The first 24 hours

When you bring your puppy home, you are going to be overwhelmed with excitement and nerves. Take a deep breath and jump in. It’s quite a journey! Bring your puppy home when you have a few days off work and can spend time helping them acclimate to this new life. Don’t bring a puppy home and expect them to sit quietly and happily in their crate for 8 hours while you go to work. It’s going to take much more work than that!

Puppies don’t come pre-programmed to do anything we WANT them to do. They come pre-programmed to do all the things we DON’T want them to do. You have a lot of training to do! 

Have your home set up and ready for your pup before you come in the door. (See previous chapter about how to prepare.) 

The focus on the first day (or three) is going to be:

  • Acclimating to the LTCA
  • Independence training
  • Potty training
  • Introduction to the crate

Don’t worry about training your puppy their name, sit, come, or anything else. None of that matters right now and can be taught at any age. You need to focus on the fact that you both will need sleep TONIGHT and you might have to leave your house for 5 minutes tomorrow. These things are far more important. 

The long term confinement area

Come in and set them down in their designated “long term confinement area” or LTCA. Feel free to have one person sit on the floor with them to start. After a few minutes of letting them explore their LTCA, take them straight outside to their designated “potty area” and be sure to bring a few delicious little treats to give them if they do any business there. As you’ll soon find out with potty training, you will need to bring them to this place very frequently for a while. After they wake up, eat, drink, or play. 

Back to the LTCA and now family members can take turns sitting in there with puppy. We’re not going to leave them alone just yet, but we don’t want to overwhelm them with lots of noise and commotion. Remember – they’ve just been pulled out of the only home and family unit they’ve ever known and they do not understand what is happening and who you are. It’s going to take days and even weeks for them to settle in a little. 

Try to limit the visitors in the first two days so that you give your pup a chance to settle in and get used to the new surroundings. Allow close friends and family for short periods of time and keep excitement levels low. We’re going to stick with the LTCA, the nighttime crate, and the potty area for now but we will open their world up soon! 

While you will want to spend all your time with your new addition, ensure that you both get little breaks from each other so that when you go back to your normal routine, your pup isn’t set up to fail. Priorities!!

Take a walk

Go for a short walk (5-10 minutes is likely enough) around the neighbourhood and let your puppy explore. 

  • If your puppy stops, you stop. You hang out with them and crouch down beside them. 
  • If your puppy is scared (see lesson on Body Language and Stress Signals), comfort them gently and quietly, pick them up, and/or feed them a few treats to create a happy association (you’re not feeding the fear – don’t worry!). Let them move away from “the scary thing” whenever they need to. 
  • Ask your neighbours to give your pup a treat – this will teach him/her that strangers are safe and wonderful! 
  • Do not let people pick up your puppy or scare them. Start your advocating NOW. 
  • If your pup potties outdoors, wait until they have finished and then throw a little party with praise and treats (avoid petting them in this moment – puppies don’t love that after pottying, but they sure love the happy-talk and snacks, survey says)! 
  • Avoid heavily soiled areas (where other dogs have pottied) as best as you can. Your puppy should have immunity from their mother and their first set of shots, but it’s best to err on the side of caution. 
  • No need to meet dogs just yet. One thing at a time! If they do meet a dog, be sure you’ve read up on your lesson “Greeting dogs on leash” beforehand.

Were you told not to bring your puppy outside or on a walk until they are fully vaccinated? If so, read the next lesson. 

Go to the washroom

Wait. What? Me? — Yes. You. You go to the washroom and leave your pup in the LTCA for a moment. Don’t stay longer than a minute or two. Listen carefully. Does your pup continue playing with a toy, sleeping, or relaxing? Or does your pup stand at the gate and panic? If they’re relaxed, you’re going to leave the room a couple of times every hour for the next few hours, varying how long you’re out of sight each time. Keep it under 10 minutes for now. 

Some things you can do in under 10 minutes in another room:

  • Go to the washroom
  • Change the laundry from washer to dryer
  • Check the mail
  • Put away the laundry
  • Brush your teeth / wash up
  • Tidy up or spot clean 
  • Make a tea or grab a snack
  • Check your email / social media

If they’re not relaxed when you leave their sight, you will need to tread carefully. 

DOGS DO NOT “GET USED TO IT”. 

I REPEAT: DOGS DO NOT “GET USED TO IT”. 

Hoping a dog will “get used to it” or “get over it” can be so detrimental when we spot an early red flag. Don’t rely on your dog habituating to the stressor. Acknowledge the discomfort and take action immediately to help them. 

Something that (seriously) worked for me was to actually talk in a relaxed tone the entire time I was walking out of sight and while out of sight so my puppy could hear me. If you have nothing to say, recite the alphabet over and over again. Then, when in the same room, I would sit on the floor just outside his LTCA or crate and I would check my phone, read messages, etc while we were close but not interacting.