By: Sara Ondrako, Certified Canine Behavior Consultant
Congratulations on your new best friend! Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming. To ensure your pup's first night in their new home goes as smoothly as possible, here are some tips on having the best first night with your new puppy!
Before You Bring Your New Puppy Home
Preparation is Key! Before bringing your puppy home, make sure you have all the necessary supplies, like puppy food, a puppy crate, a bed, toys, poop bags, treats, water bowls, food bowls, chew toys, and anything else your pup might need.
Getting your home new-puppy-ready can be overwhelming, but we've got you covered. Check out our New Puppy Checklist to double-check that you've got everything you need before your new furry family member comes home. Don't forget the all-important "puppy-proofing" steps to make the transition period less stressful for you and your pup.
Puppy parents often are sleep-deprived during the first month, so plan your days ahead of time to help lessen the impact of losing sleep while your puppy's body develops enough to hold it through the night. The first several months of bringing a new puppy home all but require your life to revolve around them, so taking your schedule into account ahead of time can make getting used to one another considerably smoother.
Whether you are adopting or buying from a breeder, ask the foster parent, rescue shelter, or breeder if you can visit your puppy a few times before bringing them home, and request to leave an item that smells like family members for their playpen or puppy crate.
If you plan to participate in training classes, we recommend scheduling your lessons before your new pup gets home. Trainers sometimes book out months in advance, and you'll want to be able to start training with your puppy immediately after their two-week adjustment period. Puppy training tips you find online can be beneficial, but working with a professional, positive reinforcement trainer can help you avoid frustration when behaviors like nipping erupt and can even help you bond faster with your puppy.
The First Day with Your New Puppy
Your puppy's first day is already exciting, so keep activities low-key and fun the first time you bring them home. Avoid overwhelming them by taking them to places other than their new home on day one. Here are activities you can do that will not overstimulate your puppy and will help them adjust to their new home right from the start.
Take Time to Explore
Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, so much so that it is one of the primary ways they take in information. When you bring your puppy home, take some time to let them sniff around the outside of your home while on a leash. Give them plenty of opportunity to potty before coming inside and offer lots of praise and treats if they potty outdoors to help set them up for potty training success.
Once they've had some time to explore with their noses outside of your home and had the chance to relieve themselves, it's time to explore indoors. Have fun taking them room to room and encouraging them to smell everything. If you have a dog bed set up for them, toss some treats on your puppy's bed to encourage being on it. Show them where their water bowls are, and let them smell the fun toys, collars, and any equipment you've purchased for them.
A new dog needs the freedom and encouragement to learn everything and get familiar with their new environment. Encouraging them to sniff freely is a beautiful way to boost their comfort with their new home and their new puppy parents.
The Power of Play
Once your puppy has had the opportunity to explore, enjoy some playtime with your pup with a squeaky toy or tug. Puppies are all about fun, and when you play with your puppy, you begin that bonding experience and positive association with their new environment.
Limit playtime with furry housemates the first day so you don't overwhelm your new puppy or their brothers and sisters. Introductions with other dogs should happen slowly over the first two weeks to allow everyone to get to know each other through smell, sound, and sight before involving physical interactions.
Avoid bringing human or canine visitors home to see your new pup the first week, as this can be overwhelming. Let your dog get used to you and your family members first. Too much stimulation can lead to unnecessary stress, which can make for rough nights from being overly tired.
Take Lots of Potty Breaks to Help with Potty Training
Your puppy won't know where it is or isn't appropriate to potty when you first bring them home, so offering many potty breaks throughout the day can allow you to begin teaching them right from the start. When your puppy is awake, take them out each hour for the first day to give them a chance to go and avoid accidents inside.
If your puppy is napping, don't wake them (in fact, you may want to cuddle up with them so you get adequate rest, too). Take them directly outside for a potty break when they wake up, as they will probably have to go.
Don't Skip Nap Time
Puppies sleep a lot. In fact, most young puppies require 18-20 hours of sleep per day! Play hard, sleep hard; that's the theme of puppyhood. On day one, naps can be difficult because there are so many new things, new faces, new smells, and just so much stimulation making it harder to shut down for a nap. Don't hesitate to snuggle up with your puppy for the first nap of the day to help them settle down for a recharge before introducing them to crate naps.
Prepping for Puppy's First Night at Home
Puppyhood often comes with many sleepless nights for pet parents. However, you can significantly reduce these long nights by helping your new puppy settle into a bedtime routine. All you'll need is a little prep work and a lot of consistency.
Introduce Their Sleeping Area
To help your puppy acclimate to their sleeping area, introduce them to the location during the day well before bedtime.
Placing their crate in your bedroom is one of the best places to help them feel comfortable by being close to you. Their first night with you may be their first night away from their mom and littermates, which can be challenging for puppies. Being close to you also helps you respond promptly to requests for potty breaks in the middle of the night. Young puppies cannot hold it all through the evening as older puppies and adult dogs can.
Don't put anything into their crate that they can chew and swallow, such as stuffed animals or dog beds with fluff. Instead, opt for flat crate mats or no crate pad until there is no concern for chewing and swallowing bedding or toys.
When entering the kennel, give your puppy a safe chew toy to soothe a teething mouth and a busy brain. Rubber toys like Kongs or edible chews that are digestible and won't choke your puppy are good options. No matter how safe something is labeled, you will still want to monitor your puppy; having a camera like a Furbo or Nest cam pointed towards the crate where they sleep can provide peace of mind.
Keep the crate door open and toss treats into the crate. As your puppy goes in to explore and find treats, drop more in one at a time before your puppy comes out of the kennel. Then, playfully encourage your puppy to come to you once they've eaten the last treat you've dropped into the crate before they exit on their own.
Repeat this a few times during the first introduction, and then pick a second time later in the day to repeat this activity. You will want to continue working on your puppy, spending more time in their crate and building a positive association with their sleeping space over the next couple of weeks to ensure crate time is a relaxing way to recharge and not a stressor for your puppy.
What if My Puppy Cries During Crate Training?
It may take some time for your puppy to adjust to the kennel, and minor whining or fussing is okay. Determine why your puppy is crying or barking to decide how best to respond. Think of the three P's: potty, panic, and play.
Is your puppy trying to communicate that they need a potty break? Let your puppy out and immediately take them outside to potty. If they go - praise them and offer a treat reward before returning inside. If they do not go, return them to their crate for a few more minutes and then try again. Learning what communications from your puppy indicate "I need to go" can help speed up house training.
This sometimes happens when a puppy has never been introduced to a dog crate and is scared or confused. Signs of anxiety or confusion are howling, panting, pacing, and even drooling. This is a sign that your puppy is panicking and could be traumatic. If this happens, remove your puppy from the crate immediately. Comfort your puppy and seek help from a professional trainer to help turn a scary and confusing situation into a fun and relaxing experience.
Your puppy is bored and wants out of the crate, so they are crying or barking to get your attention. First, note that you will need to provide additional physical activity, brain work, and playtime with your puppy before crating next time around. Boredom in the crate is a message that your puppy needs more action before being crated for naps or nighttime or that they are spending too much time in the kennel.
Barking or crying to come out to play is much less dramatic than barking or crying due to panic. This is a situation not to let your puppy out while they are carrying on vocally. Instead, wait for a moment of quiet and calm. Begin your approach to the crate as they are silent. If they begin barking, take a step back and wait. Then advance as they learn that quiet is getting you to move towards releasing them - not barking.
Create Positive Associations with Their Kennel
Puppies that aren't positively conditioned to separated time away from others, such as during crate time, can often develop separation-related problems such as separation anxiety. You'll want your puppy to learn to develop independent confidence so they don't stress later in life when you make a grocery store run or have to go to work. Starting crate practice on day one with your puppy and being consistent will help them adjust quickly and overcome hurdles more easily.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Puppies need supervision 24/7. One of the easiest ways to ensure your puppy isn't accidentally practicing behaviors you don't want (such as chewing on those Jimmy Choos or tinkling on your new throw rug) is to tether your puppy to you with a hands-free leash while they are awake.
This also allows you to tell them, "Yes! I like that behavior - do that again!" each time they offer a good behavior so you can reinforce those behaviors promptly. Carry a treat pouch throughout the day while they are tethered to you so you always have a reward stash on hand.
Night One Down - A Million More Nights (and Days) of Fun to Come
The first night with your new puppy can be as daunting as it is exciting. However, doing the prep work before your new furry family member comes home - such as gathering all your puppy supplies and puppy-proofing the house - and giving them your undivided, reassuring attention once they arrive is a surefire way to start off on the right paw.
Paying attention to your puppy's cues will help you and your new best friend better communicate. This will be especially important as you go through many nights of potty training and learn how your dog expresses his needs.
By following these steps and being prepared, you'll be able to ensure your puppy's first night is the best first night possible and make your puppy feel right at home. With a little effort and patience, you can create a loving environment for your puppy to adjust to their new family and create the type of relationship that best friends for life are made of!