The time for your new puppy to join your family has arrived. Hooray! You’ve purchased a comfy bed, a bunch of toys and thought of a name for your new lil’ buddy. However, if this is your first time adopting a puppy — or it has been a while — you may be wondering what to expect the first week your bouncing bundle of play is in their new home. The first week can be scary and daunting for your puppy (and you), but by understanding your puppy’s point of view and immediately starting and sticking to a routine, you will both get through it.
Interrupted Sleep — For Both of You
We have all been afraid of the dark at some point in our lives, so we know some of what our new puppy is feeling their first night at home. For the first few nights, expect to hear puppy cries, particularly the first night. According to VetBabble, it is a natural instinct for a puppy to be as loud as possible when they are separated from the pack for the first time. They will likely howl, whimper or whine, and they may do it for a few days or a few weeks.
To help your puppy sleep, place their bed in a confined space (e.g., an appropriately sized crate) in a quiet area of the house. You could consider placing the crate in your bedroom so that your puppy has your scent near them for comfort and bonding. If your puppy’s bed is somewhere else in the house, you could place an item of your clothing near their crate. Also, it may help to have a big play session right before bed so that your puppy burns up some of that endless puppy energy before bedtime.
Needing a New Best Friend
Being left alone in a new place with strange sounds and smells can be a frightening experience for a puppy. Similar to when people travel or move to a new place, it can be overwhelming for a puppy to be in an unfamiliar setting, particularly when they’re alone. If you can schedule some vacation days for when you first bring your puppy home, it can help your puppy become familiar with their new surroundings while building the lifelong bond between you both. If you can’t be home all day, consider hiring a pet sitter until your puppy gets used to their new home.
However, it is also important that your puppy learns that it’s OK to be left alone. Shoshi Parks, PhD, a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-ka) and certified separation anxiety trainer (CSAT) has some great tips for getting your puppy comfortable with being alone. Shoshi recommends placing your puppy in their confined, safe place with a treat or toy and leaving the house for five minutes. It is normal to hear some vocalizing (e.g., barking and whining) from your puppy during this time. When you hear a break in the vocalizing, quickly come back. Once your puppy becomes used to five minutes, try slowly increasing the time. Remember to wait for a break in the barking before entering the room so they don’t associate barking with a way to get you to come back.
Safely Exploring Their New Home
Investigating their new surroundings is an important part of your puppy getting used to their new home. Their cute little puppy nose will be working overtime as they discover all the new smells in their world. Allow them to explore their new pad under supervision, but make sure you have puppy-proofed your home (ideally before your puppy arrives). Be on the lookout for chewing hazards such as electrical cords and sharp objects and put away any other tempting chew toys that you don’t want sharp puppy teeth tearing into. Your brand-new shoes are always a puppy favorite. Also, check the house for things like poisonous plants, medicines, chemicals and food (e.g., chocolate and other sugary sweets) that could harm your puppy, and move them out of the reach of curious mouths.
Lots of Potty Time
If there is one thing puppies do a lot, it’s go to the bathroom. To avoid messy accidents, take your puppy on potty breaks every two to four hours. This includes middle-of-the-night potty trips. Even if your puppy is young, it is a good idea to start a “going potty” routine right away that includes going in the same place each time (i.e., outside, not the corner of the living room). When your puppy is between 12 and 16 weeks old, they will be ready for full-time potty training.
Crate training can be an effective potty-training tool, helping to teach your puppy to go potty outside. In the wild, dogs (and their wolf ancestors) are naturally reluctant to soil their dens and will leave them to eliminate. Crating takes advantage of your dog’s natural instinct to not dirty their den and allows you to gradually teach them that the entire house is their “den.”
Consistency Is Key
One of the best things you can do to help your puppy adjust to their new home and family is to create a schedule and stick to it. Be consistent on playtime, potty breaks, meals and bedtime. Veterinary nutrition specialists suggest feeding puppies at least two meals and possibly three or four meals daily until your puppy is 4 to 6 months old. After 6 months of age, two meals a day can be fed although some large and giant breed puppies may benefit from three meals still. Selecting an appropriate food, such as Diamond Puppy Formula, is important to ensure that your puppy grows into a healthy dog at the proper rate. If you have any questions about what, when, how much and how to feed your puppy, be sure to talk with your veterinarian.
While we are talking about schedules, make sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian the first week as well. Your veterinarian will make sure your puppy is healthy, discuss what preventative care they need and answer any other questions you may have.
The first week home with a puppy can be a stressful and overwhelming time for everyone. However, by setting some ground rules and being patient as they have some (mis)adventures, your puppy will soon settle into their fur-ever home.