Many people compare bringing home a puppy to having a new-born child. They have accidents, sleep a lot, cry at night, and above all, they cause you to panic.
It is easy to think you are doing everything wrong, every puppy owner shares this same dread!
We do not want anyone to be anxious about bringing home a puppy, or missing out on the joys of watching their puppy, especially during the first few days.
So we have provided you with a survival handbook. This handbook covers everything you should do in the first 24 hours. It can be referenced at any time and will help you to feel confident bringing your puppy home.
Table of Contents
1. How To Prepare For Bringing A Puppy Home
Preparing for a puppy is an important step that will help you to avoid common mistakes. If you are well equipped and ready for the arrival of your puppy, you and your new furry friend, will both have a great first day together.
What To Buy For A New Puppy
Purchasing essential puppy equipment is arguably the most important part of preparing for a puppy. Before your puppy comes home, you will likely have the urge to go to the store and buy every single toy, outfit, treat and collar. But slow down, you will not need or use half of what you buy!
Below is a new puppy checklist that covers everything you need for a puppy:
- ID Tags
- Food Bowl
- Water Bowl
- Puppy Food
- Poop Bags
- Dog Bed
Having a leash, collar, and ID tag are all necessary for taking your puppy safely outside to relieve itself. Many states, such as Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois and Michigan, have laws that owners must always have their dogs leashed. Owners must also make sure their dogs have identification tags on their collars. Even if your state does not require leashing and ID tags, it is good practice to keep your puppy on a leash at all times.
This leash should be flat (not a chain collar or choke collar) and should fit properly around your puppy’s neck. A good fitting collar will allow you to slip two fingers between their neck and collar, but no more than that. ID tags typically include the dog’s name, the owner’s name, the owner’s phone number, and the owner’s home address.
Food and water bowls are an obvious necessity, but not many new owners know they are separate items bought with thought behind them. For instance, puppies with long ears need a specially designed bowl to keep their droopy ears from dangling in the bowl when they drink!
The food you should be feeding your puppy should be formulated for puppies. You should speak to your breeder or shelter before bringing your puppy home and purchase the same food. Many breeders will give you a bag or two of kibble.
Changing your puppy’s food is not something you should do in the first few days.
Puppies have different dietary needs (e.g. high protein) than an adult dog. Adult dog food or human food can upset their sensitive stomachs. Poop bags are also a necessity because of that sensitive stomach.
A dog bed, or comfy blankets, should be on your checklist. They will provide your puppy with a warm place to nap, even though they will likely sleep in odd places around the home instead.
Crate training your puppy is a great habit to start from the first day. If you make their crate a comfortable environment, this will soon become their safe haven!
Dog toys are undeniably cute. They are the one item on your list that you are going to want to buy way too many of! To start with, only buy a few toys and make sure they are all different. A soft toy to snuggle in their crate, a few chewing toys (suitable for puppies), a squeaky toy, a kong, a ball and a rope toy is enough.
Avoid any toys that are small enough for your puppy to choke on, or too hard that they may injure your puppy’s teeth. Antlers, pig ears, and marrow bones should not be given to your puppy as they may damage their teeth.
How To Puppy Proof A Room
Buying the right equipment is not the only thing you need to do before your puppy comes home. You will need to pick a room for them to spend their first few days in and puppy-proof it. Many people make the mistake of trying to puppy- proof the whole house.
Puppy proofing an entire house is an almost impossible task. Start small and pick one room that is quiet, warm and free of loud, scary noises. Ideally this room should be a common family area where your puppy will feel safe.
By introducing your puppy to their new house slowly, they will feel less overwhelmed and more confident.
To puppy proof a room, remove any items they may be able to reach that you do not want to be soiled or chewed. Puppies will nibble on anything they can reach, especially when they are teething. This room will be their ‘puppy zone’ and should be safe for them to be left alone. Put their crate, bowls, toys, and bed in this room. If you have a large open plan living area, you can also section off a smaller area with baby gates for the first few weeks.
Make sure the puppy zone is not carpeted and can be easily cleaned, potty accidents are inevitable. You will also need to make sure the area you will take your puppy to go potty is safe and free of any hazards. Potty pads are not a good option as they often teach your puppy to pee inside, rather than outside.
Find A Vet and Puppy Classes
Finding a good vet is important. You will want to take your puppy to the vet soon after you bring him home. This first check-up will involve a general wellness check, scheduling his vaccines and booster vaccines, and time for you puppy to play with the vet to help with socializing.
In addition to finding a vet, you will also need to find:
- Dog health insurance.
- Puppy training classes.
- Dog walker.
- Friendly dogs.
- Local dog parks – do not take them until after they have received all of their vaccinations.
Finding friendly dogs may seem strange at this point. But, you will want to contact some friends with friendly dogs to help socialize your puppy. Older dogs are able to teach your puppy manners.
Socialization is extremely important and starts from day one. Find some calm, friendly dogs that you can trust with your delicate puppy and introduce them at a young age. Socialization also extends to people, places, sounds and much more.
Puppy training classes can be a really great way to socialize your puppy while also teaching them manners and tricks. Choose a puppy class with a small class size (8 or less) and dogs of a similar size so your puppy does not feel overwhelmed. Also, make sure to choose a trainer who uses positive reinforcement dog training only.
The last, and most fun, part of preparing for a puppy is picking a name! We have some fun dog names here.
2. Bringing A Puppy Home
The car ride over to collect your puppy will likely be filled with fun and anticipation! In all the excitement, do not forget to pack a few essentials before you leave:
- Create with toys and a blanket.
- Leash and collar.
- Poop bags.
The car ride home is likely going to be very stressful for your puppy. This may be their first time in a car and all the bumps and noises can be frightening. Putting your puppy in a crate, with soft blankets and stuffed animals, will make him feel happier and less afraid. It will also make the drive safer because you will not be distracted by your puppy running loose around the car.
If your drive home is longer than two hours, you will need to stop to potty your puppy. They can typically only go two hours without a bathroom break. Because puppies are not always fully vaccinated, avoid stopping in any places where other dogs have already eliminated.
Most puppies will cry during the car ride home. Be patient and try your best to ignore it.
Collecting From a Breeder
If you have purchased your puppy from a breeder, you will first meet with the breeder to settle payment and go over the final paperwork. Reputable breeders will use a contract for puppy owners to sign. Payment should only be made after you have met your puppy and interacted with them.
You should also ask for any veterinary and vaccination records that your breeder has. This will help your vet determine what care your puppy has received.
A puppy under eight weeks will not have had vaccinations yet. But puppies over eight weeks should have had their first DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, and parvovirus) vaccine. If they are over 14 weeks old, their first rabies vaccine should have been done too.
Use this time to ask your breeder as many questions as you can possibly think of. They have raised your puppy up until now and are your best resource. They can tell you about what and when to feed your puppy, training and socialization done to date, quirks about their personality, toys they like, and potty schedules.
Before you leave, ask if you can take a blanket with mom’s scent on it. Having the smell of their mom will comfort them in their crate.
Taking them away from their mother will often be hard for the puppy, so carry them and hold them close to provide them with as much emotional support as you can.
Collecting From a Shelter
If you are adopting a dog from a shelter, you will first need to complete the paperwork.
Normally shelters use a rehoming application form and ownership form for you to confirm taking ownership of a dog. After that there is a one-off adoption fee.
Again, use this time to ask questions!
Shelter workers have been interacting with your dog on a daily basis, they will know a lot about your dog! Their personality, likes and dislikes, favorite games, etc. They will also tell you know what kind of food they are currently feeding.
Most shelters also provide a dog adoption guide/booklet. These booklets are full of useful tips and advice, make sure to ask for one.
You will also need any vaccination records from the shelter to give to your vet during their first check-up. Sometimes shelter dogs are microchipped and spayed/neutered, so get confirmation of this during the collection process too.
Bringing your puppy home from a shelter is typically a quicker process.
3. Arriving Home
Going into a new home with many different types of smells and sounds is very fun for a puppy. But for some puppies it can be overwhelming. To them, this is the equivalent of arriving in a new country where nobody speaks their language and all the surroundings are unfamiliar.
It will also be the first time they are away from their mom and littermates.
First, take your puppy outside to go potty. This should help avoid an immediate accident in your home. It is important that they learn right away where their bathroom is… which is not inside!
Next, gently bring their crate in to the designated ‘puppy area’ and open it up. Give them some gentle encouragement, but allow them to come out whenever they feel safe. Let them explore their surroundings and sniff every square inch to familiarize themselves.
Take it slow and allow your puppy to move at their own pace. Slowly introduce them to their room, toys, bed (crate) and water.
Instead of having a meal waiting for your puppy when you get home, scatter their kibble around the room. This will help your puppy explore their new surroundings and have fun!
If they do not eat right away, they may just be stressed. They will return to eat when they are feeling happier in a few hours. It is recommended that you feed your puppy three or four small meals a day, the quantity will be determined by their age and weight.
Keep them in the puppy room for now. Over time, you will allow them to explore more and more of their house.
This may be hard, but during their first few hours, do not have every family member crowded around talking loudly. Only one or two people should be present, and you should avoid any sudden movements or loud sounds. You don’t want to spook your puppy.
As they become more comfortable and show no signs of stress (i.e. not sniffing as much) you can introduce other family members for a pet or play. If you have young kids, make sure they are calm and gentle with the puppy as to not overwhelm them. Other pets may be allowed to meet the puppy at this point, but interactions should always be supervised and done very slowly. Keep friends away for the first few days.
Your puppy will most likely need a nap after this adventure. Let them rest and do not disturb them. Puppies sleep for around 20 hours a day, so do not be surprised to see them suddenly crash on the floor.
The same rule of ‘when the baby’s sleeping, you should be sleeping’ that new-born mothers are told applies here too! Your puppy will likely keep you up at night for the first few nights, so sneaking in some naps throughout the day will help.
4. First Day with Puppy
You will need to devote a lot of attention to the newest member of your family, especially during the first few days. Someone should constantly be supervising a puppy to keep them out of mischief. Puppies also need a lot of play and emotional support too. You should plan to take a few days off work!
Although your puppy may seem too young and bouncy to understand anything, it is important to start training as soon as you bring them home.
Make training fun! Include lots of treats, praise, and make sure to stop for play breaks and potty breaks. Training will help your puppy be more well-mannered, but will also strengthen the bond between you and your puppy because of how much time you will spend together.
Potty training is one of the most important things to focus on for the first few weeks. After you have taken your puppy out for their first potty break, you will need to take them outside every two hours.
Some good house training rules to follow are:
- You should take them outside 15 minutes after they eat or drink.
- Take them out immediately after a nap. Many puppies will have accidents right after they wake up without any warning.
- Take them to go potty immediately after they play. Puppies get easily excited.
Good house training will feel tedious and excessive, but it will help potty train your puppy quickly. You will be able to slowly increase the amount of time between potty breaks, but not yet! Most puppies can be potty trained within seven days when their family stick to a schedule:
|07:00am||Wake up and take out to the bathroom.|
|08:00am||Take out after first meal.|
|10:00am||Potty time after play.|
|12:00pm||Wake up and take out to the bathroom.|
|12:30pm||Take out after lunch.|
|04:00pm||Wake up and take out to the bathroom.|
|05:00pm||Take out after final meal.|
|06:00pm||Take out after play/training.|
|09:00pm||Take out to bathroom and then place in crate.|
|12:00am||Potty time and then place back in crate.|
|03:00am||Potty time and then place back in crate.|
Signs that your puppy needs to potty include: restlessness, standing by the door, and sniffing the ground excessively. If you find your puppy toileting in the house, quickly pick them up and place them outside. This will teach them where they should go potty.
When your puppy goes to the bathroom outside, praise them! Give them affection, positive words and a treat. Over time, they will realize where their bathroom is and accidents in the home will stop.
If you find a puddle of pee that has been sitting for a while, do not yell or look at your puppy. They will have no idea why you are angry. Toileting accidents are going to happen. Be prepared with a pet-safe cleaner and plenty of paper towels.
Make sure this cleaner removes the scent completely so that your puppy does not continue to go to the bathroom in the same place!
The most important part of potty training is consistency and positive reinforcement.
Crate training is an essential skill to teach a puppy. Puppies have an instinct to not pee in their “den”, so crate training can actually help you potty train your puppy!
It also provides them with a safe place to sleep for when you cannot supervise them or are not home. It even provides them with a space to relax and settle down when they are getting too rowdy.
Apart from at night-time, puppies should not be left in a crate for longer than two hours. They also need to build up to those two hours in the crate.
During that first day, keep the crate door open and allow them to explore it. You want this to be a fun place where they feel safe, so throw treats in there and fill it with their favorite blankets and toys. If they seem happy, try shutting the door for a few seconds at a time.
Never use their crate as punishment. If you do this, they will associate the crate with negative memories and will not be happy to sleep there at night.
In addition, do not use the crate in excess. They should not be spending the majority of their day in this confined space.
Most puppies learn their name within the first 48 hours. Name training is a really fun part of bringing home a puppy. You should use your puppy’s name from the moment you bring them home.
To teach your puppy their name, say their name and give them a treat after each time. Start in areas that are quiet and without distraction. Do this for two minute intervals every few hours. After 24 hours, continue saying their name, but only give them a treat if they look at you.
Name training is the basis of all other training! Without your dog knowing their own name, it will be very hard to get their attention during other types of training.
The most important part of bringing home a puppy is to have fun. Show them their toys, play with them, and let them know you are going to be their new best friend. You are still new to them, which can be scary for puppies.
Cuddles, petting and grooming are also strongly encouraged in the first days to form a strong bond with your pup.
A bond is important to help your puppy feel safe. Play fetch, blow bubbles for them, run around the backyard with them; just have fun!
5. First Night with Puppy
For you and your puppy the first night can be hard. It is likely the first night will leave you feeling very tired, but it won’t always be this way! Try and remember it is their first night away from mom and siblings. This home sickness will soon fade.
Prepare Their Bed Ahead of Time
Take their crate and move it into your bedroom or whatever room you plan to leave your puppy in. Even better, buy two crates so you do not have to constantly move it back and forth.
Fill that crate with comforting objects like stuffed toys and a bed. Remember to include a blanket that smells like their mom too. Some people swear by putting a ticking clock under a hot water bottle wrapped in a blanket to mimic the sound of their mother’s heart beating.
Remove Food and Water
About two hours before taking your puppy to bed, do not feed them and remove any water bowls from their reach. This will help to reduce the number of bathroom breaks during the night.
Get Them Tired
30 minutes before bedtime, play with them and get them very tired. A sleepy puppy is a good puppy. Avoid letting them take naps right before bedtime too. If they start looking sleepy, get their attention with a fun toy or do a quick run around the room… you have to make them exhausted, especially for the first night.
The last thing to do before tucking them into their crate is to get them to go potty. As soon as they potty, place them in the crate. Try and tune out the whining and crying. They will likely cry for a while as this is their first time truly being alone. Give them time and do not give in to their crying. Going back to their crate and petting them reinforces the crying.
Every three hours you will want to wake up and take them outside. This prevents them from having an accident in their crate and speeds up housebreaking. When you take them out, ignore the temptation to play with them and cuddle. You will want to get them back into their crate as soon as possible to make sure they are still sleepy.
Tips and Tricks We Wish We Had Known
Bringing home a puppy is a fun and exciting time. Below we have a few parting tips and tricks to help the first few days go even better:
- Always carry your puppy when it is time to go potty. If you let them walk, there is a good chance they are going to have an accident on the way to the back door.
- Kong toys will be your best friend. When your puppy is a bit older, give them a small kong full of banana and peanut butter (without Xylitol) to keep them busy while you need to get things done around the house.
- When they have an accident or rip up your favorite shoe, take it as a lesson you need to learn. Try to stop them from reinforcing bad behaviors by giving them toys to chew on and sticking to a potty schedule.To set them up for success keep items that they may chew out of your puppy’s environment.
- If your puppy does something naughty like bites or jumps on you, stand up and turn away. Giving them no attention will teach them that this behavior will not be tolerated.
- The constant bathroom breaks, accidents in the house and crying at night can be extremely overwhelming, but it will get easier. Plenty of training and socializing a puppy will make sure they turn into happy and confident dogs.
Puppies need lots of supervision, training and care, but, most of all love. Be prepared for a fun, beautiful and rewarding journey. Do you have any questions about bringing a puppy home? Leave it in the comments section below.