Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time, full of puppy snuggles, entertaining antics, and sloppy kisses. Your puppy’s first year is their most important, and is full of important milestones that will shape their personality and ensure their place as your trusted sidekick. Your puppy will not grow into a healthy, well-mannered adult dog on their own, however, and will need your help. Let’s listen to Bingo, a fortunate, 1-year-old beagle adopted by a family who knows all about raising healthy, happy dogs, as he shares the highlights of his first year. 

Veterinary care for your puppy

My family brought me home when I was a tiny, 8-week-old ball of floof. I was surprised when they took me to Palmer Veterinary Clinic right away, but the doctors and staff at Palmer Vet explained the importance of me receiving a full puppy vaccine series  to build my immune system. Thanks to their communication, I can now explore to my heart’s desire without catching dangerous diseases. 

Your new puppy should visit us during their first week after adoption or purchase so we can perform a thorough physical exam to ensure they are healthy and free from early developmental problems. Ideally, your puppy should receive their first vaccines at 6 to 8 weeks old, and boosters every three weeks until they are older than 16 weeks. Although infectious diseases are not such a threat in Alaska as the lower 48 states, you never know what your puppy may encounter, especially if they will travel with you. Each puppy will have an individualized vaccine plan developed based on their lifestyle plans (e.g., hunting, hiking companion, traveling, pet companion, etc). We do not offer puppy packages because we believe in discussing what is best for your puppy, rather than providing a package of vaccines and treatments your pet may not need. Additionally, to be safe, you should not take your puppy outside your yard, or let them explore where wildlife roams, until their vaccines are completed. Your pup will also receive a deworming medication to eliminate parasitic worms passed on by their mother. After deworming, we will check a fresh stool sample to ensure all of the parasitic worms have been eliminated.

Puppy-proofing your home

As a young puppy, I chewed on everything I could get my paws on—it felt so good on my new teeth. One day, I was gnawing on a rubbery cord and felt a little jolt. I yelped, and my mom ran over to find that I had chewed through to the wire, and was lucky I didn’t suffer severe burns or electrocution rather than only a little shock. Now, the electrical cords are all tucked away where I can’t get to themnot that I would chew on another one, because one scare like that is enough for me. 

Puppies explore the world with their mouths, and can easily get themselves into trouble. Injuries, toxicity, and intestinal foreign bodies are common in curious puppies, so you must puppy-proof your home to keep these dangers out of reach: 

  • Toxic foods — Many human foods, including garlic, onions, chocolate, grapes, raisins, and macadamia nuts, are dangerous to pets, and should never be shared. Don’t forget to secure your trash in a covered can—inside your home, and out—so your pup cannot go dumpster diving. 
  • Small toys — Small items eaten off the floor are notorious for becoming lodged in the intestinal tract, and forming a life-threatening obstruction. Keep all toys and small items  off the floor, secured in a pet-proof toy box.
  • Electrical cords — As Bingo shared, puppies can be severely burned or electrocuted by chewing an exposed electrical cord. Keep all cords tucked safely out of paws’ reach, and supervise your puppy at all times.
  • Toxic plants — Some puppies will eat almost anything, including indoor and outdoor plants. Toxic varieties can cause illness ranging from mild irritation to life-threatening kidney failure, so check the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s toxic and non-toxic plant guide to learn which species you should not plant in your flower beds.
  • Bones and antlers — Puppies can damage or fracture their teeth by chewing on hard substances, such as bones or antlers. If your puppy is able to ingest part of a bone, they may develop gastrointestinal upset or an intestinal blockage. Never give your puppy—or adult dog—bones or antlers, whether cooked or raw.

Socializing your puppy

I  love to meet new people and head out on fun adventures with my family. I have a few doggo friends who seem to be afraid of everything, and bark like mad at people and other dogs they don’t know. I don’t understand why—meeting people is fun, plus I usually get yummy treats when we do something new.

Bingo’s family obviously knows that exposing their puppy to as many novel people, places, and experiences as possible is an important part of their development. A puppy’s critical socialization period occurs between 3 and 14 weeks of age, when they form long-lasting impressions of their environment. Help your puppy understand they do not need to fear new people, noises, places, and other animals by pairing each new experience with a treat and praise. Unfortunately, your puppy’s critical socialization period coincides with their puppy vaccination schedule, so you will need to provide socialization opportunities close to home until they are fully protected. Ensure other dogs your puppy interacts with are up-to-date with vaccines within the past 3 years. Enrolling your puppy in a puppy playtime or obedience class is another great way to aid in socialization—call us for recommendations.  

Spaying or neutering your puppy

When I was about 6 months old, I took a special trip to see my friends at Palmer Veterinary Clinic. I was treated like royalty, and everyone gave me extra attention and snuggles. I settled into my cage, took a long nap, and woke up feeling a little groggy. When my mom picked me up, I heard her talk with the Palmer Vet Clinic staff about an incision, and I had to wear a weird plastic cone around my head that made me bump into things.

Having your puppy spayed or neutered reduces the stray pet population, and prevents future health problems, such as mammary cancer and uterine infections in females, and testicular cancer and prostate enlargement in males. Most small and medium-size breeds can be spayed or neutered around 6 months old, but larger breeds should wait until they are fully grown. Our Palmer Veterinary Clinic team is happy to discuss your goals for your puppy, including the best time for your pup’s procedure. We want to provide the most up-to-date information, according to your puppy’s lifestyle, to provide the best possible life for them as they grow into adulthood.  

We can’t wait to meet your new family member—call us to schedule your pup’s first appointment so we can talk about getting them started off right for a lifetime of health and happiness.