Having a puppy is a lot of fun but can be a ton of work. They need constant supervision, are challenging to potty train, and need to be fed food specially formulated for puppies.
The recommended age by the American Kennel Club for bringing your new puppy home is between 8 and 10 weeks. However, if circumstances result in you having to bring a 6 week old puppy home, here are a few tips to help you care for a young puppy and keep it safe.
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Puppies need different food than adult dogs due to their rapid growth.
A 6 week old puppy will probably be newly weaned and just starting to eat solid food.
Puppy food is higher in nutrients and protein than adult dog food because of the higher growth rates and different nutritional needs for optimal development.
Pick a high-quality, premium brand of puppy food that is specific to the size of your puppy. For example, food meant for large or small breeds have varying nutritional content due to the difference in growth rates. Small breed dogs grow more quickly to their full size, while giant breed puppies might continue to grow well into their second year.
Wetting the kibble with water or broth might help your pup chew more efficiently. 6-week old puppies need about four feedings a day with small amounts each time to keep their energy levels up. When pups get to twelve weeks, they can be fed three times a day and twice a day at six months.
Small and medium breed puppies should be kept on puppy food for the first year and large breed pups for two years.
Preparing For Your Puppy’s Arrival
Before bringing your 6-week-old puppy home, there are a few things you’ll need.
Get Adequate Pet Supplies
A quick trip to the nearest pet store is necessary before taking home your new puppy. You’ll potentially need a crate or gates to confine your puppy and keep him out of trouble.
Here’s a list of dog supplies to get started:
Dog crate – Buy one that is appropriately sized for how big your dog will get. Crates should be just enough for dogs to stand, turn and lie down comfortably. Get a crate with a divider so you can limit the size for a start and gradually increase the size as your pup grows.
Gate – Baby or pet gates can cordon off certain areas and keep the puppy area completely safe.
Puppy food – High-quality, premium food specific to your pup’s breed.
Puppy treats – Treats for adult dogs have different caloric and nutrient content. Buy only treats meant for puppies to ensure your pup gets adequate nutrition and use them to make training fun!
Leash – Buy a lightweight leash about 4 to 6 feet long or a retractable leash that can extend to 25 feet.
Collar – A light, adjustable collar will last through puppyhood. However, be very careful, puppies grow amazingly fast, and collars can get tight around their necks quickly. Frequently check the tautness of the collar and ensure you can fit two fingers in the gap between their neck and the collar.
Shampoo – Use an organic, natural shampoo meant especially for puppies. Avoid harsh chemicals that are often used in commercial shampoo. A 6-week old puppy doesn’t need to be exposed to toxins.
Bowls – For food and water, these bowls should be made of stainless steel or any other high-quality material without chemicals that can contaminate your pup’s food and water supply.
Nail clippers – Your pup’s nails will have to be clipped frequently. When he gets older, he might start to wear them on long walks, but a tiny puppy will be unable to cover the mileage necessary to wear them down.
Poop bags – Whether your pup will poop in your yard or on short walks, poop bags are necessary to clean up after him. Use only biodegradable bags, as these will end up in landfills eventually and decompose naturally.
Brush – Your puppy will need frequent brushing to remove dead fur and skin. Brushing also prevents tangles. Your puppy’s skin is sensitive, so look for one with soft bristles.
Puppy Proofing Your Home
Puppies love to chew; anything within their reach is fair game until they learn boundaries!
The first step to keeping your puppy safe is to puppy proof your home. Puppies are curious, playful creatures, and they’ll have no idea of the dangers lurking in everyday household items.
Get on all fours, at the same eye level as a puppy, and check out everything your puppy has access to. Look around for potential hazards like electrical cords and wiring or anything else that the puppy could stumble into or chew.
Place all medications, human food, and trash cans out of reach of the pup. They are experts at nosing out food, and it won’t take long for them to figure out where the yummy stuff is stored.
Dog food should be stashed away and out of reach to avoid harmful conditions from overeating.
If you have a yard that your pup will spend time in, check it thoroughly to ensure there are no gaps or weaknesses in the fence that the puppy can squeeze through and get out from. Check for potentially toxic mushrooms and avoid areas with any pesticides or insecticides.
If you have houseplants or outdoor plants, restrict access to them. Some houseplants can be toxic for dogs and can result in making your puppy sick or worse. The ASPCA has a comprehensive list of plants poisonous to animals.
Keep Cleaning Supplies Handy
Pups will be pups, and before your 6-week-old puppy is properly potty trained, accidents or “oopsies” will be more common than you think. This is because puppies cannot hold their bladders for more than a few hours at a time, and when they have to go, they go!
Cleaning supplies can include:
Vacuum – There’s going to be hair – a lot of it! Getting a good vacuum cleaner is essential to keeping loose fur minimized in your home.
Enzymatic cleaners – These are specific cleaning products that use enzymes to break down oil, fat, protein, carbohydrates, and starches. There are a must-have for every pet owner!
Laundry detergents – Gentle laundry detergent with minimal chemicals is preferred. Organic and natural detergents with no toxins would be best!
Odor removers – There are countless odor removers available in the market. As always, try to buy natural products that will not poison both you and your new pup.
If your puppy has an accident, he will likely choose the same spot if he needs to go again. Using an odor eliminator will erase all scents of the accident and minimize the possibility of having another one in the same spot.
Crate Training A 6-Week-Old Puppy
When properly introduced, crates provide puppies with a safe, comfortable shelter.
Crate training your puppy can be a lot of fun. It also keeps your puppy safe at night when you are unable to supervise movements. When correctly done, crates become a haven for dogs to escape for some alone time and relaxation. Crate training is also the preferred housetraining method, using dogs’ instinctive dislike for messing up their dens.
Here are some tips to get you started on crate training:
- Place a comfortable bed or some bedding in the crate. Your pup will come to recognize his toys and blankets and feel at home.
- Pups are voracious chewers, so you might want to hold off on the purchase of an expensive bed and use old blankets instead.
- After you bring him home, place the puppy in the crate and praise and treat him if he remains calm and doesn’t start barking or whining.
- Puppies this young will have to relieve themselves every two hours or so, particularly after meals and upon waking up.
- Take your puppy out of the crates for meals and straight outside after the meal is finished. Praise and treat lavishly as your puppy poops or pees outside. Ham it up! Make your puppy feel like he just did the best thing in the world!
- Keep an eye on your puppy during nap times and when he just wakes, take him straight out, and again, when he goes (and he will!), treat and praise.
- Keep in mind your pup will not be able to hold its bladder for more than 2 hours. That means that you’ll probably have to wake up in the middle of the night and take your pup out for a potty break.
- Keep the crate close to you, and stay alert for nighttime barking or whining, which usually is your pup’s way of signaling that he has to go.
- Never punish or scold for accidents. And they will happen!
- Be patient; puppies are quick learners, and the training methods instilled in them from this young will directly impact how they learn in the future.
Socializing Your 6-Week-Old Puppy
The challenge of having a pup this young is that it is likely that your puppy didn’t get to spend enough time with his mother and littermates. If properly vaccinated, start exposing him to other dogs as soon as possible.
If you have another dog at home that’s going to be a great teacher, great! Otherwise, check around the neighborhood and try to make doggie playdates with pups of similar age.
Next, expose your puppy to as many stimulants as possible. The world can be a scary place for a puppy this young. Cars, loud noises, vacuums, stairs, and countless other things we take for granted can frighten a pup and lead to stress. Even humans can be scary for a puppy so much smaller than us.
To help your puppy develop a confident, stable temperament, expose him heavily to all kinds of stimuli. Bring him everywhere you can and meet as many people as possible, making each interaction a positive experience.
You might want to be extra careful, as a negative or scary experience in a puppy this young can have a significant impact on his personality and temperament as an adult dog.
Take loads of treats with you and constantly reward your pup to make him start to see going out as a fun experience, not a scary one.
Avoid contact with other dogs until your puppy is fully vaccinated.
Socializing with other dogs is not recommended until your puppy has all his vaccinations in place. Most veterinarians recommend starting vaccination at about 6 weeks. Discuss a vaccination schedule with your veterinarian, and be sure to include flea, tick, and heartworm prevention in the medical care of your pup.
Their first shots are critical in preventing severe illnesses in puppies. A 6 week-old-puppy has been weaned and no longer can rely on their mother’s milk to strengthen their immune systems.
Their undeveloped immune systems might make them vulnerable to various diseases, many of them potentially fatal such as distemper and parvovirus. Puppy diseases can be serious and highly contagious if you have other dogs in the household. If your pup is showing any of the following symptoms, go straight to the vet.
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing or coughing
- Excessive vomiting
- Red, puffy eyes with discharge
- Excessive diarrhea
- Lack of appetite
- Inconsistent bowel movements
- Swelling around the belly
Bringing a new puppy home can be daunting. Your life is about to be changed forever, and a 6-week-old puppy is a very young one, barely old enough to leave the litter.
With these tips, you can be sure you’ll start the relationship with your puppy right and develop a bond that will last for years to come.