Labrador puppy: first days at home

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the first few days with your labradorThe first few hours and days in his new home mark a major life change for your little Labrador puppy, and probably for your family as well.

In this article we will take a look at what you will need to consider when you first walk through the door with your new puppy.

We will also make a note of some important ground rules, which you will need to establish from the start.

There is no doubt that being separated in an instant from everything he has ever known and cared for is a potentially stressful experience for a puppy.

If you have been able to visit your puppy on a regular basis before collecting him, so much the better, but for most people time and distance make this an unlikely option.

Ready to be friends

Fortunately, most puppies leave their mother and siblings at an age when they will readily accept their new friends and family, and what would be a shockingly traumatic experience for a human child, if sensibly managed will have no lasting effect at all on your puppy’s confidence or happiness.

This article is not about feeding or training your puppy, these issues are covered elsewhere in this website. Our subject for now is enjoying and making the most, of those first precious hours at home with your enchanting new friend.

Taking your labrador puppy to the toilet area

When you bring your puppy out of the car he will probably need to empty himself. Carry him in your arms to the designated toilet area and put him down there.

As long as you stay there with him, he will probably trot about near you and hopefully relieve himself. You have made a start on house-training. This is a long journey, so you will need to be very patient.

Puppies vary widely in how often they need to empty their bladder. Some may last an hour or more from day one, whilst others seem to need to go every 15 minutes or so to begin with.

Take the puppy to the toilet area at regular intervals (half hourly at least to begin with). In addition, take him there every time he finishes a meal, every time he wakes from a sleep, and every time he has been playing excitedly for more than a few minutes.

If you do this you will find that in time, he will be able to last longer and you will be able to gradually stretch out the gaps between ‘toilet breaks’

Accidents

There will be ‘accidents’, probably on a daily basis to begin with. It helps if you remember that each of these is your fault – not the puppy’s. He has no idea whatsoever what you are trying to achieve, and you are responsible for ensuring he has sufficient visits to his ‘toilet area’.

Never punish a puppy for house-training accidents, it is pointless as at this point he has no control and no understanding of what is expected. What you are doing is establishing good habits, which will last a lifetime.

Try not to get frustrated if house training seems to be taking an unreasonably long time. You may be lucky, but some puppies take several months to get the hang of this. You should certainly not expect any progress in the first two or three weeks. If you catch him ‘in the act’, scoop him up and carry him to his ‘toilet area’.

Nothing else is required. When he relieves himself in the right place say a word or phrase that you want to use later on as a cue to get him to empty himself. I use ‘hurry up’.

This means nothing to the puppy, but over the next few months if he hears the phrase ‘hurry up’ every time he does a wee, the two will become associated in his mind, and eventually you saying ‘hurry up’ will prompt him to empty himself if he needs to.

Quite useful on a cold or rainy evening when you don’t want to be standing outside for ages with the dog waiting for him to ‘go’.

Cleaning up

If you use a disinfectant that is not ammonia based to clear up accidents, this may help reduce repeat occurrences, as a dog’s natural tendency is to relieve himselves where he can smell a previous ‘puddle’. You can buy disinfectants especially designed for this purpose from pet shops.

If the weather is fine and you can leave a door open many puppies will quickly get used to taking themselves to the toilet area which will save you time. Bear in mind though that if you need to have the door shut for any reason, a small puppy will not try and attract your attention.

He will simply relieve himself by the door.

A crate is an excellent source of help with house-training provided it is small enough and the puppy is not left inside it for longer than his immature bladder can physically contain its contents. And for some puppies, this is not very long at all. We look at crate training in this article.

First Meals for your Labrador puppy

Hopefully your puppy’s breeder will have given you plenty of advice and enough of the puppy’s familiar food to last you for a few days. Now is not the time to change his diet.

There is quite enough going on in his little world for the time being. A new puppy usually appreciates a small meal on his arrival. Even if he has been car sick, he will recover rapidly and familiar food is the first step in showing him that your home is a great place to be.

Puppies need feeding little and often. Breaking his daily allowance into many small portions for the first couple of days will also give you a chance to begin to establish a relationship with him as the provider of good things.   You can find more information about feeding your labrador through the link.

Establishing good habits

Your Labrador puppy when full grown will weigh some 70 or 80lbs and be capable of creating a great deal of noise. For many people, life with an adult Labrador is not the pleasurable experience they anticipated when they first brought their puppy home.

To co-exist happily with a large dog, there are certain behaviours which you should establish in your puppy from the very first minute that he arrives home.

One of these behaviours is ‘keeping his paws on the floor’, and another is ‘keeping quiet’. If you intend to use your puppy as a working gundog when he is older, you will also want him to get into the habit of carrying things in his mouth.

These important characteristics of a well behaved and useful labrador are probably the ones most frequently interfered with by the inexperienced owner.

The Quiet Dog

One of the most common problems people have with their dogs is noise.   Barking at neighbours,  whining and yapping in the home.  These are habits that owners often unknowingly encourage from an early age.

Although making a noise comes more naturally to some dogs than to others, it is often possible to prevent a noisy habit from developing by paying attention to a few simple rules from the very first day.

‘Training’ a puppy to make a noise often starts very innocuously without the owner realising what they are doing. All puppies make a noise, from whimpers to general whining, to a full blown barking session.

Your puppy will probably make a noise within his first few hours in your house. Puppy noises are often quite cute. He will look at you, wag his little tail furiously and make sweet little sound.

Most owners see this as an attempt to communicate, which of course it is, and immediately respond. “Hello then, are you hungry?” “ Let’s get you some dinner shall we?

Already, training has begun, but it is the wrong sort. The puppy has just learnt that making a noise gets him some attention. This can quickly lead to constant whimpering, yapping, and whining. He has been given a powerful reinforcer; he is now likely to repeat the behaviour in the near future.

If you would like to have a well-mannered dog, it is a really good idea to be ready to ignore any noise your puppy makes, right from the start. He will quickly learn that there are better ways of interacting with you.

You and other members of your family will be tempted when your puppy ‘talks’ to you, to talk back. If you want to avoid having a whiny or yappy dog,  it is a good idea to resist the temptation to engage your puppy in conversation.

When he is sitting quietly for example, or carrying something in his mouth, is the perfect time to chat to your dog.

You might also like to read our article on how to cope with a crying puppy

Carrying things

Many Labrador puppies just love to carry things around. If you would like to have a go at gundog training with your dog in the future (and I strongly recommend that you do) you will want him to be willing to retrieve.

The retrieving instinct is very powerful in some Labradors and in some individuals, and rather fragile in others. It is also extremely easy to damage in the first few weeks and months of a puppy’s life.

There is a chapter on retrieving in ‘The Right Start, but right from the beginning you need to know that you should never let ‘carrying’ be associated with anything unpleasant or your puppy may well stop doing it – sometimes for good. Labrador puppies will pick things up.

Make sure you put away what he should not have. If he picks up something, which belongs to you, bite your lip and tell him how great he is. Pet and praise him for carrying and don’t take anything off him until you have read up on retrieving.

Opinions on this are mixed, but it may be better to avoid play tug of war with a Labrador puppy intended for gundog work.  You should certainly avoid snatching or pulling anything from his mouth.

Recall

The next rule for a well behaved puppy is equally important. The rule is ‘never call the puppy by whistle or by his name unless he is already running towards you’. And never chase after the puppy.

Puppy recall training starts right from day one, with building an association between the act of running towards you, and the sound of the recall word or whistle.

If you call the puppy and he does not come, you will have begun to teach him that the recall command is optional. This is to be avoided at all costs.

You can find out more about building a great recall from the beginning in Total Recall but for now, in these first few days at home together, make sure that no one calls the puppy to them. When they want him they can simply pick him up.

If he runs away, all they need to do is run in the opposite direction and he will come chasing after them.

Making Friends

For the first few days after bringing your puppy home your main objective is to concentrate on making friends with him.  Spend lots of time with your puppy.

Make him feel at home. Pay him a lot of attention when he is quiet, fuss and praise him when he wees outside, feed him often, and clear up accidents without comment.

Talk to him when he is sleepy and dozing in your arms. Say his name softly and often as he eats and as you cuddle him. He is very new and hasn’t a clue what you want from him. Be patient and calm, and he will too.

Once he has settled in you can begin to think about training, but for now just enjoy his Labrador puppy loveliness, and that scrummy new puppy smell. It will be gone all too soon, replaced by a bouncing, boisterous, and joyful friend who all too often smells of pond water.

More information

This article is adapted from Pippa Mattinson’s book, The Right Start: raising gundog puppies for fieldwork

If you enjoy Pippa’s puppy articles, you will love her latest book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.

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Pippa Mattinson

The Labrador Site is brought to you by Pippa Mattinson. Pippa's latest book The Happy Puppy Handbook is a definitive guide to early puppy care and training

by Pippa on November 18, 2011

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

peter November 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm

hi i have a three year old labrador/pup and was wondering if i can still get her scanned for hip dysplasia,elbow dysplasia,and her eyes tested because i was thinking of breeding her next year thanks peter

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Pippa November 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Hi Peter, yes you can have your bitch tested at three. There is a section here on inherited diseases and an article here on breeding from your labrador. Pippa

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Zoe December 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Hi i have a almost 2month old puppy and i was wondering if you can help me regarding wee training and the pup alsp keeps on playing with telephone wires because its my first time caring for a labrador pup and i’m having a hard time. Thanks zoe.

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Pippa December 14, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Hi Zoe, you can find out all about housetraining and crate training in the articles in this section. But why not also drop into the forum for lots of moral support and practical advice from other Labrador owners. Hope to see you there. :) Pippa

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Nina April 12, 2013 at 7:12 am

When we brought our puppy from breeder I thought it was going to be very stressful but it turned out to be a great experience (minus the milk teeth ;) ). We were finished with potty training in less than a week where he learned to call us to take him out. Of course, he had a few accidents but hey! It happens :) We picked Perun up from a breeder that lives 1200 km away from us so he was immediately in for a 13 – 14 hour ride in the car. My husband was driving and I was sitting at the back seat with our puppy. When we took off from the breeder the little one didn’t cry just, as I was holding him on my chest, looked straight into my eyes and we made instant connection. It really was the love at first sight. My husband now says he that he’s a “mama’s boy” which he is and I love every second of it! Since we were the first ones to contact the breeder when the bitch was pregnant and we already had a name in our mind, he was nice enough to put Perun’s name in his papers and started calling him by the name once we knew which one is going to be our new fur baby (I would’ve taken all 4 of them :) ). That helped a lot, too. Perun is now 8 months and 9 days old. Strong willed, good tempered, spoiled and goofy. He learns incredibly quick and is too smart for our own good ;) Thank you Pippa for your great site and advice! :D Nina

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Pippa April 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Thanks Nina, glad you are enjoying your lovely puppy :)

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Richard April 14, 2013 at 2:27 am

Hi
We are planning to get a Labrador puppy in a couple of months. We also have a pet rabbit which lives in a hutch in the garden but which also has free use of the garden which is totally enclosed. How will I teach my puppy to leave the rabbit alone? The puppy will also have an outdoor kennel and run right next to the rabbit and its hutch.

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Pippa April 14, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Hi Richard,
A lot will depend on your puppy. You will probably need at least a visual barrier between the kennel run and rabbit hutch to avoid the puppy getting excited over the rabbit and running up and down or barking at it. First introductions need to be made with care and under close supervision. Have the puppy on a lead and harness, feed and reward the puppy for looking at you and ignoring the rabbit, walk him away if he becomes excited.
Pippa

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Elaine Douglas April 16, 2013 at 10:36 am

Hey. I recently purchased a Labrador bitch. Shes 6 weeks old, and chewing everything, including my hands. Whats the best way to stop her, even just chewing on people body bits. Toes, noses, hair, fingers, all of it.

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Pippa April 16, 2013 at 10:42 am

Hi Elaine,
Here is an article on puppies biting Biting can be worse in puppies that leave the ‘nest’ before eight weeks and you may need to work harder on teaching bite inhibition. If you need some moral support with your young puppy, do drop into the forum, there are plenty of other puppy owners there at the moment.
Best wishes
Pippa

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Oisharya May 22, 2013 at 7:20 am

Hi,
First of all I would like to thank the developer of this site.
Not only have I learnt a great deal about Lab Pups but it has only reinforced my decision to get a Lab Puppy. It had been my dream for almost last 2 decades… finally its gonna come true tomorrow. I am getting a male Lab puppy tomorrow. It’s 43 days old( I apologize for this since you strongly recommended not to bring one home before 8 weeks in a previous article).
Me & mom both being doctors have to stay outside for prolonged periods but during the next 15 days we will be home to take care of him.
I have a few questions-
I am from India, Kolkata and the summer here is scorching. The breeder from whom i will purchase Shadow(yea.. :) that’s the name i thought of for a long time) doesn’t have an AC in the room. How should i get him to adjust to my home AC environment. he will stay indoors always so will it be ok when later i have to leave home after turning the AC off.
Secondly I have several cats and kittens in my home, but they are of outdoor type how do I get him to adjust. I read in a separate article that Labs are the few dogs that can adjust easily to other pets.
And last of all the pups probably still on breast milk at the breeder’s place… What type of food should i start of with now & are chew toy bones safe at this stage?
Thank you once again.

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Pippa May 22, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Hi Oisharya
I’m afraid I cannot advise you on your air conditioning. I simply don’t know enough about raising a dog in a hot country. I suggest you chat to your vet about it, and about your puppy’s diet for the next couple of weeks. Here is an explanation of why I don’t give advice on feeding puppies under seven weeks old. Young puppies

With regard to chew toys, safety depends entirely on how they are manufactured, so again, not knowing your local situation I’m afraid I cannot comment. If you can get these Kongsin India, they are excellent. Good luck with Shadow.
Best wishes
Pippa

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megs June 9, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Hi, I need to know what is the ideal time to start pup’s vaccine?

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Pippa June 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Hi Megs
Here is the information you need Puppy vaccination FAQ
Pippa

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Rajesh July 5, 2013 at 10:56 am

Hi Pippa,

I had purchased a male Labrador Pup last Sunday. I should say that I had not given a deep thought before buying the pup. Me and my wife are both working and I have 2 children one is 7 and the other is 2.5. We live in a small 2 bedroom apartment . I was too excited when I purchased the pup who was about 30 days old. To be honest I started to love him for the day one. However after the day I bought it realization dawned on me that its a long term responsibility and I am not very confident or rather scared if I would be able to be there to fulfil all his needs. As of now we have a maid at home who feeds him and takes care of him when we are not around but this might not be a permanent feature. I might have to leave him alone at home for 8 to 9 hours when we are out for work. Moreover I am not sure on the amount of time pups or full grown labs need from us when they are sick . I can probably take a day off if needed but may not be able to take more than that and the very thought of leaving the pup alone when its sick makes me feel very guilty. I have been living with the guilt of getting the pup for past 3 days when I am not sure if I will be able to do all thats needed for it though I would love to do it. I also spoke to the breeder and he was willing to take it back. However the pup and me have made a connection and I am a bit confused what to do.. In teh interest of the pup should I leave him back or should I continue with him which I feel like doing. I am also worried that I may not be able to take him for a walk twice daily and may have to leave him in a kennel when I travel which is for one week every 3 months. Do you feel that the pup will feel bad if I leave it with the breeder. Will it be able to adjust to a new family and forget us ( Though I will never be able to forget him).. I am extremely confused and guilty and am not able to sleep at nights thinking of this.. PLease advise whats the right thing to do in such a case

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Pippa July 6, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Hi Rajesh,
It is good that you are thinking about this now, rather than in a few weeks time. It sounds as though you and your wife are possibly not in the right position to care for a puppy right now. Have a look at this link it may give you some ideas of what to expect if you keep your puppy.

If you are going to return him to the breeder, it is better to do this sooner rather than later. He will adapt well to a new family whilst he is so young and in any case, he is best left with his brothers and sisters and mother until he is eight weeks old.

You are obviously trying to consider the puppy’s needs, best wishes, Pippa

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Catherine July 11, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Hey Pippa,
For the first few months when your puppy is bonding with you,should your puppy sleep on the bed so that it feels safe and loved or on its own puppy bed so that it doesn’t make a habit of always sleeping on your bed?

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Pippa July 12, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hi Catherine, it is entirely up to you where your puppy sleeps, and your puppy will still feel loved if he has his own bed. For the first few nights, when pups are still homesick, they may settle quicker next to your bed, but after that, it is a matter of personal preference. It is worth bearing in mind that if you do have your dog sleep on the bed, it may be a big shock for him if you leave him in kennels or with friends whilst you are on holiday.
Pippa

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saurabh singh July 20, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Hey peppa,
I have a 50days old Labrador pup(Rambo)….nd till nw he is not vaccinated….plz tell me …when i take him to a vet…plz reply soon..m scared??????????

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Pippa July 21, 2013 at 10:42 am

Hi Saurabh, take your puppy to the vet. He will tell you what to do.
Pippa

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suzanne August 7, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Hi Pippa,
Your website is really very helpful for first dog owners like me. I love lab since my childhood.

I am from India.IT professional.

Our chocolate lab pup Scotch is now 45 days old. Its been only two days he arrived at home . We brought it from Breeder. He left his siblings & mom. We are training & behaving properly as per your guidance on the website. We love him a lott .The only thing is yesterday we have given him bath with slight Luke warm water to clean him. As earlier he was not kept very hygienically there in the kennel.
so is it OK.? If we give them a bath ?

Issue 1- Food ?

We shud ideally gve him 4 meals of kibble.When we gve him dry kibbles he doesn’t eat , He doesn’t drink water at all , when we mix those dry kibble with water he doesn’t luk at them. I know we should not give him cow milk however whenever we mix those kibbles with milk or chicken stalk he immediately finishes it off.
Really worried what to do. Becoz he is already lean & might loose his weight very fast. I want him to make very healthy.

Issue 2 – His behaviour

The problem is we are 3 people at home , Me , my hubby & my younger Bro. My bro is at home full day.First two day’s puppy scotch was completely ok. He was mekin noises , pooping here & there , playing & also very responsive & quick learner. During day we keep him inside our house & some time on the terrace in evening 6.00 Pm & cum back at 4.00 Pm in the morning. Yesterday night for the first time my bro has tried to keep scotch on terrace besides the room however every 30-40 mins he was barking & mekin noises. So my Bro has slapped him very slighty on his head. When me & my hubby came back home Scotch was very quiet . So we felt very unusual . He is very pampered by us . We gave him recall . But he didnt turned up. We pampered him a lot. He was sleeping at our lap . He is ok now. But He is not that playful like before , Not giving any responses to the trainings which we have taought him as per your blog. Also not eating anything even not drinking water. Me & my hubby we were worried hence taken him to the vet. he has given some medicines. Vet said it happened becoz of the bath which we have given him day before yesterday. He doesn’t have temperature .Still he has given few calcium drops for scotch . Earlier scotch use to sleep inside the house however now he is going in the terrace to sleep again & again. Though my bro pampered him & brought him home several times he is not sleeping in his crate & going on terrace again & again . Dont understand what to do now. because in the evening being working people we cant be at home to look after him though whenever we are at home always make sure that he get full love & attention which he deserves.

Please guide me. Awaiting your response.

Lot’s of Love & Regards,
Sambhavna

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Arya September 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm

hi!!
we are planning to get a labrador pup in next month. the problem that i have is my mum said that we wont be giving the pup meat and bones. Will it be ok to do so??
what else can we feed him??

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Pippa September 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Hi Arya, here is the article you need. Best wishes, Pippa

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Narinder October 24, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Hi , thnx a lot for all this info. I just want to ask you that i have a lab of 40 days, we called BRUNO . I brought him home 3 days ago. Its my first time with a pet ! What should me feed him ? What are the basic meal for a pup which can be ideal and make him strong enough ? OR Anything else which we must not feed him ?
Thanks a lot .

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karmavir joshi May 23, 2014 at 11:32 pm

Hi Pipa
i got a 7 weeks old female labrador. what food should i give him other then the dog food “royal canin” that the pet store owner suggested ? is it advisable to give him curd she seems to like it…
and how many times do i need to feed her every day? we feed her 4 times but she still seems to be hungry.

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deep girdhar May 26, 2014 at 1:34 pm

hi friends…
i hv baught a labrador pup today…
this is my first time and i m very confused regarding his care…can u please guide me..

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Siddhart Konuche . May 27, 2014 at 3:58 am

Hey! hi Pippa . I had bought a 2 months old Labrador 1 week ago and iam very much thankful to you for giving me a good advice . Doing a great job . Keep it up !

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