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How To Set Your Puppy Up For A Happy and Healthy Life

Having a puppy is one of the most exciting moments in life for dog lovers, especially if it’s your first time. It’s a beautiful beginning of a lifetime bonding and for many, it’s our first taste of starting a family and what it may be like to having a human baby.

Just like what we would do to prepare for the arrival of our human babies, proper preparation and education is also crucial to our fur babies’ long-term happiness and wellbeing. On this year’s National Puppy Day, check out some essential things to do whether you are getting a puppy or already have one.

Get the Family Ready

A puppy is a big commitment. Coordination and agreement on a few key areas among family members will make the arrival of your newest family member less stressful. Sit your family down and go over the following:

  • Who will be the primary caretaker? Who will feed/walk/train/take the pup on her 3am potty break?
  • Where will the dog sleep?
  • Will the dog be allowed on the bed? On the couch?
  • Are any rooms of the house or furniture pieces that are permanently off-limits?

If you have young kids, make sure they understand how they should play and interact with the puppy. Set some ground rules for both the puppy and the kids.

Supplies to Have

  • Crate
  • Bed
  • Food and water bowls - prepare some food that your puppy has been eating to avoid an upset stomach due to the sudden switch in diet.
  • Treats for training
  • Collar and leash
  • Toys - especially chew toys and lot of them
  • Stain- and odor-removing cleaners - Enzymatic cleaners are typically best at eliminating odors. Lingering odor is likely to cause your pup to want to potty there again.
  • Baby gates to block off sections of your house


Get the Puppy’s First Week at Home Right


Puppy’s first night and first week is exciting for you but keep in mind that it’s all very new to your puppy. Here are a few things to do in order to make your pup comfortable and start her off on the right paw.

Bedtime on the first night

  • Get your pup use to the crate during the day by letting her feed in the crate or throw some treats in there from time-to-time. Keep the crate door open and locate it in a high-trafficked area of the house during the day.
  • Place the crate in your bedroom at night and let your pup sleep in the crake if she’s had time to get comfortable with it before bedtime; otherwise, let her sleep in the bed with you the first night.
  • Feed her and take her out for potty time a couple of hours before bedtime
  • Have play time as the day ends but be sure to take her out for potty time after play time and before bedtime
  • Be prepared to get up to let her go potty during the night. Once she’s done, put her back in her crate right away. Don’t cuddle or play as that would make it harder for her to settle down.

Create a schedule and establish habits

  • Schedule as many potty breaks as possible throughout the day - plan for every hour
  • Feeding time should be 3 times a day for young puppies under five months. Water should be available at all times; though you can consider removing it one hour before bedtime
  • Outdoor or indoor play time should be scheduled daily
  • Keep bedtime and wake-up time as consistent as possible
  • House training should be practiced daily

Just like kids, our fur babies do better with a routine that allows for predictability and stability in their early lives. Doing the same things at the same times every day will help them get house trained more easily and establish good habits.


Puppy Proof Your Home

Before they are properly trained, puppies are notorious for destroying everything in their path. Everything is new and exciting to them and they just can’t contain themselves. They like to chew – a lot!

It’s a good idea to limit your new pup to just a few sections of the house initially. Go through the area where she will be spending most of her time and remove anything you don’t want chewed and anything that might hurt her. These items could be electrical cords, shoes, toys, cleaning supplies, furniture legs, etc.

Pay special attention in the house that may cause allergic reaction or poisonous to dogs, such as cleaning supplies, medications, vitamins, etc. Review our poison prevention article for more information on what to avoid and what to do if your pup got her paws into some of these poisonous items.

Another trick is to use a bitter-tasting spray, like Bitter Apple, to deter your pup from chewing on anything valuable that can’t be removed in order.


Puppy Training

Prepare some soft treats chopped into pea-sized pieces for training purposes. You’ll also want to make sure your family is clear and consistent on word cues to use. It would confuse the puppy if different people are using different words, such as “down” or “off”, when you want your puppy to stop chewing on furniture.

Here at Waggit, we believe in positive reinforcement training, also known as “force-free” training. It produces the best result and creates a strong bond between you and your puppy. Wagfield is a dedicated resource for and a leader in Force-Free Training. According to Wagfield, this method is the most up-to-date and science-based training approach.

Puppy Teeth Brushing

According to PetSmart, 80% of dogs show signs of gum disease by the time they’re two years old. While it’s best not to use a toothbrush until their adult teeth are in, it is best to get them use to the sensations of teeth brushing as early as as six to eight weeks.

At first, massage around the outside of their mouth. Once they are use to that, use your finger to gently rub on their gums while they are relaxed or being snuggled. Then you can graduate to rubber brushes that go on your finger. You can start without any toothpaste at first and add that later. Just be sure to never use human toothpaste as it contains fluoride that can be toxic to your dog.

Schedule a vet visit

It’s a good idea to schedule a vet soon after bringing your puppy home - typically at 6-8 weeks time. Your vet can tell you what vaccines your puppy needs, whether she has worms, and alert you to any possible health concerns. Socialization is another important aspect of getting your puppy to the vet early on so that they can get used to the experience. Bring and give her treats to make it a positive experience.

To see answers to some common questions regarding vaccination, this FAQ from Wagfield is a great resource.

Arrange for Pet Sitting

You will probably want to be home and around your puppy all the time but have a plan in place for when you need to be away. Waiting till last minute to find the right care for your pup can be very stressful. Take a look at our Comprehensive Guide to Finding the Right Pet Sitter to get started.


Above all else, enjoy the journey of growing with your puppy! Have fun with him/her. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? Have a little fun celebrating this year’s National Puppy Day with any of these 50 ideas and play a little game your fur baby.

Fun Games to Play