How to Take Care of a Puppy

Seven Methods:Picking the Right Type of DogDog Proofing Your HomeFeeding Your PuppyExercising & Socializing Your PuppyTraining Your Puppy to Relieve Itself OutsideTeaching Basic CommandsKeeping Your Puppy Healthy

A puppy can be a fun and exciting addition to any home or family. However, there is a lot to consider before running out to purchase one at the local pet store or adopting one from your local shelter. Taking care of a puppy can be difficult, yet rewarding work for you and your family. Before going out and getting a puppy, be sure to figure out how to care for a puppy so you can ensure a long and healthy relationship between you and your dog.

Method 1
Picking the Right Type of Dog

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    Do some research to find out what breed is best for you and your family. Whether or not you can care properly for your dog depends largely on the specific needs of the dog breed you choose. There is a lot of variety between dog breeds. Ask yourself the following questions to help you narrow down to a specific dog breed:[1]
    • How much space will it need?
    • How much attention will it require?
    • Do I want a lap dog or an energetic dog?
    • Do I want my dog to fetch?
    • Is the breed good around children?
    • Will the breed be comfortable in my regional climate?
    • Will the breed get along with my other pets?
    • How dangerous is the breed??
    • How many years do dogs of a certain breed normally live?[2]
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    Consult with a veterinarian or dog trainer about breeds you are interested in. This can be a great help in narrowing down your decision. Veterinarians interact and work with all kinds of breeds on a daily basis and can give you some helpful insight before making your decision.[3]
    • Dog trainers can help clarify the nature of certain breeds, looking beyond a breeds cute exterior to their needs and general characteristics.
    • Consider getting a mixed breed dog. Whether a mutt from the pound or Humane Society, or a specially bred mixed breed dog, such as a puggle, mixed breed dogs can have lower chances of having an inherited congenital disease and can be just as great of a companion as a purebred dog.[4]
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    Consider the overall cost of adopting or buying a new pup, as well as the cost of caring for it over its lifetime. It costs more to feed a larger pup, but other things like spaying and neutering, heart-worm and flea medications, grooming, and boarding fees also cost more the larger your puppy is.
    • You should also consider how much of the breed you want cost. Some specialized breeds can be extremely expensive.
    • Along with these, you will also need consider and budget for the cost of routine vaccinations, training classes for your puppy, annual vaccinations, dental care, and routine blood work throughout their life.
    • Other potential costs, that can come unexpectedly and should be planned for are injuries, illnesses, and emergencies.
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    Buy or adopt a puppy that is appropriate for your current lifestyle and limitations. Once you have weighed your options, pick the dog breed that best suits how you currently live your life. You may have the intention exercising more or going hiking once you get a dog, but if you get a dog that needs a lot of activity and your lifestyle doesn't change, you could be setting yourself, and your puppy, up for failure.

Method 2
Dog Proofing Your Home

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    Puppy proof your home. Puppy proofing is basically the same as baby proofing your home. Remove any small, sharp, hazardous items from places that the puppy can get to. Make sure that all electric cords, wires, batteries, etc. are put away and are not connected to the wall in places where the puppy can chew on them. There is a danger of electric shock if your puppy chews on connected wires.[5]
    • Keep in mind that as the pup grows it may be able to reach table tops as well.
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    Remove all plants that are poisonous to dogs, in both your home and your yard. Dogs enjoy eating plants and grass very much, so if you are a plant-lover you may have to move, or re-home, a lot of your plants. The stems and leaves of some plants contain various substances that can be toxic to the pet who chews on them.
    • Some examples of these plants are dieffenbachia (or dumb cane), caladium, philodendron, and elephant's ear.
    • In addition to this, many yard plants such as shrubs, flowers, and trees are also dangerous to your puppies. Some examples include rhododendrons, chrysanthemum, and oleander.
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    Remove pills or poisons from accessible locations. Some of the more common you need to look out for include household cleaners, insecticides, fertilizers, and mouse and rat poisons. The odor of these products may attract your puppies, so you need to put them where your puppy can not reach them.
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    Keep human food out of the puppy's area. Some of the foods that we eat, including chocolate, onions, raisins and grapes, and even sugarless chewing gums, can be toxic to pups and should be kept well out of reach. You can find good information online about what your pup should avoid, in addition to discussing it with your veterinarian.
    • If your puppy does ingest a foreign object or toxic substance, contact your veterinarian immediately.[6]
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    Establish the puppy's area. When you bring your puppy home to a new and unfamiliar environment, it can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks for them to get accustomed to their new surroundings. It is best to decide where they will be allowed to go before bringing them home. This will help to avoid confusion and establish their area from the beginning.
    • Use baby gates and shut doors to any rooms that will be off-limits to the puppy and be consistent with this off-limits training. Later you can gradually expand their area as they become more adjusted.
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    Designate an area for eating. The kitchen is a common area for food and water because it is easy to clean. Once you decide on a place, it is best to keep them there at all times. This will eliminate possible confusion and make it easier to maintain a routine.
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    Provide a place for your puppy to sleep. Buy a comfortable dog bed or learn how to make a dog bed for your pooch. By giving your puppy a comfortable place to sleep right when you bring it home, you can train it not to sleep with you in your bed. Be aware that once a pup is allowed to sleep in your bed, it can be difficult to teach them to sleep in their own.
    • Entice your puppy into its bed for the first time with a chew toy or a bone. To get it to want to sleep in the designated area will take continued and consistent training.
    • Establishing the area, your bed, a doggie bed, or a crate, ahead of time will help to make the adjustment easier.
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    Make sure you have a fun and safe outdoor space for your puppy. If you already have a fence, or are planning to have a fence installed, inspect the fence thoroughly for any space that may be small enough for your puppy to squeeze through. Patch any holes or spaces immediately to avoid any unexpected escapes from the yard.
    • Also, check your yard daily for objects that may have fallen or been thrown into their area. Remove anything potentially harmful before your puppy goes outside.[7]
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    Buy or make a strong and secure dog house. If you plan on keeping your puppy in a doghouse, design the perfect doghouse with proper protection for all seasons. For instance, the doghouse should have a raised floor that provides extra insulation.
    • Furthermore, do not keep your puppy in doghouse for longer than eight or nine hours at a time. [8]

Method 3
Feeding Your Puppy

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    Find out what dog food your puppy was started on before you got it. Purchase that food if possible. Sudden changes in diet can easily upset a puppy's stomach. You can always do a gradual change later if needed.
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    Purchase good quality puppy food. It is extremely important to make sure your puppy is eating a high quality food to ensure that they are receiving the best nutrition. This doesn't mean you have to run out and purchase the most expensive bag of food, it just means you should be aware of what type of ingredients you are feeding your puppy.
    • Ask your veterinarian to recommend the best food for your budget.
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    Start off with a dry dog food specially formulated for puppies. For very young and newly weaned pups, you can also add a small amount of water to their dry food to make it easy for them to chew and gradually eliminate it over a week or two.
    • Always choose a dog food that is primarily made of meat, not corn. Dogs were not meant to eat corn and it can upset their digestive system, especially in puppies. Choose to feed your puppy a grain-free diet if possible.
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    Avoid feeding your puppy potentially harmful human food scraps. Grapes, raisins, tea, alcohol, garlic, onions, avocados, salt, and chocolate are toxic to dogs. If your dog has ingested one of these things, call an Animal Poison Control Center.
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    Put your puppy on a feeding schedule based on their age. Puppies should not be removed from their mothers before they are eight weeks old. After they are eight weeks old, you can begin a feeding regimen based on the age of the puppy. The serving size will depend on the breed and the size of the puppy. Be sure to look up the specific feeding instructions for your breed of puppy.
    • Three to four weeks old: Begin to mix some solid food into the puppy's diet along with their mother's milk. To make it easier for the puppy to digest, mix the food in some of its mother's milk or a puppy replacement milk. Feed your puppy whenever it cries because it is hungry. Usually this will be about four times per day.
    • Six to eight weeks old: Feed your puppy a puppy formula dry food that is rich in protein and calcium. Again, make sure that real meat is the first ingredient on the ingredients label.
    • Generally, puppies less than 6 months old will need to be fed three to four times a day depending on their breed and size. You can reduce this to twice a day for most pups when they are around six months old.
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    Feed your puppy at the same time everyday and keep the type of food consistent. Puppies cannot handle abrupt changes in their diet and will be house trained more easily if they eat at consistent times every day. This helps them to know when mealtime is, helps them go to the bathroom at consistent times, and helps you to know how much your dog is eating.
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    Use the guidelines on the food bag to determine the appropriate amount of food and measure it out at each feeding. Measuring out food helps to prevent overeating and let's you keep track of your pup's appetite and eating habits. Allow it to eat for about 10-15 minutes and then the bowl should be picked up until the next feeding time.
    • Monitoring your pups weight and appearance can help to make sure you are feeding the appropriate amount. If you can see their ribs it may be underweight and if you can’t feel its ribs it is possibly overweight.
    • Be sure to discuss proper feeding amounts and your pups weight with your veterinarian at your puppy regular visits.
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    Feed a specific breed puppy food if you have a large breed puppy, such as a Great Dane or Mastiff. Make sure you are feeding a puppy food specifically labeled for large breed puppies that food is designed to provide the proper nutrition to keep its bones growing healthy and strong and to help prevent some common diseases that can occur in these pups.
    • Again, your veterinarian is a great source of information about proper puppy nutrition.[9]
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    Keep fresh water out for your puppy at all times. Change your puppy's water at least twice per day to ensure that your puppy is drinking clean water. Also remember to wash the bowl itself regularly.

Method 4
Exercising & Socializing Your Puppy

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    Buy puppy toys, a collar, and a leash before bringing your new puppy home. Have them waiting for it when you bring it home so that your puppy can immediately start playing with your family and going for walks. This will help the puppy to become comfortable in your home and immediately jumpstarts the puppy socialization process.
    • Be sure that the collar is the right size for your pup, not so tight that it restricts the puppy's breathing and not so loose that the puppy can wiggle out of it.
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    Decide if you want to crate train your new pup. If you do, you will need to purchase a crate and a pad to go inside it. Crate training can have huge benefits for your dog, as dogs have a natural instinct to find a safe space to call their own. While it may take some time for your puppy to adjust to sleeping in a crate, eventually most dogs find it a comforting and enjoyable space.
    • Your new puppy should be trained to sleep in its crate but it will need to be taken out during the night to go to the bathroom and it should not be stuck in a crate all day. Other than at night, your dog should not be left in their crate for more than 4 hours.
    • Crate training can also be helpful for housebreaking your puppy. Dogs naturally do not like to go to the bathroom where they sleep, so taking your dog out of the crate and outside to go to the bathroom can help teach them when and where to go.
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    Allow your puppy to explore its new home. When you bring a puppy to an unfamiliar place for the first time, it will need to get accustomed to its surroundings. Make sure that all doors to the outside are closed but then allow it to roam about the house to sniff and explore its new environment.
    • Close any rooms that you want to designate as "off-limits" to your puppy. This way it won't become attached to any off limit spaces and you can avoid having to train the puppy not to go there later.
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    Socialize your puppy. Socialization is important for your puppy's development. It allows your pup to learn normal dog behaviors through exposure to other dogs and humans. It is best to begin socializing your puppy when it is a few weeks old. During that time, puppies are most accepting of new experiences and new people or dogs.[10]
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    Walk your puppy every day. Try to make sure that your puppy gets about an hour of exercise and/or play time per day. Don't over-exert your puppy by taking it on long runs, but do allow your puppy to run around the yard and go on walk at least once per day.
    • Different breeds need different amounts of exercise per day. Make sure to do your homework to find out how much exercise your particular puppy needs.
    • To avoid injury or damage to developing bones and joints, avoid prolonged forced exercise, such as long runs, until your puppy is closer to adult age. This varies between 1 and 2 years old depending on their overall size.
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    Allow your puppy to play with other dogs for exercise. Make sure that you have vaccinated your puppy and that the other dogs are friendly before allowing it to do so.
    • Once your pup has received at least its third set of vaccinations from your veterinarian, you can safely begin taking it to areas where other puppies and dogs go. Before its reached this stage, letting it spend time indoors with as many different people and other healthy dogs as possible will help in its socialization.
    • After its third set of vaccinations, try to start out with short walks around the neighborhood or playing short games in your backyard to gauge how quickly your puppy tires out or if it requires more exercise.
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    Take your puppy to the dog park once they are fully vaccinated. Taking your puppy to a local dog park not only allows them to exercise and burn off some of that puppy energy, but it also is a really great way to socialize your puppy so they are familiar with other types of dogs whether they be large or small. Dog parks are also a great socialization tool for introducing your puppy to all kinds of people as well.
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    Play with your puppy! This can be the best part of having a puppy and is key to keeping it healthy and preventing boredom, which can lead to unwanted behaviors, such as excessive barking and chewing. A stimulated puppy makes for a smart, happy, and healthy puppy who will tend to be more obedient than other puppies. Playing with your puppy is a great way to incorporate exercise each day and also build up the relationship and bond you have with your puppy.
    • Puppies love attention and affection, so during playtime, use a lot of positive reinforcement to let your puppy know that it is playing appropriately and that you love them.
    • A nice rub behind the ears or pat on the head goes a long way when telling your puppy that they are being good and that you care about them.[11]
    • You can help your puppy adjust to its new environment by spending as much time as possible interacting with it, but also be sure to give it time to be quiet and rest as needed. By playing, loving, and just interacting with your dog, it will soon begin to feel more comfortable in its new home.
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    Show your puppy affection. Cuddle and pet it every day. After all, puppies are babies that need to be nurtured and loved. Make sure to give your puppy positive signals and pet it frequently.

Method 5
Training Your Puppy to Relieve Itself Outside

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    Begin house training your puppy immediately. This is one of the first things to teach your new puppy. Until it is potty trained it is ideal to keep it where it can be watched at all times. You can use baby gates, keep it attached to a leash and with you, and you can also use a crate that is just large enough for it to stand up, lie down, and turn around in, when it can't be watched.
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    Pick a spot outside that is easy to get to, easy to clean, and that other dogs don't have access to. Always using this area will help them learn where they should go and make the process much easier. It is important to always be consistent. Making trips outside as often as every 20 minutes can also help teach it where they should go.
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    Look for early signs that you puppy needs to go. These include whining, circling, sniffing, barking, or any sudden behavior change. When you see these signs immediately take the puppy to their area.
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    Stick to a feeding routine. This will help your pup learn as fast as possible. A regular feeding schedule will help with a regular potty schedule. Take your pup out after every meal. Normally a puppy will need to go to the bathroom as soon as it wakes up in the morning and after any naps, after meals and drinking water, and on average about once every hour.
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    Hook your puppy to its leash and try walking around in the chosen area. This will help the designated area to smell familiar to the puppy and it will help show the puppy that this is an appropriate place to relieve itself.
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    Use the word "go" to help to teach your puppy to go in their potty area. It is best to stay outside with your puppy until it goes potty so that it understands that this is what you want when you are both outside and so you will know it has gone. Always praise your puppy for going potty outside, you can tell it "good dog", and you can also give it a small treat to let it know it did a good job.
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    Distract, don't punish, a puppy that goes to the bathroom inside. If your puppy uses the restroom inside the house and you are there when it is happening, clap your hands and say the word "no" to distract the puppy from the action. Immediately pick it up and take it outside to finish its business.
    • Be sure to praise the puppy after it goes outside.
    • If the puppy has pooped in the house, pick up the poop and take it to the designated area outside to show the puppy that this is where it should go. The smell distinguishes the area to the puppy as well. If you are not present when the accident happens indoors, just clean up the mess and watch the puppy more closely to avoid this mistake again. It does no good to discipline your puppy after the fact because the puppy will not understand why you are upset.[12]

Method 6
Teaching Basic Commands

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    Begin teaching basic commands as early as possible. It is never too early to start practicing them. By establishing the basic commands, your puppy can build a foundation for learning to play games and get along with other people and dogs. Actions such as sit, down, stay, & come can be extremely useful when you need to get your puppy's attention. Teaching them these things also helps to establish roles in the relationship.
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    Use a reward method to train your puppy. When trying to let your puppy know that it is behaving appropriately or responding to a given command well, try using a reward method to get your message across to it. Reward your puppy with small treats that are given to them immediately following a good behavior or response to a command. Another form of reward is a gentle pat on the head or rub behind the ear while you say "Good boy" or "Good girl".
    • This attention and positive reinforcement lets your puppy know that when it behaves this way or responds to a command in this way, it will receive a reward.
    • Be firm in your commands and strict with your treat disbursement. Don't just give the puppy treats at random times of the day or it won't learn that it has to work for its treats.
    • Choose healthy treats that are specially formulated for puppies. Don't give it leftover dinner scraps that it may not be able to digest easily.
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    Use a delicate touch when using a disciplining method of training. Disciplining your puppy can be a tricky way of letting them know good from bad behavior. When using a discipline method to train your puppy, you need to discipline it each time it behaves badly, which can be hard to follow through with if you are not watching your puppy all of the time.
    • Although it may not be the best way to train and teach your puppy good behavior, some discipline methods include a light mist from a spray bottle, a quick and sudden noise like a hand clap, or a firm "No". Each of these methods should get the attention of your puppy and distract them from the bad or unwanted behavior they were displaying.[13]

Method 7
Keeping Your Puppy Healthy

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    Follow your veterinarian's set schedule for puppy vaccinations. This will help to ensure your family's and your pup's health and happiness. Puppies should receive a set of four injections every three weeks starting ideally at six weeks of age. It is recommended to wait until after the third set of vaccines before allowing your pup to visit areas where other dogs have been or allowing them to interact with other dogs.
    • Standard puppy vaccines include Distemper, Parvo, and Hepatitis. Your veterinarian may also recommend others depending on a number of factors.
    • A Rabies vaccination should be given once they are 12 weeks or older.
    • Talk to your vet to find out which additional vaccines may be necessary for your puppy.
    • Be sure to take your puppy to the vet at least every six months for check-ups until it is a fully grown dog.[14]
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    Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations when deworming, but a general rule is to deworm monthly. Regular dewormings are important for you and your pup. Some intestinal parasites can be passed to humans, both adults and children, and routine dewormings can help to eliminate this possibility.
    • Also making sure to practice good hygiene yourself by washing your hands after handling your pup can decrease the chances of transmission.
    • Many heartworm preventatives, which are given monthly, are also an effective way to regularly deworm pups.
    • You may also need flea and/or tick preventative depending on the season and where you live.[15]
    • Observe your pups stool regularly, some parasites can be seen there. However, regular fecal checks, done at your regular vet visits, are the only way to detect many parasites.
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    Spay or neuter your puppy. It is important to spay or neuter your puppy, ideally at around six months of age . Delaying the spay or neuter procedure only increases the risk that your puppy may develop unwanted habits, such as marking territory, escaping from your yard or fence in order to search for potential mates, aggression, and others.
    • It's generally a good idea to fix your puppy unless you are sure that you want to breed it at some point.
    • Delay can also lead to increased risk of uterine infections and the development of mammary, testicular, or prostate cancers later on in their life.
    • If you have questions about these procedures or need more information on anything related to your pup, discuss it with your veterinarian during your regular puppy visits.[16]
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    Bathe your puppy regularly. Puppies can get messy and dirty fairly quickly. In general, it's best to bathe them every two weeks or so, as needed. When bathing your puppy, it is beneficial to use a gentle conditioning or moisturizing shampoo specifically designed for puppies. Using a shampoo like this allows you to bathe it as often as needed without worrying about drying out your puppy's skin and hair coat.
    • Bathing your puppy not only prevents it from developing fleas and skin rashes, it also keeps your puppy from smelling badly.
    • If your puppy tends to stay clean the majority of the time, you can bathe them every two weeks or less. The frequency of bathing depends on your preference and your puppy's cleanliness.
    • Remember to go slow when first bathing your pup. This is a new experience for your puppy and you don't want to scare it by dumping water directly on its face or going too fast and causing it to slip in the tub. Sometimes something as simple as a quick foot bath is a nice way to get it used to this process and then gradually bathe more of your puppy each time it is exposed to this situation.
    • For long hair breeds such as a Shih Tzu, Poodle, Maltese, Papillon, and breeds similar to these, try to incorporate a brushing after baths to allow them to become familiar with a tool that will be used on them quite frequently when being groomed either at home or by a professional groomer.[17]
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    Practice good puppy hygiene. Clip your puppy's nails every few weeks to avoid dirt build-up and prevent your puppy from scratching people and things. Take good care of your puppy's teeth by brushing them with a special toothbrush and toothpaste made for dogs. Chew toys formulated with plague-fighting properties can also keep your puppy's teeth and gums healthy.


  • Start training your puppy at a young age. The earlier it begins to learn, the quicker it will develop positive habits.
  • Allow your puppy to get at least six hours of sleep per night.
  • Always play with your puppy to make it happy and don't leave it alone all the time, this will mean you have an uncertain connection to them.


  • Be gentle and patient with your puppy. For example, don't pull hard on your puppy's leash to discipline it.Like all other young animals, puppies must learn from experience and example.
  • Don't feed your puppy scraps from your dinner table. This teaches your puppy bad manners and gives it access to potentially harmful foods.

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Categories: Raising Puppies