A Guide To The Best First Night With Your New Puppy
Make it a night to remember (for all the right reasons).
If you’re worried about the first night with your new puppy, don’t be!
Sure, there might be some growing pains, but if you’re prepared, you’ll be able to handle it much more easily.
To get you the guidance you’ll need, The Dodo reached out to Irith Bloom, a certified professional dog trainer and owner of The Sophisticated Dog in Los Angeles, and Russell Hartstein, a trainer and founder of Fun Paw Care in Los Angeles.
What to expect the first night with your new puppy
How your new puppy will act the first night in his new home will be as unique as he is. He might be super sleepy, or he could be extra hyper — it all depends on his personality and the situation.
“Some puppies are so exhausted from everything they’ve been through (leaving mom and siblings, traveling to a new place, meeting a new family) that they fall asleep right away the first night,” Bloom told The Dodo. “Others seem to feel restless and disoriented, and may cry and whine part of the night.”
Whatever the case, since puppies have such small bladders, you should anticipate waking up in the middle of the night to take him outside to potty a few times — at least for the first few months.
“Even the quietest puppies usually wake up in the middle of the night to potty,” Bloom said. “In other words, that first night may not be the best night’s sleep you’ve ever had.”
“Don’t worry, though — your puppy will adjust in time!” she added.
Checklist for the first night with your new puppy
The key to a successful first night is making sure you’re prepared. Here’s what you’ll need (and need to know) for a smooth transition.
Get all the puppy supplies
Once you have your pup, you’ll definitely have your hands full, and it won’t be easy leaving your puppy for a quick trip to the store — so it’s super important you have supplies on hand before bringing your dog home.
First, the basics: When you get to the shelter or foster home to pick up your puppy, make sure you have a leash, a dog harness, poop bags and a chew toy for the car ride.
A harness that attaches to the car’s seat belt is a great choice for a first harness because it will keep your new puppy safe on his first trip home, and on all the fun trips you’ll take in the future.
At home, there are some other things you should already have on hand before your puppy sets a paw through the door. Here’s what else should be on your new-puppy checklist:
- Dog pen or gate
- Dog crate
- Puppy food
- Dog bed
- Collar and ID tag
- Food bowl, water bowl and food toys
When choosing a harness and leash for your dog, “always avoid aversive and punitive dog training equipment such as prong collars, choke chains and vibration/electric collars,” Harstein said. These training tools can hurt your dog and teach him fearful behaviors.
Start potty training right away
Potty training should start the moment your puppy walks through the door.
Right away, you should place your puppy in a dog pen. “Do not give your puppy a full run of the house,” Hartstein told The Dodo. “Dogs are time-intensive, not space-intensive, and if you give your dog a lot of space, they will have potty training mistakes, and it will set them back on their way to potty training success.”
Plan on taking your new puppy outside on a leash to potty every 30 minutes or so, Bloom said. And make sure to reward your puppy each and every time he potties outside, so he knows he’s doing it right.
If your puppy needs to potty in the middle of the night, you’ll have to bite the bullet and take him out. Puppies can hold their bladders for as many hours as they are months old, so you can expect to make quite a few of these trips in the middle of the night with your puppy.
Do start to keep a log of the times your puppy uses the restroom, so you know the best times of the day to take him out. And soon enough, both of you will be on a routine you’ll be comfortable with.
Set boundaries and a routine
Decide on house rules before bringing your puppy home. Will he be allowed on the couch or the bed? Are any rooms off-limits?
Giving your puppy free reign and then imposing rules later can be a challenge. It’s better if you have rules up front, so your puppy knows right away what’s expected of him.
And this goes for his routine, too. Dogs love a routine, and the earlier you can put your puppy on one, the better. Try to keep his mealtimes, walks and bedtime around the same time every day. That way, he knows when he’ll be eating, when it’s time to use the bathroom and when it’s time to sleep. He’ll be much happier this way, and caring for him will be easier.
Don’t put your puppy on a routine that isn’t going to be the standard in the future, Bloom said. “Whatever the long-term plan is, start doing things that way right away.”
Give your dog his own space
“It is important to realize that regardless of whether you bought or adopted your puppy, they will be in stress and shock the first few days,” Hartstein said. “Allow them quiet time to decompress and offer them a safe, quiet environment.”
A dog pen, or a small room closed off with a dog gate, can give your new puppy a space of his own where he’ll feel safe. Fill the space with everything he’ll need, like his new toys, dog bed and water bowl.
Have slow introductions
It might be tempting to invite your friends over and show off your new puppy, but that might not be the best idea that first night.
Your new puppy needs time to adjust to his surroundings, so introduce your new puppy to new people and pets slowly. And this doesn’t just go for guests; your puppy should have slow introductions to everyone living in the house.
“Allow your puppy to approach people, and stop people from groping and accosting your puppy and/or patting a puppy’s head (no dog likes that),” Hartstein said.
You should definitely make an effort to introduce your puppy to new people, places and pets — just give your puppy time to adjust to his new home first.
And as soon as your puppy seems comfortable and ready to venture out, you can “start socializing your pet to [people], children and as many healthy, vaccinated dogs as possible,” Hartstein said.
Try to keep those experiences short and sweet, though, and use lots of dog treats as a reward for socializing. The more positive experiences your puppy has, the happier and more confident he’ll be.
“Dogs are associative learners. Hence pair positive rewards such as delicious dog treats with people and novel stimuli,” Hartstein said.
Have a vet and a trainer lined up
You should know exactly who you want for your new puppy’s veterinarian and trainer before you adopt your puppy. That way, you know who you can turn to in case something goes wrong that very first day.
Hartstein recommends new puppy parents use a Fear Free certified veterinarian, so your puppy can have a positive experience his first time at his vet and won’t mind visiting again in the future.
You should also have a professional trainer chosen on day one. “You will want to start training and learning about animal behavior, dog body language and the laws of learning the second the puppy comes home,” Hartstein said.
Once you have everything in place, all that’s left to do is enjoy the first night with your new puppy. Whether it goes totally smoothly or there are some hiccups along the way, it’ll definitely be a night to remember.
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