There’s nothing quite like puppies. Those paws that seem too big for the rest of their bodies, those wide innocent eyes, and that sweet puppy breath are enough to make me melt every time!
Over the years, my husband and I have survived three puppies together – Zeke, Buck, and Chilly – all adopted between the ages of 8 and 16 weeks.
And, yes, you read right. I said “survived.” Because as adorable and wonderful as they are, puppies are also a lot of work! And they wreak an incredible amount of havoc for such tiny little bundles. Believe me, I have the chewed slippers, gnawed furniture, and frayed rug corners to prove it!
If you’ve just gotten a puppy, or are thinking about getting one for the first time, don’t let that scare you – much. Because in the end (of puppy-dom, which can be 12 to 24 months), it was all worth it. We were rewarded with three wonderful, well-trained, well-mannered pooches.
One thing my pups have taught me is the importance of the first few hours and days after adopting a new puppy. Giving your pup a good start can set the stage for the weeks and months to come. Here are a few tips for helping your new puppy adjust and feel at home.
Before Puppy Comes Home
Puppies may be little, but they need a lot of stuff! Before you bring your new puppy home you’ll want to stock up on the essentials (and maybe a bit more). Make sure that your puppy has:
- Food and water bowls. These should be the right size for a puppy to eat and drink from. You will probably want to replace them with larger ones as he grows.
- A collar and leash.
- A crate. Ideally, crates should be big enough for your puppy to turn around, lie down, and stand without bumping his head. If you choose to crate train your puppy, consider purchasing a crate that’s large enough for him to keep using when he’s full grown. Many crates come with moveable partitions, so you can avoid giving him enough space to do his business in one corner and go lie down in the other.
- A comfy bed. Dogs need to have their own space, and a crate or a bed can make a cozy “den” for your pup to retreat to.
- Food. Find out what food and feeding schedule your pup has been used to. Any changes you make in feeding should usually be done gradually.
- Lots of Toys. Doggie playthings can easily take over a space, but you want your puppy to have enough variety that he doesn’t become bored when he’s left to entertain himself. Many dog parents choose to leave out three or four toys at a time and rotate them every few days so that their novelty doesn’t wear off.
A little puppy proofing may save you a lot of frustration later on. And it will also keep your precious puppy safe!
- Get down on all fours to get a “dog’s eye” view of your home. Puppies learn about their world by chewing, and they put their little mouths on everything. So it’s important to watch out for anything with sharp edges and to move or block access to anything you don’t want him chewing, licking, or ingesting.
- Secure shelves, televisions, or anything else that could be knocked over if your pup crashes into them or tries to jump up on them.
- Don’t forget your garbage! If your new puppy will be spending time in an area of the home where he has access to a trashcan, secure it so that it can’t be knocked over when he’s busy exploring or foraging for food.
- Especially in the beginning, you may find that you prefer to keep your puppy confined to a small area of your home (probably one without carpeting!) when you can’t be around to supervise him directly. Baby gates can be very useful for this. They can also help to keep your pup away from stairs or other areas of the home that might not be safe for him.
- You may want to consider removing throw rugs from areas where your puppy will be spending a lot of time. This will make cleaning up the inevitable accidents much easier!
The First Few Days
During your puppy’s first few days in his new fur-ever home, prepare yourself for lots of messes and chewing (although if you’ve done your puppy proofing well, these will be easier to deal with). Your pup may also experience a little anxiety. After all, he’s probably away from his mother and littermates for the first time in his young life. As his new doggie parent, you can do a lot to help him adjust and settle in.
Spend Time Together
You and your new puppy need to take some time to get to know each other. As tempting as it may be to invite everyone you know over to meet your adorable new addition, it may be better to wait a few days. This will give your little pooch a chance to bond with his new family and grow comfortable in his new home.
Establish a Routine
Dogs thrive on consistency. Whenever possible, leave and return home, feed, walk, and play with your puppy at approximately the same time each day. Establishing a predictable routine from the very start will make your puppy feel safe and secure, reducing the chances of anxiety developing.
As long as we’re on the subject of consistency, it’s important to realize that dogs also need predictable boundaries. Start enforcing these from day one. Letting your puppy break the rules “just this once” will only confuse him when he’s not allowed to do the same thing the next time.
From day one your new puppy should sleep in the spot that has been designated for him. He should be kept off of pieces of furniture and out of areas of the house where he won’t be allowed later on. As difficult as it might be to resist those pleading puppy dog eyes or that pathetic whimper, he really will be happier and more secure later on if you stick to the rules.
The first few days and weeks with a new puppy are both exciting and exhausting! But most dog parents agree that the joys far outweigh the challenges. Above all, enjoy your precious little bundle. When the puppy days are behind you and you’re enjoying the amazing dog he’s become, you’ll probably look back and think about how fast the time went by.