As experts in all things puppy and kitten, our Dr. Treat veterinary team members explain how to weed through conflicting advice from the internet, family, or friends. Follow our comprehensive guide to welcoming a new pet.
You’ll need to prepare your home, pick out food, buy supplies, meet with trainers, find a socialization class, and plan for veterinary visits. As experts in all things puppy and kitten, our Dr. Treat veterinary team members explain how to weed through conflicting advice from the internet, family, or friends. Follow our comprehensive guide to welcoming a new pet.
“Puppies and kittens learn important social and play skills from their mom and littermates, so they should stay with them until 8 weeks of age.”
Prepare your home for a new pet
Preparing your home and buying essential supplies before your new pet moves in ensures they can adjust safely to their environment, and safeguards your home and belongings. Ensure you have these essentials:
Once you’ve gathered supplies, you can prepare your pet’s new space. When they first arrive, confine your puppy or kitten to a small space, and gradually allow them more freedom as they mature and learn the house rules. Use gates, fences, or doors to confine your new pet to one or two uncarpeted rooms, and supervise them closely in this area. Consider putting your pet in a baby playpen, and include water, toys, bedding, and a potty pad or litter box, which can be a safe place for a puppy or kitten to play unsupervised for a short time. Puppies need a crate with comfy, chew-proof bedding to aid in house training and simply for a quiet place to rest.
Puppy- and kitten-proof your home
Assess the space your pet will be allowed, and get on their level—on your hands and knees—to determine what items might attract them, remove valuables, pick up discarded or unnecessary items from the floor, and hide or cover electrical cords. Put up wall corner guards and door kick plates to prevent your pet from chewing and scratching these household structures. Use childproof locks to secure drawers and cabinets, but remove hazardous contents in case your pet breaks the lock. Advise your children to keep their own toys stowed away, as most pets find these items irresistible.
Choose the proper food and nutrition for your pet
Good nutrition is essential for a pet’s proper growth and development, and the right food can prevent health issues down the line. Large-breed puppies need food appropriate for large or giant breeds, which has the proper mineral and nutrient balance for bone and cartilage health. Other puppies and kittens need species-appropriate food for young pets’ growth, or for all life stages. Your Dr. Treat veterinarian can recommend appropriate, high-quality pet food.
Get a head start on pet training
Proper training ensures your pet develops good manners, helps avoid behavior problems, keeps your four-legged friend engaged, and helps them live harmoniously with other household members. Training should begin from day one and continue each day thereafter. To head off common pet behavior problems, consider hiring a trainer for a few personal sessions or taking a pet training class that teaches puppy or kitten owners proper positive reinforcement techniques.
If you must wait to meet with a trainer after bringing home your new pet, you can still begin with some initial training. Until professional training is initiated, start with these household pet training basics:
Set up your pet for potty-training success
Frequent trips outside and proper confinement are keys to puppy potty training. Take your puppy outside first thing in the morning, after feeding, after play, every few hours during the day, immediately before going to sleep, and once or twice during the night. Bring treats, and reward your pet immediately after they go (positive reinforcement)—do not wait until you come back inside. To encourage cleanliness overnight and while you are out of the house, keep your puppy in a crate just large enough for their body size. You can use a crate divider to create a smaller, cozier space if your puppy’s crate is too spacious.
If you catch your puppy relieving themself inappropriately inside the house, calmly interrupt and take them outside to finish. Never punish your puppy or rub their face in it, because they do not understand why you are upset. Yelling and punishing only upset your puppy, diminishing their confidence, and creating anxiety toward humans who—from their perspective—unpredictably blow up.
Socialize your new pet
During a time when a young pet is most receptive and least fearful, socialization exposes them to new people, places, things, and situations. Kitten socialization should take place at 3 through 9 weeks of age. Puppy socialization should begin at 14 weeks of age and continue thereafter. Introduce your puppy or kitten to various people, children, objects, sounds, surfaces, textures, water, and situations during this time. Keep interactions positive, and allow your pet to set their own pace if they become apprehensive.
Puppies and kittens learn important social and play skills from their mom and littermates, so they should stay with them until 8 weeks of age. Once your young pet moves in with you, join a puppy or kitten class as soon as your Dr. Treat veterinarian gives you the OK. Learn to play puppy or kitten socialization bingo, and find more helpful new pet information here.
Your pet’s Dr. Treat One™ membership gives you unlimited in-person visits with no exam fees ever. You also have access to our virtual care team, which is available 24/7 to address any of your new pet questions or concerns. To experience our unique approach to pet health and give your new pal the best possible start in life, join via our Dr. Treat website or app.