Bringing home a new puppy is a very exciting event for all the family, but the first month at home with your new Labrador puppy can be challenging.
The first few hours and days in his new home mark a major life change for your little Labrador pup, and probably for your family as well.
And a little support can make all the difference!
In this article we will look at what you will need to consider when you first walk through the door with your new puppy. We’ve also included first night survival tips and plenty of new puppy care guides and resources.
If you have more questions when you get to the end, do join the forum where you’ll find support from other new puppy parents and from experienced dog owners.
You might also find my free training tips helpful. Just drop your email into the box below and we’ll send them to you.
It’s normal to worry about how your new puppy will adjust, but we’re here to help make sure that those first days are a magical time!
And we’ll be showing you where you can get help and support when things don’t quite go to plan.
Bringing a Puppy Home
Bringing home a new puppy is a potentially stressful experience for you and the pup. Just imagine being separated in an instant from everything you’ve ever known.
Of course, it would be better if you have been able to visit your puppy regularly before collecting him. But for most people, time and distance make this an unlikely option.
Everything he sees, smells and hears, in your home will seem very strange to him at first.
Your New Puppy Will Soon Settle in
Fortunately, most puppies leave their mother and siblings at an age when they will readily accept their new friends and family.
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.
In a few days time, he will have settled in and accepted your home as his, and your family as his new family.
How to Look After a Puppy
If this is your first puppy, you will naturally have some concerns. Bringing home a new puppy is a big responsibility. You’ll want to get everything right.
KEY PUPPY GUIDES
You’ll need our puppy care center which is packed with information. You’ll find more links and resources on that page.
These will help put your mind at rest on topics like feeding, potty training, and vaccinations. That way, you know what to expect at each stage of your puppy’s development.
You can also join our Puppy Parenting course where you’ll find an example of a my own puppy diary and a detailed guide to a puppy’s first month.
But the purpose of this article is to ‘zoom in’ on those very first few days and get you through them safely and happily!
Holding Your Fur Baby
The first thing to master when bringing home a new puppy is holding them the right way. If you didn’t grow up around pets or have never had a pet, this might be tricky for you.
But here’s a quick tip to help you handle it like a pro. Place one hand between your pup’s legs from the front and tuck his rear between the same arm and body.
This is the most comfortable position for puppies. And if they’re especially small, this keeps them well supported.
New Puppy – First Day Home
Bringing home a new puppy is a pretty big event — your Labrador puppy’s new life is beginning and everyone will want to meet the new member of the family.
But if you have had a long car journey, the first thing your puppy will need is to pee!
Carry him in your arms to the area you want him to use for toilet purposes, and put him down there. If you put him down before you get there, he’ll probably pee right where he is.
As long as you stay in his future “bathroom spot” with him, he will probably trot about near you and hopefully relieve himself.
Your first steps in potty training have begun.
Maintaining Regular Bathroom Breaks
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. This phase doesn’t last long, but you need to be ‘on your toes’ to keep up.
During the course of the day, 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 or wakes from a sleep. Also, for some pups, if they’ve been playing excitedly for more than a few minutes, they probably need to pee.
NEW PUPPY TIP: In the excitement of the day, it’s easy to forget bathroom breaks. Set an alarm on your cell phone to remind you.
In no time at all, he will be able to last longer and you can gradually stretch out the gaps between ‘toilet breaks.’
You’ll find a complete potty training guide and potty training problem-solving instructions in these two links
After using the bathroom, the next thing your puppy will appreciate is a small meal. The word ‘small’ is important.
Many Labrador puppies are very greedy and will eat astonishing quantities of food.
How much to feed
Follow the guide on the pack for your puppy’s daily ration and divide into several small portions.
A tiny handful of food can look a bit lost in your big new bowl, but don’t be tempted to give in to those pleading puppy eyes!
New puppies are especially prone to upset tummies. The new environment and the stress of leaving home all add to the risk. You can reduce that risk by feeding little and often.
What to feed
It’s also best to stick to exactly the same food the puppy was eating at his last home.
If you want to change diets, do this gradually once the puppy has settled in. Don’t try to do it in the first few days.
How often to feed
Four times a day is the minimum number of feeds for an 8 week old puppy. Five or even six portions are better for a puppy with an upset tummy. Remember that the daily quantity is the same. More portions means smaller portions.
It’s okay if you haven’t got a dog bowl yet. Any clean plate or dish will do, and if your puppy spills his food and eats it off the floor, it doesn’t matter.
In fact the very best approach is to use all of your puppy’s food up in little short training sessions of games. If you get this right, there will be little or nothing left to put in the bowl when mealtimes come around
You can find out more about using puppy food in training games by joining our Puppy Parenting course
Meeting the Kids
Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting time for all the family. For much of the first day, your puppy will probably be cuddled and admired. If you have young children, however, you’ll need to supervise.
Don’t let them carry the puppy off to their rooms. They won’t remember to take him outside for a pee, and they won’t notice when he is getting overexcited, or about to poop on the carpet.
You’ll also need to show your kids how to hold the puppy. For smaller children, it’s best to hold the puppy while sitting. Kids should also be aware of safety precautions, such as learning to let the pup be if he seems uncomfortable.
Helping Your Pets Get Along
If you have an older dog, you’ll also need to supervise (and at times separate) them.
Some older dogs will play too roughly with a puppy. Others will growl and appear to reject the puppy at first. These are normal reactions but they do indicate that you are going to need to keep a close eye on things for a while.
A baby gate or other barrier is a perfect way to keep a puppy from annoying the resident dog or cat while they adjust to the newcomer.
In the early days after bringing home a new puppy, you’ll need to be his guardian angel and make sure he gets plenty of chances to rest and sleep. Don’t worry, the novelty will soon wear off, and life will return to normal.
As the day draws to a close, your thoughts will turn to night time, and getting your puppy to sleep! Let’s take a look now at the first night with a new puppy
First Night with Puppy
If you settle your puppy down to sleep on their own, the first night often goes one of two ways.
Either the puppy whines for a little while, then falls sleeps you don’t hear a peep out of him until morning. Or he howls the house down either constantly or intermittently throughout the night.
The problem is, you won’t know in advance which of these two groups your puppy will fall into.
There are two approaches to choosing where a puppy sleeps for those first few nights. One is to get him used to his permanent sleeping quarters right from the start. The other is to have him next to your bed until he has got over his homesickness (usually three or four days).
Leaving a puppy to cry
The problem with the first approach is that you won’t know whether or not you have a ‘howler’ until you close that door and walk away. And if you keep going back, the howling may well increase.
Leaving a puppy to cry alone in a strange house is also probably very distressing for the puppy and not a great way to start their new life. If your puppy is already crying a great deal, check out our article on Crying Puppies for more tips and support
It’s up to you (and possibly your neighbors), of course. But we recommend having the puppy next to your bed for the first three nights. This reduces the risk of getting into an increasing spiral of night howling or having your puppy miserable for the first week.
Can My Pup Sleep in My Bed?
It isn’t a good idea to have a dog that isn’t house trained sleeping in your bed, even if you intend to do so later.
Small puppies fall out of beds and even if they don’t hurt themselves, will then pee or poop quietly on your bedroom carpet. Which you won’t discover until you step in it next morning.
If you don’t want to lift his crate up and down the stairs, find a deep sturdy cardboard box. Just pop his blankets in there and put the box right next to where you sleep. He’ll be able to hear and smell you. And most puppies don’t cry at night if you do this.
Most 8 week old puppies wake in the night to pee for the first week or so.
Unless you intend to ‘paper train’ your puppy indoors, you will need to take him outside at least once during the night, for at least the first week.
You can get tips and advice on how to manage this in our potty training guide, but it’s important to recognize that it is normal.
Keeping your puppy close
In the future you’ll want your dog to be happy to be left alone sometimes, and this is something that you need to teach your puppy in gentle stages.
But the first few days is a time for settling your puppy in, building their confidence and avoiding bad habits such as whining or howling, getting started
The best way to meet all those goals, is to keep your puppy very close to you until their homesickness has passed. That’s usually a period of about 5-7 days.
Bonding with your puppy
Your main objective now is to bond with your puppy.
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 pees outside. Don’t forget to feed him often, and clear up accidents without comment.
Once he has settled in, there will be plenty of time to think about crate training and learning manners, 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.
Don’t Forget to See the Vet
You need to visit your veterinarian within the first week of bringing home your new puppy. Both to get your puppy’s first shots, and to make sure that your puppy is brimming with good health
It’s also a good point at which to establish a relationship with your puppy’s main health care provider and share any concerns your might have about your new pup.
Potty training progress
There will be ‘accidents,’ puddles, and poops indoors, possibly on a daily basis initially. It helps if you remember that each of these is your fault – not the puppy’s.
Remember, 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 he has no control and no understanding of what is expected.
What you are doing is establishing good habits, which will last a lifetime.
What About Crate Training?
A quality dog crate is an excellent source of help with potty-training. But a puppy should not be left inside a crate for longer than his immature bladder can hold its contents.
For some puppies, this is not very long at all.
You’ll find some great crate training advice and schedules in our detailed crate training guide
Your key focus for the first month with your new puppy, will be socializing him. Socialization is a big part of bringing home a new puppy. This is the process we take puppies through, to make sure they are comfortable with all aspects of living in human society.
You’d be surprised how scary our strange human world can seem to a baby dog.
For instance, dogs need to be confident around things like vehicles and machines. They should be happy to meet people of all different shapes and sizes and to go boldly wherever people want to take them.
A confident dog is not just a happy dog; he is a safe dog. Keep in mind that almost all dog bites are triggered by ‘fear.’ So, making sure your dog isn’t afraid of anything he’s likely to meet will keep him and those around him safe.
Socializing also means taking your puppy out and about. Naturally, many worry about exposing a not-yet-fully vaccinated puppy to the risk of infection. You can find out more about this issue in our guide “When Can I Take My Puppy Out”
Can I Start Training My New Puppy?
Yes you can! If you use modern dog training methods, you can get going right after bringing home a new puppy!
In the first week puppy training is based on a series of fun games. So that your puppy will be learning without even realising.
The games you play should lay foundations for future good behavior, teaching your puppy not snatch, to say please, to focus on you, to love their crate, to wear a harness or collar and to run towards you rather than away from you.
A lot of people worry about whether or not to take a puppy to classes, and some are unable to do so. But there is a great deal you can do at home by yourself. You can find out more about teaching your puppy at home in this article:Dog training at home
Check out our online trainng courses if you’d like more support.
One of the most common problems that many dog owners experience is a dog that runs off or doesn’t come when called. You can avoid this by getting off to a great start with recall training in the very first week. The video below will help you.
PUPPY RECALL TIP: Never call the puppy by whistle or by his name unless he is already running towards you. And never chase after a puppy.
Puppy recall training starts right after bringing home a new puppy. Build 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. Check out our puppy recall training video to give you an idea of how easy it is to build this a good association if you start off in the right way.
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 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.
Bringing Home a New Puppy – Summary
Try to get good toilet habits started from day one, with lots of trips to the ‘bathroom zone’ in your yard.
For the first few days after bringing home a new puppy, focus on bonding and helping him to feel safe. And don’t forget that first trip to the vet!
Consider having your puppy next to your bed for the first few nights. This will comfort him while he is feeling homesick and missing his mom and playmates.
Expect to get up in the night to take your puppy out to pee for at least the first couple of weeks. Set a reminder to avoid teaching your puppy to cry for your attention.
During his daytime naps, dive into the feeding, potty training, and obedience training guides mentioned in this article, and head over to the forum for support from our other readers, many of whom have been where you are now, and come safely out the other side!
If you want help choosing an adorable puppy name, make sure you take a look at this article too!
More Information on Puppies
The book will help you prepare for bringing home a new puppy, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialization and early obedience.
The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.
Puppy Parenting Courses
For more in-depth support during the first month or so of your puppy’s life, I have created a Puppy Parenting online course.
The course includes all the puppy games you’ll need for the first four weeks, with detailed lessons accompanied by over fifty videos, a puppy diary and detailed solutions to common puppy problems such as biting, crying, and potty training issues. It also includes membership of our private student’s forum. And we’d love to see you there.
Good luck with your new puppy and have fun! And don’t forget to grab those Training Tips!
Veterinary Medicine, Dvm360. Bergman, L. VMD, DACVB Ensuring a Behaviorally Healthy Pet-Child Relationship
Psychology Today. Coren, S. PhD., DSc, FRSC Aggression Between Dogs in the Same Household
Veterinary Record, Vol 182. Limb, M. (2018). New pet owner ignorance–still a problem.
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website