How do I care for my new dog or puppy?

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The pandemic has meant that many Australians have welcomed a new puppy or dog into their lives. If you’re one of them, you should have already considered the basics of pet care and what your new puppy will need – but we’d also like this opportunity to outline a few extra tips to help make sure your new canine friend is safe and happy in their new home.

If you’re still deciding on whether to expand your family to include a canine member, remember that purchasing a pet should never be an impulsive decision. Dogs can live for 15 years or even more so it’s important to make sure that you’ve fully considered the responsibilities of pet ownership, including checking out our Smart Puppy and Dog Buyer’s Guide, and that you can care for your new friend well after you return to work and life returns to normal. 

Once you’ve decided that your family wants to welcome a dog, of course your local RSPCA would love to help you find the companion that’s right for you.

Living space 

Set up a living space area where your dog can safely stay while they settle in and get used to their new environment, and create a cosy sleeping area where they can retreat and rest. Check to make sure there isn’t anything dangerous that your dog might get their paws on by accident (some common household dangers include some foods, common plants, and other chemicals).

Toilet training

Toilet training takes time and patience, but it’s a must for a happy and harmonious household! The RSPCA recommends reward-based training as the best and most effective way to toilet train your new pup. Start by giving your dog plenty of opportunities to go to the toilet area, and then reward them every time they toilet in the right place (or as often as possible). We have a whole article on our Knowledgebase on how to toilet train your dog or puppy – it’s a must read!

Vet care

Dogs that are adopted from the RSPCA are already desexed and vaccinated. Desexing helps to prevent unplanned pregnancy and can also have positive effects on your dog’s behaviour and health. Your vet will also be able to advise you about future vaccinations. Remember puppies are vulnerable to many infectious diseases, some of which can be fatal such as Parvovirus. It’s very important that your puppy gets their full vaccination course – for their own health and also because if you ever need to board them or want them to go the dog day care, many boarding kennels and day cares won’t take animals who are not up to date with their vaccinations.

Your vet can also talk to you about flea treatment, worming and other essentials.

Training and socialisation

Training and socialisation are very important and should be started while your dog is still a puppy (between 3 to 17 weeks of age is what’s called the ‘critical socialisation period’ for dogs). Provide plenty of opportunities for socialisation and exposure to different environments, and if you can, enrol your puppy in reward-based puppy school classes. 


Exercise is an important part of your dog’s care throughout their entire lives. A walk is often your dog’s favourite part of the day, and is a great bonding time for the two of you. If you’re in a lockdown-affected area, make sure you follow all government advice and regulation and, if applicable, stay within your designated area. If you have to stay within a certain area, try and take a different route every now and then so your dog can experience some new sights and smells.

And more…

There are a number of other things you can and should do to help your new dog have a great life – we outline some further tips on our Knowledgebase

If you’ve welcomed a puppy or dog into your family recently, congratulations and we wish both of you all the best - and if you’ve adopted from a shelter like the RSPCA, thank you for choosing adoption and helping us give thousands of animals a second chance.

This article originally appeared in Australian Community Media newspapers