New Puppy? Here’s What You Need to Know

Welcoming a new puppy into the household is an amazing experience. You have the opportunity to watch your new best friend’s personality bloom as they grow and help shape the dog that they will become. But with the joy and excitement of raising a puppy comes a great deal of responsibility. We understand that puppy ownership can be overwhelming, so read on to find out what you need to know about being a puppy parent!

#1 Puppy proofing is essential!

Just like human babies, puppies explore and learn about the world with their mouths. Unlike human babies, their ability to get into small spaces on their own and their sharp puppy teeth present unique challenges. Puppies may chew and destroy anything they find, and cannot distinguish between a dog toy and your new leather boots. Sharp teeth can also puncture electrical cords, bottles of cleaning chemicals, batteries, and other harmful objects. Even seemingly benign items like socks or toys can pose a risk due to accidental ingestion. ALWAYS supervise your puppy and ensure that any items that are not intended for chewing are safely out of reach. Cabinets and garbage cans should be secured so that curious pups are unable to get in. Be sure that house plants are out of reach and are non-toxic in case leaves fall to the floor. Chewing also helps alleviate the discomfort from the painful process of teething, which generally occurs between 3-6 months of age. Rubber toys, such as puppy teething rings and Kongs, can be frozen to help reduce gum pain.

Always supervise your puppy and provide many appropriate chew toys to prevent destructive chewing.

#2 Crate training provides protection, not punishment.

Crate training is recommended to provide your dog with a safe, den-like space that they can retreat to. It aids in potty training and keeps your puppy safe from dangers when you need to leave them unsupervised. Crate training involves creating a positive association with the crate, such as using treats, food, or toys to encourage your puppy to enter the crate on their own. Once your pup is comfortable going in and out of the crate on their own, you can try shutting the door for short periods and increasing the length of time that they are confined. Keep in mind that puppies must relieve themselves frequently, so should not be kept confined for more than four hours at a time during the day. Dogs generally do not go to the bathroom where they sleep, so your puppy will learn to avoid soiling their space as long as the crate is the appropriate size and they are let out often. A crate should be large enough for your pup to stand up, turn around, and lay down, but if it is too large they may be tempted to use a portion of the crate as a bathroom. Many crates come with a divider so you can adjust the size of the crate as your pet grows.

A crate should be a safe, comfortable place for your pet to retreat.

#3 Puppies require a series of vaccines to be fully protected from serious transmissible diseases.

Puppies should receive their first DA2PP or DHPP vaccine between 6 and 8 weeks of age and receive a booster vaccine every 3-4 weeks until around 16 weeks of age. The DA(H)PP vaccine protects against four diseases: Distemper, Adenovirus Type 2 (Hepatitis), Canine Parvovirus (Parvo), and Parainfluenza. It is especially important for puppies to begin a series of DA2PP vaccines at six to eight weeks of age, as natural immunity obtained from the mother decreases and puppies become very susceptible to potentially life-threatening diseases such as Parvo. Parvo is transmitted through feces, and can remain in the environment for many months depending on the conditions (weather, sun exposure, temperature, etc.). This means that puppies do not need to be directly exposed to another dog that has Parvo in order to contract the disease, and caution is advised when choosing where and how to socialize and exercise your pup. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends avoiding exposure to unknown dogs or public places until your puppy has finished their vaccine series. In addition to the essential DA2PP vaccine, the rabies vaccine is required by law and given at around 16 weeks of age. Additional vaccines are available based on your puppy’s lifestyle and exposure risks. Discuss these options and vaccine schedule with your vet to determine what’s best for your new baby.

A series of vaccines are necessary to ensure that your puppy is fully protected from certain diseases.

#4 Early socialization is key!

While the AVMA doesn’t recommend socializing puppies in high density public places, controlled “play dates” with healthy, vaccinated dogs at home or even puppy classes (where owners provide vaccine records) can help. The first 3 three months of a dog’s life are a critical socialization period, so we want them to have positive interactions with other pets and people during this time to avoid behavioral problems in the future. 

Before bringing a new puppy home, make sure that you have the time, financial resources, and patience to provide your pup with the care they require. Discuss your pup’s healthcare and nutritional needs with your vet staff to ensure you have the best information to keep your pet healthy. Set yourself and your puppy up for success, and enjoy your new best friend’s companionship for many years to come!

For more information on puppy care and other services offered at SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center, visit


Blog by SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center