Guide For The First Time Puppy Owner

Thinking of getting a puppy? Or, maybe you have recently bought, rescued, adopted, or inherited one. Congratulations on your new family member!

However, aside from the joy and excitement a sweet baby dog brings, you’re probably experiencing some trepidation about your new friend - especially if you’ve never owned a dog before. Puppies are a big responsibility, and it's easy to get overwhelmed with information, but let's take it slow…

A puppy

Before They Get Home…

Before your new puppy walks in the door, there are some things that you’re going to want to set up first.

Puppy Proofing

Even as a first-time puppy owner you probably know that puppies chew EVERYTHING. A new puppy is also going to be curious about their environment and want to explore around. You can puppy-proof your home by:

  • Designating a ‘puppy area’ where you can safely leave them for a short while if need be
  • Unplugging or tucking away any electrical cords or plugs
  • Removing any toxic chemicals and medicine containers that they might be able to find and chew (This may even involve child-proof locks for some precocious pups)
  • Removing toxic houseplants from your home and garden (e.g. lilies, tulips, rhododendrons, aloes, etc.[1])
  • Secure trash cans and wastepaper baskets. Puppies can easily smell out leftover food
  • Clear away any small or break-downable items that could be a choking hazard
  • Keep doors and windows closed
  • Make sure the puppy can’t access open water sources such as pools or ponds

Some of this may involve more extreme measures, such as getting a puppy gate or adding locks to areas you don’t want the puppy to get into. Supervise your new puppy as much as you can while they’re learning the house and rules.

Getting Supplies

Once you have decided where your new puppy will be spending most of their time, you’re going to need some supplies.


A puppy needs to chew more than an adult dog, both for recreation and teething. Puppy owners should make sure that there are some safe, not-too-easily destroyed toys around for them to play with.

Most toys will specify if they're for puppies, but as a rule of thumb avoid anything that could be easily torn up, such as tennis balls, or ingested, such as toys with small squeakers or parts.


A new puppy owner kissing its puppy


A Crate and a Bed

A first-time puppy owner may worry about leaving their new puppy in a crate, it might even seem cruel to some, but crates aren’t for punishment. A puppy crate can help calm anxious dogs and help them to feel secure. A puppy will probably cry at first from being separated, but slow and gentle training will pay off in the long run.

A comfortable bed that a new puppy knows is ‘their spot’ will help them to relax at night and ward off separation anxiety.

Grooming Gear

Most puppies probably don't need grooming if they're very young, but getting them used to the sensation of brushing, trimming, or being held down may help them get used to the process at an impressionable age.

Check out Sparkpaws’ New Grooming Collection

Walk Equipment

A new puppy won’t need a lot of exercise, and responsible dog owners may be concerned since over-exercising a young pup may do more harm than good.

Dr. Lizzie Youens, BSc, BVSc, MRCVS, says “A very popular suggestion is to allow exercise amounts of five minutes daily or twice daily, per month of age. In other words, at three months old you can walk your puppy for fifteen minutes daily, at five months old for twenty-five minutes, and so on”

So why get equipment if your new puppy is too small to walk far? Leash and harness training is most effective when starting from young. Puppy owners can put on their leash and harnesses for even short walks around the yard to help acclimatize your pup.

A harness is often better for a small puppy as they are less likely to pull out of it or accidentally choke themselves.

Check out Sparkpaws’ Harness Collection

It also helps to start training for walking commands, which may be easier to do with the equipment on and your puppy in the ‘walk mindset’.

A puppy sitting on the grass

Puppy Food

Before you bring your puppy home, you probably want to make sure you have a decent supply of food and treats, as well as some bowls to put it in.

You will need to buy puppy food (naturally) as this will have the most balanced nutrients for a growing pup. Nutritional deficiencies while a pup is growing can cause life-long health issues, so it's not recommended to get experimental with diets - such as raw food or vegetarian - until your dog is at least one years old.

Most sites that recommend diets for dogs will not take a puppy’s needs into consideration and will base their opinions on adult dogs, so be very cautious. When choosing food for your puppy, try and find ones that list named meats, and follow their recommended serving sizes.

Puppy owners should ideally split up a puppy’s meals into four smaller servings throughout the day since their little stomachs cannot hold much. After they turn six months old you should be able to move them to a more adult schedule of twice a day.

Be warned! Puppies will need to use the bathroom soon after having a meal, so be prepared to take them where they need to go.

Have a supply of low-cal treats on standby for training. High-calorie treats can accidentally cause unexpected weight gain when training. Sometimes cooked lean meat, kibble, or cooked pumpkin can be good low-cal options. Otherwise, try to follow your vet’s recommendations. 

A puppy wearing Sparkpaws  Hoodie


When You Get Home…

When you just bring your puppy home there will likely be an adjustment period. First-time puppy owners should be prepared for the puppy to be a bit anxious and frightened - especially if this is their first time away from their mother and littermates.

Getting in Schedule

Getting on schedule as soon as possible is the best thing a first-time puppy owner can do. You probably won’t get things right right off the bat, but the more consistent you are the easier the adjustment period will be and the more secure your pup will feel.

A consistent routine will also help you to better predict your puppy’s needs and wants.

Take the time to decide when you will have your puppy’s mealtimes - and subsequent potty training - and stick to it. A small puppy will probably need to go around fifteen minutes after a meal, during walks, and before bedtime.

Leaving time for play and training will help provide stimulation, entertainment, and a chance to show affection to your growing puppy. This doesn’t have to be a rigid schedule but may help you ensure that they’re getting the exercise and attention they deserve.

A consistent bedtime routine will also help a puppy calm down and be less anxious for the night. Sleeping at the same time will provide a reassurance that can go a long way to curbing separation anxiety as the puppy will soon learn that playtime is over and it can’t expect any more attention at that time. 

A puppy wearing Sparkpaws Knit Beanie Hat while lying on a woolen carpet



Puppies are very malleable, and the earlier you start the basics of training will normally lead to more success and faster learning. There’s no need to go too crazy with puppy training, but there are a few basics you should start with.

Potty Training

To properly potty train, you will need to watch your puppy very carefully. Any time it seems like they are going to go potty, quickly take them to your desired toilet location.

Puppies will need to go potty quite often, especially after meals and before bed, so offer them a chance as often as possible. You can include a ‘potty training cue’ to your training by repeating a phrase such as ‘potty’ or ‘toilet’ whenever you see them squat to go.

After a successful potty use, praise them and offer them a treat. Don’t yell at a puppy for a failed accident, as this could cause them to become confused about what they did wrong and create more problems. Positive reinforcement is a better option in this case.

No-noise Training

Barking is inevitable, and not wrong in itself, but if your puppy barks a lot at night or when they’re not supposed to it can be aggravating.

It's a very hard ask for a first-time puppy owner, but don’t go rushing over for every bark and cry after you have put your puppy where they need to be (e.g. to bed, or in a safe space so you can leave) The attention lets them know that their cries are benignly rewarded.

You can go to make sure they’re ok, but don’t coddle and pick them up as this will teach them to keep barking. In time, you should be able to tell the difference between a real distress-bark and an attention-bark.

Crate/Bed training

The best way to train your puppy to like their crate or bed is to make it a positive experience.

You can try this by hiding treats in the covers, petting them through the bars, and making a fuss over them as a reward for their patience. Little puppies don’t have a lot of patience, so start off leaving them there for short amounts of time and gradually increase. 

You can also leave some toys or a piece of clothing/blanket that smells like you. Putting on a coat or dog pajamas can sometimes help with anxiety.

Check out Sparkpaws’ Dog pajama Onesies

Basic Commands

Puppyhood is a good time to get into a lot of the basic commands such as sit, stand, down, and stay. You can also teach them to associate commands with just hand signals.

Most of these commands involve treating the puppy for their behavior. For example - ‘Sit’ can be taught by holding the treat higher and higher above the puppy's nose until they sit back on their haunches. When they do this, say ‘sit’ and reward them.[3]

‘Stay’ is very important for safety reasons, and can be done by getting them to sit before slowly moving away from them. They should receive the treat if they’re able to stay seated for a bit without moving. Start small and move up.

If you’re not confident, try enrolling an older pup in some training classes. This will give you more ideas as well as help your puppy learn to socialize well with other dogs.

A puppy


Before your puppy arrives, you’re going to want to make sure your home is ready. This will include things such as puppy-proofing the house as well as buying supplies.

You will need some puppy food, treats, a bed/crate, toys, grooming equipment, walking equipment, bowls, and so on. It’s better to have a lot of this stuff on hand so that you’re able to provide what your puppy needs as soon as possible.

When your puppy comes home, you are going to have to take the time to help them get used to their new home, such as with crate training and getting into a regular schedule.

Getting started on your training as soon as possible will improve your chances of success. Take the time to get them used to potty training, being alone, as well as basic commands and hand signals. You can also take the time to begin leash training them for their daily exercise.

Whatever you do, keep doing your research and talking to a vet or trainer as necessary. Don’t be too anxious about being a perfect dog owner from the get-go, each puppy has their own personality and quirks, not everything will be as difficult or as easy as the information you find online.

Just keep doing your best for your new little friend and they will feel your love come through.

Happy Walking!

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