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Bringing a new puppy home is an exciting and memorable time in your life. This puppy will quickly become your family and she will be one of your best friends. A new puppy is wonderful but it can also be a full-time job. Realistically, it's a tremendous amount of work, including sleepless nights but the rewards are great. If you put the time and effort into training your puppy early on, you will end up with a happy, obedient dog that enhances your life. If you don’t, you may end up with a dog that creates stress and makes your life difficult.
The Car Ride Home
You’ll want to make the car ride home as safe and stress-free as possible. Try to pick up your new puppy when you have some time off from work or on a Friday so you can spend the entire weekend with her.
Before you leave, pack your car with a crate or travel carrier, leash and collar, cleaning supplies, extra towels and plastic bags. Whether you are picking your pup up from a shelter or a reputable breeder, they should give you some of the food they have been feeding your new puppy and advise you on feeding times and quantity. Ask if you can take home a toy or something that either smells like your pup’s littermates or mother. Having a familiar scent close by will help calm your new pup. Make sure they provide you with all necessary paperwork including veterinary records showing any vaccination history.
It’s best to place your new puppy in a travel carrier for the ride home. If you have a couple of family members in the car, you can have one hold the puppy on their lap but the crate will be the safest option. Find a way to secure the crate so it doesn’t slide around. Some carriers can be secured with a seatbelt or you can buy straps to tether it down. Place some towels and a toy inside the crate. It is likely that your puppy will cry. Try your best to be patient and understanding.
Your puppy was just taken from the only home she has ever known, removed from her mother and littermates and most likely has never been in a car. She is experiencing everything for the first time. You are complete strangers and your pup will be scared. Although you are the best thing to happen to this little girl, she doesn’t comprehend it yet.
Depending on how long the drive is, you may need to make a stop for your pup to relieve herself. Puppies under the age of 3 months can only hold their bladders for a couple of hours. It’s even less when they transition from doing something different like waking up, after eating, drinking or vigorous play. When you pick up your pup, try to get them to go to the bathroom. If they aren’t able to go, you may want to stop within the first hour.
If you need to stop for a bathroom break, use caution and go to a remote area not used by other dogs. Your new puppy probably hasn’t been fully vaccinated, or potentially not vaccinated at all. There is a real danger of your puppy contracting an illness. In particular, Canine Parvovirus (commonly known as Parvo). Canine Parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that affects dogs' gastrointestinal tracts. It is spread by dog-to-dog contact and contact with environments, people or contaminated feces. The virus can be deadly. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, most deaths from the parvovirus occur within 48-72 hours following onset of clinical signs. You can read more about the Parvovirus by visiting the AVMA here.
*Bathroom breaks should be the only time you stop. Going to the pet store to pick up supplies should be done BEFORE you pick up your puppy.
Learn how to properly prepare BEFORE you pick your puppy up by reading our guide: What To Do Before You Bring Your Puppy Home.
Introducing Your Puppy To Her New Home
By this point, you should have already prepared your home for your puppy's arrival. This includes puppy-proofing, buying supplies and preparing your family. This will help make your puppy’s arrival as stress-free as possible. When the puppy first enters the house, everyone should be calm as loud noises can startle her. If you have other pets, put them away in a separate room so the puppy can get used to humans first. Remember, your puppy will most likely be scared and tired. Training should begin the moment the pup arrives home. Your patience, consistency, and dedication to training will be hard work but worth it.
If you picked up your puppy from a reputable breeder, they may have already begun the process of potty training. When I picked up Rocket, he was already trained to go on wee-wee pads. When I brought him home, I put a pad on the floor and he immediately used it appropriately. This made house training very easy for me and he quickly learned to make the switch to the outside.
Because young puppies are not able to hold their bladders for a significant length of time, it is important that you bring the puppy outside to relieve herself every 1 to 2 hours. It seems like a tremendous task but if you praise and reward her for going, she will catch on quickly and house training will go faster. Choose a designated place outside for your puppy to go. Take your puppy to this same spot every time she goes outside.
Aim to take your puppy outside about 10-15 minutes after eating and drinking. It is advisable to take your puppy outside immediately after she wakes up or vigorous play. If this all seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Your consistent efforts will be rewarded. It WILL get easier.
Think about this:
Your new puppy will try her hardest but accidents are bound to happen. Please don’t get angry at your puppy for having an accident on the floor as this may create fear. With time and proper training, your puppy will learn the correct place to go but you must be patient.
If you find an accident on the floor, the last thing you want to do is yell at her. The puppy won’t remember that she went and will become very confused and scared. If you catch your puppy in the act of going on the floor, clap your hands so she knows she has done something unacceptable. Quickly pick her up, slip on her leash and let her finish outside. If she goes, praise and reward her. If she doesn’t, that’s okay too. This is a learning process.
Here are some signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom:
Sniffing the ground
Walking in circles
If you find your puppy experiencing this, quickly but gently pick her up and take her outside. If your puppy does have an accident on the floor, make sure to clean it with an enzymatic cleanser to minimize odors so they don’t relieve themselves in the same spot.
You will want to begin crate training right away. An unattended puppy can get into trouble quickly from chewing on your furniture to soiling your carpet. The crate will help you tremendously with housetraining. Dogs actually feel comforted in small, den-like spaces. The crate should become a place where your puppy feels safe and sheltered. It’s like a personal bedroom for your pup.
You should NEVER punish your dog by putting them in the crate. Their “room” should be a positive and peaceful place only.
Place the crate in a busy area of the house so she is around you. Encourage your puppy to go inside by pointing a treat to the interior of the crate. Once she goes inside, praise and reward her. Leave the door open. In the beginning, you can feed her inside the crate. She will begin to associate happy moments with being there. Start 10-minute increments gradually increasing the time.
You want to make sure she always associates the crate with a positive experience.
After spending some time playing with your puppy, take her outside (to her spot) for a bathroom break. When she comes back in, place her in the crate so she can take a nap. Remember to toss a treat or two inside. As soon as she wakes up, immediately carry her outside for potty again.
Now is the time to schedule your first appointment with your Veterinarian. During the visit, your vet will thoroughly examine your pup and give them their necessary vaccines. Write down any questions you may have for your vet. You will want to discuss food options, training questions, vaccinations and anything and everything that comes to mind. Remember to bring the paperwork your breeder or shelter gave you about your new pup. Since your new puppy will still be susceptible to disease, it’s best to schedule your appointment early in the morning when the clinic opens. Use the crate so she isn’t exposed to elements on the floor.
Try not to introduce your puppy to other dogs until she is fully vaccinated and you get the approval from your vet. Keep the pup to yourself for the first week. Exposing your puppy to many people may make her feel overwhelmed and stressed. Let your new pup get to know you and your family first to start building trust and bonding.
The First Night
Take your puppy outside right before bedtime. Bring the crate into your room and place it beside your bed. Make sure that it is lined with blankets while remaining well-ventilated. She will probably cry and howl the first night but ignore her. She needs to learn that crying will not get her anywhere. Eventually, she will settle down. If she doesn't, try putting your hand or fingers in the crate so that she knows you are there.
If she wakes up crying in the middle of the night she more than likely needs to go to the bathroom. Quickly take her out and then immediately place her back in the crate. Try not to cuddle or play with her so she can easily settle down. As soon as your puppy wakes up in the morning, take her outside. Don’t let her walk from her crate to the front door or she may have an accident along the way. As mentioned before, quickly pick her up, put on her leash and take her to her spot.
Crate your dog in the car ride home.
Don’t allow your puppy to walk around in high traffic areas like dog parks or pet stores.
Keep your puppy on a regular housetraining schedule of frequent outings.
Begin crate training as soon as you get home.
Schedule an appointment with the Vet.
Be consistent and patient with your training.
With your consistency, patience, dedication and love, your new puppy will learn what is expected of her. Trust will build and bonding will develop. If you stick with your plan, in no time you will have a well-trained and happy puppy eager to please you.