Adding a pet to the household is an exciting experience for the entire family, although it can be an exhausting one at first. Preparation and patience are key to successfully integrating a puppy into your home. If possible, at least one adult in the family should take a few days off from work to help socialize and train the puppy after his arrival.
Preparing for a Puppy
Make a checklist for the essential supplies that you'll need during the first week and gather them ahead of time. If you are a first-time dog owner, talk with a veterinarian, friend or family member who has experience with dogs.
Basic equipment and supplies for the first week:
- Puppy-safe crate with a removable bottom for easy cleaning.
- Pet carrier of the appropriate size.
- Blanket or bedding.
- Adjustable gates to bar the puppy's access to the entire house.
- Leash, puppy collar and identification tags.
- Dishes for water and food.
- Brush, nail clippers and other basic grooming tools.
- Cleaning solutions designed for pet waste, because accidents will happen.
- New toys for the puppy, so he doesn't have to share with other dogs.
Puppy-Proofing the Home
Puppies are energetic and clumsy, so expect him to knock a few things over during his first few weeks at home. Select a room for the puppy where he will be isolated from other pets at first and away from breakable items. Remove all dangers from the room, including furniture with sharp corners, toxic cleaning solutions, plants and small objects that could be swallowed.
TIP: Make sure all of your pets have current vaccinations and are in good health before introducing a new puppy.
Feeding and Health
Most puppies are around 2 months old when they are sold or put up for adoption. At this point, they should be weened and able to consume solid food. Talk to the previous owner or caretaker to determine what brand and type of food he has been eating. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a wholesome food brand for your puppy. If you wish to transition to a new type of food, gradually introduce the new brand into each meal in increasing amounts.
Good Meal Habits
Avoid giving puppies scraps from the kitchen or dinner table, as this only reinforces begging and stealing habits. Feed your puppy three times a day on a schedule to create consistency for your new pet. Portion meals according to the instructions on the food package for your dog's age and weight As he gets older, you can safely switch to two meals a day, according to Partnership for Animal Welfare. Feed your puppy in a separate room for other animals to prevent competition and food aggression.
Refusal to eat can lead to low blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia. This condition is particularly dangerous for young dogs, especially toy breeds such as the Chihuahua and Pomeranian. It's common for new puppies to refuse food on the first day. However, you should contact your veterinarian if your puppy won't eat by the second day, or if he shows signs of health problems, such as diarrhea, sneezing or whimpering.
TIP: Schedule an initial checkup within a few days of bringing your new puppy home, even if he appears healthy.
Socializing and Training
Introducing the New Puppy
Introduce your puppy to his new home step by step, allowing him to explore each area as you go.
- When you first bring him home, attach a leash and take him around the yard.
- Walk him into the house and slowly lead him to his room.
- Bring him to his crate and let him sniff around until he's comfortable.
- Bring in family members one at a time to meet the puppy.
- Give him space for a few hours when he is frightened or tired.
Closely monitor all interactions between children and a new puppy. It's easy for either party to injure the other accidentally. Teach children to pet the dog gently and to leave him alone when he's in his crate.
It may be best to keep the new pup away from other dogs and cats during the first week. Introductions with other pets should be made in a controlled environment with all dogs firmly held on a short leash. Consult with a veterinarian or experienced dog owner for detailed advice on socialization with other dogs.
Developing Bathroom Habits
Chances are your new puppy will soil the house and his crate as he adjusts to his new home. Develop good habits for yourself and your pet with simple strategies, such as:
- Praise and treat your dog for relieving himself outdoors rather than reprimanding mistakes.
- Take him outside every hour or two throughout the day; encourage family members to help.
- Let him out about 20 minutes after meals and feed him several hours before bed.
- Throw a ball or encourage activity for several minutes if he doesn't go the bathroom immediately.
Start training your dog with basic verbal commands to establish control and good habits in your pet. When giving verbal commands, only say it once in a loud voice before forcing your dog to follow it. Use short and simple command words, such as:
Reinforce good behavior with praise, petting and small pieces of a dog treat. Talk to a dog trainer about basic training for your pet and consider signing your dog up for training classes with a professional handler when he's a bit older.
Choose a two-syllable name for your dog to avoid confusion with verbal commands such as "no" and "crate," according to The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom.
- Partnership for Animal Welfare: Bringing Your New Dog Home
- The Kennel Club: General Advice About Caring for your New Puppy or Dog
- Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital: Preparing for a New Dog in Your Home
- The Humane Society of the United States: Bringing Your New Dog Home
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Toy Breed Hypoglycemia