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Puppy adoption 101

Puppy adoption 101

Are you thinking about adopting a new family member? We’re excited for your family and the journey ahead. We have put together a range of tips to help you through the adoption process; to find, love and raise your perfect, playful pet.

Finding the perfect puppy

When looking for a puppy, you need to be confident that you’ve found the right one. Some dogs can live up to 18 years, so you need to ensure that you find the right companion for the journey ahead.

Meet your potential puppy to see if they're the right fitThere are many ways you can meet your potential puppy to see if they’re the right fit for you and your family. You can try Animates, rescues, such as the SPCA or the local pound, local charity groups or look for your perfect match through a reputable breeder. Bringing a puppy home can be both exciting and daunting.

When adopting a puppy you should always check to see if they have been vet checked, treated for fleas and worms, microchipped, desexed, and that they have had at least their first puppy vaccination.

When you meet the right puppy they may be a “Crossbreed” (mixed breed) or a “Purebred.” Whichever way you go, ensure you do your research. Some crossbreeds may have strong characteristics of one breed, and making sure you’re aware of the traits that come with this breed will ensure you find the right companion. Some breeds are very active (Border Collies, Pointers) while others will need a lot of care for their skin and coats (Shar Pei, Poodle, Maltese) and others can be vocal (Husky, Huntaway), or couch-potatoes (Greyhounds, Great Danes). Size is another important factor to consider and is closely linked to the breed you choose – ranging from toy (Chihuahua) to giant (Bull Mastiff) and all the sizes in between – Schnauzer, Rhodesian Ridgeback and German Shepherd.

If you do choose a purebred puppy, your choice of breeder is as important as the breed you pick. Talk to our friendly team in-store or at your local Animates Vetcare clinic to find the most suitable breed for you and your family, and be sure to look for a registered and well respected breeder. An easy list can be found on the New Zealand Kennel Club website.

If you’re unsure what you’re looking for; be patient and take your time to find the perfect puppy. Spending time with friends who have dogs or puppies is a good idea to find a breed that matches you – new pets should never be impulse decisions.

Things to consider:

  • Are you in a stable living situation and prepared to take your dog with you should you move?
  • Is there are chance you could be away for long periods of time?
  • Are all members of your household happy to take on a puppy?
  • Do you have any other pets at home to consider?
  • Is anyone in the family allergic to dogs?
  • Are you able to dedicate enough time daily to your puppy?
  • Can you take on a lifelong commitment?
  • Where should you look for your forever friend?
  • Which is better suited to you - a crossbreed or a purebred?

Are they the right fit for your family?

Dogs come in many shapes and sizes, they also come with unique traits and temperaments.

Some puppies may need more attention and care than othersSome puppies may need more attention and care than others, so it is important to ensure they are well suited to your family and life style. Crossbreeds in particular will vary in terms of their personality, behaviour and daily requirements as it may be difficult to predict what mix your puppy is and therefore, difficult to predict which breed your puppy will take after.

Puppies also vary in need for care and attention, for example long-haired breeds will require regular grooming to avoid matting, while white-furred or pink-nosed pups may need extra care in the sun and those with floppy ears will need extra care to ensure they stay clean.

Size is another important factor; small breeds will need extra care while they’re growing, being carried up and down stairs or onto the bed, while large and giant breeds will need reduced exercise as their joints are forming and growing so they don’t damage their growth plates and cause issues for them later in life. Being aware of what your future puppy needs is important, as you may find yourself in love with a puppy that requires more care than you anticipated.

When you adopt your puppy, be mindful that they will need to learn to fit in with the family as much as the family will need to learn to adapt to them. Little puppies need to be handled with lots of TLC. If you have young children, an older puppy may be a better fit for your family as they can be more resilient to unpredictable behaviour.

Things to consider:

  • How much care will your puppy need?
  • Does your puppy have any special health care requirements?
  • How will your family adapt to a new puppy?
  • What sort of puppy personality or breed(s) would best suit your family?

Puppy finance

As well as being prepared to dedicate time to your puppy, puppies and dogs can be a large financial investment, so you will also need to ensure you are able to financially support them now and in future.

As a responsible pet owner, it is important to consider the costs of adopting a puppy, from bringing them home and getting them settled, to general care and veterinary costs over their lifetime.

Costs to consider:

  • Adoption fees (this will vary depending on what is covered)
  • Microchipping and microchip registration
  • De-sexing
  • Puppy vaccinations and yearly boosters
  • Food that is appropriate to their life stage and needs
  • Flea treatment
  • Worming treatment (more frequently as puppies, then generally every three months for life)
  • Unexpected veterinary costs (e.g. accidents or illnesses)
  • Consider insurance cover for your pet, this can help to take some of the risk out of unexpected costs and provide peace of mind if your puppy needs veterinary treatment
  • Ongoing veterinary costs, including yearly check-ups and vaccinations
  • Special costs for any unusual care needs (e.g. diabetes or diet management)
  • Doggy day-care or dog-walking
  • Kennels, house sitters or pet-minders if your family goes away
  • Essentials such as collars, name tags, lead, poo bags, crate and bed
  • All the fun stuff; toys, treats, toys, and more toys.

Setting up for a new puppy can be overwhelming, to make it easier for you we offer a puppy ‘starter pack’. To get an idea of costs, browse online, pop into your local Animates or visit your local Animates Vetcare clinic.

Here is a checklist of some of the likely things you will need for your Puppy:

  • Superior Nutrition puppy food
  • Puppy toilet training pads
  • Stain and odour remover
  • Flea and worming treatment
  • Crate and bed
  • Food and water bowls
  • Dog brush and comb
  • Puppy shampoo
  • Puppy appropriate toys
  • Puppy safe treats
  • Collar, lead, harness and ID tag

Things to consider:

  • Can you afford a puppy right now and in the future?
  • Would it be a good idea to talk to someone with a puppy or dog for advice?

Food for your pooch

The right food is essential to support your puppy's growthChoosing your puppy’s food can seem like a confusing journey. With so many options it’s a good idea to pop into your local Animates store or Animates Vetcare clinic so we can help you find what best suits your puppy’s needs. The right food is essential to support your puppy’s growth and set them up with a good foundation for long term health.

It is important that you find a brand that is complete and balanced for their needs, keeping in mind the amount of times they need to be fed daily can range depending on their breed and age. Puppy foods are especially designed for young canines, with higher protein and calcium, and increased digestibility.

Superior Nutrition diets have guaranteed high quality ingredients, tested formulas and fully support your growing puppy throughout their development and into adult life. These premium diets often assist with long term dental care and skin/coat health, which may help reduce future veterinary costs.

Offering wet food meals are a great way to make sure your puppy is properly hydrated and most puppies will love a treat of wet food, but it is recommended to feed this separately to their normal biscuits and always offer plenty of fresh drinking water.

Remember to introduce any new treats or food slowly to minimise any upset tummies. Avoid feeding cow’s milk or human food, as it may cause an upset stomach for your puppy. ‘Pet milk’ is available for your puppy, and there are plenty of different types of dog friendly treats available if you want to reward your puppy.

Things to consider:

  • Will you have time to regularly buy puppy/dog food and feed your puppy multiple times a day?
  • Talk to our team in-store, or visit a local Animates Vetcare clinic to learn about suitable food for your puppy

Toilet time

Dogs are clean pets, who like to toilet away from where they sleep and eat. This means that, generally, toilet training isn’t too hard as long as you’re on top of your puppy’s habits and needs. Often, puppies will have limited training before they reach their new home, so it is up to you to ensure they learn good habits from the get go.

Settling your puppy into a new home means learning a lot of new rules in a strange environment, this can be unnerving for them and accidents can happen. Be patient with your little one and ensure you watch them for signs of needing to toilet – these can include a sudden change of behaviour e.g. stopping play to follow a scent, crying to be put down if they’re being held. It’s especially important that puppies are toileted after waking up, after eating or after playing as these are three key stimuli for a puppy when they need to go. Keep in mind your puppy is still learning and if they are told off for having an accident inside, they may try to hide them from you in the future, which can be detrimental – keeping an eye on your pet’s toileting habits can be a great insight into their health and diet.

The key thing to remember is positive reinforcementWhen your puppy arrives, you may decide to use toilet training pads. Encouraging your puppy to use these while inside is a great idea and can aid in toilet training. If you decide to use a training pad, you will slowly need to wean your puppy off using them and graduate them to the big-dog toilet that is outside. Throughout the entire toilet training experience, the key thing to remember is positive reinforcement. Like with everything, dogs love to be told when they’ve done something right .

Don’t forget, the crate is also an amazing toilet training tool and is considered a must-have for most puppies. The crate becomes a small den for your puppy, where they feel safe and relaxed, where they can sleep and feel at ease in the busy environment around them. The important thing to remember with a crate is that it’s the puppy’s safe place so it can’t be used for punishment. There’s a lot more to know about the crate and the vital part it can play in helping you raise a well-behaved puppy, simply visit our friendly team at your local Animates and they can help with any questions you have.

Things to consider:

  • Will you use puppy training pads for toileting?
  • Do you have an appropriate area outside for toileting?
  • Are you prepared to monitor your puppy while they’re running around for signs of toileting?
  • Can you be patient while your puppy is learning?
  • Have you considered a crate?
  • Do you have a safe, quiet place for a crate?

Exercise and playtime plans

Puppies are young, playful and full of energy. They need a lot of entertainment from their family as well as from their environment. All sorts of stimulations are important for a growing puppy, so they grow up confident and well-mannered. Ensuring you spend plenty of time with your young puppy to bond and train with them will ensure your dog grows up with positive experiences; exercise and toys are two ways this can be accomplished.

As a puppy grows, so will it's need for exerciseExercise is an incredibly important feature in a dog’s life. While still a puppy, exercise should be limited depending on age and size and for a good estimate we would recommend speaking with your local Animates Vetcare. As a puppy grows, so will its need for exercise. Some dogs require walks two times a day, while others may only require daily walks. Walking is not only a great way to get physical exercise, but also mental stimulation for a dog as they are venturing out where other dogs have been, and the number of scents and things to look at can easily tire a dog out as much as a short run. Toys are another option for mental and physical stimulation, and there are plenty available – remember that supervised play is always recommended, especially for a puppy who is still learning.

Chew toys are one of the most important toys for a growing puppy, especially while they are teething and need an outlet. Directing this behaviour on a toy rather than our hands or furniture is a good way to instil long term positive habits. There are a variety of chew toys available for puppies, including toys from Kong’s which can be filled with treats to entertain, to nylon bones which are flavoured and encourages the pup’s to chew them.

Dogs also love to chase, but it’s important they chase the right things. Chasing after a ball is great fun for the dog, and their human. There are a great range of interactive fetch toys available for you and your dog to use to play together to build your bond, while encouraging chasing of the right things.

When dogs are tired, it can be instinctual for them to cuddle, sometimes they will come to their family for cuddles, other times a cuddle toy is a great solution. These are soft toys that are specifically designed for dogs, which are squishy and furry and help settle new puppies into their new home by offering comfort as they would get from a litter-mate or their mum. By offering a cuddle toy, your new puppy may just feel more at home. Be careful though, some puppies do get a bit too playful with their cuddle toys, and as soon as you see any damage to it be sure to take it away from your puppy so they don’t swallow anything they shouldn’t.

The important things to remember while playing with your dog is that if any toys are broken they will need to be removed and checked to ensure there are no hazards to your dog, before giving it back to them. Though all soft toys designed for dogs have no loose bits (e.g. button eyes), some puppies can get over-enthusiastic with their toys and Animates recommend supervising your puppy with their toys at all times, and be sure to discard any damaged toys, so your puppy doesn’t hurt itself on any loose stuffing or broken bits of toys.

Things to consider:

  • Do you have the right toys for your puppy when they’re teething?
  • What types of toys could you get to entertain your puppy?
  • Are there items of value you may need to put away while your puppy is young and learning?
  • Do you have the time to spend with your puppy, playing and growing your bond?

Safety tips

Puppies should have supervised time to explorePuppies have a tendency to explore their new environment: under the bed, behind the sofa, in the wardrobe or even under that small gap in your fence. Nothing is out of bounds for a boisterous puppy, so you need to remain attentive while your puppy is exploring new areas – keeping them on lead while you introduce them to their new surroundings is a great idea.

All puppies and dogs in New Zealand must be microchipped (except farm working dogs) for their council registration which they will need to receive by three months of age by the 1 July every year. This is a vital piece of technology that helps reunite many lost pets and their owners each year and is a permanent piece of identification for your puppy if their tags are ever lost.

A microchip is a small device (about the size of a grain of rice) that is implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades by a veterinarian. They each hold a unique identification number that can be registered to your details. If your puppy goes missing and is found, they will be scanned for a microchip. This will allow the finders to access your details and help get your puppy home to you.

Getting your puppy used to wearing a collar (and/or harness) and walking on lead prior to going outside is a great idea. Most dogs have a collar on permanently as it holds their council registration tag, as well as a name ID (plus smaller dog owners may find a bell on the collar beneficial). Getting your puppy used to wearing the collar and lead will make puppy’s first walk outside much more fun for both of you, so get them walking on lead in and around your house as soon as you can (most puppies can safely go outside following their final vaccination, but it’s best to check with your veterinarian first).

Getting a puppy used to wearing a collar or harness can take time if they’ve never worn one before. Place the collar or harness on (with no tags) and distract your puppy while they’re wearing it. Lots of treats and distractions with toys are a great way to help your puppy forget about the collar/harness and positive reinforcement ensures for the quickest and keenest response. Have the collar or harness on for short periods of time, then slowly lengthen this until your puppy becomes fully used to wearing the collar (or harness).

Harnesses can be great for walking dogs (particularly for small breeds) as it reduces the pressure on dogs’ necks as they walk, reducing the likelihood of injury. The harness is also an important safety tool for car rides, most have the function of being seat-belt friendly and allow for a seatbelt to be threaded through so your puppy cannot jump about while you are driving. Teaching your puppy to be confined in the car may take time, and will need training just like you’ve done when teaching your puppy how to wear a collar or lead nicely.

Things to consider:

  • Are there areas the puppy could get into mischief? Are you able to block these up?
  • Is your puppy microchipped?
  • Are you prepared for council registration?
  • Can you dedicate time getting your puppy used to their collar, harness and lead?
  • Are you going to get a harness for walking or for safety in the car?


The health of your puppy should be your number one priority: ensuring their flea and worming treatment, and vet checks and vaccinations are up to date. Check their skin is healthy, their coat is shiny, their teeth are clean and in good condition, and ensure you check over their paws, noses and ears regularly as these are all basic signs of a healthy puppy.

Fleas thrive in warm, moist environments, and in most New Zealand climates, appear year round in kennels, carpet, dirt and even furniture. A regular flea treatment regime is essential to prevent infestation. Ensure you treat your pet as well as their bedding and your home regularly.

Common worm types that dogs are treated for in New Zealand are: Roundworms, Hookworms and Tapeworms. As worm infestations can cause lethargy, vomiting, anaemia and more serious illnesses, it is important to deworm your puppy regularly. Humans can also get worms, so ensuring your whole family is treated is a great idea.

To prevent worms, your puppy will need to be wormed with a quality worm treatment every two weeks until 12 weeks of age. After they reach 12 weeks this decreases to around every 3 months, dependant on the treatment type and any special requirements.

The health of your puppy should be your number one priorityAll puppies require vaccinations to ensure they are protected against known diseases. The most common viral diseases vaccinated against are Leptospirosis, Distemper and Hepatitis – Animates Vetcare also recommends vaccinating against Parvovirus and Kennel Cough as both of these can be readily picked up in parks or even on the street where you walk your dog. Your local Animates Vetcare team will be able to talk to you more in depth about what vaccinations are needed for your puppy.

Your puppy will receive a vaccination every few weeks over their first couple of months. At the completion of this they are considered ‘fully’ vaccinated and will only require boosters every year, or if you chose not to get the Parvovirus or Kennel Cough vaccine you may get these earlier if needed.

Types of vaccinations and schedules can depend on the age of your puppy and at which stage they were first vaccinated, so ensure you visit your local Animates Vetcare clinic for advice on vaccinations.

Desexing your puppy is highly recommended. Desexing surgery for a female puppy is called ‘speying’ and for a male is ‘neutering.’ Desexing puppies has a range of proven benefits to their health and temperament as well as preventing unplanned pregnancies. Desexed pets are less likely to wander, get into fights or receive injuries from mating, and have a reduced risk of certain cancers. Puppies can usually be desexed from around 5 months old, but this may be later depending on the size and breed of your puppy. Talk to your local Animates Vetcare clinic to determine what age your puppy is best desexed at.

To ensure your puppy has a healthy mouth, teeth and gums; we recommend offering dental treats and chews, along with regular health check-ups that may include removal of any tartar build up.

If you have any questions regarding worming, vaccinations, desexing and/or dental health ensure you consult with your local Animates Vetcare.

Things to consider:

  • Will you have the finances for; ongoing flea, worming, vaccinations and Veterinarian treatment?
  • Will you get pet insurance?
  • Are you comfortable with applying the flea and worming treatments (or will you utilise a Veterinarian)?
  • Is the puppy you are adopting already desexed and has it has any treatments?

Bringing your puppy home

Congratulations, it’s almost time to bring your new family member home.

Before this big step, it is important to ‘puppy proof’ a safe area of your house while they settle in – a crate is a great way to ensure your puppy has a safe area all of its own, while taking up less space than an entire room. Keep in mind, you don’t want to exclude your puppy from your daily activities, just keep them safe while participating alongside you.

As their confidence grows puppies should have supervised time to explore new areas of the house. Be patient and take it slow, some puppies will adjust quicker than others, so having a safe space for them to return to will help them settled.

Keep in mind everything is new to your puppy; so take it one day at a time and introduce things slowly.

Lastly, from all of us at Animates and Animates Vetcare, we wish you and your new puppy a long and happy life together. Enjoy this special time watching your new puppy grow and keep an eye out for more Pet Talk articles and videos on how to settle your puppy in to their new home.