Raising a puppy is no task for the weak. Although that ball of fluff is adorable and irresistible, they are armed with needle-sharp teeth and pointy claws, and a nearly inextinguishable energy supply. Not to mention, they have the attention span of a goldfish, which makes teaching cues, house training, and leash training a huge challenge.

Despite these challenges, nothing is more rewarding than watching your puppy grow into a happy, healthy adult dog. Set up your new puppy—and yourself—for success by learning what to expect during their first year.

What to expect with your puppy’s growth

Your puppy’s growth and development over the first few months of life will be rapid and explosive. In fact, your puppy will seem to grow by leaps and bounds each new day, and larger breeds will show massive growth in a short period of time. 

In addition to your puppy’s weight and frame growth, you’ll notice changes in their teeth. When you bring your new pup home, they should have all their deciduous teeth, which will begin falling out around 4 to 5 months. By the time your puppy reaches 7 months, they should have all their permanent teeth. If some of your puppy’s baby teeth do not fall out before they get their adult teeth, they will likely need them extracted to prevent damage to the permanent teeth.

Once your puppy hits about 6 months of age, they have passed their fast-growing juvenile stage and are considered an adolescent. Their growth rate will slow, but their energy level will increase, and keeping your pup busy enough to prevent behavior problems is critical. At this stage, teaching manners, and proper exercise to support joint, bone, and muscle development, are key. 

Small breeds will have mostly finished growing by 6 months but may continue to fill out, whereas larger breeds will take a few more months to reach adult size. Giant breeds can continue growing, albeit slowly, up to 2 years of age. 

What to expect with your puppy’s socialization

Your puppy’s prime socialization window, when they will form their views on their world, occurs between 6 and 14 weeks. Positive experiences in novel situations are key to turn a timid, nervous puppy into a confident, calm dog. 

When socializing your puppy, allow them to set the pace and approach new things on their own time. Avoid forcing your puppy to interact with strangers or other pets, and reward them for investigating on their own. Positively expose them to new environments, people, animals, sounds, and situations to acclimate them to as many circumstances as possible.

What to expect with your puppy’s grooming

Regardless of your puppy’s coat type, they will require some sort of grooming. From brushing and bathing, to ear cleaning and nail trimming, your pup needs to learn to handle these grooming tasks to prevent a wrestling match.

From the day you bring your new pet home, work on desensitizing them to being handled. Gently stroke their ears, hold their paws, and lift their lips to mimic ear cleaning, nail trimming, and toothbrushing. Distract and reward your puppy with long-lasting treats, such as a rubber Kong stuffed with peanut butter or spray cheese. Go slowly and take breaks as often as your puppy needs, to ensure they have a good experience. 

What to expect with your puppy’s veterinary care

Regular veterinary care, beginning as early as 6 weeks and then every three to four weeks until your puppy is around 16 weeks of age, is crucial for your puppy’s immune development and overall wellness. Then, only annual visits will be necessary.

During your puppy’s routine wellness visits, our team will help keep them healthy through:

  • Physical exams — With each physical exam, we will evaluate your puppy’s growth and development to ensure they are on the right track. We’ll examine your puppy from nose-to-tail, checking for any health concerns common in young dogs, such as persistent deciduous teeth, retained testicles, umbilical hernias, eyelid issues, congenital heart conditions, and more.
  • Vaccinations — An appropriate vaccination series is essential for stimulating the immune system to ensure your puppy can defend against disease. Vaccinations are administered during the period when their maternal antibodies are waning and their own antibodies developing, which is when they are particularly vulnerable.
  • Parasite prevention — Puppies often have roundworm infections and intestinal parasites that they receive from their mother or the environment. We will check your puppy for internal and external parasites to guide treatment, and then prescribe preventives to avoid future infections.
  • Spay or neuter — Most puppies should be spayed or neutered in their first year, typically when they are close to their expected adult size. Females should be spayed right before their first heat cycle, if possible, although giant breeds may need to go through a heat cycle or two to ensure proper development before they are spayed.

We’ll also check for illness or disease signs, discuss proper nutrition, offer training advice, and much more during these visits.

Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time. We can’t wait to welcome your new four-legged pal into our family, so give our Kauai Veterinary Clinic team a call to schedule their first wellness visit.