A few days ago, I received a text from a friend saying she is the new dog mom of an 8 week old puppy.
My friend was a little stressed because this was her first puppy, and she seemed to have more questions than answers.
After discussing different topics for a few hours, I realized it might be helpful to other new dog moms if I wrote down the top 10 common questions that most new dog moms have.
Before you get your first puppy, it’s important to have some basic essentials ready for their arrival.
If you’re getting an adult dog from the shelter, you will need a collar, leash, food & water bowls, food, treats, toys, and a crate with blankets.
If you’re getting a young puppy, add pee pads, wet food, and puppy friendly toys to the list.
How to Puppy Proof House
When your new dog arrives at their forever home, they will most likely sniff and lick every inch of your house.
Puppies are much like vacuums in the sense that they suck up anything that lands on the floor.
To puppy proof your house, make sure there is no garbage on the floor, including any small strings or pieces that your puppy can potentially swallow.
In addition, make sure to put exposed wires out of reach, or cover them with a wire cover (affiliate link) or duct tape.
Puppies love wires and chewing on them can ruin your electronics as well as electrocute your puppy. So double check to make sure your new puppy will be safe.
What to Feed Your Dog
One of the most common questions I get from new dog moms is about feeding their dog.
If you are getting a puppy, they will most likely need wet food while their teeth are still growing in.
I recommend Merrick’s Grain Free Chicken Recipe Wet Food (affiliate link) until they are about 8 weeks of age.
Once they reach 8 weeks, you can start transitioning to dry food.
It’s important to note that at this point you should be feeding your dog dry puppy kibble and not adult kibble.
Puppy kibble has extra nutrients that are needed for a growing dog.
If your puppy is picky and is having trouble transitioning from dry to wet food, run the dry kibble under warm water and let it soak for 5 mins until it becomes mushy. This should do the trick!
Depending on the breed and size, they will be eating puppy kibble until 12-18 months old. After this time they can switch to adult food.
I recommend Merrick’s Chicken & Sweet Potato kibble for Adult Dogs (affiliate link).
It’s grain free which is good for dogs with stomach & yeast issues, and also does not contain any artificial preservatives.
How to Potty Train
Potty training in my opinion is the only non-fun part about raising a puppy.
But if you are consistent and stick to a schedule, your new dog will catch on sooner rather than later.
For Cali, we trained her using pee pads near the door. At the time we lived in Brooklyn and she was too young to take her out on the contaminated sidewalk.
For Archie, we already had our own backyard so we skipped the pee pads all together and took him right outside 15 mins after each meal.
After using two different methods, Archie was a much faster potty training experience (like, 6 months faster).
I think this may be because Cali was so used to going on the pads, that going potty outside was a foreign concept to her, so we basically had to retrain her to go outside.
With that said, if you plan on taking your puppy outside, make sure they have all of their vaccinations first so they don’t pick up any bacteria that can make them sick.
When they go where you want them to go, give them a big reward and lots of praise. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they catch on!
What Kinds of Toys
New dog moms often ask me what kinds of toys to get for their new puppy.
Most puppies love soft crinkle toys and softer chew toys for when teething pain kicks in.
If you don’t have your puppy yet, start by getting 2-3 different toys to find out what your puppy likes.
As puppies, Archie loved anything that crinkled while Cali was a super chewer from day 1.
In addition, puppies almost always love socks, so once my socks get holes in them I’ll tie them in a knot and give them over to the dogs to play tug of war.
Another way to get your puppy up and moving is to use a snuffle mat.
Snuffle mats are basically mats of felt grass that you can hide your dog’s kibble in for them to sniff out.
This is a great idea for puppies who eat too fast, or get bored quickly during the day.
Snuffle mats work your dog’s nose and brain instead of their jaws, and will tire them out much faster than chewing on a toy would!
What Kinds of Treats
When getting a young puppy, you’ll want soft bite treats on hand while their teeth are still growing in.
Soft treats are also easy to break apart to use throughout training sessions.
Once their teeth grow in, you can move onto the harder treats.
Personally, as an over-the-top dog mom I make all of my dog treats at home to have peace of mind as to what ingredients are in them.
I even made a doggy treat cookbook with all of my dog’s favorite recipes if you’d like to try them for yourself!
Whatever you do, do not give your dog anything rawhide. It is super dangerous and toxic for your dog and can give them irreversible digestive issues later on.
Before you even decide on what breed puppy to get, you should already have checked in advance what kind of grooming and maintenance they will need.
Dogs like labradors and pitbulls need a lot less grooming than a poodle or maltese does, so do your research first.
For grooming in general, you will need to make sure your dog’s fur is clean, their nails are trimmed, and their teeth are brushed.
Depending on your dog’s skin and how dirty they like to get, you will need to bathe them every 4-6 weeks.
I generally give Cali and Archie a bath once a month using a homemade recipe, unless they’re covered in mud or roll in something gross.
In the winter they get bathed less often because their skin gets very dry.
Always use dog shampoo and don’t use human shampoo as it will dry out your dog’s skin.
In addition, I cut my dog’s nails every 3-4 weeks (usually when I hear their nails tapping on the floor I know they’re too long), and brush their teeth once a week.
What to Train
Once you have your new puppy, it is important to start training as soon as possible.
Most puppies can learn their name and respond to it as early as 4-6 weeks of age, and learning their name should be the first thing on the curriculum.
After your puppy has mastered the basics, they can move on to more complicated lessons like walking on a leash and recall.
As for rewarding good behavior, your dog will most likely respond best to treats (like Cali).
But some dogs respond better to their favorite toy or activity (Archie uses tug of war with a specific toy for reinforcement).
So keep an eye out for their preference and you’ll have an easier time with training.
How to Socialize
For new dog moms, early socialization for dogs is critical.
I’ve noticed that dogs that grow up in shelters or are always stuck at home tend to have behavior issues with other dogs.
When you get your puppy involved with other dogs at a young age, they get a chance to learn the body language of other dogs. This helps them learn how to be “politically correct” in the canine world.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should take your puppy and toss them into a group of dogs at the park.
In fact, taking your new puppy to the park is one of the worst ways to socialize them for the first time.
Once your puppy has all of their vaccinations, meet up with a friend that has a dog and have them meet one on one in a neutral space (a place that isn’t either dog’s territory.)
Do this regularly and once your puppy is fully trained for recall, you can bring them to the dog park.
Do not bring your dog to the park if they do not come when called every time.
You never know what kind of dogs are in the park. And if a fight breaks out, you want to be able to call your dog to your side to avoid them getting caught up and traumatized for life.
Fortunately, the earlier you notice these behaviors the easier it is to train the behavior out of them and prevent it from becoming a problem in the future.
The most important thing that I’ve come to find is that you cannot correct a behavior if you do not actually catch them in the act.
For example, if you came home and realized your dog ate their poop while you were out, yelling at them will not help anything.
Dog’s are very in the moment creatures. If you yell at them for something after some time has passed, they have no idea why you’re mad.
However, if you catch them right before they do it, or while they’re doing it, correcting at this time will help your dog connect the dots on what is the right and wrong behavior.
I hope this article helped all of my new dog moms out there.
Getting a puppy for the first time can be a little scary. But by putting in the work now, you are setting yourself up for a beautiful relationship between you and your new bestie for years to come!
What other questions do you have as a new dog mom? Let me know in the comments!