By Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM
New sounds, strange smells, unfamiliar faces….it’s all a bit much for a brand new little pup.
Yet it’s what happens when your puppy first arrives home.
So today I’m sharing one simple tip you can do immediately to help ease your puppy’s transition home.
Once you’ve introduced your new puppy to his/her crate, it’s time to start exploring.
By exploring, I mean your home.
Sure, your home is safe and comfortable for you.
To your puppy though, it’s a brand new space that feels anything but comfortable.
Until arriving in your home, your puppy only ever knew her momma, her littermates, and maybe a human or two.
She was with them 24/7.
They were her friends and they were her world.
She has no idea yet that you are about to become her new favorite.
So be extra patient and go painfully slow when showing your puppy around your home.
She’ll feel overstimulated by all the new sights, smells, sounds, and faces.
To help you get it right, here’s how to show your puppy around her new home in a way that builds trust and feels safe.
Introduce One Room at a Time
Create a space in your home that is puppy-proof.
Remove anything that could prove hazardous for a young puppy.
(Think electrical chords, chocolate, sharp edges, etc.)
This room could be where your puppy’s food and water is.
Or you might pick the space where her crate is kept.
Then invite your puppy into that space only.
Avoid taking her through the whole house at first, otherwise, it’ll be sensory overload for sure.
Watch your puppy carefully as she explores the new space.
Once your puppy appears comfortable in that space, then move on to another room of the house.
Continue doing this through each room in your home – unless of course there’s a room that is off-limits for your puppy.
By slowly introducing just one room at a time, your puppy will overtime feel happy and safe in your entire home.
Let Your Puppy Set the Pace
Let your puppy decide how fast she wants to explore your home.
Avoid rushing her from one room to another.
Don’t grab, never pull, and avoid tugging.
Instead, give your little pup plenty of time to decide how fast or slow she wants to explore each room.
You’ll find some puppies are boisterous and energetic, quickly cruising from one room to the next.
The next puppy will be completely opposite.
Instead of outgoing, she’s shy, timid, or an introvert by nature. She may even hide under the couch or side table for safety.
Both types are to be celebrated.
What you don’t want is to try to make one puppy become like the other.
So watch your puppy closely and let her determine when she is comfortable and ready to move on.
You may consider feeding treats or giving your puppy a toy in the new space.
This way your little pup can begin making positive associations with the new area.
As your puppy explores her new home, it’s a perfect opportunity to build trust.
Your puppy is still learning who she can trust, who is safe, and who are her pack members.
So be gentle with your puppy.
Avoid coercing her into anything.
Get eye level by sitting on the ground to play with her.
Give her time to realize you are safe and she can trust you.
Watch Your Puppy Closely
It’s your puppy’s first time in a new home.
She doesn’t yet know what is safe and what is considered off-limits.
So be nearby as your puppy explores.
Keep your little pup within sight at all times.
At first, avoid letting your puppy near stairs or banisters where she could fall or slip.
Be gentle, yet consistent with house rules.
Keep other pets away to avoid overwhelming your new puppy.
All it takes is a simple hiss or swat from the family cat to leave your puppy scared of a particular area in your home.
A second dog may be your one exception.
Having another dog nearby may actually reassure your puppy that all is okay.
So if you have a second dog, consider having him nearby on a leash.
This way your puppy can feel comforted without feeling pressure to interact.
And always, make sure your puppy has constant access to food and fresh water.
Wrapping up, it’s important to go slow when introducing your puppy to her new home.
Start with just one room at a time.
Then let your puppy set the pace.
Never coerce. Rather, move to new spaces when your puppy is comfortable.
This way your puppy will learn her way through your home while building trust towards you.
That’s all for today.
I’ll see you tomorrow where you’ll discover when the very best time is to take your puppy to the vet.
Keep it up. You’re doing a great job!
Dr. Heather Venkat has been a veterinarian since 2013, working in companion animal medicine with dogs and cats, as well as veterinary public health. Her passion is in prevention, One Health, and strengthening the human-animal bond. A bonafide animal-lover, she competes in dog sports and currently shares her home with a border collie mix named Luna, three cats, and two leopard geckos.