Mental and Physical Development
Introducing Your Puppy to Their New Home Your puppy will want to explore their new home, but they'll also be nervous. Help them out by keeping things calm when they first arrive. Put your other animals away and wait to have your friends come over to see your puppy. Once your puppy has gone to the bathroom outside, let them explore the areas of the house they'll be allowed in, and then give them some food and water.
Fix your puppy a bed next to yours, either in a crate or a box. This is probably the first time they've slept alone, so they'll be scared. Consider giving them a hot water bottle or a special toy that has a beating-heart sound to sleep with. If they cry, comfort them -- even hold them until they fall asleep. Ignoring them can lead to increased fear of being left alone.
You may be tempted to take your puppy out on the town the next day, but be careful. The immunity to some diseases that your puppy received from their mother's milk while nursing has begun to wear off by eight weeks of age. This means there may be a period of vulnerability after the puppy stops nursing and before their first vaccinations. For now, take them only to places where they won't be exposed to other dogs. Avoid high-traffic areas like dog parks until they're a few months older.
What You Should Feed Your Puppy It is important to provide your puppy with a high-quality, complete diet formulated specifically for puppies. Because they are constantly growing, puppies require higher amounts of fats, proteins and certain vitamins and minerals than adult dogs. Puppy food is specifically formulated to meet these needs.
Most commercially produced dog foods are complete and balanced, but they are not all of the same quality. One of the first things to check for is that the primary ingredient (usually the first ingredient listed) is a protein source. The most commonly used are chicken, beef, lamb, fish and some plant ingredients such as corn gluten.
If you have a large or giant breed puppy, you should provide a puppy food made specifically for these breeds. Diets for these breeds typically restrict certain ingredients to make sure the puppy doesn't grow too fast, as rapid growth or excess intake of certain nutrients can lead to developmental or orthopedic problems.
Your veterinarian can assist you in choosing a food that is right for your puppy.
Health and Veterinary Care
First Vaccinations Eight-week-old puppies from shelters or breeders may have already received their initial vaccinations. If they haven't, you will need to arrange for their first shots with a veterinarian. First shots -- usually a five-vaccine combination of adenovirus cough, hepatitis, distemper, parainfluenza and parvovirus -- are usually given between six and nine weeks of age.
The timing of a puppy's first vaccinations is important -- too soon and antibodies from the puppy's mother's milk could prevent the vaccines from taking effect, too late and the puppy could be unnecessarily vulnerable to disease.
Although veterinarians differ in their opinions on vaccination regimens, most prefer an approach in which the first vaccinations are given between six and nine weeks. An optional kennel cough vaccine may be included at this time. The leptospirosis vaccine is not recommended until 12 weeks, and is not required. These initial vaccines are repeated -- and additional vaccines such as rabies may be added -- at 12 to 15 weeks.
See Petside's vaccination timeline for a full list of shots.
Teething Puppies, like children, go through a teething phase. They are born without teeth, and begin growing sharp baby teeth at three to four weeks of age. By eight weeks, your puppy should have all 28 of their baby teeth.
Once your puppy's baby teeth start to come in, they will seek something on which to chew to alleviate the accompanying pain and discomfort. Giving your puppy the appropriate high-quality chew toys or chew treats, such as a frozen rope toy or a rawhide chew toy, will satisfy this need and keep them from chewing up household items.
At eight weeks old, your puppy is ready to begin housebreaking. If your puppy is on a regular feeding and sleeping schedule, they will likely be housebroken in no time. Plenty of positive reinforcement and a little patience are the only tools you will need.
Although puppies need to go to the bathroom frequently, the most pressing times are after they eat, play and wake up. Take your puppy outside immediately after meals, play times and naps. Every time the puppy goes to the bathroom outside, give an immediate reward of praise and petting.
Try to recognize when your puppy needs to go to the bathroom -- watch for signals such as turning in circles -- so you can take them outside before they have an accident. The more times you reinforce this behavior and reward it with praise, the sooner the puppy will learn.