New puppy parents: What to expect in the first 12 months!
Are you about to become a new puppy paw-rent? Is this your first puppy ever and you’re feeling a mixture of excitement and nerves? (Don’t forget to take a look at our new puppy checklist of things to buy!) Or maybe it’s your second or third (or even fourth puppy!) and you’re looking for a quick refresher on what to expect?
Firstly, congratulations on your new puppy and welcome to puppy paw-renthood! This is an incredibly exciting time for you, your family, as well as your puppy, and there will no doubt be a lot of cuddles and loving ahead! There can, however, also be a number of challenges as you and your puppy grow and learn, so here is a guide to help prepare you through those first 12 months of life and be the best paw-rent that you can be!
Week 1-2: When your puppy is born, they are blind and deaf (with eyes and ears sealed shut) and are experiencing this big exciting world through smell and touch only. They will be completely dependent on their mum and will be spending a lot of time nursing, sleeping and being cute. If you have chosen a reputable breeder, they will hopefully start sending you photo updates of your puppy so this is the perfect time to start a photo album! Like the saying goes, time flies! There is nothing more heartwarming than being able to look back and see how much your puppy has grown and have a record of all their major milestones.
Week 3: Your puppy’s eyes and ears are open! They will start to respond to the world a little more, but will still be sticking close to mum. Their sight is limited for now, but as adult dogs, they will be able to see colours (just not the same spectrum as us humans) and will also be able to see very well in the dark (better than us humans).
Week 4: Your puppy will be walking now but they will still spend most of their time with mum. They will be playing more with their littermates and learning a lot about the world.
Week 5-7: Your puppy will be developing their social skills and physical coordination from playing with their littermates and exploring and expanding their world. Their 28 puppy teeth will also have started coming through so your puppy will be ready to start weaning off milk and transition to eating soft puppy solid food instead.
Week 8: At around this age, your puppy will be ready to go home with you! Right now, your puppy is still too young and their immune system isn’t strong enough to allow them to step foot on the ground outside or go to the dog park. This will also be the perfect time to take them to the vet for their first visit and 1st puppy vaccination (if they haven’t received it yet) and intestinal worming preventative (every 2 weeks until 3 months of age)! At My Vet Animal Hospital, our first puppy consults are 45 minutes long with a thorough introduction to puppy care 101 (vaccinations, flea and worming/parasite prevention, diet, microchipping, puppy school, dental care, ear and skin care, desexing, insurance, etc.)! If your puppy is a boy, hopefully both testicles will have dropped by now. Some puppies can take a little longer but if they haven’t descended by 6 months of age, then your puppy likely has cryptorchidism and will require a slightly more complicated surgery to remove the testicles than the usual desexing procedure.
Week 9: Now that your puppy is home, they are undergoing a critical socialisation period. It is important to immediately start desensitising and conditioning them (e.g. vacuum cleaner, loud music, etc.). Start playing with your puppy’s ears, face, teeth and feet regularly. This will make your life easier in future when you need to start cleaning your puppy’s ears, brushing their teeth, and clipping their nails. Start toilet training them with positive reinforcement. Generally speaking, your puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age (e.g. 3-month-old puppy can hold it for 3 hours).
Week 10: Your puppy is due for their 2nd puppy vaccination and intestinal worming preventative! At My Vet Animal Hospital, we want only the best and latest protocols for your puppy and so we have developed our puppy vaccination schedule (vaccinations at 8, 10, 12 and 16-24 weeks) based on industry standards and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines. Since we use only the very best of vaccines which have been licensed for a 10-week finish, your puppy is allowed to go outside and visit other dogs at the park, just one week after their 2nd puppy vaccination (instead of waiting until 13 weeks of age in the previous protocol of vaccinations at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age, or until 17 weeks of age in vaccines with a 16-week finish).
Week 11: There are enormous benefits in having your puppy go outside at 11 weeks of age. The first 12-16 weeks of a puppy’s life is their critical socialisation period and will shape your puppy’s personality and how they will react to their environment, people and other animals as an adult. Our vaccination protocol allows you to maximise this critical socialisation period, ensuring the proper behavioural development of your puppy. Your puppy is also old enough to attend puppy school where they will learn valuable socialisation skills with other puppies and humans, as well as good house manners and basic obedience skills. Don’t forget that “first day at school” photo in your puppy’s photo album! At My Vet Animal Hospital, we offer structured puppy preschool classes conducted by an accredited Delta dog trainer, Kimbra Doran.
Week 12 (3 months): Your puppy is due for their 3rd puppy vaccination and intestinal worming preventative! Don’t forget about your puppy’s other parasite preventatives! If you are using separate products to cover for fleas, ticks and heartworm, double check the label/packaging to confirm just how frequently you should be administering it to ensure your puppy is fully protected. Different products have different frequencies (e.g. monthly vs. 3-monthly) and make sure you are giving the right dose for your puppy’s weight range!
Month 4 – 5
Watch out for your puppy’s sharp nibbles! Hide away your shoes and stow away any electrical cords or cables out of reach, because your puppy’s baby teeth will start falling out, and they will want to chew on everything! Provide your puppy with safe chews such as pigs and lambs ears instead. Always avoid chews that are too hard such as raw bones and deer antlers as they can fracture your puppy’s teeth. If your vet has identified any malocclusions early in your puppy, where the teeth of their upper and lower jaw do not align perfectly, you may want to monitor your puppy’s baby teeth and where their adult teeth erupt. In mild cases, your puppy may benefit from some ball therapy, where the action of chewing on a durable rubber can help push any teeth that are leaning too far into the mouth outwards to a more appropriate position. Your puppy is also now due for their final 4th puppy vaccination between 16-24 weeks of age. They are now due for a worming preventative every month until 6 months of age.
For most breeds, your puppy will be old enough and big enough for their desexing procedure at around 6 months of age. All of your puppy’s baby teeth should have fallen out by now, but if they have any retained baby teeth (often the canines), they may need to be extracted to prevent malocclusions. At My Vet Animal Hospital, we offer a free pre-desexing check (looking for retained baby teeth, hernias, undescended testicles and dew claws) to help find the best time to desex – the period of time between when their baby teeth should have all fallen out and before their first heat cycle (in girls). The benefit of a pre-desexing check means that if your puppy has been identified as having retained baby teeth, they can be removed at the same time as their desexing under just the one procedure.
If you are not planning to desex, and your puppy is a small breed girl, she will likely have her first heat around 6 months of age (sometimes even earlier in smaller breeds, or later in larger breeds). You may notice some red or straw-coloured discharge from a swollen vulva, excessive licking of the genital area, increased urination, and more agitated or aggressive behaviour.
Your puppy should now have a fresh set of 42 permanent adult teeth and this is the perfect time to start their dental care at home – nothing beats brushing their teeth with doggy toothpaste daily! At My Vet Animal Hospital, we also offer free dental checks to help you keep on track with looking after your puppy’s teeth.
Depending on the size of your puppy, smaller breed dogs are now ready to transition from puppy food to adult food. However medium-to-large sized breeds that are still growing, may benefit from staying on their puppy food for a little longer until 1 year of age or older. Always check with your vet to see when is the best time to transition your puppy onto an adult diet. If your puppy is ready for adult food and they have no existing conditions that restrict their diet, at My Vet Animal Hospital, we recommend Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d (dental care) Canine as they have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) registered seal for controlling plaque and tartar on your puppy’s adult teeth.
Your puppy is growing up, is a bit more rambunctious and becoming a more independent adolescent! They may push their boundaries, have a short attention span, and challenge your authority, just like a human teenager. Adolescence can be a frustrating time, but don’t worry, it won’t last forever! It is important to continue with your routine (e.g. dental care at home, obedience and training) and maintain any training or socialisation skills. Your puppy may benefit from a few follow-up puppy school classes with a trainer to polish up some skills, tidy up any poor house manners or break any bad habits.
Your puppy is 1 year old now! Well done on raising your wonderful fur child and navigating all the ups and downs in the last 12 months. You will no doubt have made plenty of fond memories already, with many more to come, so don’t forget to snap a photo, capture the moment and maybe even throw your puppy a birthday party!
Introducing a new puppy to your life can be both rewarding and challenging! At My Vet Animal Hospital, we are here to help you navigate this journey from puppy to adulthood, so feel free to give us a call on (02) 8484 2020 or pop by with your newest furry family member!