A Vet Answers 5 Top Questions About How to Take Care of a New Puppy

Please note, I received compensation in exchange for this blog post.
– Shawn Messonnier, DVM

With so many new puppy owners out there, we turned to Dr. Shawn Messonnier to get his best advice. Here’s what he had to say.

1. What do I feed my puppy?

There are SO many choices when it comes to picking the best diet for your new puppy. I recommend a diet that mirrors what your dog would eat in the wild, or at least what your dog’s ancestors ate. With this in mind, remember that your puppy requires a diet rich in protein and fat from a variety of fresh WholePrey ingredients to support growth and development. Ideally the puppy’s diet should come from whole animal ingredients rather than parts of animals and plants protein isolates and various low-cost ingredients. One of the best dog food diets I recommend for puppies is ORIJEN® Puppy. It has the following beneficial features:

  • It contains 85% quality animal ingredients
  • It nourishes puppies according to their evolutionary and biological needs
  • The first 5 ingredients are always fresh or raw* animal protein including poultry, fish and organs
  • Nutrient-dense WholePrey ratios of poultry, organs, and bone, provide a source of nutrients your puppy needs
  • Infusions of freeze-dried chicken and turkey liver enhance flavor and palatability, making your puppy crave this wonderful diet

All of ORIJEN®‘s puppy food recipes use premium ingredients like free-run† chicken and turkey, wild-caught fish, and cage-free eggs. The ingredients are really beyond comparison.

2. How much do I feed my puppy?

My easy answer is enough to allow the puppy to gain weight and achieve adult dog size by 12-18 months of age without becoming overweight. In general, I prefer to feed puppies 3-4 small meals each day until the dog is a year old and then twice daily thereafter. I always feed puppies at mealtime instead of having a full bowl around at all times so I can more closely monitor how much they eat.

3. How do I train my puppy to go the bathroom?

(Champion does not offer training advice. Views expressed are those of Dr. Shawn Messonnier)

Puppies need to go to the bathroom after eating, after playing and after sleeping. This is when puppies should be let outdoors, as well as any other time the puppy is standing by the door and/or whining to be let out. Stay with your puppy while outside so you can praise it when it goes the bathroom successfully. When you can’t be home or at night when the puppy is sleeping, the puppy should be kept in its crate or a small room where, if it goes to the bathroom, that is acceptable. Most puppies quickly learn to “hold it in” if you follow this method. I also recommend removing the puppy’s food and water about 1-2 hours before bedtime and let the puppy have one last chance to go to the bathroom before bedtime. Regarding potty training punishment for puppies, mild punishment should only occur if the puppy is caught eliminating inappropriately.

4. What vaccines are needed for puppies?

(Champion Petfoods does not offer medical advice. Views expressed are those of Dr. Shawn Messonnier)

As a holistic pet doctor, I tend to minimize vaccines and drugs and only use those that are needed based upon numerous factors, including the pet’s lifestyle. For puppies, my modified protocol is to do some vaccination at 8, 12 and 16 weeks of age, along with an exam, microscopic fecal exam and deworming at each visit. Depending upon the puppy’s prior vaccine history, the vaccine schedule can include a vaccine for rabies as well as something called DAP, which stands for distemper, adenovirus and parvovirus. Later in life, “annual vaccination” is replaced by blood titer testing which allows the dog’s body, by testing for antibodies, to tell me what if any vaccines are needed.

5. What are your thoughts about spaying or neutering dogs?

(Champion Petfoods does not offer medical advice. Views expressed are those of Dr. Shawn Messonnier)

I’m a big proponent of spaying and neutering dogs to minimize problems such as cancer, unwanted pregnancy, diseases of the ovaries and uterus, and to prevent behavioral problems such as urine marking (while more common in males, even females can mark the house with urine.) Because most puppies come into puberty between 6-8 months and can get pregnant even at this young age, I typically spay females and neuter males around 5 months of age to prevent problems. Some clients prefer to wait until later in life; while doing so may provide some benefits, waiting until after the first heat does predispose the puppy to developing breast cancer later in life.

Check out these recipes that your dog may love

Dr. Shawn Messonnier opened Paws & Claws Animal Hospital and Holistic Pet Center in 1991. His special interests include holistic and functional medicine, exotic pets, dermatology, cancer, and internal medicine. Dr. Shawn is a well-known speaker and author. In addition to serving clients, he has written for numerous veterinary and pet publications including Animal Wellness, Body + Soul, Veterinary Forum, Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy, Dog World, Fido Friendly, Whole Dog Journal, Whole Cat Journal, Whole Living, Total Health and Wellness. He is the former radio host of the award-winning Dr. Shawn The Natural Vet for Martha Stewart Living Radio.

* Our fresh ingredients use refrigeration as the sole method of preservation and our raw ingredients are frozen at their peak freshness.
† Our free-run chickens and turkeys are not housed in cages and are able to move in a barn without outdoor access.