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Getting a new puppy is one of the most exciting things that can happen to a person. I’m sure my sister might tell you that bringing home a new baby is even better, but between you and me, I’m not sure I’d agree. There’s just nothing like an adorably wiggly puppy, with their tiny paws and their little tails, exploring all over your house. Whenever Janice and Leroy grace me with a new litter, I always love seeing how excited new owners get. But bringing home a new puppy does have a few obstacles involved.
When puppies are born, they are immediately conditioned to live in a pack. They sleep in a pile with their siblings, they eat pressed up against their mother’s tummy, they are constantly groomed and carried and checked up on, and they can’t go anywhere without a curious sibling following them. Unless you adopt multiple puppies, chances are that your new dog is going to have some anxiety at first. Being the only dog in a house, or being with dogs they don’t recognize, can make a puppy feel very lonely and anxious.
Add that anxiety to the excitement of a new place to explore and smell, and new human friends to play with, and a puppy can get overwhelmed pretty quickly. And that’s just for the dog! The human owner may also start to feel a bit overwhelmed with all the new activities as well. So here are five things to make sure you do on your dog’s first day in their new home.
(1) Potty Breaks
One thing that many new puppy owners don’t remember is that a puppy needs frequent potty breaks. When you are so excited about playing with a new dog and watching them explore, it’s pretty easy for the time to slip by…and then the first accident occurs.
The best thing to do for the very first day (or even the first week) is to set yourself a reminder to go off every hour. This will remind you to take your puppy for a potty break regularly. Even if they haven’t eaten or had a drink in a while, it’s still good to get them in the routine of going to the designated bathroom spot. Keep in mind that puppies are more likely to relieve themselves in small amounts frequently, rather than holding it for a single bathroom break.
Another thing that would help you make accidents a little less likely is to place a puppy pad in the room where your puppy will mostly be hanging out. Even if you are taking them outside for their breaks, having a pad nearby to put them on in a hurry when they squat is very helpful.
When your puppy first arrives at your house, they should already be weaned. However, that doesn’t mean that they are already used to eating dry kibble. Offer them a very small meal when they first arrive and have had a chance to sniff around, and see how they react. If they aren’t taking to it right away, consider mixing the food with a small amount of water to soften it for them. Eventually, use less and less water till you aren’t adding any at all.
It’s important to use a dog kibble that is made for puppies. Puppies need specific nutrients that adult dog food doesn’t contain. If you have a large breed puppy, it is very important that you use a food for large breed puppies. Their joints need extra protection because their bones tend to grow faster than their joints can handle at first.
Be sure not to overfeed your puppy. Obesity is one of the biggest problems that dogs today face, and it can cause a lot of health issues. Follow the correct serving instructions on the dog food bag, or talk to your vet about how much your puppy should be eating. Until a dog is well trained, it is better to feed them at a specific time, and pick the food up after meal time, rather than leaving the food down all day to be nibbled on. Consider feeding your puppy half their daily food in the morning, and half at night, to help them avoid digestive issues if they eat too quickly.
The next thing that you should start doing with your new puppy right away – even on the very first night – is crate training. A crate offers the puppy an immediate place to make their own. Fill the crate with a soft blanket or dog bed, and a soft toy for them to cuddle with – it will remind them of their puppy pile of siblings. There is no doubt that your puppy will cry the first night, and maybe even the first several nights. However, letting your puppy sleep with you could be dangerous if you roll over in your sleep.
I will say that I am not religious about keeping Janice and Leroy off my bed. They do curl up with me from time to time. But they are adult dogs who are strong enough to move out from under me if I were to roll on top of them. A puppy would be smothered and likely injured.
Keep in mind that your puppy will need at least one bathroom break in the middle of the night. It’s a good idea to set an alarm roughly halfway through the night to take them outside. The general rule of thumb is that a puppy can hold it for the number of months they are old, plus one hour – so a three-month-old puppy can hold it for four hours (three plus one).
Do keep the crate in your room if you can. Having the smell and sound of you nearby will make them feel safer. It’s tough to sleep through the howling and whimpering, but if your new pup got plenty of exercise and fun, he’ll fall asleep soon enough. And this stage doesn’t last long.
(4) Letting Your Puppy Explore and Meet New Friends
When you bring a new puppy home, there is always some exploring to be done. Your dog needs to discover the new house, but they also need to be introduced to all the other people or pets that live in your home.
With children, a new puppy should be supervised. Even if the kids know to be gentle, it’s likely that they won’t remember to take the dog outside for potty breaks. They may not recognize the signs that the puppy is about to have an accident, and puppies often have sharp little nails that can hurt if they get too excited.
With other pets, a new puppy should be separated and only allowed to play with the older pet under supervision at first. There are many ways that dog or cat could react to a new puppy – everything from playing too roughly or fighting, to complete indifference or jealousy. Just about any reaction is normal, so it’s hard to predict what will happen. Keep animals apart unless you are there to watch what is going on.
The best way to keep a new puppy safe and secured in a part of the house where they aren’t likely to get hurt, is to get a puppy gate. Put these up to block a puppy from stairs, or from escaping a “puppy safe zone” in your house. You can use a standard baby gate, or something like this retractable screen for indoors.
Be sure that your puppy begins to associate you with happiness. Play with him often, every chance you get. Start training him with fun, positive reactions every time he responds to you in a good way. You can use praise and pets, or small puppy-safe treats. Just be sure to watch the calorie count – treats do add up, and that can add extra weight that a puppy doesn’t need.
Another thing to start doing with your dog right away is to give them some toys to play with! Puppies need smaller, softer toys till their jaws get stronger, but they can start to learn how to direct their energy right away. Soft plushies to chew on or snuggle with a great idea, as well as things like this PetSafe kibble toy. Put a few pieces of dog food inside and teach them to work for their food – it’ll be a valuable tool when they get older.
The final thing that you’ll need to consider on your puppy’s first day at your house is that they will have some anxiety. This is normal – they are leaving behind everything they’ve known so far in life. Dogs express anxiety in many different ways. They may just want to curl up in a safe corner and observe everything till they feel comfortable. They may have a lot of anxious energy that they need to work out. They may seem afraid of you, or afraid of everyone but you. They may not want to sleep for a few nights, and so on.
The best thing you can do is let the puppy follow their instincts, but make sure to direct their energy in a positive way. If your puppy wants to spend a lot of time in their crate to feel safe, let them do that – just keep the door open and be sure to do regular potty breaks. Eventually, they will feel comfortable and curious about their surroundings.
However, if they are trying to work out a bunch of anxious energy, don’t just let them run amok. Take them outside and show them the right away to play. Puppies aren’t yet developed enough to need long walks, but a romp around the yard could be exactly what they need to calm down. If they aren’t interested in eating, don’t force the issue right away. Just make sure they have water and that food is offered several times a day to peak their interest.
Remember That Now is the Foundation of Your Dog’s Adult Behavior
This may sound like a lot of things to do with a new puppy right away. Most of us probably just want to cuddle him and pet him and declare him the cutest puppy in all the land. But the fact is that everything you do with your dog from day one is laying groundwork for how they will behave in the future. If you want a well-mannered, fun companion that will take to training in the future, you need to start giving a puppy structure and some basic expectations right away.
It’s expected that they will sleep in their crate. It’s expected that they will potty outside. It’s expected that they will eat at mealtimes. And so on. Setting up just these basic ground rules is vital. And of course, negative reactions to “breaking” the rules don’t work for a young puppy. Don’t scold them for accidents – just praise and treat them for their success. They’ll learn to want the treat or praise.
One more thing to keep in mind is that in order to have a good first day with your puppy, you should be prepared ahead of time. Have the crate, food, toys, and safety gates all ready to go before you bring the puppy home. The fewer changes you can make in the first few days, the easier your puppy will find the transition.
Although I may be a little extreme in my preference of puppies over babies, I’m not alone in thinking that a new puppy is a great time in anyone’s life. It can be challenging, but it doesn’t last too long – so enjoy it! Dogs grow up very quickly, and soon your little fluff ball will be a fun-loving dog by your side. Use these five tips to help your puppy have a great first night in your home.