Behaviour notes – Helping your new puppy through their first days at home | Ash Tree Veterinary Centre
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Behaviour notes – Helping your new puppy through their first days at home

By Ash Tree Vets | 15th March 2018

Getting a new puppy can be a very exciting time, sometimes in all of the excitement we forget that the first few days or weeks in a puppy’s new home can be an overwhelming or even stressful for the puppy

Not only has your puppy been separated from its mother and litter mates but it also has to adjust to living in a new environment with new people and perhaps other pets. Preparing properly for your puppy’s arrival can help to make the transition to the new home as stress free as possible for both you and your puppy.  Remember that like people, all puppies are individual and methods that work for some puppies may not work for others. Routines or training methods that you may have previously used for other dogs may not necessarily be the right thing to do for your new puppy. Bearing this in mind the following advice should be taken with your individual puppy’s personality and needs in mind. Nervous puppies may take longer to settle in than confident puppies, in this case it is important not to push your nervous puppy too far too quickly, although them to settle in at their own pace.

Below are some helpful tips on how to make the transition from the breeder’s home or rescue kennels to your home as ‘puppy friendly’ as possible.

  • Ensure that your home and garden are puppy proof BEFORE you bring you puppy home. Anything that you do not want chewed should be put well out of the puppy’s reach this includes children’s toys, shoes and anything else you value! In particular electrical wires should be fastened securely out of the way for your puppy’s safety. Ensure that fences and gates are secure so that your puppy can not escape from the garden. If you have plants in your garden check if they are toxic to dogs and if so either remove them from the garden entirely or prevent your puppy from being able to access them.
  • Before you bring your puppy home decide on some ‘ground rules’ such as which parts of the house you will allow your puppy access to, where you would like your puppy to sleep, whether or not you would like your dog to share the sofa, and where you would like your puppy to be when you eat. All of these decisions are entirely personal preference but it is important to make these decisions before you get your puppy so as not to confuse them later on. Likewise, before your puppy comes home try to decide on which commands you will use when training your puppy and ensure that all members of the household use the same command words so that your puppy does not become confused, and likely stressed.
  • If possible try to collect your puppy in the morning rather than later in the day. This gives your puppy more time to settle into their new environment and to become familiar with their new surroundings before bedtime when they will be expected to settle overnight. It would be unfair to collect your puppy in the evening, bring them to a strange place and expect them to settle straight away.
  • Provide a safe den type area for your puppy to sleep and rest. A puppy crate covered with a towel or blanket is a great way to provide this type of safe resting space. Remember that puppies need lots of sleep and your puppy is likely to be particularly tired for the first few days in their new home as they will be learning so much.  Anytime that your puppy seems sleepy take them to their resting space so that they associate this place with clam quiet time. If your puppy takes themselves off to their resting place it is important not to disturb them as they are potentially feeling overwhelmed and need a little space. Please contact the surgery for advice on crate training.
  • In regards to night time routine for your puppy’s first few nights at home there is no hard and fast rule about what is best practice. As mentioned before every puppy is different; some puppies when left alone overnight may whine or bark for a few minutes and then settle down to sleep, others however may become very distressed and may bark, whine or howl continuously. Distressed puppies should NOT be left to ‘cry it out’ as this could cause long term emotional problems. If your puppy is clearly distressed (i.e. very vocal and not settling at all) at being left alone downstairs then you will need to take a gentler approach. Bring your puppy’s bed or crate upstairs with you so that they can smell and hear that you are close by. You could start off with your puppy’s bed next to your bed and then gradually over a few nights move you puppy’s bed closer to the door and then eventually out onto the landing. After a week or two you should be able to gradually move your puppy’s bed to the desired sleeping place.
  • Try to bring a scent item home with your puppy. Most good breeders will provide you with a blanket or toy that has the scent of the mother or litter mates on it. This item may help to reassure your puppy for the first few days in their new home.
  • We recommend the use of an Adaptil junior collar to help your puppy settle in to their new home. Adaptil is a synthetic version of the pheromone that a bitch gives off to her puppies, Adaptil can help a puppy feel more secure in new environments and can help them to settle into their new home more quickly. Click here for further information on Adaptil
  • Try not to suddenly change your puppy’s diet; most good breeders will provide you with a bag of the food they have been feeding the puppies. A sudden change in diet could cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Any diet change should be done gradually over a period of 7-10 days.
  • Give your puppy a few days to settle in at home before you bring them to the vets for their first appointment. This gives you time to get to know your puppy and their feeding and toileting habits; you can then bring up any questions or concerns that you may have at your appointment. Your puppy will already have lots of new experiences to process so try not to overwhelm them by bringing them to the vets on their first day at home (unless of course you are concerned they are unwell).
  • Introduce your puppy to other pets in the household gradually and one at a time. The use of a baby gate is a great way to introduce a new puppy to the existing dog, especially if you are not sure how the existing dog will react towards the puppy. The gate provides a safety barrier for the puppy who can retreat or approach the other dog on their own terms. The dogs can get to know each other via smell and sight before physically meeting each other. Baby gates also provide a good barrier when introducing puppies to cats as the puppy cannot chase and scare the cat. Please contact the surgery if you require further advice on introducing household pets.