13 min

Home With A New Puppy: What To Expect The First Year

If you’re unsure of what to expect during your puppy’s first year, consider this your ultimate guide for what you can expect and how to set up for success.

Bridget Reed

Updated November 06, 2022 • Published November 18, 2021

Share to

Home With A New Puppy: What To Expect The First Year

There are few things that are more exciting than bringing your new puppy home with you. But what happens in the months following your new addition’s arrival? If you’re unsure about what to expect for the first year with your new pup, don’t panic. Consider this your ultimate guide to all of the wonderful things that you should expect in the first year with your puppy.

After bringing your new puppy home, you might be unsure of how to proceed. If this is your first dog, you can expect a steep learning curve, and that’s totally natural. You will gain a robust understanding of puppy parenthood rather quickly, so try to avoid stressing about it. 

After all, help is available if you need it — or even if you just have any questions. The team at Pawp is available around the clock to give you guidance on your new puppy, whether your new dog isn’t feeling 100% well or you just have a quick behavioral concern to get some clarity about. 

The best way to understand what to expect in your puppy’s first year is to break it down by milestones. The goals of your puppy’s first few weeks, for example, will be radically different from those when your dog is nine to 12 months old. There really is nothing like the first year, so try to enjoy as much puppy time as you can with your new pet.

Your new puppy’s first few months of life

Your puppy’s first few months are divided into two halves: birth to four weeks and four weeks to three months of age. In a lot of cases, people don’t adopt their dogs until later in the second stage, so there’s a chance you will skip the entire first “half” of these months.

Puppies develop rapidly in their first few weeks of life, and you will be able to see a difference between a dog 1 week old versus 3 weeks old. While dogs are born with minimal sense intact, they can start to smell, hear, and see somewhere between 3 to 5 weeks of age. Touch and taste, however, are the two senses present at the time of your dog’s birth. 

Once your dog’s other senses begin to come about, their awareness of their environment increases. This is when you will see them begin to interact with people, littermates, and even their mother dog. This period is also crucial as it is when they begin to wean and ingest solid food due to their newly formed teeth. 

Fast-forward to 6 weeks old. You will notice your dog starts to become more curious and is on a mission to learn more about the world. Your dog will start to interact or play with their littermates more as they allow the young dog to grow. 

Once your dog is about 8 weeks old, they are ready to go home with their new owner, so this age marks an important timeline. By this age, your puppy has a more robust understanding of the world around them than they did. They likely have gained physical coordination, social skills, and even an inhibited bite. 

It’s normal for your dog to show fear or anxiety around 8 weeks old, and you are taking them to their new home. Don’t take this personally; your dog has gotten used to their lifestyle and, now, they’ll need to make an adjustment. Provide them with plenty of attention and positive encouragement. 

In addition, it’s time to bring your pet to the vet around 8 weeks. This will help ensure that if they are facing any health ailments, they are handled expediently. In addition, a vet can assist you with figuring out some of the ins and outs of new puppy ownership. They might provide you with guidance on a feeding schedule, training pets, and even which food you should give your new puppy

Your puppy’s training time: 4 to 6 months of age

By the time that your puppy is 4 to 6 months old, they will be radically different than they were when they were 8 weeks. This is when your puppy goes into their teething stage, so be prepared to tackle that as a family. Teething is a big stage for a young dog, and it will require a unified approach. It can also be quite painful for a young dog

Dogs chew excessively during their teething phase to alleviate some of the irritation they’re experiencing on their gums. Therefore, to protect your home furnishings, you should be mindful to provide your new puppy with the correct tools they need to successfully conquer teething. 

It’s important to keep an eye on your dog when they are chewing something to ensure that they do not begin to choke or chew something toxic. Dogs will try to chew anything and everything during this phase, so redirect their behavior towards acceptable outlets if they attempt to eat furniture. 

It’s also time to start thinking about spaying or neutering your dog. Set up an appointment for this procedure to take place with your vet, but generally, you will wait until your dog is at least over six months old. It’s a good idea to get it on your calendar now, however, as sometimes vets are booked out for weeks or months for medical procedures. 

This is also the right time to start puppy training. If you want your pet to have good habits and be generally well-behaved, don’t delay training: this is the time to begin. Additionally, social relationships begin to become more clear to dogs during this age. 

You might notice that your pup begins to develop a comprehension of their place in the “pack.” Your dog also could start to become territorial, so keep an eye on that — and if any behaviors emerge, act fast to show your pet they’re unacceptable.

"The key to avoiding unwanted behaviors such as territorial aggression is constant and consistent obedience training," Pawp veterinarian Dr. Laura Robinson shared. “Training will help you control and manage your dog, especially when he’s excited, and help them learn not to react to other people or dogs.”

Your puppy’s major developmental leaps occur: 6 to 9 months of age

It’s time to discuss spaying or neutering your dog when they are about six months old. There are a myriad of reasons why people choose to complete this procedure. Doing so can dramatically reduce your pet’s risk for several illnesses, and it eliminates the behavioral problems that can come with not getting this procedure done. By the time your pet is six months, you should have a decision and a plan in place to get this surgery done. 

During this time, you will notice that your puppy will continue to explore their new environment. They might test out their status in the household and see how you will react. A pup around this age might not be as concerned with making you pleased as they once were, but don’t panic—this is part of their development. 

Lastly, there will likely be another chewing phase during this period of time. This is why it is crucial that you have the correct chew toys on hand when your dog is six to nine months of age. This will reduce the chance that your valuables are lost to your dog’s sharp teeth. 

Your puppy is now settled in: 10 to 12 months of age

By the time your dog is 10 to 12 months old, they are settled into their new lifestyle and living with you, their new family. You might be wondering when your dog will stop growing. If you have a puppy that is a larger dog breed, you can expect them to continue to mature until they are about 18 months of age. If you have a smaller dog, they mature quicker and are usually mature around 12 months of age.

At this point, your most important task is to ensure that you are properly maintaining your pet’s routine. If you took them to a training class, they likely have habits that you have both worked hard to develop, and if you want them to keep it up, you will have to help them maintain it

Some tips and tricks to make your puppy’s first year a success

Congratulations on making it through your puppy’s first year. You should give yourself a pat on the back; it’s no easy feat to raise a puppy through their first birthday. These rambunctious yet loving little creatures are a lot of work, but you will quickly see it pays off. 

The most important thing to keep in mind during your puppy’s first year is that there is never a wrong time to reach out to a vet. When puppies are young, they are vulnerable. Therefore, if you have any health questions, it’s best to reach out to a vet to ensure that your new dog is okay. The team at Pawp is able to help 24/7, no appointment or wait is necessary. 

The other thing you should keep in mind is that your dog is only a puppy once. Have patience and enjoy this phase as you begin your life with your newest family member.


When should I spay or neuter my pet? | 

Teeth, Teething and Chewing in Puppies | VCA Animal Hospital 

Sexual Maturity In Puppies: What Puppy Owners Should Know & Expect | AKC  

Puppy Senses: When Can a Puppy See, Smell, and Hear? | AKC

Possessive and Territorial Aggression in Dogs | Pet MD

When Does My Puppy Finish Growing? How Long Do Puppies Grow? | AKC

Talk to a vet now — it's free!

Text, call, or video chat with a vet within minutes.

Talk To A Vet Now