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What to Expect: Your Puppy’s First Week at Home

Bringing a new puppy home is a wonderful and life-changing experience. Knowing what to expect in the first week will help you prepare for an easier, fun, and less stressful homecoming…for you both.

Just as important, use the week before you pick up your puppy to literally get your house in order. It isn’t much different from bringing home a newborn baby, with one big exception—fur babies are mobile! Make a checklist as you’ll need a crate and bedding, collar and leash, soft and hard toys and chews, and puppy treats of different types and values, including high value treats (like chicken) for critical skills and housetraining. Puppy-proof your home by getting down on their level. Remove anything hazardous or tempting—basically anything within their reach including plants, cords, rugs, etc…

Related: Introducing Your New Puppy to the Family

  • Picking up your bundle of fur

Bring a crate or soft carrier for the trip home, tire them out with playtime and be sure they eliminate before you go. If you have a breeder, they should provide a small supply of food, a blanket or toy with mom’s scent and all veterinary records. Minimize the number of people so your pup isn’t overwhelmed, and schedule a veterinary appointment in the first 48 hours for a health check.

  • Be patient

Almost everything is new for your pup—smells, sounds, sights and experiences, so be patient. It’s their first time away from mom and littermates, and a critical time in their development. Bad or scary experiences now can cause fear, aggression or anxiety that can last a lifetime. Bonding time with you helps them feel safe, secure and happy.

  • Limit their access

New puppy parents often make the mistake of giving their dog too much freedom. It’s overwhelming for your pup, and it makes it really hard to keep an eye on them, especially for housetraining. You’ll need to monitor them constantly for the first few months, and a crate and/or small, defined area makes it much easier.

  • Create a schedule

Being a puppy is exhausting. There’s playing, sleeping, eating, drinking, peeing and pooping to do…every hour. Get to know your pup’s patterns and create a schedule to help you set a routine. Anticipating and planning is the best path to successful training. 

  • Sleeping the first night

Set their crate in your bedroom so they can see and/or hear you. It’s their first time alone, and will ease anxiety. Plan to take them outside every few hours when they whine or cry, choose the same spot, praise, treat and return them to the crate. If they cry, ignore it until they stop, even momentarily, and use praise to soothe them and allow them to settle down on their own.

  • Training starts now

House training starts immediately, and a crate is a great tool when you can’t watch them. Puppies can only hold it about one hour for every month of age, and they don’t like to go in their crate. Take them out frequently—around once an hour, anytime they wake or after play. Reward and make it a “party” and they’ll start to get the hang of it with lots of repetition. 

Make training fun with high value treats like real chicken or turkey and really celebrate the wins. If you time it when your pup does something you like, use it as a training opportunity. Helping your pup make the association with what you want them to do gives you a great head start.
Being prepared for a new puppy is definitely the way to go. And with that first week under your belt (or is it leash?) you’ll start feeling like a pro. Mistakes will happen for both you and your pup. Take them in stride as it’s part of the process…and the fun!

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