Caring for your first puppy

Nov 28, 2021 11:10:13 PM

There’s no feeling quite like the excitement of getting your first puppy. To make sure they have the very best start with you, you’ll need to prepare for their arrival, covering off a few essentials: play, food, sleep, house training, medical care, exercising and socialising.

Your equipment list

You’ll know from visiting the local pet shop that the opportunities to buy things for your puppy are plentiful and, arguably, excessive! Puppy prosecco anyone? We’ve listed the basics here and will leave you to ponder the rest as you prefer. There is quite a lot to think about and even the highly sensible Kennel Club details a long list of ‘must-haves’.

  • 2 small bowls – one for water and one for food. Heavy based bowls are best. Choose based on the size your puppy is now and you can upgrade to a larger one when they have grown. There are some great bowls that invert at the top to stop floppy ears getting wet – ideal for spaniels.
  • Bedding – a soft washable blanket or vetbed is perfect. A plastic dog bed is the most practical and durable but not always the prettiest! Most puppies go through a chewing phase so we’d recommend saving any intended investment in a luxury bed until they’re older.
  • Optional: dog crate – these are still quite controversial. Some people swear by them and others won’t entertain them.

Use your judgement and maybe start with one when they are very young (buy based on their adult size if you plan to use it longer term). An open-door crate covered in a blanket with soft bedding to lie on makes a very acceptable den for your puppy and gives them somewhere quiet to retreat to. You can tie toys to the far end to encourage them to go in.

A crate can signal bedtime to your puppy which is helpful. And you may like to have your puppy near you in the first few days which makes their ‘bedroom’ quite portable for when you choose to move them into their own space at night at a later stage.

You can also crate them when you’re out if you want to restrict access to your soft furnishings but limit their daytime confinement to a couple of hours. They’re useful in the car for travelling too. Soft material crates are lovely for a very small puppy but they don’t last long if your dog likes to chew.

  • Collar, name tag and lead – buy a size that’s suitable for now with a little growing room – small enough not to slip over the dog’s head but with enough room for two fingers to go underneath it. You’ll need to buy a second set once your dog is grown.

“You are required by law to inscribe the name and address of the owner on your dog's collar tag. You must comply with this, even if it is microchipped, and you can be fined up to £5,000 if you do not. You may also want to put your telephone numbers on the tag, but you do not need to put your dog's name on it.” [The Kennel Club].

  • Toys – these aren’t just a frivolity. Toys are vital for play, chewing and stimulation. Having a variety is a good idea - rope, ball, cuddly, squeaky - you’ll quickly see which ones they prefer. Remember to bring them inside at night if they find their way outdoors so they stay in good condition. Floor level storage is a good way to keep them tidy and will allow your puppy easy access. Good old ball throwing never goes out of fashion although some breeds are resistant to ‘fetch’.

The first few days

When a new puppy leaves their mum and siblings it’s likely that they are going to feel strange and a little bewildered. That’s why it’s important that the first few days are calm and quiet. For this reason it’s a good idea to minimise visitors at first. Allocate a manageable area for your puppy to call home and extend this area outwards as they grow in confidence. This might be a small room (utility room for example) or part of a larger room. You can create smaller spaces through the use of a flexible playpen. We’d recommend this area has a washable floor if possible.

Visit the vet

Sign up with a recommended, local vet and continue the care started by your breeder. You’ll most likely have a set of vaccinations to complete along with any other care prescribed. Most vets offer a scheme that will get your pet on an annual care plan for top up vaccinations and check-ups. Microchipping is invaluable, takes a second and compulsory by law for all dogs in the UK.


A young puppy will sleep an astonishing amount of time, anywhere between 18 and 20 hours a day, so having somewhere they know is safe and quiet is very comforting. Gently put them in this space whenever they fall asleep, so they associate it with bedtime. You’ll be amazed at how these tiny bundles of energy suddenly run out of steam and hit the floor, falling asleep almost instantly!

Successfully sleeping through the night will vary from puppy to puppy. Some adapt quite quickly whilst others can take a little longer. It’s completely usual for a few broken nights at first as your pet gets used to its new way of life. The general advice is to ignore night-time cries but that is entirely your choice - some of us can and some of us can’t.

Putting them off in a cosy environment with a couple of cuddly toys is a good way to help them feel secure.

Toilet training

This is the big one. Some dogs are super quick, overnight even, while others can take months. The trick is patience and devoting some time to it. They nearly always need the toilet straight after waking, drinking and eating. Pop them outside regularly and before bed.

Inside, watch out for them ‘circling’, looking for a good spot to go, and catch them in time to get them outside to a regular toilet place in your garden. For this reason, a puppy’s daytime base near a door, on washable floors, is always a good idea.

Some people use absorbent puppy mats with some success but they can also confuse a puppy into thinking that is where you’d like them to go. We’d suggest using one at night, by the back door, as a back-up.

And, as with all good puppy behaviour, praise them enthusiastically whenever they get it right, regardless of how silly you might sound.

Feeding your puppy

It’s likely that you will want to choose your own puppy food so if you are changing brand from your breeder’s choice introduce it slowly so you minimise the chance of an upset stomach.

Puppies have specially formulated food so choose with care and opt for something that is well balanced and provides all of its dietary requirements. Trophy’s puppy food is perfectly sized, created to aid puppy digestion and, of course, is tasty and nutritious. We make grain-free, high protein products with fruit and vegetables which are excellent for bone development and growth. View Trophy's puppy range on the website for more information.

You’ll be feeding them 3-4 times a day so try and create a routine and remember to take them outside afterwards. Always provide fresh drinking water although don’t be surprised if your puppy gets in it on a regular basis!

Exercise and socialising

As soon as your puppy has had the all clear from the vets and is fully vaccinated you can start the wonderful part of dog ownership – walkies! Arm yourself with training treats and poo bags and find a suitable walk that offers a mix of pavement and grassy areas. You’ll need to be patient and gradually increase the amount of time they go out for until they are a lot older.

Only let them off the lead in a safe, enclosed space. If you don’t have anywhere suitable there are several schemes where you can hire a field to safely let your dog roam off lead. These can be found at a variety of websites including and

Introduce your puppy to other dogs slowly and carefully – being aware that not all dogs are friendly. There are usually puppy clubs and other informal groups that meet up to share the puppy experience and get their dogs used to others in a safe setting. You can look out for those online via Facebook and other social media platforms. Start puppy training classes and you’ll find a whole new community out there.

Enjoy your puppy

You’ll come across lots of enthusiastic dog owners, all with different experiences (a bit like parents and children) so you might come across contradictory advice. Read, listen and do your research but ultimately he’s your puppy so don’t worry about doing things your way if it works for you both.

Specific breed knowledge is really important. Read up on your chosen breed and ask your breeder absolutely anything. A good breeder will welcome the interrogation.

Lastly and most importantly, breathe in the smell, take lots of photos and videos, enjoy the cuddles and embrace this special time of bonding. It can be daunting, frustrating and overwhelming at times but there are lots of resources and places you can ask for help.



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