Welcoming a new puppy into your home is an exciting journey filled with cuddles, playful moments, and a few challenges along the way. The first year of your puppy’s life is a critical period for their development, health, and socialization, so prepare yourself for the wonderful adventure ahead. Your puppy needs your guidance to build their confidence and learn what is expected of them, which takes time, consistency, and commitment. To learn how to help your new furry family member become a healthy, well-behaved, confident dog, our team at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers has put together this comprehensive guide to supporting your puppy through their first year. 

Schedule a puppy wellness visit

Ensure your new family member is off to a happy, healthy start by scheduling their first puppy wellness exam. The first year of your pet’s life is a critical developmental period, and the care and vaccinations they receive set the foundation for their long and happy life. During these early visits, your veterinarian will become acquainted with your pet on a personal level, establish their health and temperament baseline, and create your puppy’s custom health plan as they grow. Puppies should have three to four wellness exams between 8 and 16 weeks of age. Your puppy’s first-year veterinary care includes:

  • Vaccinations — During their first year of life, your puppy’s immune system is developing, and our team recommends they receive a series of properly staged vaccines. Because your puppy is unique, we tailor our vaccination recommendations based on their lifestyle, breed, and suggested medical guidelines.
  • Diagnostic testing — We test puppies for heartworm disease. 
  • Pet care planning — Our veterinary team can answer your pet care questions and help you navigate important topics such as spaying or neutering, parasite control, training, and nutrition.

Spay or neuter your puppy

Once your puppy has received all their vaccinations, the next health milestone is to schedule their spay or neuter procedure, which is typically performed when they are between 6 and 12 months of age. Your Neighborhood Veterinary Centers veterinarian will discuss the best plan based on your puppy’s lifestyle, behavior, and health needs. Spay or neuter benefits include:

  • Decreased testicular and mammary cancer risk
  • Less desire to roam and mark territory
  • Decreased aggression

Start socializing your puppy at an early age

Early age socialization is one of the most important concepts for understanding puppy raising. Proper socialization involves safely acclimating your young pet to many animals, people, sounds, smells, and environments. The more varied your pet’s experiences early in life, the more likely they are to become a well-adjusted and well-behaved adult dog—but the timing is crucial. The first three months of your puppy’s life are the optimal socialization period, when their experiences are crucial for their development and world outlook. These months, when your puppy’s desire to be social outweighs their fear, are the perfect time to introduce them to their world. If their socialization begins after this optimal period, they are likely to respond fearfully and apprehensively in unfamiliar circumstances. Begin by socializing your puppy at home with your family, and then explore new outdoor environments as soon as they have received their first vaccination series. Take advantage of this socialization window to help your puppy grow into a confident, well-mannered, happy adult dog. 

Feed your puppy nutritious food

Puppies need specific nutritional requirements to grow appropriately, and you should feed them a well-balanced diet specifically formulated for puppies. In addition, large- and giant-breed puppies can acquire developmental disorders, such as hip dysplasia, if they grow too quickly. Our team can advise you on your puppy’s diet to ensure they receive adequate nutrition.

Train your puppy consistently 

Training helps your puppy learn expected behaviors and fosters a strong bond with you, enhancing trust, instilling confidence, and improving communication. After your puppy receives their first vaccinations, register for puppy classes, where they can learn invaluable life skills such as commands that include come and stay, and loose-leash walking. Reputable puppy trainers can also help you navigate common puppy behavioral issues such as housebreaking, nipping, jumping, and chewing. To ensure you are comfortable with a trainer’s methods and techniques, observe a class without your puppy before registering.

Your puppy’s first year is important, and we are here to ensure your new pet lives a long, healthy life. Schedule your puppy’s wellness visits with our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team to set your new puppy off on the right paw.