Bringing home your new puppy can be a mix of excitement and stress as you work to ensure your furry friend is as comfortable and settled in your home as possible. The first night that your puppy spends with you is vital in forming good training habits and a healthy bond between you both. We know that this can be a lot of pressure, so we’ve created a complete guide for you to look over as you prepare for your puppy’s first night.
Below, we will be discussing exactly why the first night home is so important. We’ll also be giving you a checklist of essential puppy items you will need to prepare your home and some tips on keeping your puppy learning good habits past those first few stressful nights. Read on for everything you need to know about bringing home a new puppy!
Why the First Night Is Important For Puppies
Your puppy’s first night carries an important weight as it will be both your first night with them and their first night away from the comfort and security of their mother and littermates; this is especially true if you are adopting a dog from a reputable breeder, but if you are adopting a puppy from a shelter instead, they are still likely to be disturbed by the sudden change of surroundings even if they were not previously with their littermates.
Many who adopt puppies are unaware of how restless that first night might be. Sure, it is possible to get lucky and have no trouble settling your puppy down for the night, but in most cases, you can expect an almost sleepless night (or couple of nights) as your puppy gets settled in.
The reason behind why it can be so hard to get your puppy adapted to their new surroundings stems from an evolutionary behavior. In the wild, puppies will whimper and cry when they don’t sense their mother or littermates around them.
This prevents their mother from leaving their side, thus leaving them vulnerable to predators; whimpering makes sure the mother is likely to spend most of her time with her puppies’ keeping them quiet, secure, and ensuring that they all stay safe.
When your puppy first gets home, they will likely exhibit these same signs of crying and whimpering as if they are searching for their littermates or mother (and the same security they previously felt) to ensure that they will not be harmed by predators. This is why it is so essential to make your puppy feel comforted and protected that first night, as this will allow them to settle into their new home and start building bonds with their new family less stressfully.
Additionally, puppies will whimper or cry when they want to use the bathroom. You may find yourself waking up every few hours during your puppy’s first night to ensure that they relieve themselves in the proper area and are not spending all night distressed (we go into more detail on this later). It is essential that you start building good habits on the first night your puppy spends with you if you want them to grow up well-trained and well-behaved.
Checklist of Essential New Puppy Items
These essential items are important to secure before your puppy’s arrival. They will help you prepare your home to be the most welcoming and comfortable it can be and will help you get started on positive routines with your puppy from the moment they arrive home.
- An adjustable collar and leash. It is important to pick a collar with some room as your puppy will grow fast. We recommend this brand.
- Collar tags with your puppy’s name and your contact information. This essential in case your puppy escapes or gets lost.
- Food and water bowls. We recommend a stainless-steel set, as they are more hygienic and easier to clean.
- Puppy food. You should make an effort to feed the same food that your puppy is used to getting from the breeder or the shelter. If you want to transition the food, you will need to do it slowly and should only attempt it after your puppy has settled in.
- Dog waste bags. You may also want to purchase a holder for these bags as it makes them easier to carry around on walks.
- Dog bed. It can be helpful to invest in a dog bed before your puppy comes home, but you can hold off on this one until later on to ensure you pick something your dog likes.
- Blanket. A warm, comfortable blanket is great for putting your puppy to sleep. They can snuggle with it and it will provide them comfort while they sleep.
- Toys are essential for your puppy, but you should start off with only a few of the basics in order to see which type of toy your dog prefers.
- Make sure to have treats for training and then just for rewarding your dog. Try not to get anything too rich or not suited for puppies as you don’t want to be cleaning up messes.
- Crate. While you don’t need to keep your puppy in a crate at night, it is highly recommended that you do in order to keep your puppy safe, prevent accidents around your home, and instill a healthy sleep routine. We discuss this more later.
- Playpen or gate. It can be helpful to invest in a playpen or gate to help corner off a play zone for your puppy. This can keep them out of the way and ensure they are safe when you are not in the room with them.
- An item with their littermate’s scent. On your puppy’s first night home, they may feel lonely. You can help with this by taking a snuggle toy or blanket to the breeder when you pick up your puppy and getting their mother and littermate’s scent on it. If you are picking up your dog from a shelter, ask if you can bring a blanket or toy they used home with them to give them a sense of familiarity.
Preparing for Your Puppy’s Arrival
There are several things that you need to do in order to prepare your home for your puppy’s arrival. These items are fairly important as they will help keep your new puppy safe and make your home a more welcoming, calm environment for them.
Choose a Name
Before your puppy gets home, you should have already decided on a name for them. Already knowing which name you want for your puppy prevents confusion; you don’t want to cycle through several names before settling on one because it might take your puppy longer to learn their name that way.
As an added bonus, if you have chosen your puppy’s name ahead of time you can purchase customized dog tags and bowls to help stylishly decorate your home.
Puppy Proof Your Home
Puppies, much like small children, are prone to getting into areas where they shouldn’t be. Puppy proof your home by placing small dog or baby gates blocking areas you don’t want your dog to be, locking pantry doors your puppy could potentially get into, and placing potentially toxic plants well out of reach.
You may also want to scope out the main areas that your puppy will be staying in and move any electrical wires, books, shoes, or other chewing hazards out of the way. You can alternatively tape down wires to the sideboards or floor of your home in order to protect them from chewing.
Set Expectations With Your Family
If you are bringing a puppy home to a family or significant other, you should make sure that all expectations about the care of the puppy and necessary chores have been understood. This may mean that you have a household meeting where you establish who is caring for what aspect of the puppy’s livelihood. Obviously, if you have very young children, you and your significant other will be doing the majority of the essential work (such as walking and cleaning up after the puppy), but smaller children can assist in playtime and feedings.
Even if you are adopting a puppy solo, you will need to put some thought into establishing a feeding and walking schedule. This will allow you to seamlessly fit your puppy into your daily routine and obligations with less stress for both you and the dog.
Ensure All Essentials Have Been Purchased
In the days before your puppy comes home, make sure to check our checklist of essential puppy items and confirm that you have everything you need to make your puppy’s first days in your home as comfortable as possible. If you are missing items, make a quick trip to purchase them before your puppy gets home so you have everything you need on hand as soon as your furry friend arrives.
Prepare a Comfortable Puppy Zone
There should be at least one area in your home that your puppy can have all to themself and is filled with toys and comfortable bedding. You may want to place a playpen or other gate around the puppy zone to ensure it stays free from other animals or children in your home. You can also choose to place your dog’s sleeping crate in the puppy zone.
Prepare for the Car Ride Home
The car ride home with your new puppy can be stressful, as you will want to pay attention to your new friend but will also need to keep your eyes on the road. It can be helpful to have a family member or friend come with you to pick up your puppy; one of you can drive on the way home while the other one sits with the puppy to ensure they are safe and not feeling too overwhelmed.
You may also want to purchase a puppy car seat to prevent your car from being soiled in accidentally and to help keep your puppy in place while riding in the car.
What to Do on the First Night Home
The first night home is essential in setting your puppy up for good habits and ensuring that they feel comforted and safe in their new surroundings. Follow our tips below for creating a healthy environment for your new best friend.
Immediately Start Potty Training
Potty training your puppy should be taken seriously if you want to prevent accidents, so the moment you get home with your puppy, this routine needs to begin. Upon exiting the car, immediately take your puppy to a designated area that they can relieve themselves in. Wait for them to use the bathroom and give them lots of praise when they do.
Ideally, your puppy with relieve themselves before being let into the house, but if they don’t you can take them inside and then try again in another 10 to 15 minutes. Just be sure to keep an eye on your puppy once inside to prevent any accidents from occurring.
Your puppy will likely have to go to the bathroom every few hours, so make sure to take them outside to the designated potty spot after their meals, after naps and playtime, and before bedtime. As they grow older, they will be able to hold their bladder for longer, but the first night is essential in establishing a potty routine.
If you want more information about potty training your new puppy, read this article.
Don’t Overwhelm Your Puppy
Once your puppy comes home, you will want to maintain a quiet and calm environment. This includes removing anything that can make a loud noise, including other animals and small children, from around the puppy. Your puppy will likely feel overwhelmed and a little bit scared about being taken to such a new environment, so it is important to let them adapt and not make the experience more uncomfortable than it needs to be.
You can give lots of gentle praise and speak softly to your puppy, but try to avoid yelling, overwhelming them with touch, or picking up and carrying them around too much, as this can be quite frightening.
Allow Slow Exploration
Your puppy will likely be curious when they first get to your home. You can encourage this by allowing them to explore slowly; you should be constantly monitoring your puppy while they check out their new home and ready to swoop in and stop any potty accidents or prevent your puppy from getting into trouble.
If you have other animals or small children in the home, you may want to confine your puppy to one or two rooms away from them for the first few days until they become a little more comfortable. Then, you can slowly open up more of your home to them as they build their exploring confidence.
Establish a Crate Training Routine
While you don’t have to crate train your puppy, it is highly recommended to establish a nighttime routine in which your puppy goes to sleep in a crate. This can be helpful in keeping your puppy out of trouble while you are asleep, can prevent them from having accidents around your home, and will enable you to establish a clear nighttime routine. Additionally, the security of a crate with a comfortable blanket in it can help your puppy feel a little calmer during their first few nights home.
It is not recommended to allow your puppy on the bed with you, even though they may cry and whimper through the night, as you run the risk of your puppy falling off the bed, you rolling on top of them, or creating bad sleeping habits.
When setting up your puppy’s crate, you can choose to keep it in your puppy’s dedicated zone, in your bedroom, or just outside your bedroom. Wherever you set up the crate, you should be sure that you can hear your puppy and that you can easily get to the crate multiple times a night; puppies will need bathroom breaks every few hours throughout the night to prevent accidents in the crate.
You can find more information about crate training your new puppy here.
Settle Your Puppy Down, but Don’t Indulge Them
As you settle your puppy down for the night, there is sure to be a little bit (or a lot of) whimpering and crying from the puppy. This is because they are in an unfamiliar location and probably missing the comfort of their littermates. You can alleviate this by providing comfortable blankets, a toy with your puppy’s littermate’s scent on it, and heating pads in your dog’s sleeping area or crate (if using heating pads, make sure your puppy will not be able to chew on them at any point during the night).
For the most part, you will need to ignore any loud whimpers, barks, or cries from your puppy. Giving them attention when they make noise, even negative attention such as yelling at them to stop, will create an association between making noise and attention. This will only make the problem worse and teach bad habits.
Additionally, you will certainly need to take your new puppy out for bathroom breaks throughout the night, something that will be indicated by their whimpering. The best way to deal with this is to take your puppy outside to the designated potty area as soon as they whimper or cry. Wait 5 minutes for them to use the bathroom. Even if they don’t go, bring them back inside after time is up and settle them back into the crate.
Do not stop to play with them, praise them, or coddle them in any way in order to get them to settle down. Simply tuck them back into the crate and go back to bed. The whimpering or crying should gradually stop, but if it doesn’t after a long time or if it stops and then starts up again, repeat the potty exercise.
This teaches your new puppy that they will not be leaving the crate unless it is for bathrooms and will encourage them to make less noise. Make sure to praise your dog when they are well-behaved and quiet. It can take several restless nights for this pattern to sink in, but eventually, your puppy will understand what is expected of them and will start sleeping through the night.
More nighttime potty training tips can be found here.
Establishing Routines With Your Puppy in the Following Weeks
Even after the first few nights with your puppy pass, you will need to keep working at setting positive routines and making sure that your puppy feels comfortable in their environment.
Introduce to Other Animals Slowly
If there are other dogs or cats in your home, you will need to make sure that you take your time when introducing your new puppy to them. This will relieve the stress on both your new puppy and your current animals as they take the time to acclimate to each other.
With cats, you will need to give your feline friend an area to escape to that is completely puppy-free. This will provide them with more confidence because they know they have an escape route should they feel overwhelmed.
When introducing dogs, you should watch for signs of aggression in either your puppy or your current dog that include drawn-back lips, growls, or flattened ears, as these are signs of an incoming fight.
This guide can provide you with more in-depth information about creating a harmonious meeting between your new puppy and current pets.
Spend Lots of Time With Your Puppy
The first few days of owning your puppy are essential in building up bonds between them and you as your owner. Plus, having someone monitor the pup during their first few days will prevent them from feeling lonely or from getting into too many messes.
If you work, you may want to consider taking a few days off or working from home after adopting your puppy in order to establish a comfortable environment for them. If you can’t do this, then choose a time to adopt your puppy where you will provide them with the most exposure before returning to work (such as a long weekend).
Maintain Training Routines
It is important to be consistent in all training routines with your new puppy. Consistency is key to developing good habits and raising a well-behaved dog. You may also want to consider attending a puppy obedience class in your area to provide your dog with necessary socializing and to learn some helpful tips for training your dog.
Book a Trip to the Vet
If your puppy did not receive their first round of vaccines from the shelter or breeder, you will be responsible for getting these administered. You should not skip getting your puppy their basic vaccines, as this could be in violation of local laws or cause your puppy to get sick unnecessarily.
It is also a good idea to book a general dental care and health checkup with your veterinarian, as this will establish your puppy as a patient at the clinic and give the vet a good baseline on their health.
New Puppy Frequently Asked Questions
Bringing a new puppy into the family can be hard, but these frequently asked questions can give you additional insight into troubleshooting any first-night problems.
How Often Do I Need to Walk My Puppy?
New puppies will need to use the bathroom pretty frequently, and all dogs need exercise to stay healthy and happy. In the first few weeks, you can expect your puppy to need to go outside between 5 and 10 times throughout the day and night. However, they may only need 5 or 10 minutes outside each time.
As your dog gets older, they won’t need to go outside as often, but they will need longer bursts of exercise to keep them happy. You can read more walking advice here.
Should I Ignore My Puppy When They Cry?
Whether or not you ignore your puppy when it cries depends on why it is crying. If you have just taken the puppy out for a potty break and they are whimpering about being in their crate for the night, you should probably ignore the crying until it stops, instilling good habits. However, if you haven’t taken your puppy out for several hours and they are whimpering, you might want to take them for a bathroom break in an attempt to stop the cries.
Make sure to evaluate each situation in which your puppy is crying rationally and ensure that you are doing the best for your dog in the long term, even if that means ignoring them until they settle down, but you should also be sure not to neglect their basic bathroom needs.
How Long Does It Take to Potty Train a Puppy?
It can take longer than you would think to potty train your puppy, and patience is a necessity in this process. For most puppies, it can take between 4 and 6 months for them to be fully potty trained and to learn how to hold their bladder. For other puppies, it can take up to a year to be fully potty trained.
Make sure to be consistent in the potty training of your puppy and don’t react too harshly to accidents as they typically part of the learning process for your dog. If your dog seems resistant to housetraining and frequently has accidents, you may want to take them to the vet to ensure there is not a greater health issue at work.
How Do You Prevent Bad Puppy Habits?
You can prevent bad habits in your puppy by establishing a clear set of training routines and expectations from the first moment you bring your puppy home. You shouldn’t correct bad behaviors with yelling or smacking at your puppy, as this is only likely to make the issue worse. Instead, utilize positive reinforcement and clear, stern language to correct your puppy.
More information on this can be found here.
Welcoming Your New Family Member Home
Bringing your new puppy home can be a time of excitement, but also a time of extreme stress. It can take a while for your puppy to get acclimated and to start understanding basic training tips, so make sure you have a lot of patience saved up for their first few nights home.
However, as long as you puppy proof your home, fill it with the essential puppy items, and stick to a consistent training schedule, your puppy should be comfortable in their new environment and loving their life with you in no time at all.