How to Help a Puppy Adjust to a New Home

Getting a new puppy is exciting; the whole family is eager for playtime and snuggles with their furry new friend. Those first few days, you’ll behave like a new parent: taking tons of photos and delighting in every adorable thing he does. Remember that, while you’ve anticipated your puppy’s arrival, the change in environment is abrupt and surprising to him. It may take your puppy a few weeks to adjust. Patience, consistency and an advanced plan will all help your new pup make the transition.

Couple relaxing on bed with dog
Spend lots of time with your new puppy to help him adjust.
credit: Chris Amaral/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Get Ready for Your Puppy

Purchase or gather the supplies your puppy needs in advance:

  • Crate
  • Bedding (old towels, blankets, dog bed)
  • Food
  • Food and water dish
  • Dog treats
  • A variety of toys
  • Collar and leash
  • Odor eliminating spray (for housetraining accidents)
  • Grooming tools (shampoo, brush, nail clippers)

Check with your breeder to see what brand of solid food your puppy has been eating. It’s best to start with that food during the first few days your puppy is home. If your veterinarian recommends a different food, make the transition slowly to avoid stomach distress.

Puppies are curious, energetic and mischievous. Take some time to puppy-proof your home.

Plan to pick up your puppy at the beginning of the weekend and if possible, take a few days off from work so that you can be with him while he adjusts.

Choose a veterinarian for your puppy before you get him. You’ll be ready with his first checkup appointment and will have an emergency plan if he becomes sick or injured during his first days home.

The First Night Home

Take a nap before you pick up your new puppy; you might not get a lot of sleep that first night. While some puppies sleep blissfully in their new homes, others miss their mothers and litter mates and will whine, cry or howl all night.

Place your puppy’s crate near you at night, especially for the first few weeks. If he becomes distressed, speak calmly to him and stick your fingers through the grate for him to lick. Try to avoid getting him out of the crate while he’s crying; this shows him that when he cries, he’ll be held and cuddled. Unless you want to get up with him throughout his puppyhood, you don’t want to set that precedent.

A warm water bottle, wrapped in a towel and placed under your puppy’s bedding can help. You can try a ticking clock that mimics the sound of his mother’s heartbeat and may reassure a sad puppy.

Establish Rules and Schedule

Much like children, puppies feel most secure with established rules and a schedule. Before you bring the puppy home, sit down as a family and discuss the rules you want him to follow. Decide who will be responsible for various tasks such as walking, feeding and cleaning up after him. Research various training methods and choose one so you’ll be prepared to train and teach your puppy with consistency.

Feed your puppy at the same times every day. At first, he’ll need three feedings; typically in the morning, afternoon and evening.

Take him outdoors to eliminate 15 to 30 minutes after eating. You can establish one spot for him to use as his bathroom area by guiding him to the spot, using his leash.

Establish a bedtime and wake-up time that works for your family so that your puppy can adjust to the family’s schedule over time.

Visit Your Veterinarian

Your puppy will have trouble settling in if he has health problems. Schedule a checkup with your veterinarian within a few days of bringing your puppy home. At his first visit, your puppy will get a thorough physical checkup and may receive a vaccination, depending on his age and vaccination history.

Ask your veterinarian for advice regarding feeding and training your new puppy and get an immunization schedule. Discuss the appropriate time for your pup to be spayed or neutered. Make sure to get your vet’s emergency contact information in case of an emergency.