Bringing a New Puppy Home
If there’s a greater joy than bringing a new puppy home, we still haven’t found it.
Few sensations can top those watery eyes gazing straight into your soul, second only to those adorably oversized paws swatting at your heartstrings. So whether or not it’s your first time bringing home a new puppy, it’s easy to get lost in the moment. In fact, we encourage it! Lean in. They’re only young once.
While unconditional love may be your first responsibility as a pet parent (kudos, you’re nailing it already), there are some other responsibilities that take equal priority. Here, we’ll help you get your house in order for the big day, study up on what to expect and run through some of the finer points of puppy ownership.
What you’ll need to welcome a puppy home
Bowls are your first order of business. Get one for their food, one for their water, and a backup that travels well.
We recommend a resistant, easily-cleaned materials like stainless steel or ceramic, as some of the cheaper, plastic alternatives have been proven to retain contaminants like salmonella and other food-borne bacteria — even with a thorough hand wash.
Your puppy needs a crate, as well. While crate training may be more negotiable for older or adopted dogs, almost all puppies can benefit from a comfy corner of the room to call their own. See if you can get a hold of your new puppy’s dimensions, weight and projected growth pattern to make sure you get the right sized crate, as well. Too big, and it may not provide a comforting swaddle. Too small, and they may feel claustrophobic.
Toys can play a big role in easing into the transition. If you’re lucky enough to have been sent home with a towel or blanket with your puppy’s mother’s scent, use it to your advantage. Tuck it in their crate and allow them to use it as a comforting device when the stressful moments arise.
Short of scented material, many puppies appreciate soft, plush toys that feel gentle against their immature teeth and paws.
Grab a leash, ID’d collar and poop bags so you can walk with confidence. Many puppies come with personalized dog tags, but it’s a good idea to order a set with your phone number or other contact information on them in case of emergency.
There are almost as many varieties of leash out there as there are breeds of dog, so don’t sweat it if the options feel overwhelming. It may take some time to get it right, as some dogs respond better to some leash types than others. We recommend starting with a simple, affordable nylon leash and adjustable harness. Neither should break the bank, and both are typically strong enough to handle a puppy of any breed.
There are any number of additional products you can use to help welcome a puppy into your home — additional dog beds, chew toys and training clickers among them — but you may want to save those purchases for your first few weeks or even months on the job. Soon enough, you’ll get an idea of your puppy’s likes and dislikes, which can help inform your shopping list and avoid unnecessary purchases.
Your first night with a new puppy
It sounds a little melodramatic, but a new puppy can represent a big shift in your household dynamics. And we mean that for the better.
Gone are those lazy, quiet moments without a care in the world or a mark on the calendar — soon to be replaced with a tornado of love, licks and cuddles.
Keep it calm. In the event that your puppy is coming from a shelter, or even the home of a breeder, it’s likely that they’ve just had a chaotic couple of days. Human hands touching them, sizing them up, weighing them and transporting them can feel disorienting and distressing for a puppy, so you’ll want to keep the lights low, the mood light and the visitors limited.
We advise against bringing friends and family over on the first night, as your puppy needs time to nap, recover and get their bearings straight.
Agree on a name. It may seem obvious, but the sooner you can name your puppy, the better off they’ll be. Dogs learn their names through consistent positive associations, and it may confuse them (or at the very least, lose their interest) to hear multiple names over the course of days or weeks.
Puppy-proof the home. You’d be surprised how enterprising a puppy can be, gnawing on previously hidden cords, rooting around in lidded trash cans and even sneaking into cabinet doors. There’s almost no length a puppy won’t go to stir some commotion. (Which, of course, we love them for.)
Take stock of your surroundings and see where you can round the edges. Hide any sharp objects, move any potentially toxic houseplants out of reach and wall off your stairs with a baby gate, ottoman or other obstruction.
It’s never too early to make parenting decisions. The biggest one new puppy owners often grapple with is whether or not to let them up on the couch. Today, your Newfie may fit perfectly nestled between you and your arm rest, but in a year’s time, it could be a very different (and much hairier story).
It’s a good idea to establish some ground rules and consistency from night one, as predictability is one thing that almost all puppies respond well to. Think about things like:
- Where you’ll place your new puppy’s crate
- If any rooms of the house are off limits for your new puppy
- What commands you’d like to start teaching your puppy
- How you plan to correct your puppy’s behavior when they act out
Realize some frustration is natural. Let yourself off the hook. Puppies are, by their nature, untrained and unaccustomed to life under your roof. Just as you wouldn’t expect them to know when to go out or how to walk on a leash from the get-go, you shouldn’t expect a saintly patience of yourself from the get-go.
On potty training
Puppies are notorious for peeing on just about everything. Many come pre-packaged with the desire to empty their bladders every 15 minutes or so, which means the potty training a puppy won’t come without its oopsies.
It’s possible to start the housebreaking process as soon as night one. Establish a dedicated, consistent spot you wish for your puppy to eliminate (we recommend a backyard, patio or the very least, indoor pee pad) and let them visit it at least every 30 minutes.
While some breeds may put up more of a fight than others, most puppies will gradually develop a sense of indoors vs. outdoors. Be sure to treat and praise your puppy for doing their business in the right place, while avoiding punishment when they go inside. Your best bet is to ignore the mess (and your puppy), clean it up as quickly as possible with an enzymatic cleaner and move along.
If you catch them in the act, take them to their designated spot as quickly as possible. The more they associate the spot with numbers 1 and 2, the more likely they are to notify you when the urge strikes.
Training your puppy into adulthood
Watching your dog grow, change and mature into an adult is a gratifying experience for any pet parent. Our dog training basics can help you start asking the right questions about what’s on the horizon for your puppy, and get you thinking about their next stage of life.
Until then, enjoy your first night with the puppy and take lots and lots (and lots) of pictures. Not that we have to tell you that.