You two are going to be together for long, wonderful time. Here are some tips on how to keep your puppy safe, healthy and to make the most of your relationship.

The Right Supplies: A Dog Crate or Kennel

Many of our clients choose to allow their dogs to have free reign of the home, indeed, more than half of our team members do, but that decision comes with compromise.  Dogs that are allowed on the furniture or to roam wherever they like, whenever they like, may battle with other members of the family for dominance, cause a mess, and/or be in the way. To avoid this, many pet owners choose to purchase a dog crate, place it in a quiet area of the home, free of drafts, and to have it on hand for the dog to sleep in or to take a time out when necessary.  Having a dog crate is not cruel.  You can think of it as your dog’s personal apartment inside your home.  When selecting a dog crate, make sure that it is big enough for your dog to stand in and to comfortably turn around in. If you are planning on leaving your dog in his or her kennel for any significant length of time, it should include enough room to leave food and water.  Never manhandle your dog into his or her kennel or allow your dog to associate it with punishment.  It should be regarded as a refuge of safety, sleep and comfort. You can shop dog crates on Amazon.

Food and Water Bowls

Purchase a stainless steel food and separate water bowl.  Bowls with heavy bottoms are best so that they don’t tip over. Dog breeds that are prone to ‘wolfing’ down their food benefit from bowls that include obstructions that force the dog to take smaller bites. There is some evidence that elevated feeding bowls protect dogs that are believed to be prone to bloating (deep chested dogs), but you can discuss this concern with one of our doctors at your puppy’s appointment. Ensure that all materials on the bowls are dishwasher safe and that the bowls are regularly cycled through the dishwasher to thoroughly clean them. Unwashed dog (and cat) food and water bowls can be a source of Salmonella.  If you have a floor surface that could be damaged by water or that you are concerned will get soiled, purchase a dishwasher safe mat to go beneath the bowls.

Here’s an example of a dog food bowl designed to slow down a dog’s eating. This is an excellent choice for a retriever or Labrador, two breeds that tend to ‘scarf’ their food. Click to shop on Amazon.

Baby Gate

You may want to restrict a pet’s access from a certain part of your home.  A baby gate may do the trick, but it’s likely that many breeds, once they become adult sized, may be able to jump it.

Search for Potentially Toxic Items or Items that Can Be Chewed or Swallowed

Puppies love to chew and shred; it’s their way of playing, alleviating pain associated with teething, and exploring their world.  Scan your home for loose socks, shoes, cords, pens…really anything lying about.  If it’s on the floor, you can bet your puppy will find it and investigate it.  Every year Rockland vets have to remove objects from dogs’ stomachs: rocks, socks, Q-tips, tin foil…there’s no end to what we’ve incredulously witnessed dogs to have eaten.

You should also ensure that cleaning and automotive supplies, many of which can be fatal, are out of reach from your puppy.  The same is true for poisonous house plants, prescription medications and any recreational drugs that they may find.  Along these lines, some people think it’s funny to get their dog high or drunk.  In fact, you are risking your pet’s life and at the very least setting him or her up to get sick and feel lousy.  Getting your pet high or drunk is arguably a form of animal cruelty and is potentially prosecutable.

Lastly, scan low lying cabinets and tables for foods like chocolate that are toxic and that can be swiped and eaten by your pooch. Visit the ASPCA list of Poisonous Household Products

Understand How To Introduce Your Dog To Other Pets

Other members of your household are likely to be unfriendly towards the latest addition to your home. Established, mature dogs often react with grumpiness and aggression.  The same is true for cats.  Birds and small animals are at risk of injury or even death at the hands…er paws…of an unwitting puppy.  Large parrots can inflict significant bites.  Puppies are best introduced to other members of the home through the bars of a cage, through the space beneath a closed door separating the two pets, or at the end of a leash, otherwise the excited puppy is going to come on too strong.  You should also supervise interactions with your new puppy and other pet-members of the household until all have become well acquainted.  Growling and warning bites are common coming from older, dominant canine members of the household and should be tolerated, but always closely watched in case they escalate.  These older dogs are teaching the new individual his or her place in the pack.  When feeding your pets, feed the existing pets first and the new arrival last.  When allowing pets to go potty, you should always allow the dominant dog to have last dibs on the environment so that if they want to urinate over the areas where the puppy has urinated, they may do so. The video below shows the very basics of how to introduce dogs to one another. Note how they are conducting the greeting on neutral ground.


You’ll need some treats to help you train your puppy.  We recommend this veterinary formulated brand by Hills Pet Nutrition.  It’s natural, yummy, and isn’t overly caloric.

Use this link to purchase through our online store


Puppies require a balanced food that is high in protein.  Inquire with your breeder or rescue organization about the food your puppy is used to eating if you are planning on changing his or her diet to another one, then acquiring a three-day supply of the old food that you can mix with the new food during a transition period. Rockland veterinarians agree that the Hill’s brand of puppy food is best for growing young dogs.  You can choose to serve a wet or dry food, or a little bit of both mixed together.
Wet food tends to be more palatable, but dry food has the advantage of being less prone to spoilage. Puppies on dry food are likely to have harder stools than those on wet foods.  Follow the feeding guidelines on the label for an idea of how much food to serve, but in general, pet foods overstate the amount of food dogs require on a daily basis.  Feed your puppy at least twice a day, but with breeds that weigh less than 5 pounds, feed three times a day.

You can use this link to purchase either of these foods.  There is a 20% discount on your first order when it is placed through our online store.

IMPORTANT: Hypoglycemia and the Small Breed Dog

Owners of toy breed puppies should be on vigilant alert for signs of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, a condition that occurs when your puppy literally runs out of ‘fuel’…in this case food.  It’s important to support these young, small breed dogs, typically those that weigh 5 lbs or less, with a nutritional supplement know as Nutri-cal.  As the name hints, this product contains nutrients and calories to ensure that your puppy has enough fuel onboard to live, grow, and play.

Available for purchase using this link.

Toys and Chews

Select only toys that are labeled safe for children under three years of age.  Examine the toy and look for things that can be easily chewed off and swallowed (fake eyes, buttons, and so forth).  Stuffed toys should not contain nut shells or beads as filling and should be machine washable.  Kongs, filled with a treat or peanut butter,  are excellent at keeping a puppy engaged.  Do NOT give your puppy raw hide chews, pig ears, or any other dried animal meats or skins that were produced abroad, especially China. Even those produced here in the U.S. are likely to contain preservatives, the entire safety of which is circumspect as far as Rockland vets go.

The Kong! The go-to toy used by trainers all over the world.

Bedding and Whether Your Pet Should Sleep With You

It’s very tempting to allow your dog to crawl in bed with you, but remember, once you get your dog in the habit of spending time on the furniture or on the bed, you are likely stuck with that behavior for the next 10-18 years.  Sleeping with your dog is not fun when they track hair, mud, fleas or ticks into bed with you.  It’s also proven that they disturb one’s sleep.  We don’t want to be hypocritical, many Rockland veterinary professionals sleep with their pets, but that’s not to say that in hindsight, all of us are 100% comfortable with our decision.  You should discourage dog’s prone to back problems (Dachshunds) from jumping on and off beds or furniture.  As dogs age and become arthritic, it may be necessary to lift them into and out of bed should this be the place they are used to sleeping.

You may be better off purchasing a comfy, washable bed for your dog that you can leave on the floor of your bedroom or inside his or her kennel.  Such beds are easily accessible and easily washed should your pet have an accident or get sick.  Like toys, beds should not include anything that can be chewed off and swallowed and their filling should be moisture resistant and non-toxic.