How To Make Your Puppy’s First Night At Home Stress-Free
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!
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 on your puppy’s first night at home
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.”
Tips for the first night with your new puppy
The key to a successful first night with your puppy 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 to get all the supplies you need 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’ll keep your new puppy safe on his first trip home and on all the fun trips you’ll take in the future.
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:
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 told The Dodo. These training tools can hurt your dog and teach him fearful behaviors.
Puppy-proof your house
Be sure to puppy-proof your house before you bring your new puppy home so he can’t get into any mischief on his first night.
Put away anything that could be potentially poisonous to your puppy. Some common dog poisons include cleaning supplies, medications, certain plants and human food. Cover any sharp edges that could hurt him, and hide electrical cords so your puppy won’t be able to chew on them. You should also get a dog-proof trash can so your pup can’t get into it and eat something that could make him sick.
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 crate or dog pen. “Do not give your puppy a full run of the house,” Hartstein said. “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 time he goes to the bathroom 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 typically hold their bladders for as many hours as they are months old (so for about two hours if your puppy’s 2 months old), so you can expect to make quite a few of these trips with your puppy. Take him out first thing in the morning, too.
Start to keep a log of the times your puppy goes to the bathroom so you can figure out the best times of the day to take him out and set up a routine.
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 rein and then setting rules later can be a challenge. It’s better if you have rules up front so your puppy knows what’s expected of him from the start.
And begin setting up your puppy’s schedule as soon as you bring him home. Don’t set up 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,” Bloom said.
Dogs love a routine. It helps reduce their anxiety, especially for pups who are adopted, and the consistency will help you with training, too. Try to keep his mealtimes, walks and bedtime around the same time every day. This is also important for getting your puppy to sleep at night. You’ll have to teach him when playtime is and when bedtime is so he learns to settle down at night when you’re getting ready for bed.
Give your dog his own space
You should set up a separate space for your puppy to be alone, since being in a new environment can be overwhelming. Crate training your puppy is a great way to make him feel comfortable when he gets home (just make sure to take time to train your pup to use the crate and never force him inside).
A dog pen or a small room closed off with a gate can give your puppy a space of his own where he’ll feel safe, too. Fill the space with everything he’ll need, like toys, a dog bed and a water bowl.
“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.”
Have slow introductions
It might be tempting to invite your friends over to show off your new puppy, but that might not be the best idea on the first night.
Your new puppy needs time to adjust to his surroundings, so introduce him to new people and pets slowly.
“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 animals — just give him 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,” Hartstein said. “Pair positive rewards, such as delicious dog treats, with people and novel stimuli.”
Have a vet and a trainer lined up
You should already have a veterinarian and trainer picked out before you adopt your puppy. That way, you’ll 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 the 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.
What to do if your puppy’s crying on the first night
It’s pretty common for puppies to cry on their first night in a new home (and for a little while after that) because they’re in an unfamiliar place with all new smells and people, which can be overwhelming and even scary. But there are some ways to help stop your puppy from whining.
If your puppy starts whining in the middle of the night, the first thing you should do is take him out to go to the bathroom. Since puppies have to go frequently, there’s a good chance that your puppy could be crying because he has to go potty.
Also double-check that there’s nothing else that could be bothering him, like noises near his bed, and that he doesn’t seem sick or hurt.
If your puppy has gone to the bathroom and seems like he just wants your attention, you should just let him whine. You might feel really bad that your puppy’s crying, but try not to give him attention or comfort him. That’ll teach him that whining will get him what he wants (like you petting him in the middle of the night), which you don’t want to encourage if you want to get a full night’s sleep.
Your puppy won’t keep whining forever, and he’ll learn to sleep through the night eventually (especially once he’s potty trained).
“Don’t worry, though — your puppy will adjust in time!” Bloom 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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