Bringing home a new puppy is one of the most exciting experiences you can have. You want to give your new family member the best start possible. That’s why it’s also a little daunting.
Ensuring your puppy grows up to be a friendly, well-behaved dog starts right away. Your first night home with your new puppy will set up the foundation of your dog’s whole life.
Here are our tips for the first night with your puppy.
Prepare in Advance for Your Puppy’s First Night
A puppy isn’t an impulse buy. You should already have everything you need before bringing your puppy home. While a collar and bowl are important, there are a lot of other things you should prepare in advance.
List of Essentials
Here’s a list of all the items you should have before bringing your puppy home:
- Leash, collar, harness, and tag
- Food and water bowls
- Toys (especially chew toys and plush toys)
- Grooming tools (brush, comb, nail clippers, toothbrush, and dog toothpaste)
- Safety gates or puppy pen
- Pet stain remover
- Poop bags and/or potty pads
Puppy Proof Your Home
Puppies will get into things you wouldn’t expect, and they love to chew. Here are a few ways to puppy proof your home:
- Pick everything up that you don’t want the puppy to chew on
- Wrap up electrical cords, furniture legs, and other items your puppy may try to chew on
- Block access to pools, ponds, or other off-limits areas
- Check your fence for holes or consider purchasing an invisible dog fence
- Look for places where a puppy could hide (like under the bed) and block them off if necessary
Teach Your Kids How to Handle a Puppy
Little kids don’t inherently understand how to handle a puppy, and they may accidentally hurt it. Use a stuffed animal to teach them how to hold the puppy. Tell kids under 6 to sit on the floor any time they want to hold the puppy.
Make sure your children understand not to poke, yank, or smother the puppy. Young kids should never be left alone with a dog, no matter the breed. Even a harmless but overenthusiastic hug could cause the puppy to bite.
Take Some Time Off Work
If you can, bring home your puppy on the first day of a long weekend. Try to ensure that your puppy isn’t left alone for the first 3-4 days.
Your puppy will be distressed after leaving its mother and littermates. Leaving the puppy alone too soon would cause additional stress as they get used to their new life with you.
Bring a Toy to Collect the Other Puppies’ Scents
Bring a soft toy when you pick up your puppy to rub on the mother dog and any remaining littermates. The toy will pick up their scents and help comfort your puppy when you get home.
Puppy’s First Car Ride Home
While you’re going to be super excited to bring your puppy home, they may be scared or car sick. It may be tempting to hold the puppy in your lap, but it’s best to transport them in a carrier. This keeps everybody safer in the case of a car accident – or a vomiting puppy.
You should talk to the puppy in a soothing voice during the drive. They are likely to be confused and stressed out. While they won’t understand your words, you can use your voice to reassure the puppy.
Puppies can’t hold their bladder for very long. Give them a chance to go potty at the beginning and end of the car ride.
Set the Ground Rules (for Puppies and People)
Everybody in the home needs to understand the puppy’s routine. Who will feed the puppy? Which family member will walk it? Who will brush it?
Where will the puppy sleep, go to the bathroom, or eat? When will the puppy be fed, trained, and played with?
Everybody in the home also needs to know how to train the puppy and correct negative behaviors. Every person should use the same commands to avoid confusion, for example.
It’s also important to enforce rules for your puppy’s first night right from the beginning. The first few months of a puppy’s life are when they learn the most. Don’t confuse them by changing the rules as they grow.
Biting and Chewing
It may seem cute when your puppy starts attacking a shoe, but it’s important to stop it right away. Laughing at the adorable puppy’s antics will reward the behavior and encourage the puppy to continue. The puppy needs to understand right away that biting and chewing aren’t okay.
Any time you catch your puppy chewing on something, say a sharp “No!” Then take the item away and replace it with an acceptable chew toy.
Naming a Puppy
You might pick up the puppy with a name in mind. Or, you may wait until you’ve had the puppy for a few days to pick just the right name. Either way, make sure it’s a name you can live with for the next 10-20 years.
Some experts suggest only using the puppy’s name for good things and not when you punish them. You want your puppy to associate their name with positive things (like treats), so they always come when called.
When You First Bring Your Puppy Home
Your puppy should have a calm greeting when it first comes home. Keep them in one room of your home and leave other pets and toddlers in another room. You should put their crate in this room and put the toy with the siblings’ scent on it in there.
Allow the puppy to do what it wants for the first few hours, whether that’s exploring, snuggling, or napping. Remember to enforce rules during this time and give the puppy plenty of potty opportunities.
Make sure the puppy is always supervised and lock them in the kennel if you need to leave the room.
Introducing Your Puppy to Other Pets
If you have other dogs, put everybody (including the puppy) on leashes for the first introduction. Watch everybody’s body language for signs of aggression and separate them if necessary.
If you have a cat, make sure the cat has an escape route when it first meets the puppy. Give the cat an area where it can stay away from the puppy, like a tall cat tree.
Your puppy and other pets may not all be best friends right away. Give everybody time and don’t leave your puppy alone with the other pets until you’re sure they’ll get along.
Puppy’s First Meal
You should buy or get a sample of the same puppy food the breeder was feeding. If you want to switch to a new puppy food, add it in gradually to the old food. It’s best to let your puppy settle in for a few days first to avoid stomach upset.
Training can begin right away. Hold your puppy away from the food bowl until you say “OK” and release them. This will help them learn to stay calm when you feed them in the future.
You should take your puppy outside as soon as they finish eating. In fact, you may want to carry them instead of letting them walk. This will help reduce the chance of the puppy having an accident.
When your dog does their business outside, say a cue like “Go potty.” If you say this every time they do their business, they will eventually learn to go potty on cue.
What to Do Before Bedtime
You want your puppy to be tired and ready to sleep, so spend a few hours before bedtime playing. Don’t allow them to nap, and help them burn off as much energy as possible. Feed them by 7 pm, so they don’t need to poop in the middle of the night.
Take your puppy out right before bedtime to buy some time before you need to take them out again.
Where Should a Puppy Sleep the First Night?
Set up their crate in your bedroom with blankets or towels in the bottom. Make sure the toy with the scent of the littermates is in there. You can even wrap a hot water bottle in a towel for the puppy to snuggle with.
Only allow your puppy to sleep in bed with you if you plan on allowing that for the rest of the dog’s life. It’s much easier to get a puppy used to sleeping in a crate right away than to have to change their routine later.
In any case, crate training a puppy helps prevent puppy pee in your bed.
Crate Training a Puppy the First Night
Your puppy will be stressed out and may whine, bark, or howl. When they do so, you can take them out to go potty. However, you should resist the urge to snuggle or play with them.
You may not plan on keeping your dog in a crate when they are older. However, it’s crucial to get them used to it as a puppy.
Think about this. Your dog is likely to encounter a kennel at some point in their life. It may be at the groomer, the vet’s office, or even doggy daycare.
If you don’t get your puppy used to a crate now, they’ll be more stressed when they encounter one later.
One additional benefit of using a crate with a puppy is that it makes potty training easier. Dogs inherently want to avoid doing their business where they sleep. Also, puppies have small bladders, and it’s easier to clean up a mess from a crate.
The first few weeks with a new puppy can be exhausting. Not only are puppies stressed out and missing their mom and siblings, but they need out every few hours.
To figure out how often your puppy needs out, take their age in months and add one. That’s how many hours your puppy can hold their bladder. So if your puppy is two months old, they need out at least every 3 hours.
First Thing the Next Morning
Your puppy will likely wake up early and energetic. Carry them outside to go potty to reduce the odds of them going in the house on the way.
Feed your puppy using the same routine as you did for dinner and take them out right after.
Now, it’s time to play with and enjoy your new family member!
Now that your puppy is starting to get used to living in your home, it’s time to set them up for a lifetime of success. Here are some things you should do within the first few weeks of getting your puppy:
- Take them to the vet for their shots
- Get them used to brush and nail trimming
- Take them to a groomer once they’ve had their vaccinations so they can get used to the process
- Work on obedience training by teaching dog commands
- Socialize, socialize, socialize–take them as many places as possible, introduce them to new people and experiences, put them in a puppy playgroup
Wrapping Up The First Night Home With Your New Puppy
Bringing home a new puppy is exciting, but you should set up all your rules and routines right away. Their first night home will set up them up for a lifetime of success in your family. Above all, make sure you enjoy your new family member!