Most puppies are brought home at around eight weeks. You really should not take a puppy younger than that, and if the puppy is a little older, all the better as they have learned more from their mother and littermates.
To prepare for the addition of your new pup, be sure to “puppy-proof” your home so your curious canine can’t hurt himself during his explorations. Keep him away from household dangers such as electrical wires and outlets, plants, pools, balconies and open doors.
A great way to protect your puppy from getting into dangerous situations when you can’t watch him is by introducing him to a crate. A crate is a smart tool that helps in housebreaking and helps keep him safe. Most dogs love the security of a crate. Gently introduce him to the crate by placing it where the family is most active. Line the crate with a soft towel, then put his food, treats and toys inside while leaving the door open to make him understand this is his special place.
Be cautious of socializing your pup outside your home until he has been vaccinated, otherwise he may be susceptible to catching potentially fatal diseases. In most cases, puppies should have three sets of vaccines during their first year. A nursing pup receives antibodies from his mother’s milk that protect him from viruses and diseases. These antibodies begin to dissipate at around seven weeks, leaving the pup (weaned at about five weeks) vulnerable to disease. Therefore, puppies are given their first vaccination at six to eight weeks, with booster vaccines given at 10 to 12 and 14 to 16 weeks; the final booster usually includes a rabies vaccine. Check with your veterinarian about the best vaccine protocol for your puppy.
Because your puppy may seem to be fearless at this stage, introducing him to new situations is important from the moment you bring him home. Be cautious, however, as introducing a pup to too many new stimuli may be stressful for him. Be sure to praise him when he handles a new situation well.
Walk your pup on different surfaces (carpet, grass, roadways), take him for frequent outings, play games and then pet him quietly when he has settled down after a romp. Introduce him slowly to all types of appropriate interactions with people, animals, and new sights, sounds and smells.
At some time during these weeks, your once bold puppy may become cautious. If he reacts in fear to loud sounds or sudden movements, don’t overreact. Continue to gently introduce him to new situations; for example, when taking him to the vet, keep the experience positive (lots of treats and praise) with minimal work done to the dog. Avoid becoming overly protective or isolating the pup. Rather, choose activities that can be controlled, taking small steps as you expose him to new experiences. Your pup will eventually return to his confident self. Help him get there by setting a good example—the more relaxed you are, the calmer he will be.