Your Puppy’s First Year
Getting a new puppy is an exciting adventure! The first year is a formative time, full of changes and
exciting milestones. In this time you’ll get to know each other, establish routines, and teach your pup
what behaviors are expected of them. Include your entire family in this process to help establish trust
and appropriate treatment for with adults, kids and your pup.
The first year involves a series of huge learning curves for you and your pup. Together, you’ll conquer
basic commands, potty training, and work through growth spurts and other huge changes! A puppy has
a lot in common with a baby…there’s a reason you might consider yourself a pet parent! With a puppy,
you get to experience the joy of starting with a blank slate as your puppy’s path in life is established
based on your ability to properly socialize, train, and love them.
Stages of the First Year
Birth – 8 weeks
Most likely, you won’t meet your pup until nearly 8 weeks of age, or possibly later. For the first few
weeks of life, puppies are nurtured by their mother and develop early socialization skills through
interactions with their siblings and the breeder. It is important that puppies feel safe from the beginning
as this encourages the pup to see the world as fun and exciting, not scary and overwhelming. This is why
caring, ethical breeders are so important!
8 weeks – 4 months
For the first few months of life, a puppy is like a toddler. They’re unsteady on their feet, rambunctious,
curious, easily exhausted, distractable…and adorable!
Introduce training early, reinforce what they are learning constantly, and remain consistent. Positive
training methods provide the best results, so lead with enthusiasm and treats instead of frustration and
disapproval. Being potty trained immediately, introducing the appropriate location for elimination.
Basic commands like “come” and “stay” are essential tools that can keep your pup safe in unfamiliar
situations. Help your puppy get accustomed to handling their feet, mouth, and ears right away so they
are prepared for grooming and bathing needs as they arise. Establish these habits early and your pup
will adopt the behaviors much more readily.
Schedule first vet appointment and begin the recommended vaccination program within the first couple
of weeks after bringing your puppy home. Consider microchipping your pup, and remember to ask your
vet about specific questions about your pup based on their breed and individual needs. Begin socializing
your puppy and allowing them to meet other dogs once they have received the necessary vaccinations.
Crate training from the beginning gives your pup their own safe space. This can help with confidence
when they’re alone and help them avoid separation anxiety. Leave your pup alone for very brief periods
at this age to instill confidence that you will return, and accustom them to spending some time on their
Teething begins in earnest at this stage! Your pup will be very interested in chewing to relieve the
irritation and itching of their gums, so provide chew toys and be vigilant to avoid damage to your home.
Help them avoid chewing on inappropriate items by keeping things up and away from their teeth.
Preparation will save you so many headaches!
Puppies can experience a stage of fearfulness around 4 months. Support them with positive
reinforcement and encouragement, and this period should pass quickly as they gain confidence.
Continue to focus on training – a puppy class or basic obedience course can be incredibly helpful! Your
pup will gain a better sense of their place in the household during these months. They may try to push
boundaries to see what they’re able to get away with! Remain firm with your potty training standards
and behavioral expectations, continuing to use positive reinforcement instead of negative
If you plan to spay or neuter your pup, this is likely when your vet will recommend doing the procedure.
Females can get pregnant after their first heat which will likely occur around 6 months of age, so don’t
delay unless it is specifically recommended by your veterinarian for medical reasons.
Continue to be vigilant about chewing! New teeth are coming in, baby teeth are being replaced, and
your pup will need to chew. Be prepared with plenty of chew toys and continue keeping vulnerable
items out of reach as much as possible.
Your puppy will begin to settle into their adult temperament and energy levels somewhat after the first
year, but expect the puppy goofiness to remain for quite a while! Smaller breeds tend to mature more
rapidly, while large breeds take more time to settle in adulthood.
Challenge your pup with new training techniques now that they’ve mastered the basics! Find what you
and your pup love, and find activities that you can enjoy together! This may include hikes, running, scent
training, agility, and advanced obedience skills. Maintain clear expectations and boundaries – you and
your pup have worked hard this year, so keep up the good work and you will be rewarded with a well-adjusted, confident, trustworthy adult dog.
Download Your Free eBook Guide
Our ebook provides a detailed checklist to guide you through the first year with your puppy. For
additional support and timely tips, sign up for newsletter, and remember we
are always here to help. We would love to hear updates about your pup as they grow!