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.
We show you how to make sure that it’s a magical time!
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.
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. First night survival tips and plenty of new puppy care guides and resources are included.
We’ll be providing you with some great information to help you get through those first days at home. And showing you where you can get help and support when things don’t quite go to plan.
Bringing a puppy home
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.
Just as bringing home a new puppy is a potentially stressful experience for you
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.
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 an accepted your home as his home, 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. You’ll want to get everything right and taking care of a puppy is a big responsibility.
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, vaccinations and what to expect at each stage of your puppy’s development.
But the purpose of this article is to ‘zoom in’ on those very first few days and get you through them safely and happily!
It’s going to be fun!
New puppy – first day home
Arriving home with a new puppy is a 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 that 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 there with him, in the place where you want him to pee in the future, he will probably trot about near you and hopefully relieve himself.
Your first steps in potty training have begun.
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. 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, every time he wakes from a sleep, and every time he has been playing excitedly for more than a few minutes.
NEW PUPPY TIP: In the excitement of the day, its 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 will be able to 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 after his journey is a small meal. The word ‘small’ is important. Many Labrador puppies are very greedy and will eat astonishing quantities of food.
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 help reduce that risk by feeding little and often and by sticking to exactly the same food that the puppy was eating at his last home.
If you want to change to a different diet, do this gradually once the puppy has settled in – don’t try and do it in the first few days.
Don’t worry 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.
Meeting the family
For much of the first day, your puppy will probably be cuddled and admired. If you have young children you’ll need to supervise.
Don’t let them carry him 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 is about to poop on the carpet.
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
You’ll need to be your puppy’s guardian angel during these early days and make sure your new puppy gets plenty of chances to rest and sleep. Don’t worry, the novelty will soon wear off, and life will return to normal. But for the next couple of days, your puppy will be the focus of attention.
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
The first night with a new puppy often goes in one of two ways. Either the puppy sleeps like a log and you don’t hear a peep out of him until morning. Or he howls the house down.
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)
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.
It’s up to you of course (and possibly your neighbors) but rather than risk getting into an increasing spiral of night howling, or have your puppy miserable for the first week, we recommend having the puppy next to your bed for the first three nights.
If you don’t want to lift his crate up and down the stairs you’ll need 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.
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.
Unless you are intending to ‘paper train’ your puppy indoors, you will need to get up in the night and take him outside, 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 this is normal.
Puppy tips for the first week
Let’s sum up at this point. The first day is about getting a routine of regular bathroom breaks going, helping kids and other pets meet the puppy and interact with him appropriately, feeding him little and often, and just getting to know who this new furry person is.
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 there will be plenty of time 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.
Puppy training – first month home
There will be ‘accidents’, puddles and poops indoors, possibly 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 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 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.
Of course, it is possible to potty train your puppy without using a crate, and crates are not a good idea in homes where people are out a great deal, as it is too easy to leave puppies shut in for too long.
You’ll find some great crate training advice and schedules in our detailed crate training guide
The confident puppy
Your key focus for the first month with your new puppy, will be socialising him. Socialisation is the process we take puppies through, to make sure that they are not afraid of all the strange things we humans incorporate into our daily lives, and are comfortable with all aspects of living in human society.
Dogs need to be confident around things like vehicles, and machines, 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. Almost all dog bites are triggered by ‘fear’. Making sure your dog isn’t afraid of anything he is likely to meet in his life will keep him and those around him safe.
Socialising means taking your puppy out and about and many people worry about the safety aspects of 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 straight away
Check out our puppy training center for more information. There are also some great ‘habits’ that you can and should get started from the very beginning
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 behaviors which many Labrador owners later wish they had instilled from the beginning
One of these behaviors is ‘keeping his paws on the floor’, and another is ‘keeping quiet’. Jumping up is a big problem in big dogs, so while puppy paws on your leg are cute, it’s a good idea to discourage this.
Gently move away from your puppy and refuse to pet him or give him any attentions when he jumps up. Reward and encourage him for keeping all four paws on the ground. This takes patience but it’s well worth doing from the very start.
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. Noise is also a common reason for dogs being abandoned at shelters. And noise is often a habit that puppy parents 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?
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 behavior in the near future.
Encouraging quiet behavior
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. Ignoring yapping or whining is the way to go.
You might also like to read our article on how to stop a puppy crying
Many Labrador puppies just love to carry things around. Labrador puppies will pick things up. Make sure you put away what he should not have.
If your puppy picks up something, which belongs to you, don’t chase him, swap it for a tasty treat. Keep a pot of these ready in your refrigerator.
If you want to play retrieving games with your dog later on (and we recommend that you do) then pet and praise him for carrying things, and read up on retrieving to make sure you don’t kill off his retrieving instincts.
Another problem that many dog owners experience, and that you can avoid with a few precautions, is a dog that runs off or doesn’t come when called.
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 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. 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 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.
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 focus on making friends with your puppy and helping him to feel safe
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 an alarm 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!
More information on puppies
Published in April 2014, the Happy Puppy covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.
The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.
The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.
”Bringing a puppy home” has been extensively revised and updated for 2017