While there are about a million reasons to look forward to bringing a new puppy home, the reality is that the first night with your new dog at home will likely be far from smooth.
New people and unfamiliar environments can be scary for young pups. This can cause crying, going to the bathroom frequently, and destructive behavior. It's important for pet parents to prepare as much as possible for their puppy's first night home to make them feel safe and secure.
Whether this is your first puppy or you simply need a quick refresher, here’s what you need to know about preparing for your dog’s first night in their new environment.
What do I need for my puppy’s first night?
One way that you can significantly ease the difficulties that can accompany your pet’s first night at home is by having everything already prepared.
Not only will this help guarantee that you are equipped with the resources that you need to help give your puppy a successful first night, but it will also ease any stress you may be feeling, too.
“When bringing your new puppy home, you should have everything set and ready to go," says Pawp veterinarian Dr. Jenna Olsen. "Ideally, purchase the same food they have been eating, and if you want to switch them to something else, you can do so gradually at a later date. You should have a crate/large carrier as well as a comfy new dog bed for them to spend their first night in.”
In addition to these must-haves, Pawp put together a new puppy checklist for pet parents so they can have a puppy-ready home before Fido walks through the door.
At a minimum, for your puppy's first night home, you'll need:
Food (the same food they have been eating)
A crate or large carrier
A comfortable bed
A puppy-proofed house
Read: How To Puppy Proof Your House
If you can, add these items to your list for night one:
A dog collar & leash
Toys (teething toys and puppy-safe plush toys, specifically)
Dog-safe wipes to clean them after accidents
What should I expect when I bring my puppy home?
When you bring your new puppy home, it’s important to set realistic expectations and understand that it likely won't be a restful night for you or your dog.
But, the hope is that you get it out of the way quickly, and then you can focus on helping your dog feel more comfortable and acclimated to their new space.
“That first night, be prepared that they will probably cry quite a bit," shares Dr. Olsen. "Realistically, this is their first night away from the only family and familiar situation they’ve ever known. It’s hard! Every puppy is different, though. Some dogs could cry the whole night, and others will settle when they are sleepy enough."
Dr. Olsen recommends setting up a crate/safe space next to your bed. "Although, I have ended up sleeping on the floor with my hand in the crate before," she adds. "It’s important to positively reinforce when they are quiet and not to take them out when they are crying. I would also recommend not letting them sleep in the bed with you, as that will start a bad habit right off the bat.”
What should I do with my new puppy?
When you bring your new puppy home, it can be overwhelming for both you and the dog.
Even if you are nervous, try not to show this to your pet. Animals can pick up on anxiety, which is why it's essential that you remain calm while your dog is being introduced to your new home.
Here’s what you should do with your puppy once you get them home:
Give them a place to pee
Your dog needs a place to urinate and defecate. You should choose a safe, comfortable location outside or on a pee pad inside where your pet can do their business.
Bring your pet to this place every time they have to relieve themselves to help make their potty training go smoothly.
Read: How To Potty Train Your Puppy (When You're Super Busy)
Let them explore
You can also let your pet explore — but within reason. For instance, a little puppy does not have to be introduced to every single room in your home in their first few hours of living there. Taking it slow will make it easier for you and your dog.
Always supervise them
Next, you want to make sure that you always supervise your new puppy. There shouldn’t be a moment where they are out of your sight, as puppies have a way of finding trouble, whether they eat something they’re not supposed to or accidentally fall and hurt themselves.
Create a relaxing atmosphere
Lastly, take steps to make a relaxing atmosphere for your dog. This might include the presence of a crate as well as pheromones which could help reduce your dog’s chance of experiencing anxiety.
Where should a puppy sleep the first night?
Some pet parents have a misconception that it's cruel to put a puppy into a crate—but that's not true. In fact, a crate can provide your puppy with a safe space away from the overwhelming feelings that can accompany coming to a new home.
Crating a dog also plays into the animal’s natural desire for a safe, enclosed space. In the wild, adult dogs will find a den or secure space to sleep. Your domesticated dog should have access to the same.
It’s not a great idea to get your pet into the habit of sleeping on your bed with you, so instead, you should get them a comfortable, correctly sized crate to house them overnight. You can put this next to your bed, however. Not only is this the right place for your puppy to sleep on the first night, it’s the best place for them to sleep moving forward.
Why do puppies cry on the first night?
Puppies cry on their first night in their new home for several reasons.
They have separation anxiety: If you got your pup from a breeder and they were still with their mother, they could be crying because they are experiencing separation anxiety.
They're scared: Being in a new environment can be scary and make them feel insecure, and their response to this might be to cry.
They have to use the bathroom: Make sure you give your pup plenty of opportunities to go to the bathroom. They may cry until they get the chance.
They want attention: Your puppy might simply want some love from their new pet parent.
It can be tricky to decipher exactly why your puppy is crying, but if you took them out of the crate to go potty and the crying persists, it's likely that they're crying to garner your attention or because they're feeling scared.
Read: The Ultimate Guide To Puppy Behaviors
How long will a puppy cry in their crate?
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict how long a puppy will cry when they are in their crate. This is because every individual dog is different.
Listening to your puppy cry is always difficult, but keep in mind that by crate training your dog, you are doing something positive for them. Ultimately, the more you reward their cries with attention, the more they will persist.
Read: How To Crate Train Your Puppy
Should I let my puppy cry it out?
If your puppy is crying, you can take them outside to go to the bathroom.
“If they cry, you can take them out to go potty and bring them back after 10-15 minutes if they’ve done nothing," Dr. Olsen says. "Ideally, they will learn that vocalizing will get them taken outside to go potty, but nothing else.”
However, if your puppy is crying in the crate and wants to be taken out to play and you do this, you're showing your puppy that crying works and gets your attention. Therefore, they’ll begin to associate crying with getting you to do what they want you to.
The first night of a long friendship
If you have any questions about your dog’s first night, you can always reach out to Pawp’s veterinarians. They’re available to answer questions 24/7, and with online telehealth visits that don’t require an appointment or wait, you can speak to a vet the moment you need them.
Behavior Guide for Your New Puppy | OSU Veterinary Medical Center
Sleeping with Dogs | News Center at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
Crate Training Your Dog | Brown University