Bringing home a new bundle of puppy joy can be one of the most exciting experiences in life, especially if you have a family with kids that will love and adore their new addition. Puppies are fun to play with, love to snuggle, and can bring endless amounts of happiness to your home. They’re also adorable and great conversation starters when walking at the park, with fellow dog lovers wanting to stop and pet your new friend.
However, puppies are also a lot of work and responsibility. They can be cute one second and a terror the next as they’re crying all night. A lot of new dog owners are often found tired and stressed after a week of bringing home their puppy, scouring the internet for any advice. That’s why it’s important to go the extra distance for your puppy to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
The 6 Steps for Your Puppy’s First Night
1. Set up a crate or sleeping space
All pets need a safe space to sleep, including your new puppy. Before you come home with your pup, set up a crate for your puppy to sleep in at night. There are different types of crates that can be found on the market, from canvas crates to wire latch crates. We recommend investing in a metal folding wire crate with a divider for potty training.
If you don’t want to crate your puppy, an empty, blocked-off room can work as well. However, crates are one of the best training tools for housebreaking and can be difficult without one. This is due to the divider that most crates have, which can block off extra space that your puppy may see as a place to go to the bathroom. If you insist on forgoing the crate, a small, blocked-off room or even a playpen can help keep your puppy contained at night.
2. Designate one place for bedtime
Pick one place in your house and set up your puppy’s crate or bedding at this one spot, whether it’s your living room or right next to your bed. To avoid confusion, do not move the bed or crate from this spot until your puppy is familiar with your home and is nearly housebroken. We recommend setting up your puppy’s sleeping area in a different room to avoid nighttime dependency, so your puppy can learn to sleep by itself without panicking.
If you do decide to set up the crate in your bedroom, try placing a blanket over the crate to create a den-like experience. This will also help block your puppy’s view of you in your bed, which may prevent whining for attention. If your puppy still whines at night while you’re asleep, a new space will have to be established to prevent this from becoming a learned behavior.
3. Place an old shirt in your puppy’s crate
Puppies bond with their senses and will latch onto your scent early on. To build on this scent-developed bond, try placing an old shirt that you’ve worn recently and haven’t washed in your puppy’s crate. This will help your puppy become familiar with your scent as well as give it another fabric to snuggle up against. If you have a significant other or children, we recommend having them wear the same shirt to add their scents to it.
Alternatively, you can buy a new blanket and sleep with it for a few days before the puppy comes home. Though not as effective as the old shirt method, a blanket is more long-lasting and more comfortable than your favorite gym shirt.
4. Place an analog clock or heartbeat toy inside the crate
When puppies sleep with their mother, they often fall asleep to the sound of their mother’s heartbeat. Unfortunately, young puppies that are sleeping alone in a crate don’t get that mother-puppy bonding moment. Consider dragging out your old analog alarm clock or any clock that ticks audibly, as this can mimic the heartbeat of your puppy’s mother. This can drastically help your puppy adjust to sleeping alone, which will also help you sleep soundly through the night.
Don’t have an analog clock? Consider buying a heartbeat toy, which has a built-in heartbeat sound maker. These toys are specifically designed to mimic heartbeats, whereas clocks are not. It also doubles as a stuffed animal for your puppy to snuggle up with, compared to a clunky alarm clock. They’re also machine washable, which is always a plus.
- Related Read: Puppy Socialization Checklist
5. Find a high-quality crate pad or puppy bed
Crates have wire bottoms, usually with a plastic tray on top of the wire bottom. If that doesn’t sound comfortable to you, your new puppy won’t as well. You’ll want to invest in a basic crate pad for your puppy’s crate, as well as an additional blanket for extra comfort. However, some puppies rip and tear their mattress pads into shreds for many possible reasons (boredom, anxiety, etc.), so don’t invest in a premium memory foam crate pad until you understand your puppy’s behavior more.
If you’re not going the puppy crate route, a domed or covered bed can emulate the enclosed feeling that a crate gives. Domed beds offer a den-like experience that can be calming at night, while also giving your puppy a place to relax during the day. Another option is a bolster bed, which is a walled mattress pad that supports your puppy’s body as it tosses and turns throughout the night.
6. Start Potty Training with a Schedule
While playing and romping around with your new puppy is fun, training needs to start immediately to prevent accidents and behaviors from forming. Take your puppy out at least every two to three hours, depending on your puppy’s size and food intake. Yes, this means waking up in the middle of the night to let your puppy out. The fewer accidents your puppy has inside the crate or in your house, the easier it will be for it to learn.
However, there’s a catch to let your puppy out of the cage at night. It’s important that you do not let your puppy out if it is whining for your attention. While that sounds simple, it can be impossible to tell if your puppy is whining for you or for a bathroom break. If you let your puppy out and it doesn’t have any interest in going potty, place it back in the crate and go to bed. This will help teach your puppy that whining does not get you out of bed, but bathroom breaks do. Also, a strict bathroom schedule for your puppy helps develop a normal routine within the household.
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Bringing home a puppy should be a fun experience, so it’s important to prepare weeks before you bring your new companion home. The first week can be stressful on your puppy, so remember to give it a chance to adapt to its new environment. Make sure to have the basic accessories like food and water dishes, a crate or kennel, and some toys to make your new bundle of joy as comfortable as possible. The most important thing to remember is to take your puppy out on a consistent schedule to avoid accidents during the night, especially before bedtime.
When in doubt, ask a veterinarian or dog trainer for advice on bringing home a puppy for the first night. Having a dog trainer at the ready can make your life much less stressful, while your vet can guide you through your puppy’s life stages. Alternatively, consider talking with your puppy’s breeder or shelter on ways to make your puppy’s first night a stress-free experience.
Featured image credit: YvonneHuijbens, Pixabay