Puppy's First Night Home

The following article is written by animal behaviorist, Cori MacGregor:

Congratulations! Bringing a new puppy home is certainly a very exciting time for your family. What you may not realize is that it can be a very frightening time for your new puppy. Put yourself in his paws…up until now, he has never left his first home and has never been separated from his mother and littermates. Understanding this, you can anticipate his reaction to his new surroundings.

When your puppy first comes home, you would be doing yourself a great favor by having all his essentials ready to go. These items should include:

  • A kennel, not too large or one that has a divider that can be used as puppy grows
  • A bed or special blanket for bedding
  • A play pen to reduce indoor accidents during potty training
  • Baby gates
  • Pee pads
  • Tough toys for chewing (useful during teething)
  • Food and water bowls
  • Food and treats (see discussion regarding best choices)
  • Nylon leash and collar/harness
  • Log book to keep track of puppy’s eating and bathroom habits
  • Enzymatic carpet cleaner for accidents (there will be accidents!)

Your home should be calm and quiet, at least for the first few days. It would not be a good idea to throw a “Welcome!” party for puppy because that would be scary and very overstimulating. The quite time at home will give your puppy the opportunity to explore his new surroundings and meet his new family members. 

That first night (and probably many nights after) will be the most difficult for your puppy because he will be extremely aware of his new “aloneness”. He will not be able to have physical closeness to his mother and siblings that he is used to. He will likely call out for them by whining, howling and squealing. He will be very restless and having difficulty sleeping, which is to be expected and is a natural reaction to feeling vulnerable.

The best thing to do would be to set up a comfortable sleeping space in his crate and place it next to your bed. You will need to take puppy out to relieve himself during the night as a puppy’s bladder doesn’t have the capacity to “hold it” for the entire night. Keeping him close by will make this easier on you. Give puppy a soft toy to cuddle with as it may help alleviate some of the loneliness he will be experiencing. Be prepared to lose a lot of sleep yourself as puppy reacts to his new situation. 

You may be tempted to move puppy to a location far from where you can hear him but this will only increase his sense of insecurity and vulnerability. He may develop anxiety about being kept in a crate, which will become an important training tool in the near future. You may also be tempted to get puppy out of his crate and let him sleep with you in your bed. You may find that having a dog in your bed long-term (especially a large one), is undesirable. Allowing puppy to sleep with you from the beginning will create a habit that will be very hard to break down the road. Also, remember that puppies won’t be able to “hold it” for very long…

Over time, your puppy will adjust and so will you. Good luck and enjoy your new companion!