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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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