So you’ve researched breeders or adoption agencies in your area and decided to take the plunge—you’re getting a puppy! And just like that, puppy’s first day home is right around the corner.
Adjusting to life with a puppy is a fun, exciting, and adorable time. However, it’s also going to come with some frustrations and unknowns (especially if this is your first dog).
Learning what you can do and set-up ahead of time, as well as how to approach puppy’s first day home will make the transition easier on you and your new puppy. For many new puppies, this will be their first time away from their littermates, mother, and maybe even the first time they’ve been outside!
To help you best prepare for your puppy’s first day home let’s talk about:
- What puppy supplies to have
- How to get house training started on the right foot
- How to handle puppy’s first night
- Other general tips for puppy’s first day home
With a solid plan in place, the right puppy gear, and a lot of love and patience puppy’s first day home will be memorable and stress-free for everyone!
What supplies to have for puppy’s first day home
Just like there are gear or supplies involved with any project you take on, getting a puppy is no different. They don’t require all the latest dog gadgets, but there are a few items to have on hand that are going to make your life easier with a puppy around. Let’s break it down.
High-quality puppy food
Choosing what to feed your puppy is an important decision. A good place to start is by asking the breeder or adoption agency what food your puppy is currently getting. You can then research this food and decide if it’s a good fit. Even if you decide against continuing the food, still get a small bag and slowly cut the food with your new food to make a gradual transition.
The right nutrition is very important for your puppy, especially if they are a large breed dog. You’ll want to find a dog food specially formulated for large breed puppies because it will prevent them from growing too rapidly resulting in long-term development issues.
Be sure to read more in-depth about choosing the right dog food for your puppy.
Puppies have a knack for getting into just about everything. Even owners with the most watchful eye will appreciate having a crate to use as a safe space for their puppy when they need to leave the house, take their eyes away for a moment, or you know, sleep.
Crates create a safe space for puppies, aid in house training, and are seen as an overall must-have when bringing a new puppy into your home. As long as you do not use the crate for punishment when they misbehave, your puppy will not see the crate as a bad space.
Leash and collar
It’s best to start working on leash training with your puppy right away to establish good leash etiquette from the start. Many trainers recommend starting your puppy with a lightweight slip lead to give you greater control over desired behaviors. I personally had good success using this with our lab when he was a pup.
You’ll also want a collar with ID tags. Your puppy will grow quickly so I wouldn’t spend a lot on a fancy collar just yet.
The right chew toys
Puppies love and need to chew! It’s how they soothe sore gums and explore the world. You can create good chewing etiquette from the start by providing your puppy with high-quality and safe chew toys.
Anytime you catch your puppy chewing something they shouldn’t be, immediately replace the object with something that’s okay to chew and praise them as soon as the desired object is in their mouth.
Read more tips and tricks to help you survive the puppy chewing phase.
One thing is for sure, don’t skip dog-proofing your home before puppy’s first day home. You may need to invest in some baby gates for stairs and doorways to keep puppy in a confined area at first. Be sure there are no small items, choking hazards, or objects that will tempt your puppy to chew around and remove expensive rugs while you work on house training. Wires are also a significant hazard.
Some other basics you don’t want to forget are a water bowl and food bowl. I also recommend investing in a clip on treat/food pouch for training. From the start, we only fed our lab half of his food in his bowl. The other half we carried around in the pouch and had him earn throughout the day.
We followed Stonnie Dennis’ free puppy training videos with great success. I can’t recommend him enough for basic training, house training, beyond the basics and even breed specific advice.
How to get house training started on the right foot
On your puppy’s first day home, you will mostly be bonding with your puppy and letting them get acquainted with their new surroundings. You want it to be a positive and loving day. Keep the praise high and start to create a sense of trust and a strong bond with your new puppy. Play with them and redirect when necessary, but do not scold your puppy.
House training is something you’ll want to work on right away. It will be important to take your new puppy out regularly. Anytime they go to the bathroom while you are outside, you should praise them extensively and try to use one specific word to name what they did (pee, poop, etc.). Being consistent in your phrasing will help them quicker understand when you ask if they need to go out.
If your puppy begins to pee or poop in the house, pick them up mid-act and run them outside. If you find them after they’ve finished, still bring them immediately outside. You will be amazed at how quickly this will click for them, especially for peeing.
Our lab puppy figured out that we wanted him to go outside pretty fast; however, he would frequently have accidents right at the door because he just wasn’t the kind of pup to whine, scratch or bark to go out. He was silent! We introduced a bell on the door and rang it every time we took him out. He quickly began ringing the bell with his nose to ask to go out, it was miraculous and something you may find useful.
Lastly, if you want to take it a step further, you can train your dog where in the yard you want them to go by always bringing them to the same spot. For example, we have our dogs go off the property into the woods line that surrounds our house.
What about puppy's first night?
Usually, your puppy’s first day home goes well, but once they are in the crate for the night they often whine and cry. Here are my tips to about how to handle this and help your puppy succeed:
- Crate your puppy at night with no exceptions. This is so important for fast house training and sleep for everyone
- Make sure the crate is just big enough that they can turn around. It should be a snug fit. If necessary, use a large box or container to create a tighter space until your puppy grows. Your puppy will not want to lay in their own poop or pee, so this tight space quickly teaches them to tell you if they need to go out
- Putting a towel over the crate at night as “sensory deprivation” can be really helpful
- Before putting your puppy into their crate for the night, get in a good play session or walk. You want them really tired out. Also, time it so that they’ve just gone to the bathroom
- If he cries or whines, go to your puppy and put their leash right on and take them out to relieve themselves. Do your best not to engage in play or make it about attention. They probably can’t go the whole night without a bathroom break, so send the message that you're only responding for bathroom calls
- Resist giving your dog any treats or food during the night! We fell into this habit, which only makes them need to use the bathroom more and for food driven dogs they learn crying is their way to a midnight snack
- If your dog has just relieved themselves and is whining in the crate, it’s safe to assume they do not need to go out and (as hard as it is) you should ignore them until the 2-hour mark
- Be consistent but realistic. Your puppy will only be able to go 2-3 hours without a bathroom break in the beginning and will be ready to wake up and play pretty early in the morning
Other tips for puppy’s first day home
- When you arrive home, do an outside bathroom break and then show them around the house. Specifically: where their water is, ‘toy box’, and crate. Allow your puppy some supervised exploration
- Be consistent about house rules right from the start. Is puppy allowed on furniture or to chew clothes and hands? What’s cute at 8 weeks, might not be at 8 months. Consistency is key with dogs!
- Make sure your puppy gets downtime. They are babies after all and this is going to be a big day for them. If your puppy lays down or is asleep, respect that. Moving them to their crate when they are asleep can create a great habit right from the start
- When your puppy wakes up from a nap, get them right outside to use the bathroom immediately
- Start positive reinforcement training for house training and basic commands right away
- When you cannot give your puppy undivided attention, put them in their crate. It's so important for their safety that you are fully engaged
- Socialization is important for puppies, but don't rush it all at once. This is going to be a big and stimulating day for your dog
- Plan to take a few days off work when you bring home your new puppy and bring them home on a weekend. This will give you a chunk of time to establish trust with your new pup
- When you do need to return to work, be sure to hire a dog walker or pet sitter to check on your puppy every few hours. Once they are older and have had all their shots, doggie day care can be a great choice for working families
Enjoy your first day with your new puppy!
Gosh, there really is nothing cute than a new puppy. We are so excited for you. By getting all of your supplies, preparing a safe space, and understanding some puppy training basics we know your puppy’s first day is going to be great.
Enjoy the time and don’t forget to take lots of pictures of that tiny pup—they grow SO fast.