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Your puppy’s first night at home


So you’ve picked out the perfect puppy and you’re ready to bring your new puppy home. As you step through the front doors, puppy in tow, it hits you: what do I do now?

Your puppy’s first night at home can feel intimidating. If you’re overwhelmed at the thought of being on your own with an energetic bundle of fur, we’re here to help. This first night survival guide includes all the information you need to feel prepared and, dare we say it, excited to rise to the challenge of a new puppy in the house.

PUPPY’S FIRST NIGHT AT HOME: Where to start?

A quick online search will produce hundreds of new puppy checklists, each featuring a slightly different set of musts and nice to haves for a new puppy (from eco-friendly poop bags to the best dog collars and harnesses).

Because our focus at Waggle Mail is head-to-tail health, we thought we’d trade a checklist for a veterinarian’s take on two of the top questions we hear in clinic from new puppy parents.

Having said that, if you’re in the market for reliable, vet-recommended puppy products, consider a Waggle Mail dog subscription box for your new family member. Every box is carefully curated by a veterinary professional and includes personalized products and information you’ll need to thrive through puppyhood.

How to pick the perfect puppy food

Picking the right puppy food for your dog fuels their healthy growth and development. Puppy diets are specially designed for puppies’ high caloric needs and contain higher levels of calcium and phosphorus to promote healthy bones and growth plate closures.

Your veterinary team is more than happy to help you pick an age- and breed-appropriate diet. However, if you’ve decided to go it alone, stick to well-known, AAFCO brands.

From puppy’s first night at home until they reach approximately 80% of their expected adult size, it’s important to keep your pup on a designated diet. By switching off puppy food too soon you can compromise healthy growth–we want your pup to grow big and strong, just as much as you do.

EXPERT TIP: Different breeds mature at different rates. A Chihuahua may graduate from puppy food by 10 months, whereas a Mastiff may stay on a puppy diet until nearly 18 months.

When to go for puppy booster shots

Most puppy parents know their new additions will need to be booked in for vaccines, but do you know when or, just as importantly, why?

Puppy booster shots (and the accompanying veterinary exams) are critical to kickstart puppies’ immune systems. Between birth and initial vaccination, puppies are quite vulnerable, relying on antibodies from their birth mom to get by. Booking in boosters for 8, 12, and 16 weeks will help you get acquainted with your veterinary team and catch any puppy problems (things like umbilical hernias and puppy cherry eye) before they escalate into full-scale medical emergencies.

All this is well and good, but when it’s your puppy’s first night in a new home surrounded by new people, scents, sights, sounds, and spaces to explore, food and boosters take a backseat to the safety of your pup… and your stuff.

Puppy proofing your home

Puppies can’t help but be curious, and curiosity can quickly become mischief as they gain confidence and begin exploring what’s around them.

Following these tips will help you successfully puppy proof your home so you’re ready for your first night with your new puppy:

  • Remove or conceal small objects your puppy might swallow, chew, or choke on.
  • Get down on their level to sniff out possible danger.
  • Cover any electrical cords. These are a troublesome favourite of teething puppies.
  • Check your washer and dryer before use. You never know where a sleepy puppy might decide to curl up for a nap.
  • Lift plants safely out of reach. Even if your home is full of pet-safe plants, nobody wants a house tracked with dirty footprints.
  • Secure garbage can and compost lids to prevent ingestion.
  • Lock up hazardous liquids in your house and in your garage.
  • Safely store medications and supplements (for people and for puppies) to prevent dog poisoning.
  • Restrict access to unsafe areas like stairs using pet or baby gates. Playpens work well, too.

What to do on your puppy’s first night AT home

Want to have a great first day with your dog? Here are three ways to make it a hit:

  1. Go for low key. This is the very first time your puppy has been away from its mom and littermates. Sensory overload is real; everyone and everything your puppy is experiencing is new. It’s natural to want to immediately introduce your puppy to friends and family, but puppy’s first night at home is not the day to be inviting over visitors, scheduling playdates, or planning an outdoor adventure. Take this time to cuddle, bond, and play in as quiet an environment as possible.
  2. Book a staycation. What better reason to cash in a few of your vacation days than to snuggle with a new puppy? Taking a day or two off work can help establish a schedule for things like feeding and house training. During this time you might also start noticing (and working through) behavioural or scheduling kinks. Remember: like humans, most puppies thrive in structure and routine.
  3. Give your puppy a safe spot. Designate a safe, quiet space in your home where your puppy can sleep, and/or a kennel or crate they can escape to as needed. Because dogs love dens, we recommend crate training as soon as possible.
    • Puppies sleep as hard as they play. Believe us when we say a tired puppy is better than a bored puppy! Schedule regular nap times; just like babies, these help puppies establish health routines and proper boundaries.
    • Furnish their safe space with some or all of the following:
      • A comforting toy
      • A blanket or bed, especially if you have something that smells like their littermates, mom, or previous home. These smells may help your puppy feel more secure and offer relief from early anxieties and fears.
      • Depending how quickly your pup warms up to you, an old t-shirt or blanket with your scent may have a similar effect.
      • Use calming pheromones with collars, sprays, or diffusers. Adaptil products are a favourite among veterinarians.
  4. Rest up. It’s important for puppy parents to understand that much like a new baby, a new puppy equals sleepless nights ahead. When you’re in the thick of it, it might feel like sleep will evade you forever, but with patience, persistence, and a few shots of espresso, you’ll see the other side sooner than you think.

How to introduce your puppy to other pets and kids

Fur or no fur, if there are other babies in your house it’s important to be intentional about how you introduce a new puppy. The same rules apply when bringing home a foster dog, young or young at heart.
Following these tips will increase your chances of everyone becoming fast friends:

First up: don’t leave your kids (big or small) unsupervised with a puppy. Especially when it’s puppy first night home, overstimulation might make them more erratic than usual. Your top priority as a puppy parent is to keep everyone in your household safe.

During supervised interaction, it’s important to remind your kids to remain calm (easier said than done, right?) and to gently handle and pet the puppy. If you have a big kid or a teenager in your household, include them in conversations about puppy potty training and other routines; as everyone becomes more familiar with each other, it’s nice to have extra sets of hands to help out.

When it comes to bringing home a puppy and introducing them to other animals, slow and steady wins the race. Time to dust off those baby gates! As your animals acclimatize to one another, watch for signs of discomfort like crying, panting, growling, or shaking.

EXPERT TIP: Be especially vigilant with senior animals. They may be sore and/or uninterested in dealing with the antics of a young, energetic puppy. Let your senior take space as needed.

Puppy potty training: What puppy parents need to know

So far we’ve covered what to expect from puppy’s first night inside your home, but what about when it’s time for your puppy to do their business outside?

It’s never too early to start puppy potty training. Make sure you manage your expectations: puppy potty training takes time. On average, you can expect to be up with your pup for about 4-6 months before things start to click.

Initially, your puppy may need to pee every hour, but as time goes on they’ll learn to hold their bladder for longer. The general rule is that puppies can hold their bladder for 1 hour longer than their age in months. This means that a 3-month-old puppy should be given a bathroom break at least every 4 hours.

Chances are you’ll be spending more time outside with your puppy than you expected (and during times when you’d way rather be sleeping). Expect bathroom breaks any time:

  • Puppy wakes up (including naps… even if they’re cat naps)
  • Puppy finishes a meal
  • Playtime is over
  • You’re about to leave the house or head to bed

Even if it’s the middle of the night and you’re dead tired, it’s important to give your puppy loads of praise and pets whenever potty time is a success. Positive reinforcement not only strengthens the pet-parent bond, it can also accelerate the puppy potty training timeline.

We hope these tips put you and your new puppy on the path to many successful, sleep-filled nights.

Want more puppy training tips? Subscribe to Waggle (e)Mail. We send our subscribers recipes, resources, and exclusive email offers to help make your puppy parenting experience the very best it can be.

Signature of Dr. Christine Beck, DVM, BSc, Veterinarian; Founder and Operator of Waggle Mail

Dr. C. Beck
Registered Veterinarian, Founder & CEO

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