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Bringing home a new four-legged family member is such an exciting time, but it can also be overwhelming—especially for your new puppy. Not only is your pup in a new home with new humans and possibly new animal friends, but this may also be your pup’s first night away from his family, so he may need a little extra TLC.
But if you know what to expect, there are several things you can do to make your puppy’s first night at home more comfortable.
1. Make the Crate a Safe Space
Crate training is recommended for all puppies, but especially on a puppy’s first night home. When dogs are nervous, they tend to seek out small spaces to create a protective shelter for themselves. Crates are a great way to provide that safe haven for them. Later in life, many dogs will continue to use their crate as their safe space if they’re ever feeling overwhelmed or anxious. Crates are also a helpful tool for housetraining your puppy, as dogs don’t like to soil the area they sleep in.
There are several things you can do to make the crate a safe space for your pup:
Feeding meals or treats inside the crate is often seen as a reward and creates a positive association for dogs.
Keeping dog toys in the crate can also provide a similar reward and positive association for pets.
Never use the crate as punishment, as this can ruin your puppy’s feelings of security and make the crate feel like less of a safe space for him.
2. Plan Puppy’s Dinner Right
Establish a feeding schedule when you bring home your puppy: Puppies under 14-18 weeks old should be fed three meals a day, and these meals should be fed first thing in the morning, around lunchtime, and again at dinnertime. Once they’re older than 18 weeks, their feeding schedule can be decreased to twice daily: morning and evening.
In general, a puppy’s dinner should be around 5 p.m., or approximately four hours prior to bedtime. This gives him enough time to digest his food and go to the bathroom one last time before bedtime so (hopefully!) he doesn’t need to be let outside overnight.
Whatever feeding schedule you decide to make for your puppy on his first day home, it’s important to keep feeding times consistent going forward, as this can help to make his bowel movements more consistent and aid in housetraining.
3. Schedule Playtime Before Bedtime
Playtime before bedtime is ideal for tiring your new puppy out and to help him get a good night’s sleep (and help you get a good night’s sleep). While there are no hard and fast rules on timing, having playtime in the hours leading up to bedtime can be very helpful.
However, it’s important to not overstimulate your puppy just before bedtime. The hour leading up to bedtime should be used to allow your puppy to gradually calm down, which will help him with the transition to bedtime.
If you’re planning to put your puppy to bed at 9 p.m., consider having playtime from 7-8 p.m. This gives him from 8-9 p.m. to gradually calm down in time for bed.
Some great stimulating activities for puppies include:
Training: Dogs love to be trained, and it provides a lot of benefits for them. Training is mentally stimulating and can be as exhausting as physical exercise. It can also help keep them safe, and the more rules dogs know, the more comfortable they tend to feel in a home.
Long walks: Walks not only provide dogs with physical exercise, but all the smells are mentally stimulating for them, too. Just be sure your puppy is fully vaccinated before going for long walks in public places!
Playing games: Puppies love to play games like tug of war, hide and seek, scent games, and play with puzzle toys.
4. Take a Just-Before-Bed Potty Break
Take your puppy out right before bed so that he has one last chance to potty. This should be a short outing, just long enough for him to go to the bathroom. If timed well with dinner, he will hopefully both urinate and defecate during this potty break.
Even if you do take him out just before bed, expect to take your puppy out a few times during the night the first few weeks he’s with you. While it’s recommended to take a new puppy to potty every 1.5 hours during the day, overnight they can usually go about 4-6 hours.
5. Know That Your Puppy Will Cry
It’s very common for puppies to cry their first few nights—or weeks—at home with you. Up until now, they’re used to being surrounded by their mom and siblings all night, every night. When put into this perspective, it’s easy to see how they could be anxious and lonely their first night. So if your puppy’s whining in his crate his first night, this is considered normal; he’s adjusting to his new home and family.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help your new puppy feel more comfortable in his new home:
Putting the crate in your room can help your puppy feel closer to you, while also providing him with the safe space of the crate.
Consider putting something in his crate that smells like you, such as a sweatshirt or T-shirt you recently wore, to help make him feel like you’re close.
It’s important to distinguish between a puppy’s anxious crate crying versus potty break cries. Typically, anxiety and stress crying occurs early in the night when your puppy is first put into his crate. If he starts crying in the middle of the night, he might need to go to the bathroom.
Bringing home a new puppy is a major lifestyle change for both of you. But once the first few nights are through and your bond grows, puppies can be some of the best companions—and their love is worth all the sleepless nights.
Featured Image: iStock.com/whitebalance.oatt
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