Welcoming a new puppy into your home is an exciting time for you and your family, but it’s important to remember that it is a daunting and stressful time for the puppy. For most puppies this will be the first time they’ve been separated from their mother and siblings. Travelling to, and arriving at, a new location is very scary and stressful for a young pup, so it’s important that you and your family are well-prepared to help him settle in properly.
Ideally the pup should be aged somewhere between seven and twelve weeks when he leaves his mother; by this age he has had time to learn about other dogs, but is still young enough to benefit and learn from positive interaction with new humans.
If you’re thinking about buying or adopting a new puppy, we’ve put together this guide to give you an idea of what to expect and how to prepare for the new addition to your family...
Before you bring your new puppy home
It’s never a good idea to visit a breeder, choose a puppy, and take him home with you the same day. The pup will feel a great deal of stress at being snatched away from his home and his mother, and this is likely to make life difficult for you too as he may be very hard to control and train.
One of the best things you can do before you bring your puppy home is to leave a worn item of clothing with the breeder:
Wear an old item of clothing, such as a t-shirt, for a day or two to ensure it picks up your scent.
Leave it with the breeder so that they can place it with the litter.
The pup will get used to your scent, and the t-shirt will also pick up the scent of the litter.
Place the t-shirt in his travel crate and den; it will act as a comforter whilst he adapts to his new environment.
It’s natural for puppies to feel vulnerable when they leave their litter, but familiarising him with your scent beforehand, and bringing the scent of his home with him, can help to ease his stress.
We also recommend puppy-proofing your home before you collect him from the breeder. This means hiding any cables that he could chew on, putting medication and food well out of reach, and moving any plants that may be toxic to dogs, as well as protecting your furniture and belongings from potential damage.
Collecting your new puppy
When the day finally arrives for you to pick up your new puppy from the breeder you’ll naturally be feeling very excited! However, it’s important to plan the day properly to ensure that the transition is as smooth and stress-free as possible for you and the puppy.
You should aim to collect your puppy from the breeder as early as possible in the day; this is best for both you and the puppy for a number of reasons:
Picking him up in the morning means he’ll have the rest of the day to explore and familiarise himself with his new home and his new family.
By the time night falls, your puppy should hopefully be feeling pretty exhausted from all of the exploring and playing that he’s been doing, which should mean he’ll fall asleep more easily at bedtime!
If there are any problems with the collection process, journey, or settling in process, you’ll have more time to contact the breeder or vet for advice.
Puppy’s first day at home
Once you’ve collected your puppy from the breeder, separated him from his litter, and bundled him into the car, he’ll be feeling pretty stressed, so it’s important that you have a plan in place for his first day in his new home. It’s beneficial for both you and the puppy if you can get things off to a good start and help him to settle in as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Here are some tips that can help to ensure your puppy’s first day in his new home is enjoyable for all...
Introduce him to the garden
If you have a garden, take your puppy to it as soon as you get home and let him do his business. If he manages to go to the toilet, reward him with positive reinforcement to let him know that he pooped in the right place, setting the tone from thereon in.
Keep things calm
When you go back indoors after introducing him to the garden, try to keep everything calm so as not to stress your puppy out. If you have children it’s a good idea to prepare them beforehand that they won’t be able to play with the puppy for the first couple of days while he settles in.
Let your pup explore
Hopefully you have taken measures to make your home a safe place for your puppy, so when you arrive home give him some time and space to explore and have a good sniff of his new environment. Pay close attention though to ensure he doesn’t get into any kind of danger.
Show him where his bed is
Take him to the room or area where he’ll be spending most of his time, and show him his bed. Place something with your scent in his bed, i.e. the t-shirt that you took to the breeders before collecting him. Also give him a soft toy to snuggle, and place a clock with a loud tick near his bed; this will mimic his mother’s heartbeat.
Establish a routine from day one
You won’t be spending every minute of the day with your puppy in the long term, so don’t do it on the first day and night. Once your puppy has had an hour or so to explore his new surroundings, put him alone with his basket for five minutes. Do this each hour, increasing the time that you leave him alone for by a few minutes each time. This teaches your puppy that when you leave him alone at night or when you go out to work etc that you are not abandoning him.
Puppy’s first night at home
As with human infants, all puppies are different; some may settle easily at night from the get-go, while others will give you some sleepless nights whilst they adjust to their new home. It’s important not to expect too much from your puppy too soon; a good sleeping pattern takes time and effort in the majority of cases.
The process of teaching your puppy to sleep at night should be seen as a gradual one, and we’ll discuss a long-term plan for establishing a sleeping pattern in a later chapter, but for now here are some tips to help you through the first few nights with your new pup...
Use a puppy crate
Get a crate that is big enough to feel cosy, but not too large that he can walk about in it. A crate is better than a bed in the early stages as he can still see and hear you, but he can’t get out of the crate and wander around.
Place the crate near your own bed
It will be comforting for him if he can see, hear, and smell you nearby (gradually you’ll move the crate to his final sleep area, but we’ll discuss that later).
Make his crate cosy
Put that old t-shirt with your scent in there, along with his soft toy for snuggling, and a blanket to keep him warm and comfortable.
What to do if he whines
He may be whining because he needs the toilet, so put his lead on and take him to the toileting area to relieve himself. Afterwards, take him back to the crate and he should fall back to sleep. He might also whimper because he’s lonely or scared, in which case speak to him in a calm and reassuring voice to let him know you’re still there, but don’t touch him or play with him.
Don’t give in
It might take a few sleepless nights, but soon learn that whimpering and crying won’t lead to petting and cuddling, so stay strong and don’t give in to his cries.
Puppy’s first week at home
It will take your puppy a while to settle in fully, but the first week is crucial to him becoming a fully fledged and well-behaved member of the family. Where possible you should aim to take the week off work, or at least split the time between the adults that will be responsible for him.
These tips will help to ensure that the first week with your puppy sets the stage for his long-term life with you and your family...
Make sure everyone spends time with him
You could set up a rota to ensure that each member of the family gets to spend time with the puppy, which will ensure that he becomes familiar with everyone equally. Things like feeding, grooming, and taking him to the toilet provide good opportunities for bonding and getting to know each other.
Take your puppy to the vets
During his first week with you it’s a good idea to take your puppy to the vet for a check up and to establish a worming and vaccination programme. He’ll need to be vaccinated against certain things before you can begin to socialise him with other dogs.
Enrol him in training classes
Your vet or fellow dog owners should be able to recommend and good training programme for your dog. Whilst not essential, these classes are useful for establishing good behaviour and helping your dog to socialise with other dogs.
Encourage the right kind of chewing
Give your puppy his own set of toys to chew on, and don’t leave your children’s toys lying around as he won’t be able to tell the difference at first.
Instil good behaviour in your children
Having a new puppy is exciting and they’ll no doubt want to play with him all the time, but make sure they understand that the puppy needs space sometimes. Ask them to respect his needs by not pulling him around or waking him up etc.
Establishing a long-term sleeping arrangement
It’s up to you to decide where your puppy will sleep at night in the long-term, whether it’s in his own room or confinement area, in a crate in the kitchen or utility room, or in your bedroom. Wherever you want him to sleep on a permanent basis is up to you, but you should start planning for it before he even comes home with you.
The most important thing, however, is that your puppy is confined to a small area and learns how to settle down quickly and quietly. A good way to get your puppy to sleep is to give him a chew toy, and he will most likely chew himself to sleep quite quickly.
These tips will help you to expand on the sleeping arrangements of the first few nights, and help you to put the long-term plan in place...
Housetrain your puppy
We’ll go over house training in a later chapter, but once your puppy stops toileting in the house and has learnt to soothe himself to sleep with a chew toy you’re ready to get into a long-term sleeping arrangement.
Let your puppy choose where he sleeps
Obviously if you don’t want to share your bed or bedroom with your puppy you don’t have to, but it’s good to give him a bit of freedom to choose whether he wants to sleep upstairs, downstairs, indoors, outdoors etc.
Make his bed or crate comfortable
Line it with a blanket, and provide a soft toy that he can snuggle with, and any other items that have proved comforting to him. Eventually he may not need the cuddly toy etc, but in the early days it’s a good idea to give him what he needs in order to settle and sleep.
Practice the night time routine in the day
When you’re tired and ready for bed, it can be difficult to try and train your puppy to settle down in his sleep area. Instead, practice during the daytime by having him settle down in his bed both with you and alone, so that he gets used to sleeping when you’re not around.
Be comforting but firm if he whines
If your puppy whines in the night, check on him every ten minutes or so by talking to him softly and stroking him for about a minute, then get straight back into bed. Don’t overdo it; the idea is to reassure him, not to train him that late night whining leads to attention.
If you are using a crate
Start off with it in your bedroom, and once you puppy is able to settle down to sleep quickly you can begin to gradually relocate the crate to its final resting place. Do this by moving it a foot or two closer to the door each night, then out of your bedroom, across the landing, and eventually downstairs and into the room you want him to sleep in.
Introducing puppy to other pets
If you already have other pets at home you’ll need to introduce the new puppy to them slowly and carefully to avoid putting any of the animals under unnecessary stress.
If you have existing dogs...
Ensure that your puppy has been vaccinated before introducing him to your existing dogs. It’s also important that he’s vaccinated before you walk him in areas where other unknown dogs have been.
Your existing dogs may perceive the puppy as a threat so you should aim to introduce them to one another in the garden or on neutral ground. From here you can walk them both into the house together.
Set up a safe zone, i.e. a room or area where the puppy feels comfortable. This gives them somewhere to escape to when they are tired or when there is too much going on around them.
Name your puppy as soon as possible after you get them so that they learn to recognise their name. Choose one that’s simple to say and doesn’t sound too much like a command term as that could make training harder.
Give your dogs their own individual spaces, separate beds, and separate feeding areas.
If you have existing cats...
It’s pretty much guaranteed that your puppy will chase your cat; however, it is just a game to them rather than a sign of aggression.
Your cat may retaliate if chased, and will often swipe out at the puppy, so take care to ensure that your puppy doesn’t get injured by the cat. Keep you pup on a long lead to control confrontations between the two animals.
It can also be helpful to section off areas of your home using baby gates so that each animal has an area of their own to feel safe in.
Training and exercising your puppy
It’s important to remember that just like infant humans, your puppy needs to be taught how to behave in the home and where he can relieve himself. The following tips should help you to house train your puppy in the early days...
Don’t tell your puppy off for messing indoors
It’s inevitable that your puppy will have a few accidents at first, but never tell him off for it, and certainly don’t rub his nose in it as this will make him anxious and scared, and he’ll be more likely to mess in the home. If you catch him in the act scold him with a simple “no”, and pick him up and take him outside to finish his business.
Praise your puppy when he does the right thing
Rewarding your puppy with praise for good work is a much more effective method of training than scalding him for bad behaviour. For example, if he successfully toilets in the appropriate place reward him with petting and cuddles to reinforce that his behaviour was good.
Understand when your puppy is likely to need the toilet
Most puppies will need to relieve themselves after sleeping, eating, or playing. As you spend time with them in the early days you will get to know their patterns and any special behaviour that they display as a clue.
Don’t lose your patience
Every puppy is different, and some will learn quickly, while others may need a bit more time to get the hang of house training. The important thing is to remain patient because losing your patience with your puppy can cause him to feel distressed and lose confidence, which will ultimately mean that house training will take even longer.
Whilst training classes are not essential, they are highly recommended whilst your dog is still a puppy. The classes will primarily teach your dog how to socialise with other dogs, and a well-trained dog will make your life much easier too. However, before you begin training with your puppy it’s important that you have him fully vaccinated as he will be coming into contact with other dogs.
When it comes to exercising your puppy, speak to your vet for advice on how much they should be getting as some of the larger breeds shouldn’t be over-exercised as it can create skeletal problems in later life. Before you exercise your dog off-lead in a public place it’s vital that you have developed a bond with your puppy and that he will return to you when called, so practice this in the confinement of your own garden first.
Introducing the puppy to children
If you have children, they will likely be very excited at the arrival of the new puppy, and they’ll be eager to start playing with him. However, as a responsible parent and dog owner, it’s up to you to ensure that your children are introduced to the puppy in a way that builds the foundations for a strong lifelong bond.
Here are some tips that can help you...
Make sure your children give the puppy a chance to settle in before they start playing with him. This helps to prevent overcrowding and stressing the puppy out.
Don’t allow your children to pick the puppy up in the early days; instead, encourage them to sit with the puppy on the floor or on their lap and play with him gently.
Don’t allow your children to tease the puppy with toys or food as this can create huge behavioural problems further down the line.
Teach your children to leave the puppy alone whilst he is sleeping; a dog that is woken abruptly may snap out and that can scare and stress everyone involved.
Ensure that your children don’t smother the puppy by hugging too tightly, kissing his face, and just getting too close to him in general. Likewise, don’t allow the puppy to lick the faces and mouths of your children.
Allow you puppy plenty of time away from noisy and active children by letting him retreat to his own space before he gets too overwhelmed.
Never leave the puppy unattended with your children, for the safety of all involved.
Puppies should never be treated as a toy, so it’s up to you as the adult to set a good example. Things such as fitting his collar and grooming should be done by you rather than the children.
Puppies can have a tendency to play bite; this is entirely normal behaviour for them, but it is painful for us. Advise your children not to pull their hands away if it happens, but to give a loud shriek and say “no” firmly, which will shock the puppy and train him not to do it.
Looking after your puppy’s health
Your puppy’s health and wellbeing are your responsibility, and there are a few things that you should focus on...
It is unlikely that your puppy will have been vaccinated before you get him, so you’ll need register him with a vet as soon as possible and arrange for him to be vaccinated. Without the correct vaccinations, your puppy will be at risk of disease and infection from other dogs when you take him for walks or to the local park for exercise.
Flea and worming treatment
It’s essential that you treat your puppy with anti-flea and anti-worm treatment to prevent against infection. Fleas are not only a problem for your dog, they can also affect you and your family, so it’s vital that you do everything you can to prevent them.
It’s not essential, but pet insurance is highly advised. Choose one that covers your medical bills, as veterinary costs can soon mount up, especially if your dog needs any special treatments or operations.
Unless you plan on breeding your dog in the future, it’s advisable to have him or her neutered to prevent them from being able to have puppies of their own.