Bringing Home a New Puppy
For you, bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time full of joy and anticipation. But for a young puppy, transitioning to a new home can be scary because everything is unfamiliar. Your puppy will need a little time to adjust, and the first few nights can be especially challenging.
The following tips will help you prepare your home and family for your puppy’s arrival and know what to do once your puppy comes home. This will establish a strong foundation and set you all up for success during the first few days and beyond.
What To Do Before Bringing Home a New Puppy
Here’s what you can do ahead of time to prepare for your new puppy.
Have a Family Meeting
Before your puppy ever sets its first paw inside your home, have a family meeting to ensure that everyone is on board with adding a dog to the family. Then, decide who will be responsible for feeding, walking, and cleaning up after the puppy. Establish a primary caregiver and a set of house rules that everyone will follow.
This is the time to decide where the puppy will sleep, which rooms it’s allowed in, if it can get on the furniture, and anything else you feel is important. Consistency is key for a smooth transition, so getting everyone on the same page now will make things much easier later.
Gather Essential Supplies for Your New Puppy
Gathering the essential supplies you need for your new puppy before it comes home is a good idea because it will allow you to focus all of your attention on helping your new puppy get settled in. Here’s what should be on your puppy supplies checklist:
Puppy Safe Toys: Puppies learn through play, so providing safe but stimulating toys is a must. Avoid things like rawhides, pigs’ ears, and hooves, which are potential choking hazards and can even lead to life-threatening intestinal blockages. Hard rubber chew toys are much safer and will last a long time. Be sure to check toys regularly for damage, so that your puppy can't chew off and accidentally swallow pieces. Don’t give your puppy things like old shoes or children’s toys because this can lead to confusion when you’re trying to teach your puppy what’s ok to chew on and what isn’t. Instead, you’ll want to look for toys that are made for dogs and are free from small parts that can be chewed off or choked on.
Age and Breed Appropriate Puppy Food: Check with the breeder or rescue to see what food your puppy has been eating and buy the same food to have on hand when your puppy comes home. This will help to avoid digestive issues related to changing the puppy’s food too quickly. At your first appointment, you can ask your vet about feeding recommendations for your puppy’s age and make the transition gradually.
Collar, Leash, Harness, and ID Tag: Choose an adjustable collar and harness that can grow with your puppy, plus a six-foot leash to give you more control while leash training. A collar is an ideal place to attach your puppy’s name tag for daily wear, but harnesses are generally safer for leash walking and training, so it’s best to have both.
An Appropriately Sized Crate for Sleeping and Crate Training: Of course, you want your puppy to be comfortable. But if you choose a crate that has too much space, your puppy will use the extra room to potty in its kennel and housebreaking will be more challenging. In general, the crate should be just large enough for your puppy to stand up, stretch out, and turn around in comfortably.
Miscellaneous Odds and Ends:
Food and water bowls
Cleaning supplies for those inevitable accidents
Treats for positive reinforcement training and rewards
A gate to keep your puppy out of rooms that aren’t puppy-proofed
A playpen for those times when your puppy needs more space than just a crate, such as when you’re at work
A travel crate for rides in the car. If you plan to fly with your puppy, be sure the crate is airline approved.
Grooming supplies like a brush, comb, puppy shampoo, and a toothbrush with dog-safe toothpaste
Puppy-Proofing Your Home
Puppy-proofing your home is one of the most important things you’ll complete before bringing home a new puppy. Remember that puppies are curious and like to explore with their mouths, so anything that you wouldn’t want your puppy to chew on should be put out of reach.
The things that are most tempting to puppies are often the very things that are the most dangerous. Inspect your home for hazards like poisonous houseplants, dangling electrical cords, medications, and home and garden chemicals that should be kept out of reach.
Look for things like string or ribbon, children’s toys, and any other items that could be ingested. The kitty litter pan and trash can are extremely tempting for your puppy, so be sure to block access in some way.
Get down to your puppy’s level to find potentially dangerous items you may otherwise miss. You don’t necessarily have to puppy-proof your entire home. Portable gates can be used to block off areas you don’t want your puppy to have access to, as long as everyone in your home is clear on what the boundaries are.
Preparing a Safe Space for Your New Puppy
Puppies are just like babies, and having too many things going on at once can be overstimulating. Your puppy should have a cozy, safe place where it can hang out and relax or take naps during the day.
A playpen or small puppy-proofed room with enough space for its crate, bowls, and a few toys is ideal. Anytime you can’t supervise your puppy, it should be in its safe space or crate. As your puppy becomes housetrained and learns the house rules, you can gradually allow it to have more freedom in other areas of your home.
Getting Your New Puppy Home Safely
When the big day finally arrives, you’re likely to feel excited and maybe a little anxious, especially if this is your first puppy. Here are a few tips for introducing yourself to your puppy and getting it home safely.
If possible, get a head start by visiting your puppy a few times before the big day. Leave an old t-shirt that smells like you to help your new puppy get used to your scent.
Allow time for plenty of sniffs and snuggles before jumping in the car, then tuck your puppy into a travel kennel with a cozy blanket or towel. Talk to your puppy reassuringly throughout the journey to help ease his nervousness.
Give your puppy plenty of time to go potty before you get in the car and stop for a potty break if your drive is a long one. But avoid dog parks, rest areas, or other areas frequented by dogs. Your puppy's immune system is still developing, putting them at a higher risk of catching contagious diseases. Bringing extra puppy pads for the kennel can also work just fine, since many puppies aren't potty trained yet anyway and won't understand they're supposed to "go" outside.
What To Do When You Bring a Puppy Home
Be sure to allow your puppy plenty of time to potty before you bring it inside. Then, begin by introducing your new pet to its crate and safe space before starting with one-on-one introductions to your family and other parts of your home.
Set Boundaries Early
Puppies learn fast, but it’s up to you to teach them what the rules are. Start on the right foot by setting boundaries early and using positive reinforcement to reward good behavior. Correct any nipping or chewing by redirecting your puppy to a toy that’s theirs to nibble and chew. Consistency and patience are key!
Introducing Your New Puppy to His Crate
Crate training takes time, but it really is the best way to potty train your puppy and help it feel safe and secure in its new home. During the day, place the crate in your puppy’s safe place. At night, place the crate close to your bed to help your puppy feel safer and less lonely while it’s adjusting to its new home.
You want your puppy to learn to love its crate, so take steps to make the crate as cozy and inviting as possible. Cover it with a blanket for bedtime and add a comfy bed and a chew toy or two to help prevent boredom.
Introduce your puppy to its crate by using small treats and lots of praise to encourage your puppy to go into the crate on its own. Once your puppy is inside, close the door and walk away for a few minutes, then come back and open the door when your puppy is quiet and calm. Increase the length of time gradually until your puppy learns to love his new cozy space.
Puppy’s First Night in its New Home
Bringing home a new puppy is a lot like bringing home a new baby. Nights during the first week, especially the first night away from its mother and littermates, can be rough. Your puppy should sleep in its crate next to your bed to help make this time of transition less stressful for both of you.
Following a nighttime routine will also be beneficial. Start by taking your puppy out for one last potty break right before bed. Put the puppy in its crate and give it a small treat, then cover the kennel with a blanket and turn out the lights. Resist the temptation to let the puppy out if it whines, unless you feel it’s time for a potty break.
You will likely need to make a few trips outside during the night for a little while. Just be sure to follow the same routine when you come back inside. Once your puppy settles into the routine, you should have no trouble getting your new furry friend to sleep through most of the night fairly quickly.
Potty Training Basics
Potting training takes consistency, patience, and lots of positive reinforcement. Some puppies get the idea in just a few weeks, while others can take months to be completely housetrained. Hiring a dog walker or using pee pads can be especially helpful if you work outside the home.
Routines are the key to success when it comes to housetraining, so you’ll want to start by establishing a potty and feeding schedule. This will help your puppy learn what to expect and help you to know when it’s time for a potty break, reducing the potential for accidents.
Take your puppy out to the same spot each time and use a command like “Go Potty!” to help your puppy understand what’s expected of him. Whenever your puppy does its business successfully, use treats and praise to reinforce good behavior.
Remember that young puppies can’t hold their bladder and bowels for more than two or three hours. You’ll want to take your puppy out at least that often throughout the day. You should also take your puppy out as soon as he wakes up from a nap, right after he eats, the last thing at night, and as soon as he gets up in the morning.
Supervise your puppy whenever he’s not in his crate and take him outside anytime he seems to be sniffing around for a place to go. When your puppy does have an accident in the house, do your best not to react. Simply take him outside to his potty place, give the command, and offer lots of positive reinforcement when he gets it right.
Introducing Your New Puppy to the Rest of the Family
With all the excitement around your new best friend, it can be hard to keep things calm. Rather than letting your kids and other pets swarm him all at once, it’s best to introduce new family members one at a time.
Meeting the Cat: Keep your puppy and your cat separated for the first few days to give your cat time to get used to the new noises, smells, and activity. Then let them see and smell each other through a gate or crate for a few days. Slowly move into supervised interactions and be prepared to separate them if trouble arises.
Getting Acquainted with Your Older Dog: For the first day or two, let your puppy and your adult dog get acquainted through a gate or crate. Then, move into nose-to-nose interactions with both dogs on a leash. Gradually allow supervised off-leash interactions, and be prepared to separate them when one of them needs a break.
Encouraging Safe Interactions with Your Children: The first time your puppy meets your kids should be one on one with the puppy on a leash. Once everyone is acquainted, you can allow supervised off-leash playtime. However, teaching your kids how to interact with your puppy safely is vital.
Teasing with toys or food should be discouraged because it can reinforce bad behaviors. Explain that loud noises and rough handling can startle or upset the puppy, and supervise all interactions. Separate them if the play becomes too rough or it seems like the puppy needs a break.
Be sure to schedule your puppy’s first check-up as soon as possible and follow the vaccination schedule recommended by your vet. Spaying or neutering should also be scheduled at the appropriate age, as it’s essential for your puppy’s health. Reach out to us if you have any questions!
Once your vet gives the all-clear and your puppy is settled into his new home, the next step is to begin socializing your puppy with other pets, people, and new experiences outside the home. Attending a puppy class is a great way to start establishing good habits that will last a lifetime.