By Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM
You are bringing home a new puppy and it’s time to celebrate.
Except before you grab for balloons and start spraying confetti, below are five basics you will want to know when first welcoming a new puppy home.
While you may be feeling excited and nervous and overjoyed all at the same time, pause to consider how your new puppy is feeling: he/she is is encountering the biggest transition in life to date.
It’s scary. It’s exciting. And it could just be the best thing yet.
So here’s what you can do to ease the transition home.
1. Spend Quality Time Together
The single most important thing you can do to start off on the right paw is to spend quality time with your puppy.
Think about it: for perhaps the first time ever, your puppy is away from his/her mother and favorite littermates.
She’s in a new home with new people and unfamiliar scents.
To add to the change, perhaps there are small children in your home.
Maybe there are other pets for your puppy to get acquainted with.
The back yard is different.
He’ll need to adjust to a whole new schedule for eating and sleeping, depending on your lifestyle.
Not to mention, the vehicle ride home can seem a bit strange for a young pup too.
So be patient and be present on your puppy’s first day home.
You are starting the very beginning of forming a deep and unbreakable bond with your new puppy friend.
2. Realize Connection is Two-way
That’s right. If you want your dog to respect you and give you attention, you need to be the leader in first showing her the same respect and attention.
When you’re spending time together, put your phone down and give 100% of your attention to your puppy.
Stop thinking about work.
Don’t worry about what you’ll be eating for dinner.
Focus on your relationship by playing or cuddling with your puppy rather than teaching commands or doing specific training right away.
Hand-feed your puppy some of their food or treats.
Your puppy will quickly learn that you care about him: you bring all things good. Meaning he’ll want to learn from you that much faster in the coming days.
When you choose to be fully present with your puppy, your bond is actually strengthened over time.
3. Give Your Puppy Space
Find a space in your home that your puppy can call hers.
Perhaps it is a new doggy crate, an exercise pen, or a cozy dog bed.
Alternatively, you could fence off a section of your living area.
Look for a space that is out of the way, yet where your puppy can still observe the hustle and bustle.
This way your puppy is able to process her new reality while relaxing in her own private space.
Make her little area comfortable with chew toys and blankets.
To vamp up the comfort level, include a blanket carrying the scent of her mother and littermates. (To do this, simply rub a cloth across the mother dog prior to bringing your puppy home.)
Lastly, ensure there are no small children or pets crawling over and annoying your new puppy while she is in her space.
You can encourage your puppy with praise, but let her choose to interact when she is ready.
Her little space is hers and hers alone.
4. Keep it Low-key
Sure, it’ll be exciting to show off your new little pup to adoring family and friends.
Hold off on making this happen the first day though.
Remember, your puppy is already encountering so much new stimulation and transition.
So keep day one low-key.
Don’t have visitors over.
Make sure everyone in the household keeps their voices calm and happy.
Avoid having other furry members of the family barking or causing a ruckus.
Avoid loud music and unnecessary noise.
In addition, consider bringing home your new puppy on a day that you can be home the entire day.
You could take off work or pick up your puppy on the weekend.
This way you can spend extra time bonding with your little pup before needing to leave the house for work.
Your puppy will be grateful for your presence as she transitions into her new home.
5. Set the Groundwork.
Starting the moment your new puppy is home, it’s important to lay a few ground rules.
We’ll dive into each of these a bit more over the next several days, however, you’ll want to be aware of them starting on day one.
First up is potty training.
Before your puppy first enters your home, give her time to relieve herself outside.
Then during the first several hours home, take your puppy outside every 20 minutes to get housetraining started right.
All the newness can leave a puppy’s nerves on edge for the first little while, making frequent potty breaks a must.
If you are using potty training pads in a specific corner of a room or have a doggy door, show your puppy where you want him/her to go.
Second is crate training.
If you plan to use a crate with your puppy, you’ll want to start using it already on day one.
Make it a favorite spot by including chew toys and cozy blankets.
While letting her play or explore, keep the crate door open so your puppy has the chance to come and go if she decides she needs a break from the large, open space available to her.
Third is dog food.
If possible, at least for the first few days, continue using the same dog food your puppy was enjoying prior to coming home.
Ask the breeder which dog food he/she is using.
Then check about taking home a few samples.
Better yet, purchase a bag yourself. (Sometimes you can even purchase dog food directly from your puppy’s breeder.)
Using the same brand of dog food for at least the first several days home will be easier on your little pup’s tummy.
If you do decide to use a different food, slowly mix in more and more amounts over the first week until your puppy is fully eating the new food, instead of abruptly switching.
Summing it all up, on your puppy’s first day home plan for lots of quality time.
Give the respect you want to receive.
Provide a space for your puppy to call hers.
Stay calm, be patient, and avoid extra activities.
And always, be kind and consistent.
You are now ready to ace day one of having your new puppy home.
On day two, you’ll discover how to choose the perfect puppy name.
See you there!
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.