First off – congratulations! Adopting a puppy is one of the most joyous occasions we can think of. When you adopt a puppy, it’s very helpful to have a guide that explains what steps to take next. That’s exactly what we wrote this article for! In this guide, you’ll learn how to take care of your puppy, how to prepare them for their new living environment, and how to establish a happy and obedient relationship with them. This way, you’ll prepare your puppy to live for many happy and healthy years by your side!


Step 1 – Get a puppy exam!

The day after you adopt your new puppy, you’ll want to bring them to the veterinarian for a checkup. If you haven’t done so here, just give us a ring at (512) 696-3980 and we’ll help.

There are a few important things that we’ll do during this visit:

  1. We’ll perform a thorough physical exam to make sure your puppy doesn’t have any health problems, congenital defects, or any other issues that could cause problems down the road.
  2. We’ll set a preventative health care plan in motion. This will include implementing the proper vaccination schedule for your new pet, along with a parasite prevention plan.
  3. We’ll educate you on which illnesses are common in puppies, along with what symptoms to look out for.
  4. If your puppy isn’t spayed or neutered, we can schedule the procedure or answer any questions or concerns you might have. Not only does spaying or neutering prevent overcrowding in shelters, it has important health and behavioral benefits for your puppy.
  5. We’ll discuss when to socialize your puppy, along with what environments will be most appropriate and safe for your pet.

Important note: A great time to purchase health insurance for your dog is when they are a puppy. If you purchase health insurance for your dog when they are a puppy, it’s less likely that they are denied coverage when an issue arises later in life. During your visit, we can counsel you on the best options and resources available so that you can make an educated decision.

Step 2 – Housetraining

Repeat after us: consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement. These will be your closest allies in integrating your puppy into your home. It can take several months to fully housetrain a puppy. But don’t worry, they’ll get there! Here is a list of steps to follow:

  • Keep your puppy on a regular feeding schedule. Take their food away between meals.
  • Make sure to take your puppy outside to urinate first thing in the morning and right before bed. In between, take them outside to urinate in hourly intervals. Take them to the same spot each time – their scent will condition them.
  • As soon as your puppy urinates or defecates, make sure to give them ample praise. You may want to bring healthy treats to reward them.
  • Don’t scold or punish your puppy when they have an accident in the house – this accomplishes nothing but creating anxiety. Instead, if you manage to catch your puppy in the act, clap loudly and gently take them outside. When they finish outside, praise them as you always would.
  • If you come across an accident after the fact, don’t scold your puppy – they won’t be able to connect the two actions. Instead, use an enzymatic cleanser on the spot to remove the scent and the stain. Leaving the scent can prompt them to use that spot again.


Step 3 – Obedience

Teaching your puppy to obey you and proper boundaries will not only help you bond for life, it prevents many potentially dangerous situations from occurring. For example, the “come” command can save their life. We’ll go over four main commands to teach them here, along with a few tips on implementing each.

Important tips: Consistency, repetition, and positive reinforcement are key. To most effectively train your puppy, keep intervals short (5-10 minutes) and practice a few times a day. Also, don’t repeat a command if they don’t obey the first time.


  1. Begin by kneeling close to your puppy.
  2. Hold a treat close to their nose. Slowly raise the treat above them, allowing their head to follow.
  3. This will naturally cause their bottom to lower. Once it hits the floor, immediately reward them with the treat, and ample praise.
  4. Begin pairing this action with the command “sit.”


  1. Take your dog to the yard and clip a leash around them. Hold the leash, but give them slack and allow them to drag it around.
  2. Follow them around from a bit of a distance. Choose a marker word, such as “yes” or “treat.” Walk backwards, and when your puppy begins to walk towards you, say your marker word. Once they reach you, immediately give them their treat and ample praise.
  3. Begin to pair this action with the command “come.”


  1. Put the leash on your puppy and have them sit next to you.
  2. Wave a flat hand towards them and say “stay.”
  3. Take a couple steps in front of your dog, wait a couple seconds, and step back beside them. Immediately reward and praise if they held their stay.
  4. If they don’t stay, gently say “oops” and return them to the initial position.

Loose-leash walking

  1. Put your puppy’s leash on and cheerfully say “let’s go!”
  2. Encourage forward motion by patting your leg. When your dog walks closely to your side, reward with a treat and praise.
  3. Every few steps, stop to praise them for being in the proper place (by your side).
  4. When your puppy falls behind or wanders ahead, stop and let them explore.
  5. As soon as your puppy begins to come back to you, say your praise marker (like “yes” or “treat”), and treat them as soon as they return to your side.
  6. If your puppy begins to pull, stop all motion. Wait until they return to your side.

Make sure to bookmark this guide so that you can refer to it anytime in your puppy journey. And please know that you always have a dedicated veterinary team here at Southwest Vet who will help your puppy live a long, happy life by your side!