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What to Expect in the First Year After you Adopt a Puppy

Bringing a new puppy home to your family is an exciting, joyful process.

It can also be a time that leads to a lot of questions about proper puppy care. Over the next year of your life you’re going to watch your puppy grow from to a teenager to an adult. During this time, your puppy’s sleep schedule will change, what he eats will change and he’ll become the dog your family will have for years to come.

So, what should you expect over the first year of your puppy’s life? This article will recap some of our most helpful resources on raising your pup up right.

While this post is for those adopting or rescuing a puppy, we also have resources for those that are caring for newborn puppies from their dog. The first 8 weeks of a new puppies life with his littermates and mother are big determining factors in how his personality will be.

When to Bring your New Puppy Home

It is well-established among breeders and canine enthusiasts that puppies will exhibit a number of negative behaviors when taken from their dams and littermates before 8 weeks of age. The effect is sufficient for many breeders to refuse the relocation of puppies to their new home until they reach 8, 10, or even 12 weeks of age. This sentiment is echoed by veterinarians and researchers as well in an increasing number of studies. One such study found a correlation between the development of social anxiety and separation from the litter prior to 60 days of age. Many states even have laws that prohibit adoption before 8 weeks.

The First 24 Hours at Home with Your New Puppy

You will need to spend a few days with your puppy when he first comes home. This will help the two of you get to know each other as well as relieve some of his anxiety about being in a new home. It can be beneficial to bring your puppy home on a Friday afternoon if you have the weekend off. Ask his breeder or the rescue to give him a small meal several hours before you pick him up. If his tummy is empty, he’ll be less likely to get carsick. Have him ride home in his crate in your car. You might be tempted to have him ride on your lap, but that isn’t safe and it will give him the idea that this is how he will always ride in the car. He’s safer and will get into significantly less trouble in his crate.

When you get home, have plans in place to handle introductions to other family members, keep a close eye on him for the first 24 hours and start bonding.

Before you go to pick up your puppy, check out our checklist of what you’ll need. Make sure you have all the necessities including crate, food, collar, leash, and more.

What to Feed your New Dog

Whether you get the new puppy from a breeder or rescued him from a shelter or pound, it is a good idea to find out what the pup is eating there so that you can continue on the same nutritional theme, at least for the first few days.

Your new puppy is already having to cope with enough change as he transitions from his previous home, or even litter, to his new home environment. The last thing needed is a simultaneous diet change. Keeping the puppy’s food the same is one way to minimize the stress of the move. Before you take your puppy home, ask for a sample off the food he has been eating to get you through the first few days.

If you plan to change to another brand of food, do so after the first couple days and do it by gradually mixing it the new food into the old food. When choosing a food for your puppy, check the list of ingredients. Ingredients are generally listed in order of amount used, with the ones used most listed near the beginning. The first ingredient in puppy food should be meat. Puppies should be fed food that has a protein content of 25 to 30 percent, depending on the breed.

Cheaper puppy foods provide less nutrition, with most of the food passing right through the puppy’s body and not being absorbed. Premium brands are more expensive but they contain higher quality ingredients and are better for your puppy. Because premium puppy food has more beneficial ingredients for your puppy, they do not need to eat as much of it. If you are unsure which brand is best for your puppy, consult your veterinarian.

Water is crucial to a dog. Always make water available to the puppy after feeding time, especially if they are eating dry food. Make sure that the puppy has access to water at all other times as well.

House Training

One of the first things most new puppy owners want to know is how to house train their new family member.

Opinions and expectations vary greatly on this matter, though there are some common truths. Some maintain that pups can be adopted already house trained at the age of 9 weeks, but you have to understand certain physiological limitations. More realistically, it is probably par for the course to bring home a 2 or 3 month old pup that when unsupervised, has occasional accidents on the floor, and it is probably reasonable to expect to have the pup fully trained by 4 months of age. In order to achieve this goal one has to know what one is doing, to invest some time and attention, and to have a consistent schedule in place.

Young puppies of 2, 3, and even 4-months of age have limitations when it comes to the time for which they can contain their urine. The younger they are, the less control they have over the muscles that start and stop the flow of urine. The usual formula for estimating the number of hours for which a puppy can hold its urine is N+1, where N is the puppy’s age in months. So, for example, a 3-month old puppy should be able to hold its urine for approximately 4 hours in a pinch. This means that if you have a properly toilet trained 4-month-old puppy that, theoretically, can hold its urine for 5 hours, and you shut that pup in a crate for 6 or 7 hours, you are courting disaster.

What to Expect from an 8-Week Old Puppy

Your 8-week-old puppy has certain needs to stay healthy. Recommended wellness care for an 8-week-old puppy includes dewormers, heartworm prevention, and flea and tick control.

It’s also a time to start thinking about your spay or neuter plan. Some puppies are spayed and neutered at an early age or later, closer to 6 months of age. If your puppy is not “fixed”, discuss when is the best time with your veterinarian. Pet overpopulation is a serious issue and by allowing your dog to have litters, you are adding to the problem. Pets that are spayed or neutered are quieter and not prone to roam looking for a mate and tend to be more gentle and affectionate. Also, fixing your pet reduces the risk of developing breast and prostate cancer and eliminates the risk of uterine infections.

Since your puppy should have been weaned before you brought him home, your 2-month-old puppy should be eating four meals per day of a good quality food formulated for puppies of his or her size. There is no set formula for how much to feed a puppy. But know that energy requirements of a puppy, based on body weight, are nearly double that of an adult.

What to Expect from a 6-Month-Old Puppy

At about 5 to 6 months, if you have more than one pup, you may find that play becomes more aggressive and exhibits some nipping, growling, and other general displays of dominance. Many males, and some females, will begin humping each other at this stage as they rehearse for their adult roles. Such behavior is acceptable as long as it is not directed towards you.

At this age, puppies can be taught to sit, lie down, wait, stay, leave it, and other such useful commands that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Once these behaviors have been learned they should be reinforced periodically throughout life. This is the usual time for formal puppy training classes outside the home. Such classes are extremely helpful as long as they are conducted in a non-confrontational way.

Beyond this, your puppy is going through a lot of other physical changes that can lead to lots of chewing, keen senses and a large improvement in agility and coordination.

What to Expect from a 9-Month-Old Puppy

Sometime after your dog reaches 6 months, he or she will plunge headlong into canine adolescence – where hormones rule. He tears through the house, leaving a mess in his wake. He’s suddenly shy and his happy personality has dissolved into moodiness. Like people, dogs react differently to puberty. Some have an easier time of it than others, but a “teenage dog” of any breed can display unpredictable, even uncharacteristic behavior – which can last an entire year. Behavior seems to depend more on the individual dog than on the breed.

What to Expect from a 12-Month-Old Puppy

Your puppy is entering adulthood, and by most is now considered a dog! Some 12-month-old dogs still act like adolescents and others are more mature. They should understand their rank and place in the family. The trial-and-error learning phase is over and they should be outgrowing their impulse to take everything in their mouth and chew on it. Most 12 month olds are still playful and curious, and need to have plenty of opportunity for exercise. Your dog should be housebroken and sleep through the night.

There are other things you can expect from your growing dog based on breed and size.