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Getting a new puppy is so exciting! But the first week with a puppy is also overwhelming. There are many things to consider.
- What do I call the new puppy?
- Where will he sleep?
- What should I feed him?
- And much, much more…
In considering how to deal with a new puppy, it’s important to be prepared. Structure and consistency are also important.
Today we’re going to cover some of the many things you need to do and prepare for the first week with your new puppy.
So, let’s get started with…
Contents & Quick Navigation
- Preparing For A New Puppy
- 1. Puppy Proof Your Home
- 2. Gather Together Puppy Supplies
- 3. Have A Game Plan
- 4. Be Consistent In The Puppy’s Routine
- 5. Your Puppy’s First Day In Your Home
- 6. Puppy’s First Night
- 7. Puppy Socialization Part I: Meeting New People & Dogs
- 8. Puppy Socialization Part II: New Sights And Sounds
- 9. Puppy Training 101
- Final Thoughts
- Save To Pinterest
- Top Picks For Our Dogs
Preparing For A New Puppy
1. Puppy Proof Your Home
Puppies explore the world with their mouths. To them, the world is perceived as a big chew toy. But we have to make it a safe world for them.
We have to move things that may hurt them or that we don’t want damaged out of their reach. These include:
- Electrical wires
- Chemicals, including cleaning supplies
- Decorative items like statues
- Books and other papers
PRO TIP: When we puppy proof our home we like to get our puppy’s view point. We get down on our hands and knees and look at the world from our puppies eyes. We often find many hidden dangers that go unnoticed from our regular vantage point.
2. Gather Together Puppy Supplies
It’s best to be prepared for the new arrival. There are many items you’ll need to have a successful first week with the new furry bundle of joy.
You can buy them on-line or at your local pet supply store. Important items include:
- A Crate. You can get a wire crate or plastic kennel. Many puppies prefer a wire crate because they can see out and what’s going on around them.
- The crate should be big enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lie down in comfortably.
- If your small puppy is going to be a large dog like a lab when he grows up, it’s advisable to purchase a crate with a divider that you can move and enlarge his space as he grows.
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: We recommend the Midwest Life Stages Crate with divider. We still have and use the first one we bought for our Lab mix rescue pup, Linus over 16 years.
- Toys, Treats, and Chewies. It’s important to have some items for your new puppy to chew. If you don’t, your sofa’s wooden legs may look pretty inviting to him.
- Having a variety of toys are important to keep him busy and entertained.
- They also help his mental development. Soft fleece-like toys that are large enough that he can’t swallow them are fun for most puppies.
- I get some that squeak and some that honk when the pup plays with them.
- Different textures like rubber and latex can provide some variety.
- Puzzle-like toys can make him figure out how to work them. Kongs frozen with a little moist food can keep him busy and help teething needs.
- Chewies such as Nylabones, bully sticks, and antlers can meet his teething needs.
- Puppy training treats can help train him. Treats should be no larger than the size of a pea. His kibble can be used as a treat too.
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: We put together a list of some of our favorite puppy toys on our sister site. Check out some of the best chew toys for your puppy.
- Food. The breeder or rescue you got the puppy from often gives a baggie of the food he’s been eating.
- You can continue to give him the same puppy food. If you didn’t receive any food or want to change the pup’s food, purchase a high-quality puppy food appropriate to your dog.
- There are formulas for small dogs and puppies that will become large breeds as adults.
- Change the food over a week to 10 days so that there aren’t any digestive problems.
QUICK RECOMMENDATION: Check out our list of best dog foods for Labrador Retrievers. And in case you were wondering, we feed our Lab puppies Wellness Core Puppy Formula.
- Puppy Pee and Poop Cleaner. Although we try to avoid accidents, some are inevitable with a young puppy.
- There are some great enzymatic cleaners to help remove housebreaking indiscretions.
- Two brands I often use are Simple Solution and Nature’s Miracle. They even make types for different surfaces such as wood and carpet. Follow the instructions on the bottle. Always test on an inconspicuous area before using.
- If you just try to wipe the stain away without such products, the pup may be drawn back to the area to use as his potty yard. Puppies have a “nose brain” and can smell things that we can’t.
- You’ll also need paper towels or washable rags to clean things up.
PRO TIP: If you’re finding that your puppy is having potty accidents in the same spot then you may want to check out this more thorough article on how to remove pet stains and odors.
- Potty Pads. These are pads with a plastic backing and paper top that is pre-scented to draw the puppy to use them as his bathroom.
- Generally, I don’t use these because they add another step to train a pup to use the great outdoors as his bathroom.
- They can be very useful in some circumstances. You might be gone long hours and the pup won’t be able to “hold it” for that long.
- Some people live in an apartment and the puppy may not be able to hold it on the way out.
- Or you may have a toy or small breed dog like a chihuahua or Yorkie and intend to use the pads throughout his life.
- We buy potty pads in bulk from Chewy for our litters, but as mentioned above we don’t normally use them when potty training our pups.
- Leash, Collar, and Harness. Have sizes that fit your pup and a six-foot leash. The breeder or rescue you obtain the dog from can help you get the right sizes, as can knowledgeable pet store employees.
- You’ll also want some sort of ID for the pup. I order an embroidered collar with the dog’s name and telephone number to keep on him when he’s out of his crate.
- I don’t leave a collar on when he’s alone in his crate or exercise pen because it can catch on the grill or door. Safety first.
- Water and Food Bowls. They should be sized for the puppy. What a Mastiff needs as an adult and as a puppy are very different.
- I prefer stainless steel because they last forever and are easy to clean.
- Bitter Apple. This is a chew deterrent that can help save your precious chair leg. Always test on an inconspicuous spot before using.
- Puppy Exercise Pen. The name is misleading. It isn’t like a puppy treadmill. It’s a containment area that keeps the puppy safe.
- It’s larger than a crate. They come in wire, plastic, or cloth. I prefer wire or plastic, so the pup can’t chew through them.
- They can be set up with a play area and a potty area with a potty pad for when you’ll leave the pup for longer times than he can hold his pee or poop.
- It can also be used as a safe containment area.
- Grooming Tools. Depending on your puppy’s coat, you’ll need certain grooming tools, such as a slicker brush, a greyhound comb, ear cleaner, and a brush. Ask your breeder or rescue group what they recommend.
- Safety Gate. You may need this in order to block the puppy from other rooms or stairs.
We covered most of the essential items you’ll need for your new puppy. For a more extensive list check out the New Puppy Checklist we published on our sister site, Puppy In Training.
3. Have A Game Plan
There’s so much to do when a puppy comes home. It’s like an instant toddler who explores your home.
Ideally, everyone living with the puppy should meet to determine who is handling each task with the puppy.
Determine who’s feeding the puppy, walking him, playing with him, training him, pottying him, taking him to the vet, socializing him, and grooming him.
I’ve always found it easier for one family member to take the lead (it’s always me), but everyone should be involved with raising and training your puppy.
You have to determine what rooms the puppy will be permitted in, where he’ll sleep, whether he’ll be allowed on the furniture, and where his crate will be.
It’s good in the beginning to have his crate in your bedroom so that you can hear if he needs to go to the bathroom.
PRO TIP: When we crate train our service dog puppies we always put the crate right next to our bed. Basically, our night stands are crates.
You can move the crate or have a second one in the area where everyone hangs out, like the family room or living room.
You have to decide where you’ll take him out to potty.
PRO TIP: When we potty train our puppies we always take her to the same spot, out through the same door, every time. By keeping our pup to the exact same routine helps them learn more quickly.
Set up a wellness check with a trusted veterinarian. If you don’t have one, ask friends for recommendations.
You may also have puppy sitters lined up if you’ll be gone longer than the pup can hold it. They can potty the pup and even play and walk him.
Choose a name if your family can decide on one prior to his joining his household so that you can start teaching him his name.
4. Be Consistent In The Puppy’s Routine
- Puppy Feeding Routine. Feed the puppy at the same times every day, generally three times a day for a young puppy under five months old.
- Puppy Potty Training. Everyone has to be on board with the pup’s schedule. The puppy will have to potty after sleeping, eating, playing, chewing, and any excitement, and prior to going to bed.
I know, it seems as if all he does is go to the bathroom – outside, inside, everywhere!? But it will get better as he gets more bladder control.
A puppy generally can “hold it” for about one hour longer than his age in months. So, a two-month-old puppy should be able to hold it for about three hours.
Be prepared to be very sleep-deprived the first week and maybe a little longer.
Closely observe you pup to see when he has to go to the bathroom. Some pups start to sniff the floor as a cue, others seem agitated, others spin.
When choosing where your puppy will potty outside, try to choose an area where other dogs haven’t pottied.
Your pup won’t have received all of his vaccinations yet so he is susceptible to catching some diseases such as parvovirus.
Try to get the puppy outside whenever you see these signs. You may have to carry him out to his potty spot, especially if he’s just getting used to his harness, collar, or leash.
Try taking him out the same door, the same route, to the same area.
When he gets to the potty area, give him a potty command, such a “hurry” or “go potty.”
All of my dogs—from small breeds like shih tzus and Lhasa apsos through large breeds like golden retrievers—have learned to go on command.
PRO TIP: The command we use to tell our puppies to go potty at the guide dog school is “Get Busy”.
It saves a lot of time. They like it because they get praised and given a treat right after they’ve urinated or defecated.
Immediately after the pup potties, remember to praise and reward the pup with a small treat no bigger than the size of a pea. A piece of his kibble can be used.
Even if you have a fenced yard, take the puppy out on leash so that you’re there to make sure he went to the bathroom. And you can praise and reward with a small treat immediately after he potties.
If you catch him having an accident, you can interrupt him by saying ”EH-EH.” Take him outside immediately to go to the bathroom.
If he already had an accident, clean it up with an enzymatic cleaner like Rocco & Roxie’s Stain and Odor Eliminator. Just watch him more closely.
5. Your Puppy’s First Day In Your Home
Have a crate or plastic kennel ready for the pup to safely travel home with you. Make sure the crate or kennel is secured and cannot tumble around or he’ll be traumatized.
If you have a human co-pilot for the trip, the passenger will be able to softly talk to the puppy to reassure him that all’s well with his world.
- The Great Explorer. Let the pup explore the puppy-proofed room at his own pace.
- Have him in your sight so that you can see if he has to potty and to ensure that he doesn’t get into the wrong things, like chewing the fabric on your favorite recliner.
- Playtime. If possible, play with a toy he had at his former placement. Gently squeak it and toss it a foot away from him. Let him know you represent great times.
- Great Crate. Leave the door to his crate open, tethered back so it will remain open and not scare him by moving.
- Have a toy or blankie from his former home in the crate to make him more comfortable.
- You can help him enter by tossing the toy into the crate with him watching nearby. Or you can have a couple of his kibbles present to toss in too.
6. Puppy’s First Night
The puppy’s first night is likely to be somewhat traumatic. It’s probably the first time he’s been away from his littermates and his mother.
He doesn’t know what’s happening and is likely to be stressed.
Even though your family and friends want to meet the new addition, give him at least a few days to settle in before overwhelming him with too many new experiences.
- Familiar Scent. Having an item like a blanket or toy from his previous home that has scents that he’s familiar with can help him feel more at home.
- Playtime. After the pup settles in for a few hours in his new house, take out a toy that he knows like a squeaky toy that he’s played with at his prior home, and play with him.
- It will help his bond with you and get him to know good things happen there.
- Play with him shortly before his bedtime so that he’ll sleep at night.
- Pottying. Take him out to potty right before you put him to bed.
- Confinement. Gently place him in his crate or throw a couple of pieces of his kibble in his crate and let him go after them. You want him to like his crate.
- Have the blankie with the scent from his prior home in his crate.
- A warm water bottle wrapped in a blanket can help some pups adjust.
- Or you can purchase a “Calmeroos Puppy Toy,” which is a plush stuffed puppy that looks like a sleeping pup. It simulates a heartbeat and has a warming pack inside to help the puppy be calm and ease his loneliness in the first critical nights of his adjustment.
- Puppy panic. The pup may squeal, whine, and bark. It’s distressing to hear it. But it’s normal.
- Generally, I let the pup cry himself out. But, if there‘s any question about whether he has to potty, I err on the side of caution and take him to his potty area.
- Give him a couple of minutes to potty. If he goes, praise and reward. If he doesn’t, then take him calmly back and put him in his crate.
- You just don’t want him to cry and think that releases him from the crate even when he doesn’t have to go to the bathroom.
- It’s hard to steel yourself again the pitiful cries of a young, vulnerable pup. One of my puppies had an ear-piercing scream the first night in her crate.
- Just to be sure she didn’t have to potty, I carried her out on her harness and leash. She didn’t potty, So, when I put her back in her crate, I just let her settle down. She eventually settled and slept.
- Each successive night got better and better when she learned her new routine and stopped panicking.
- Sleeplessness: Yours. Be prepared to have some sleepless nights for at least the first few weeks. The puppy can only hold his urine for a few hours.
- Even though I’ve raised many puppies, I still become Zombie-like during the first few weeks when the puppy settles into his new routine.
- I recommend even setting an alarm for the first few nights so that you can take him out after three hours.
- Generally, puppies instinctively keep their sleeping area clean; you want to get him out to his potty area so that he doesn’t mess in his crate.
- Please don’t do corrections like putting his nose in an accident or he won’t trust you. Plus, he won’t learn anything regarding how to potty.
QUICK TIP: If possible, take off a few days or a week or two while the puppy settles in.
If you’re home for an extended period of time, such as working at home during the pandemic, still keep the schedule you’ve made for the pup to adjust.
After he’s pottied and been placed in his crate with the door shut, make sure you leave him during the day for a few hours during the day so that he won’t develop separation anxiety where he’d need you to be present all the time.
Leave him for a few hours after the first few days of his adjusting to his new home.
7. Puppy Socialization Part I: Meeting New People & Dogs
Whenever I get a new puppy, I’m excited to introduce her to my friends. My newest puppy is an Aussie mix I named Millie. She was about 11 weeks old when I adopted her.
She was full of energy and never met a stranger in her foster home. Even though she was so outgoing, I still gave her about five days to adjust to meeting new people.
- How To Introduce Your Puppy To New People. Wait a few days until your pup has settled into his new surroundings before introducing him to family and friends who don’t reside in your home.
- Some pups are shy and reserved in meeting new people. Others want to run up to new people and jump all over them.
- Let your pup proceed at his own pace; don’t force him to go up to newcomers.
- Set him up to succeed. Have only a few people meet him at a time.
- Don’t let people rush him or grab him. Meeting people should be a positive experience.
- As his confidence increases, make sure he meets a wide variety of people: men and women; different ages; people with and without glasses or hats or overcoats; different heights; different races; people with and without masks as they’ll encounter during the pandemic.
- Have the people give him a small tidbit of a treat or a piece or two of his kibble.
- If he’s alright with being handled, have them gently pet him while giving him the treat.
- But don’t force him to be handled or held by strangers if this is new to him.
- You can teach him that such interactions are good first over the first week or so; once he likes being held or having his feet touched by you, then I would have others gently do so while rewarding and praising him.
- Because a young puppy hasn’t had all his vaccinations, he shouldn’t be around other strange dogs or puppies that may not have been vaccinated, don’t yet take him for walks or new places where such canines may have been.
- But you can still take him on the road towards the end of the first week if he seems to be adjusting well. Put him in the secured crate in your car and take him to a new place such as a store where dogs haven’t been.
- I carry a soft fleece dog bed to put into a shopping cart with the puppy in a harness and on a leash. I’ve taken my pups into Lowes or Home Depot in a cart when they’re young to socialize them to new people and new settings.
- Give him a treat as people come up to pet him.
- How To Introduce Your Puppy To New Dogs. During the first week, I don’t recommend that your puppy meet new dogs.
Once he’s settled in after the first week, you can have him meet friendly, healthy puppies who have age-appropriate vaccinations.
Have them meet on leash assuming your pup has adjusted to his harness and leash. Just a short meeting of about a minute is fine.
Eventually, if the pups are about the same size and have similar play styles, they can play for a few minutes off leash for a few minutes in a safe area such as a puppy-proofed room.
Supervise interactions and don’t let one puppy overwhelm the other.
Be careful of the puppy meeting new dogs. Not all dogs will tolerate the antics of a puppy.
Wait until you have a puppy more than a week and until he knows some basic commands like sit and his name. Make sure that the dog he meets, both being on leash, is very tolerant of puppies.
QUICK TIP: Don’t take the puppy out within an hour of eating a meal, as he may get an upset tummy. Going in a car is new to him and he has to get used to the motion and going new places. The more fun, positive places he goes, he should get used to traveling and even look forward to it.
8. Puppy Socialization Part II: New Sights And Sounds
Socialization is more than just having the newcomer meet friendly people and dogs.
It’s getting him used to new noises and sights.
He has to brave the new world of TVs and dishwashers. They can seem like monsters to pups who haven’t encountered them before.
Make sure such encounters are pleasant. For example, have the pup play near the dishwasher when it’s off, eventually having him play near it when it’s on.
In the same way, get him used to other everyday sights and sounds such as the TV on or the phone ringing.
Eventually, get him used to new sights and sounds outside the house. This probably won’t occur until after his first week with you.
9. Puppy Training 101
Training is composed of having the pup learn a new language and the rules. Socialization and training also give him confidence in his world.
Of course, all the things you’re teaching the puppy such as scheduling, pottying, and socialization skills are part of the puppy’s training.
But there are certain other commands the pup should start to learn the first week.
When training, it’s important to mark the behavior we want with a word such as “yes” after the puppy performs the desired behavior.
You can also reward with a small treat no larger than a pea. Even a piece of the pup’s kibble can be used as a reward.
Remember to always set your puppy up for success. For example, have your pup exercised before he works so that he can settle down and focus. A short five-minute play session tossing a toy can help.
- His Name. Once you’ve chosen the perfect name for your pup, it’s time to teach him his new identity.
After he’s had some exercise, have some of his kibble or small treats ready. Have him in front of you and say his name. When he looks at you, happily say “yes!” to mark the behavior you are rewarding and give the treat.
- Come. Coming to you can save your puppy’s life should he ever get away. It should always be positive.
Nothing negative should happen immediately after he comes to you. So he shouldn’t be placed in his crate immediately after coming to you, as he’s learning to like his crate; his fun outside the crate would end.
At first have him in front of you, show him the treat and lure him to you as you back away a few steps.
Tell him “yes, good boy” as you give him the treat after he comes to you.
- Crate Training. Practice having your puppy go into the crate with the door open. Throw a treat or toy in and praise when he enters.
Make sure the crate is an inviting place. Place a towel or blanket in it that has the scent of his old home and littermates to help him feel more comfortable in his new home.
- Handling. Get your new puppy used to handling. Make sure he’s had some exercise like a short session fetching or a walk first.
Have him on your lap or a table with a rubber mat so he has secure footing. Hold onto his harness so he doesn’t fall.
Gently: massage his body; touch his ears; touch his feet.
You don’t have to do it all in one session, but do this every day. If he struggles, calmly tell him “hold still.”
Praise and reward when he’s calm. Place him back on the ground only after he’s calm so that he doesn’t learn struggling means he doesn’t have to be handled.
- Grooming. Once he gets used to handling, you can start a very short grooming session.
Brush him gently with an appropriate grooming tool like a slicker brush. Only groom a small section at a time. Always end on a good note.
- Collar/Harness and Leash. It will take at least a few days for the puppy to get used to wearing a collar or harness or being on leash.
After putting the collar or harness on, -try to play with the puppy to distract him.
Many puppies buck like a bronco after a leash is attached. You can let him drag the leash for a short time.
Attach it to his collar or leash and play with him for a short time. Never leave the leash, collar, or harness attached unsupervised.
Be patient. It will take multiple training sessions for the puppy to get used to these new training devices.
More important than anything: have fun with and enjoy the time you have with your new best friend. Puppyhood goes by so quickly.
The first week with a new puppy is definitely exciting and fun, but it’s also frustrating, messy, and you will be sleep deprived.
The good news is a little planning goes a long way when preparing for your first new puppy. Reading this article is a great start. Now it’s time to take action.
Take the advice in this article to heart and start preparing for your puppy. If you already started your first week then start doing the things outlined in this article.
Are you thinking about getting a new puppy? Are you currently raising a puppy? Or is this all old news to you?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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Top Picks For Our Dogs
- BEST PUPPY TOY
We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
- BEST DOG CHEW
We Like: Bones & Chews Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
- BEST DOG TREATS
We Like: Crazy Dog Train Me Treats - One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
- BEST FRESH DOG FOOD
We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.
For a list of all the supplies we get for our new service dog puppies check out our New Puppy Checklist on the PuppyInTraining.com blog.
Great comprehensive article. I remember all those ‘first nights’ over the years when bringing home a puppy, wondering if I was doing everything right. It’s of a learning curve for both you and your puppy, but this post gives a new owner a head start. Thank you.
Yes, the first nights are tough. I remember my first night with my first puppy. Picking him up, bringing him home was all so exciting! However, once the evening rolled around and my pup had trouble sleeping was when it got frustrating. It’s always good to have a few tips handy for when things don’t go exactly as planned.