to make fewer trips outside to relieve themselves.
  • Take your puppy outside first thing in the morning, after meals and naps, and right before bed.
  • Taking your puppy to the same spot each time will encourage them to take care of business due to their scent being present.
  • Always reward your puppy for taking care of business outside. Giving them scratches, praising them, and a small treat are all good options.

Leash Training

Patience and consistency are key to teaching your four-legged friend to walk on a leash. Simple things like using the same equipment (harness, leash, etc.) and walking on the same side of the road make a difference! These tips will help your pooch walk on a leash like a champ!

  • Tire your dog out a little before going on a walk.
    • A quick game of fetch or tug is great! This gets some energy out, so they are better able to focus.
  • Occasionally slipping your dog a small treat while on a walk will help them associate fun with walks.
  • Play “red light, green light” with dogs that pull on the leash.
    • When they pull, stop. Red light!
    • Call them back to you, have them sit, and give them a treat.
    • Then, walk on. Green light!
  • When considering what equipment is needed for walks with your dogs, ask yourself these questions:
    • Does the product reduce or increase pulling?
      • Typically harnesses can increase pulling because your pet can use their whole body to pull! (Think of a dog that pulls sleds, what do they wear?)
    • Does the product make it easier to handle my dog?
    • Does the product cause her stress or discomfort?
    • Does the product give me confidence to help train my dog?
    • Does the product properly fit my pet?
      • Always make sure that your product is not too tight to cause discomfort, but not too loose that they can wiggle out!

Helpful Hints
It is very easy for your new puppy to instantly become the ruler of your house! By starting with obedience training young, your dog will learn who is in charge! Start with small things like having your dog sit before he gets a treat, or waiting for you to go outside instead of barging through the door are great first steps!

Socialization is a very important process that all dogs should go though. This allows your pup to become a well rounded “doggie citizen” and lets them be more comfortable in their surroundings. Talk to your veterinarian and let them help you find a good time to start your new furry friends socialization! 

One Last Tip

Keep in mind how big your dog will be when he/she grows up. If you treat a St. Bernard puppy and a Chihuahua puppy the same, the Chihuahua will be fine as an adult. But, the St. Bernard will wonder why he/she can no longer sit on your lap, sleep in bed with you, or jump up on you like when he/she was little!

Happy Potty Training!


Hawthorne Animal Hospital, a small animal hospital and veterinary clinic, serves St. Louis Metro East area, including the communities of Edwardsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Troy, Alton, Granite City, Collinsville, Highland, Wood River, Roxana, Bethalto, Godfrey, Worden, and Hamel.

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