There is often a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding the days leading up to bringing home your new pup.
You may be frantically ordering supplies or looking at the same pictures of your new buddy over and over again.
Once you actually get your new puppy in your arms, the excitement can sometimes turn into feeling overwhelmed. Now what?
In this post, we will do our best to walk you through what to expect in the first 24 hours with your new pup and how to set up your new puppy for success.
The First 24 Hours Often Includes the Puppies First Car Ride
Many puppies are riding home in the car for only the first or second time in their lives. A litter of puppies may have been briefly exposed to the car for a vet checkup, but often the drive to their new homes is much longer and is done without the comfort of being surrounded by their littermates. What can you expect?
If you are crating your puppy, he/she may whine and bark. Often it is best to bring along a friend that can help calm or soothe the puppy while driving. Many puppies ride surprisingly well just sitting in someone’s lap.
Some may still need to be kenneled or otherwise contained if they are too restless, wanting to explore the new surroundings. Regardless ofß whether your pup rides in a kennel or on someone’s lap, there is a very good chance that your puppy will get carsick.
Excessive drooling and/or vomiting during a car ride is very common for a young pup, and many outgrow motion sickness within a few months. So be prepared with a towel if you wish to protect the seats of your car or your lap!
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If you have a drive that is over an hour, you will need to consider your puppy’s potty needs. Most puppies need to go potty every 1-2 hours if they are awake with access to water. If your puppy has been napping, but wakes up and seems restless or begins to whine, there is a good chance he needs to go potty.
If you do need to stop, we recommend either using puppy pads or choosing your location wisely as young puppies are very susceptible to various viruses before they are fully vaccinated (usually around 12-16 weeks of age).
Many of these viruses spread through the feces of other dogs and can survive for long periods in the soil. Therefore, you will want to avoid any popular dog areas, particularly any designated dog potty areas such as at a rest stop.
Limit a Puppy's Space During the First 24 Hours with Them
You may already be feeling exhausted by the time you finally arrive home! Your puppy is probably feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, too. We do not recommend opening the front door and giving him full access to the house.
On the contrary, a smaller space is often beneficial for both the puppy and the owner during the first few days. If your puppy is limited to only a room or two of the house, then she can safely explore while you can still keep an eye on her, making sure she does not find herself pooping in a secret corner, chewing an electrical cord, or any of the other things puppies may get into.
The confined area also helps your puppy not feel as overwhelmed. He can thoroughly investigate his new area and usually feels safer in a more limited area, giving him more the ability to focus on bonding with you.
As your puppy begins to adjust to his new environment, and starts to show a bit of progress with your potty routine, you can gradually add on more rooms to the house.
You will want to puppy proof your puppy’s area ahead of time. Making sure any smaller choking hazards or other dangerous items (bottles of medicine, electrical cords, etc.) are safely out of reach.
You will also want to show the puppy his water bowl and take him outside to go potty, pausing briefly at the door to emphasize this area of the house. If you take your puppy out of the same door each time, and make sure that this door is within eyesight and accessible to him at all times, he will catch on quickly to potty training.
If you have other pets, you will also want to introduce them to your new puppy gradually. You can read more about how to safely introduce your puppy to an older dog here, but in general it is a good idea to introduce your new puppy to an older dog on a neutral territory and make sure they both have their separate safe spaces (this is one reason we recommend kennel training) where they can decompress as needed.
The same is true for cats or any other pets: slow, careful introductions are best and make sure the cat has a safe place to retreat to that the puppy cannot access.
If your puppy shows fear to new members of the family, do not be alarmed. Your puppy is going through a HUGE change. Most puppies adapt quickly to new people and dogs as they are naturally social creatures, but displaying fear behaviors (barking, cowering, etc.) during the first 24 hours is perfectly normal as your puppy is adjusting to so many new things at once without the relative safety of his littermates nearby. Be patient and let your puppy approach at his own pace.
After introductions and showing your puppy his new area and allowing him a water and potty break, it may be time to introduce your pup to his crate. While it’s tempting to play with your puppy all day long as he is so new and adorable, we do recommend exposing him to his crate in short bursts before you put him in there for the night.
Puppies Can be Fussy During the Initial Kenneling and Crating
First, it’s good for him to get used to the idea of being kenneled and practice settling and napping in his crate before the humans in the house are hoping to get some sleep! Secondly, your puppy is probably really tired. Similar to young children, puppies really do need naps but will sometimes resist falling asleep because the world is simply too exciting!
Your puppy may bark and whine loudly at first, but many puppies will settle in half an hour or so even if it seems like it will never stop! If your puppy does not settle after this amount of time, it is okay to take him out and try again later.
It takes time (and lots of treats and tasty chews) to build a positive association with the crate. Ideally, the rest of your day with your pup should consist of playing, frequent potty breaks, and kennel naps every hour or so.
When it comes to play time with your new pup, you will want to make sure you have a lot of toys. Puppies love a variety of toys and the more options you have, the less likely they will be to chew household items out of boredom. Your puppy will likely get plenty of exercise just from exploring their new environment. They are already adjusting to a new environment, so do not need a walk in the first 24 hours at home with you.
Rather, we recommend, slowly introducing them to their harness and leash by allowing them to wear the harness for short periods of time and drag the leash around the house and yard before you actually attempt to lead them on it.
Accidents May Happen - That’s Ok
As your puppy explores and plays, do not be surprised if she has a good handful of accidents in the first 24 hours. It will take time and consistency for her to learn the basics of potty training, but you can set her up for success by taking frequent potty breaks — as often as every 30 minutes when your pup is awake and playing.
Having appropriate expectations is helpful. Keep in mind most puppies will not be fully potty trained until at least 12-16 weeks. Some owners find that puppy pads can be a helpful stepping stone to outdoor potty training when you first bring your doodle home.
Many owners find it is an easy transition to slowly move the puppy pads to the designated outdoor area (closer to the door, then right outside the door, etc.). Other owners prefer to jump straight into outdoor potty training. Either way, keeping your puppy’s area small with their designated potty area within their line of sight is an important key.
At some point you will want to feed your new pup. Most puppies do well on 2 meals a day at this age. We usually recommend feeding your pup their last meal in the late afternoon or early evening to help avoid a midnight bowel movement from your pup.
While you should offer your new pup a meal, it’s very normal for him to not to have much of an appetite for a couple days and/or to have some upset tummy or diarrhea. It is very common for puppies to have a transitional period where eating is suppressed- this may last for a few days. We also strongly recommend sticking with whatever food your puppy was eating with his breeder to avoid further digestive upset!
When it comes to going to bed at night, we recommend preparing a couple hours in advance. First, we recommend taking away the water bowl an hour or two before bed. As long as your puppy has had plenty of access to water throughout the day, he shouldn’t miss it and it will help limit the potty breaks during the night.
Secondly, give your pup one more short play session and a final potty break just before placing him in his kennel at night. Many puppies do best if their kennel is in the same room as a human. Be prepared: the first night is usually the hardest. This is the first night your pup has been away from littermates so he or she may spend a lot of time whining in the crate and is probably going to be louder than you even expected!
You can speak to the pup in soothing tones, place a stuffed animal in his crate, or turn on white noise or a radio. We do not recommend letting your pup sleep in the bed with you unless you are prepared to do this every night.
We recommend sticking with the crate for most families as it provides structure/scheduling for the pup and helps the dog feel comfortable when you do have to leave home without them.
Overnight your new puppy will most likely have to go potty at some point. Most puppies will need a potty break after 4-6 hours, possibly sooner if yours is a tiny breed. Potty breaks at night should be boring—simply carry your dog outside (if you allow him to walk to the door on his own, he may have an accident before reaching the door), allow them to potty, and immediately return them to their crate.
Keeping voices low and lights dim will keep your pup in the bedtime mindset! Still, he may object when he goes back into the crate, but will eventually learn that nights are for sleeping. This phase of waking up at night with your pup is tough, but it is also short lived. Most puppies are able to go 8 or more hours at night after only a few weeks.
Prepare for the Challenge and Celebrate Your Successful First Day
When you wake up in the morning, give yourself a big pat on the back for surviving the first 24 hours with a new puppy. Continue a consistent schedule and routine that includes plenty of playtime, potty breaks, and kennel naps and before long your puppy will adapt and become a well-mannered member of the family.
The first 24 hours are often the most challenging as everything is new and overwhelming for both puppy and owner, but remaining calm and patient with your pup is the best way to help him adjust.
Jenna and the JLDD Team