Your Ultimate Guide To Bringing A New Puppy Home
The only new puppy checklist you need.
Bringing home a new puppy is so exciting! But it can be overwhelming, too.
There are so many things to prepare to make sure your puppy’s safe and comfortable in his new home. So where should you start?
The Dodo spoke to some experts to find out how you should prepare for your new puppy’s arrival so he can have a smooth transition.
JUMP TO: When can you bring a puppy home? | New puppy shopping checklist | How to puppy-proof your house | Tips for bringing a new puppy home | How to introduce a new puppy to your dog | How to introduce a puppy to your cat
When can you bring a puppy home?
Around 8 weeks old (or older) is the ideal age for you to bring a puppy home.
If possible, puppies should stay with their moms until they’re 8 weeks old, which gives them the opportunity to learn how to communicate and play with other dogs from their litter. They also get important nutrients they need to grow from their moms’ milk during that time period.
Taking a puppy from his mom and litter too early can lead to socialization problems, like difficulty interacting with other dogs. “Puppies [who] are removed from littermates and their mother [before] 6 weeks of age [are in] the critical socialization period of their life,” Dr. Michelle Burch, a veterinarian with Paramount Pet Health, told The Dodo. “Removing these puppies at such a young age can result in extreme shyness, aggression, fear and anxiety.”
New puppy shopping checklist
Here’s what you’ll need to get your new puppy settled in at home.
How to puppy-proof your house
Puppies are super mischievous, so keep your pup out of trouble with these tips.
- Hide electrical cords so your puppy can’t chew on them.
- Put away anything that could be poisonous to your puppy, like cleaning supplies, medications or human food.
- Make sure there’s nothing lying around that your puppy could choke on, like jewelry.
- Get rid of any plants that are poisonous to dogs.
- Get a trash can with a lid, like the Simplehuman dog-proof trash can that earned The Dodo’s Paw of Approval (you can get it from Amazon for $72.24).
- Cover sharp edges that could hurt him or that he could chew on.
Tips for bringing a new puppy home
Once you puppy-proof your house, it’ll be time to bring your puppy home. Here are some tips to make sure it goes smoothly.
Make sure he’s healthy and his vaccinations are up to date
Double-check that your puppy’s healthy by taking him to the veterinarian as soon as you bring him home. You’ll also want to ask the shelter or rescue where you got him which vaccinations he’s already received so you can share this info with the vet. This is especially important if you have other pets so that your puppy doesn’t spread any illnesses to them.
Get him microchipped
If you adopt, many shelters and rescues will microchip your puppy before you bring him home, and it’ll be covered by the adoption fee. But if it’s not covered, be sure to get your pup microchipped at a vet clinic. If your dog ever gets lost, a microchip will help him get returned to you.
Set up a space for your puppy
Decide where in your home your puppy will stay when you’re not with him so he can’t eat anything he shouldn’t or have any potty training accidents. You may even want to block off the area with a gate.
Crate training is also a great way to give your puppy his own space to feel safe and comfortable. When picking out a crate for your dog, you should find one that’s big enough for him to stand up and turn around in, but it shouldn’t be too big. If it’s too big, your puppy might go to the bathroom on one side, then lie down on the other, which is a problem for potty training since he won’t learn that it’s not OK to go potty inside. A wire or plastic crate is also best for a puppy because he’s teething and will probably try to chew on his crate.
Find a trainer and a vet
You’ll need to start training your puppy right away, so you should research trainers or obedience classes before he gets home.
You should also research veterinarians in your area so you’ll be prepared for your dog’s first vet visit and so you’ll have someone to contact in case of an emergency. A good place to start is by looking up Fear Free certified veterinarians on the Fear Free Pets website.
Get pet insurance
Pet insurance can save you a ton of money by helping pay for vet visits when your dog is sick or injured (and it can even be lifesaving), so you should definitely find an insurance plan before you bring your puppy home.
Be prepared to wake up in the middle of the night
You probably won’t get a restful night's sleep for the first night with your new puppy. In fact, for the first few months at least, you should plan on waking up every few hours or so to take him out to potty. Puppies have super small bladders, so they’ll have to go to the bathroom pretty frequently.
How to introduce a new puppy to your dog
Your dog might feel like a new puppy is taking over his space. So be sure to take the proper steps to introduce your pups so they can become BFFs.
Let your dog smell the puppy
Bring home something from your puppy, like a toy, blanket or bedding, and let your dog sniff it so he can familiarize himself with the puppy’s scent.
“If possible, I would recommend bringing the new puppy's scent into the house prior to bringing him/her home,” Dr. Zay Satchu, cofounder and chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet, told The Dodo.
Find a neutral area
Let your puppy and dog meet for the first time in a neutral space, like a park. Your dog thinks of your house as his, so you don’t want him to act aggressively toward your puppy if he thinks his territory’s being threatened. Keep both dogs on leashes, and let them smell each other.
“Go very slow, and it's best to meet in a neutral place, such as a friend’s fenced-in backyard,” Russell Hartstein, a trainer and founder of Fun Paw Care in Los Angeles, told The Dodo. “If they hit it off (with loose body language, play bows and a back-and-forth play style with no winners or losers) and have a good play session, then you may proceed to walk home together.”
You can try parallel walking, which is walking them on leashes side by side, to let them get to know each other, too. “Keep both dogs on leash, and walk one of your dogs and have a friend or family member walk the new puppy,” Hartstein said.
Let your puppy in the house first
When you first bring your puppy home, it can be helpful to let your puppy in the house first, then have your dog come into the house. If your dog’s in the house when the puppy comes in, he might get territorial.
For the first few weeks, don’t leave your puppy and dog alone together. You should be with them any time they’re interacting so you can observe if either one is showing signs of stress or aggression.
“Tail up and ears forward body posture is an indicator that dogs are at ease and accepting of their current environment,” Dr. Satchu said. “If the tail is tucked or the ears are pinned back, this is a sign of fear or discomfort.”
Maintain your dog’s schedule
Try to keep up the same routine with your dog that you had before you brought the puppy home. And even though getting a new puppy is super exciting, be sure to keep giving your dog attention so he doesn’t feel left out.
“One of the best things you can do is try to maintain your existing ‘pre-puppy’ schedule and routine with the older dog and maintain the same amount of attention that they've always received from you,” Dr. Satchu said.
Feed them separately
Give your pups separate food and water bowls, and feed them separately so they don’t feel like they’re competing for food. And if you give one dog a treat, you should also give the other a treat so no one gets jealous.
It’s a good idea to not have any toys out when your pups are first getting to know each other. Dogs can get aggressive if they resource guard, which is refusing to give something up, like a toy.
How to introduce a puppy to your cat
Introducing your new puppy to your cat doesn’t have to be stressful if you follow these steps.
Keep them separated
Keep your cat and new puppy separated before introducing them so the current pet doesn’t feel threatened and the new pet doesn’t get overwhelmed in his new environment.
“The resident pet should have the run of the house, while the newbie is in their own room, where they have their food, water [and a] soft bed,” Mary Molloy, a behavior consultant at Behavior Vets of NYC, told The Dodo.
Let them keep getting used to each other’s scents by switching their bedding or towels while they’re in separate rooms. They can sniff each other under the closed door, too.
“Carefully observe the body language of each pet when they encounter the new scent,” Molloy said. “Is it positive, negative or neutral? Continue to swap the towels each day until both pets are reacting positively (or, at least, indifferently) to the scent of the other.”
Once your cat and puppy are comfortable smelling each other, let them see one another through a baby or pet gate.
Give them treats so they associate each other with positive things, and if you notice any signs of stress or aggression in either one, stop the interaction.
If your pets have met without any issues, you can let them out in the open while you supervise.
“This isn't forced in any way — it's just the two of them sharing a space,” Molloy said. “If they choose to interact, that's up to them.”
To have control over the situation, keep your puppy on a leash and make sure your cat has lots of safe places to hide if he wants alone time.
Eventually, you’ll be able to let your puppy and cat spend time together alone.
Bringing your puppy home can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you prepare everything ahead of time and puppy-proof your home to keep him safe.
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