Preparing For Your Puppy To Come Home – Checklist

Puppy Immunizations

Before puppies are weaned, they absorb antibodies against infection from their mother’s milk. But during the period, from weaning to about 3 months, they are vulnerable to infection from other germs (from other dogs or germs brought in on clothes, etc.).

Some puppies may begin the course of vaccinations around 6 weeks, however it is more common that they are inoculated at 8, 12, and 16 weeks against the following:



Canine Parvovirus


And possibly Kennel Cough (bordetella)

In the U.S., the first rabies vaccinations are typically administered at 16 weeks of age. In addition, worming treatments are usually recommended for puppies at the same time as the initial vaccinations. You will need to consult your veterinarian on all of the potential diseases that your puppy may be exposed to in your area.

It is important to keep in mind that during the period that your puppy is vulnerable to infection, you should keep him indoors and away from other dogs unless you know they have been properly immunized. Also, even if your puppy had his first shots before leaving the breeder, it is recommended to take him to your veterinarian for a complete checkup shortly after you bring him home.

Preventable Diseases

Infectious Canine Distemper (aka “hard pad”) is a highly contagious viral disease that attacks the brain and the spinal cord. Have your dog vaccinated every 2 years to maintain immunity.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that spreads in a similar way to hepatitis, and which damages the kidneys and the liver. This disease in longer common. Dogs are immunized twice as a puppy, and they can have annual boosters thereafter.

Infectious Canine Hepatitis is spread from dog to dog due to contact with infected urine. Similar to humans, hepatitis damages the liver and can cause blindness.

Parainfluenza is an infectious respiratory virus that produces a severe form of kennel cough

Canine Parvovirus (CPV) is highly contagious and the most common fatal infectious canine disease. It attacks the bowel and, in young puppies, can damage the heart.

Bordetella is a respiratory disease and is a common cause of kennel cough. It is serious but rarely fatal. It is an airborne infection that thrives in confined spaces and most reputable boarding kennels advise their customers to vaccinate their dogs a couple of weeks before they arrive.

Rabies is spread through saliva, typically from animal bites, and it is always fatal. In the U.S., the first rabies vaccination is given at 16 weeks and a booster is administered a year later with further shots given every 1 to 3 years thereafter. Rabies immunizations are legally required in many places.



Dogs are intelligent animals and can be trained to do a wide variety of tasks. The first step to training a puppy is to give him a name. Since young dogs do not recognize many words, it is important to maintain consistency and use the name often. A short one syllable name is typically best with regard to training. Training is divided into 3 broad categories:

Behavioral Training teaches basic good manners such as how to behave around people, house training, and walking on a leash.

Obedience Training teaches your dog to perform specific actions such as sitting, walking to heel, or lying down on command.

Activity Training is great for working dog breeds such as police dogs with the purpose of retrieving, herding, or performing agility sequences.

The basic of rules of training are:

Use simple one-word commands consistently. For instance, when teaching your dog to sit, use the command “Sit!” and not “Sit down!”

Reward good behavior frequently and give her plenty of praise. Use both verbal praise and treats when training for obedience

Don’t punish your dog with physical force such as hitting her

Work with your dog’s instincts and not against them

Repeat the training frequently and consistently. Don’t let her forget commands due to lack of practice. It is also a good idea to follow a training routine with playtime to prevent boredom and allow relax time.

Be clear on what you want her to do. She is eager to please you.

Use positive reinforcement. Let her know when you are pleased with her and ignore or correct her when she misbehaves. Do not make her fearful.

House Training

One thing to keep in mind with a puppy is that they have small bladders. So, you should expect frequent urination. Also, they are prone to urinate with excitement or fear. House training can begin any time after five weeks of age. In the initial training phase, you should expect some accidents. You should take her outside the last thing each night, each time she wakes up, and a short time after meals. Also, watch for her to start circling around sniffing for a good spot. You can usually catch them in time with these early signs. You should expect good results even during the first week of house training.

You should begin by teaching her where she can relieve herself. It is best to take her to the same spot each time so that she will recognize her own odor. Give her lots of praise and a treat if you prefer. Anytime she has an accident, you should say, very firmly, “No”, and then move her to the right place. You should be carefull of scolding her or she may become fearful. It is best to reward her “on the spot” instead of waiting until she come in. This way, she is more likely to make the connection. Also, when cleaning up after her indoors, you should use a strong cleaning agent so that she does not recognize the scent and be tempted to repeat.

The First Few Weeks

For the first two weeks of life, newborn puppies are completely dependent on their mothers for food and warmth. They are born blind and deaf, but within the first week their senses mature and they become increasingly independent. They soon become more adventurous, straying away from their mother and should be handled a couple of times a day to become comfortable with human contact. By the fourth week, puppy chow should be supplemented to help with the weaning process that takes place by the seventh to the twelflth week. At this time the puppies may be separated from their mother and littermates.


Grooming should be a primary deciding factor for choosing a dog. The amount of effort that goes into grooming varies widely by breed. The grooming equipment also varies considerably based on the types of coats. Short-haired breeds such as Bull Terriers need little more than a quick once-over with a rubber brush and a chamois leather while a long-haired Lhasa Apsos will need a wide-tooothed comb and a soft-pinned brush. Dogs should be bathed periodically and groomed each day. Regular grooming should include examining and cleaning the teeth. You can purchase special toothbrushes and toothpaste and you should never use human toothpaste on a dog. You should also regularly trim the nails and claws using specific pet nail clippers.

Dog Equipment & Supplies

Feeding Equipment

It is best to keep the dog food equipment separate from your other kitchen utensils. The feeding equipment that you will need includes:




Can opener

2 food and water bowls

The type of food and water bowl you pick should be determined based on the dog. For instance, for long-eared dogs such as Basset Hounds, the ears will overhang a food bowl and may create a mess. So, it is better to get deep food bowls with a narrow opening. Of course, bigger dogs will typically require larger food/water bowls than smaller dogs. Also, although they are typically more expensive, stainless steel bowls are recommended over plastic ones. They will last longer, are easier to clean, and will not be chewed up by puppies. For older dogs, it is good to have the bowls sit up off of the ground somewhat so that they aren’t required to bend as far to reach. Also, this will make digestion for them easier.

Beds & Bedding

All dog breeds enjoy having a “place of their own.” This may be just a corner of the house. It is best to place their bedding near a wall since this gives them some security. A wall of the bedding would work as well. One of the most important considerations for bedding is that it be washable. Large, “durable”, dogs may be kept outside in a kennel. This should be a weatherproof building with a warm comfortable bed raised off the floor. However, indoor space should be provided for cold winter nights.

Dog crates or carriers make great sleeping quarters and are also good for travel. Although some people think it is inappropriate to confine a dog to a crate, for many situations it is ideal. A dog, especially if accustomed to it from a puppy, will get security out of the closed space. Frequently, the dog will retreat to it for naps or just to get away from it all. It should not be used for punishment though.

Other bedding choices may include molded plastic dog beds with a mattress or even a bean bag (with washable cover). Dogs like lounging in beanbags as they conform to their body.

Collars and Leashes

As a responsible pet owner, you will want to have an identity tag on your pet with the dog’s name and address so that she can be returned if she strays. They should always be walked on a leash. There are a wide variety of leashes to pick from.

You will need to make sure you get the proper size and the it isn’t possible for the dog to shrug it off. To test a collar for fit, you should try to place 2 fingers between the dog’s neck and the collar. As long as the gap is no larger than the 2 fingers width, typically the collar fits. When you are first training your dog or puppy to walk on a leash, you may need to use a harness since this will provide enough restraint but won’t put pressure on the windpipe. If you have a dog that spends some time in water, nylon collars are best as they dry quickly and will not rot. If you have a long-haired dog, then rolled leather collars are good as they do not trap the hair on the neck. Retractable leashes are also a popular ones these days.


For the general enjoyment of the dog and also to prevent them from chewing up your possessions, such as shoes, it is good to have some toys around. When choosing a toy, look for any that are tough and well-made. Avoid those that look poorly constructed or have parts that could be chewed off and swallowed. Typically, replica bones, bouncy balls, Frisbees, and tug toys can all be turned into games that involve you and the pet.

Male vs Female?

When choosing a new dog, gender should be a part of the decision process. In general, male dogs tend to be more dominant and aggressive than females. Also, males are larger and more likely to roam. Females, on the other hand, are typically easier to train, demand more affection, and tend to be a little more calm. These difference are a somewhat less noticeable in smaller breeds than larger ones.

An important thing to keep in mind with females is if they have not been spayed, then they will come into season twice a year. This is during their menstrual cycle and there may be a noticeable bloody discharge. During this time, it is important to keep them isolated from males to avoid any unwanted pregnancy. Unless you have intentions of breeding, then spaying is strongly recommended.

Puppy or Adult?

An important consideration in getting a new puppy is the time commitment required relative to an adult dog. This comes from house training, obedience training, and socializing them. An advantage of this, however, is the ability to mold your puppy to your lifestyle during this period. This is also a great period of bonding.

However, in getting an adult dog, there is some risk. You may not know the dog’s background and how he has been treated his entire life. Rescue centers will typically furnish prospective owners with as much information as possible but sometimes there isn’t much information there. Most, but not all, behavioral problems can be solved with patience and training but this can take considerable time. It is important that if you have never owned a dog, you don’t start with one that has been traumatized. If you decide on an adult dog, there are some simple tests that you can perform to get some idea of his or her character:

What is the dog’s reaction when you approach it? If it approaches you or looks up expectantly, then it is the sign of a relaxed dog. If it barks or cowers, it shows signs of anxiety.

How does it react to a leash? Does it “expect” it or put up a fight.

Observe it, alone, with a toy. Is it content with solitude? If it whines, then this could be a sign of separation anxiety.

How does it react to strangers, especially children? Is it easily frightened? Does it appear aggressive?

Spaying & Neutering

If you have no intentions of breeding your dog, you should seriously consider sterilizing him or her. Dogs become sexually mature between 6 and 12 months of age. However, they are not mentally mature until 18 to 24 months.

When male dogs are neutered, they typically become less aggressive as sterilization decreases the testosterone levels. Of course, this also eliminates the problem of unwanted puppies.

Spayed females will no longer have the problem of the surprise litter. Also, this will eliminate the twice yearly fertile “season”. Contrary to popular opinion that female dogs need to have their own litter for their benefit, this is simply not true. They can live happy and fulfilling lives without puppies. The female dog’s season is between 15 and 21 days and during 5 of those days, there will be a bloody discharge emitted.

Your vet should be consulted for specifics but generally dogs are neutered or spayed between 9 and 18 months of age. The procedures are done under general anesthetic. Some veterinarians prefer to spay after the first menstrual cycle while others may do it as early as 3 months of age. The time does vary by breed so your vet should be consulted.

Dogs’ calorie requirements are usually around 15% less after being neutered but with an appropriate diet, there isn’t much risk of them becoming fat.

Breeding & Pregnancy

If your dog is a purebred animal, you may decide to breed. Typically, breeders will maintain detailed records of litters, sires, and dams. If you choose to mate your animal with another of the same breed, you are strongly encouraged to study the pedigree or family history of each dog to ensure that there are no genetic defects that could reappear.

The best age for females to whelp is between 18 months and 4 years. Canine pregnancy lasts 63 days (9 weeks) but there are no visible signs typically until 6 weeks. The mother will need more food when pregnant, typically about 2/3 more than her usual diet. Towards the end of the pregnancy, she may prefer smaller, more frequent meals.

If your dog is pregnant, you should be prepared. You should be aware of the following:

Make sure you have the vet’s phone number at hand as well as after-hours emergency number

You should prepare a birthing pack of old towels, disinfectant, and warm water

The first signs that she is getting close will be her shivering and restlessness. She will pant and her temperature will drop.

Following the first puppy, the others should arrive every 10 to 80 minutes.

You should call your vet if she experiences any of the following:

There is no sign of a puppy more than 2 hours after the start of contractions

More than 2 hours elapse between the delivery of puppies

Labor does not seem to be going anywhere or the mother becomes too weak and/or tired to manage strong enough contractions

The mother is panting very heavily or appears feverish or panicky

The mother does not deliver a placenta for each puppy which could pose the danger of infection

Purebred or Mutt?

The most significant advantage to getting a purebred dog is that it’s looks, size, and to some extent, its behavior will be predictable. If you learn the breeds, you can choose one that is ideal for your lifestyle. Alternatively, you can take our Pet Picker Quiz© and we will help you quickly pick the most appropriate breed(s).

Some breeds are susceptible to hereditary defects, but reputable breeders will typically take steps to avoid perpetuating genetic defects in new litters. Crossbreeds can make great pets if they combine the best qualities of each parent. However, you want to make sure that you don’t get the worst characteristics instead.

Dogs of completely mixed parentage are typically known as mutts or mongrels and are often healthier than pedigree dogs. They are less prone to hereditary health problems and may actually live longer. However, it is more difficult to predict the behavior and temperament of a mutt. Also, a small pup may quickly grow into a large dog. A useful tip to help predict the adult size is to look at the size of the puppies paws: relatively large paws are typically a sign that the puppy will become a large adult.