Fido is coming home!
Your puppy has been with their momma for as long as they needed to be, they’re running around, they’re ready to play, and they’re finally coming home.
Are you prepared?
Do you have your day one strategy in place to make the transition as smooth as possible? Many new, first-time dog owners make the mistake of having the wrong expectations of day one.
It’s going to take your new pup some time to get used to you. Sure, they’re rambunctious and full of energy right now, but it’s a new environment for them, and excitement is going to be at an all-time high. Day one sets the stage for your pup’s entire life with you, so you need to do it right.
Your Puppy’s First Year at a Glance
Your doggo has a lot to learn, and a whole year to learn it. At the end of the first year, your puppy should hit a few milestones, which you’ll be able to guide them into successfully as a responsible pet owner.
- Plenty of energy and excitement, which needs to be handled adequately
- Full training to not “go” inside of the house
- Building a bond as master and loyal doggo
- Protecting them from falls and injuries while they develop their senses
- Giving plenty of positive attention
- Setting the mood for how they’re going to behave for the rest of their lives
- Vaccinations and vet visitation
- Training, whether by the master or a certified dog trainer
There’s a lot to do, which is why I want to stress the point: if you cannot perform everything your puppy needs, it’s better to go with a fully grown rescue dog or at least a one-year old dog that may already be trained sufficiently. These puppies need time.
What Should You Do Before Your Puppy Arrives at Your Home?
There’s a lot to do for preparations. This is no longer just your home, or just your family’s home; it now serves as the safe space for this new puppy.
Many animal owners make the mistake of not including their pets (usually cats and dogs) as part of the family, when they in fact are.
Don’t go around saying “I have a baby, they just have fur and four legs” or anything like that, but keep your dog in mind when you make decisions regarding the house. This is the time to prepare it to make the best possible space for your little fuzz balls as possible.
Puppy-Proof the Home
Puppies are testing their boundaries, and they’re going to get into things. Well, actually a lot of things. Anything that they can wedge their nose into, they can pry open.
This mostly applies for low cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom, as well as entertainment centers, coffee tables with storage bins, and those funny little ottomans that open up to reveal storage areas. Until you have a puppy, you don’t realize how many places were unsecure beforehand.
Just to give you an idea, you should move or secure shoe racks, coat racks, lightweight floor shelves, boxes stored on the floor in corners, TV stands, china cabinets, and make sure if you have a lightweight table for your eat-in kitchen that your puppy can’t slide it across the floor.
Get the Right Accessories
There’s a lot to consider, here.
Vet-recommended toys, a collar with a number and/or address for their home, a tub to wash your puppy in, special puppy coat shampoo – the list goes on and on. It practically feels like a baby shower registry when you look at it all at once.
Stock Up on Food
Dry food is enjoyed by puppies at about nine to twelve weeks, depending on when your vet recommends it. Stock up on a good amount of dry food, because it’s all they’re going to be enjoying for a while.
If you need a specialty diet, you only need a maximum of twelve weeks of them. You shouldn’t need any more than that unless your puppy has strict and extremely specific dietary needs that will most likely carry on throughout their life.
What to do When Your Puppy Arrives: Day One Strategy
Be prepared for them to be shy. Dogs generally open up to you pretty quickly, and since puppies are new to socialization, they might not take as long as a rescue dog, for instance.
But the first three days or so might take them some time to adjust to the new area, especially if it’s just one puppy and you don’t have the mother as well.
Show them they are in a safe space by interacting with them, but also giving them space if they seem timid and like they’d rather back away. They may walk away from you and sit somewhere else for a while, but without looking away from you. It’s a learning process for both of you.
How to Introduce Your Dog to the New Environment?
Carefully, and slowly. Don’t just bring your dog in your arms throughout the house like they’re supposed to know what it’s all about. It’s a large space (especially from the eyes of a little puppy), and they’re going to feel overwhelmed.
Give them space and time that they need. The best thing to do is have all of their necessities – food, a dog bed, water – all in one space. Somewhere they can sit and feel at least somewhat at home. We don’t want them scared.
How to Introduce Your Dog to Other Pets and People in Your House?
From a young age, your puppy is going to have an easier time getting used to a cat or another dog. They haven’t learned negative behaviors that impact the way they act around cats or other dogs at this point, so you can fully dictate their behavior here.
Cats and dogs, and just even bigger dogs for that matter, have different body languages. They can be stand-offish at first, but will desensitize to each other’s presence with time. Slow and steady integration is the key here.
What the End of Your First Week Will Look Like
The first week with your puppy is going to be a roller coaster. You’ll have excitement, shyness, and perhaps some difficulties getting the puppy used to you.
That’s all okay, just be kind and everything will be alright. There’s no benchmark for how every single dog is going to handle their transition.
Your home will be prepped, so safety won’t be an issue. You’ll have food and toys and their bed, so that’ll be fine
At the end of the first week, you’ll be used to closing the door so they don’t leave the house, on a routine with playing together, and taking them outside to do their business. At the end of the first week, you’ll feel a bit tired, but your puppy will come around to the idea of you and the bonds will be building.
Feeding and Sleeping Guidelines
Puppies require a ridiculous amount of sleep, but that’s okay.
They’re still developing their muscles and their brain, and sleep is critical for that. When they’re not sleeping, they’re going to be hunting down an energy source to replenish their bodies – plenty of food.
For the first six weeks, your pups are going to be on a special diet that meets nutritional guidelines for their growing bodies. At about twelve weeks, that’s going to shift a bit to four feedings a day.
At twelve weeks, they’ll go from their special diet to dry food now that their stomachs can handle it.
From three months up to six months, they’ll be fed about four times a day. Some dogs might be fussy and only eat three times a day, which is normal and completely okay to do. If your pup was eating five times a day on their special diet, cutting it to four will help for the next phase.
Six months to twelve months is a big step. At one year, they don’t even feel like a puppy anymore. You want to decrease their feedings to two a day at this point most likely.
Your vet will be better equipped to give you a feeding schedule, mostly based on your dog’s history and any underlying conditions that may affect digestion. Two half-servings a day is the typical diet of the one-year old dog that they’ll stay on for the rest of their lives.
Sleeping Tips for Fussy Puppies
Puppies actually need a lot of sleep. On average, they need eighteen to twenty hours per day. That’s even more than you’re going to find newborn babies sleeping, which is a bit crazy when you put it into perspective.
However, for those four to six hours per day, they need socialization. If your puppies aren’t sleeping well at all, then it could be another problem entirely. Take a look at these tips here to help with a fussy puppy when nap time comes around the corner.
1. Designated Sleeping Space
Much like with humans, dogs can benefit, and oftentimes will benefit, from a designated sleeping space. The number one reason that we, being humans and dogs, do not fall asleep properly is because of stimulation.
Our mind is trying to sleep, so when we have the TV on and the dog sleeps in the corner of the living room, it distracts them and keeps them up.
This isn’t going to teach them good sleeping habits for the future, so get a spot where you can have some white noise in the background, and nothing else.
2. Sleep With Them
I’m not saying to bring them into your bed and get that whole habit started, but go to their bed, sit with them, and rub their ears or pat their head while they drift off.
They were recently in a womb with their siblings, then attached to their mother for one to three weeks. They might just miss the calming nature of interactions in general, so do this for a few weeks until you notice that they can sleep on their own without any assistance.
Nothing in this world is quite as chaotic as a happy, excited puppy. It’s a great thing, but when they need to sleep, it’s the last thing that we want for them.
Go for a walk or play with them for fifteen minutes before bedtime, and then give them some time to bring that energy down on their own. This will also help train them to see that playtime is playtime, and when it’s done it’s done.
What You Need to do in Your First Month
Let your puppy stay near the momma. Even if it’s a little bit longer than expected, do what you can to let them stay near momma.
The first seven to ten days is when your puppy is going to feed the most. Many breeders will then take the puppy away from the momma after ten days because that’s the golden stage of suckling, where your puppy gets most of their immune systems from (and dogs have notoriously bad immune systems).
If you have the option, let the dog stay near its mother for three weeks. After three weeks is when your puppy’s socialization begins to form, at which point it’s important that you are near your puppy, but if possible, also other dogs/puppies that you know are safe.
Dogs forms their facial expressions and responses for the next nine weeks from this point out, so the last week of your puppy’s first month should involve socialization.
Vet Visit and Vaccinations
The first vet visit is not only critical, but it’s also going to be… difficult, to say the last. It’s to be expected.
Your puppy has never been to a vet before, and don’t have a history in their heads to pull up that tells them this person is safe, and their master is going to keep them safe. They’re still learning you.
And because they’re still learning you, they don’t know what to expect. Vet visits are important, sure, but it might put the two of you at odds for a day as they’re learning that you only do things for them that benefit and protect them (the first vet visit is a heartbreaking day for committed owners).
Your vet is going to check the dog’s ears, their nose, toes, skin, coat, and eyes to ensure they’re growing properly.
A vaccination schedule will be presented, at which point you will have to discuss what’s going to be done on that day, and what’s going to be done on the next visit. You can choose to space some vaccinations out, although there’s no alarming evidence that shows this does anything but delay the inevitable.
After the First Three Months
The first three months of any puppy’s life is extremely important. One week suckling from their mother, a few more weeks to really open their eyes all the way, and then about nine weeks of time where you get to shape who this puppy is going to be.
Your puppy is going to match your temperament. If you’re angry, they could end up being angry. If you’re mellow, they’re going to be as mellow as possible, aside from tail-wagging puppy excitement from time to time.
Your puppy has all this time to develop their social skills, which is most important. Dogs communicate with one another through facial expressions, and they can also give cues to their owners with these same facial expressions.
After three months, your puppy will have been to the vet, had time to suckle from their momma, and also become fairly socialized. Three months in, and your pup is looking pretty.
There’s a Lot to do for Your Pup
Day one is difficult; week one is challenging; the rest of your time together will be priceless. If you treat your puppy well, set the mood for your household, and stick to proper vet visits and sleeping habits, your puppy is bound to be happy as a clam living with you.
The first days of having your puppy home are the most critical. This is your time to set the tone for your relationship, and build trust with them that will last well beyond any other bond you’ve made.
There’s just something special about bonding with a dog, but when you start that relationship when they’re a little puppy, it just goes so much further. Congratulations, and good luck with your new pup!