Bringing home a new puppy is one of the best experiences a family can have! Those sweet, cuddly, often crazy little bundles of fur always fill our lives with joy, meaning, and excitement.
You might be dreaming about taking your pup for a walk on the trails, playing fetch, and cuddling up on the couch, but getting a puppy is also a lot of work and a big adjustment for everyone.
Puppies need to adjust to being away from their mom and siblings, create a new bond with you, and be trained. Puppy owners need to keep a keen eye, learn how to train, and guide their puppy through these profound changes.
If you’re wondering what you need to do in preparing for a puppy, we're here for you. In this guide, we’ll cover how to prepare before you have the puppy; what to do on the puppy's first day (and night) home; and how to train your new puppy during its first year of life!
Stage 1: Before Puppy Comes Home
If you know you’re going to get a puppy, you can start by preparing some supplies and reading in the weeks before your puppy comes home. This will help make welcoming your new furry family member as seamless as possible.
Things You Need for a Puppy
What do you need for a puppy? Believe it or not, puppies require quite a few essentials!
For first-time owners, it can feel overwhelming figuring out how to prepare for a puppy. Use our new puppy checklist to cover everything you'll need for the first few weeks and months!
Training Education for Owners
With any luck, your dog breeder or shelter has been training your puppy in the first eight weeks of life, before you can take your pup home. In the weeks leading up to picking up your pup, ask if they've done any training – and if so, what type of training they've done.
From there, you can follow their training methods, or choose to "start over" if you prefer another type of training.
Research and read about basic training methods so that you can start implementing and training puppies right from day one. The best training combines words with hand signals to reinforce the command.
Puppy Proof the House
It's no secret that puppies love chewing just about anything they can get their teeth on. Remove dangling objects, cover and tape loose wires, and don't leave any items on the floor (especially soft, squishy ones like shoes).
Beware of house plants that could be toxic to your new dog if ingested, and keep them on high, out of reach shelves if possible.
Get the Family Involved
Sit down with your roommates, partners, and children to nail down a family plan to care for the new puppy. You'll want to:
- Create a care schedule for feeding and walking.
- Decide on a training method and have everyone learn how to train the puppy properly.
- Create a veterinary plan so that the new puppy gets all its shots and medicines on time.
Stage 2: Puppy’s First Day Home
The first day home is joyful, but it can feel quite traumatic for the puppy. Use these tips to keep your pup calm and reassured while they settle in.
The Drive Home
First, let your puppy pee outside before you get into the car to avoid any accidents. The first drive is often stressful for the dog.
You can bring your new puppy home in a carrier/crate if they're comfortable in one, or you can take the puppy in your lap if they are more relaxed that way.
Once you get home, bring your new puppy to its new pee spot before you step inside the house. Hang around there until your pup pees, and reward them with some love and encouraging words. Then, bring the dog into their new home.
In the first few days, bring the puppy outside to go to the bathroom every 2 hours. As they learn to go outside, they'll give you cues when they need to go out, but for now, keep taking them out regularly.
If they have an accident inside, stop them in the middle of their business and whisk them outside.
Take the Day Off
If you can manage to take the first day off or pick up on a day you're already off, you'll be able to keep a close eye on your puppy and help them to grow accustomed to his new house with your support.
These first few days are essential for building a bond with your new friend, so spend as much time with them as you possibly can.
Introduce Them to the Crate
A crate is essentially a puppy's bedroom – they'll sleep in there and head there for some alone time when they need it. It's a place of comfort that they should enjoy. Set up an appropriately sized crate with some soft bedding (watch for chewing) and some toys.
Bring the dog over to the crate and put a few treats inside, so that the puppy can start exploring their new space.
Of course, every friend and extended family member is going to be excited to meet your sweet little puppy. It can be tempting to have them over on the first day, but wait a little while.
The day is already emotionally overwhelming for a puppy, and adding extra people into the mix can be confusing. Let your dog find its groove before you introduce them to the other people in your life.
For your puppy's first night, put it in its crate. Place the crate in your bedroom or another room of your choice.
Crating gives your dog some comfort, but they're going to need to learn to enjoy this comfort. At first, you'll have to keep the crate latched as the puppy learns to stay there throughout the night. As they get older, you can start to leave the crate open, and they'll naturally remain there all night.
If you prefer your dog to sleep with you, try crating for the first few months so your puppy can learn to enjoy a bit of independence. After that, you can leave the door open and let them on your bed if you choose.
For small dogs, you can actually get a dog ramp for bed so they can get up and down easily!
Your puppy will be crying on and off for the first few nights. From the puppy’s perspective, they’ve been suddenly ripped from their mom and siblings and they’re understandably upset.
It can be tempting to comfort the puppy, but this can teach them that crying gets attention. The best way to get through this behavior is to let the pup cry it out.
If you'd like, bring an old shirt when you go to pick up your pup. Rub the shirt on mama to get some of her scents. Then, put it in the crate with your puppy at night for some small comfort.
Stage 3: Puppy's First Year
Getting through the first few days can be challenging. Things will normalize quickly, and you'll fall into a pattern with your puppy soon. During the first year, keep focused on keeping your puppy happy, healthy, and well-adjusted.
Training the Puppy
Training should start immediately at home. Traditionally, people have thought that a puppy can't do formal training until six months old.
This isn't viewed as ideal anymore – puppies start learning at a very early age, and waiting six months will likely mean they have developed destructive behaviors they need to unlearn and retrain.
Get your puppy classes started as soon as you're able to for the best results.
You can start socializing your puppy with people almost immediately. But you'll also want your dog to get used to being well-behaved and enjoying time spent around other dogs.
Socialize your puppy with other dogs before they're fully vaccinated, as the emotional and behavioral benefits far outweigh the minuscule risks of contracting an illness. Avoid dog parks and places where there are many strange dogs around with unknown histories, but feel free to socialize in more intimate settings.
Puppy classes and puppy parties are also a great place for pups to learn to socialize with other furry friends.
Shots and Medicines
Contact your local vet to develop a care plan and schedule before you get your puppy home. Pre-book every appointment to ensure you don't miss essential health milestones like vaccinations and prevention of heartworm, fleas, and ticks.
Bringing home a sweet puppy is one of the best times. You’ll remember it for the rest of your life.
We hope you thoroughly enjoy creating cherished memories during this beautiful time and can use some of these tips to help navigate the fun and often bumpy weeks and months ahead!