From the cuddles to the cuteness, welcoming a new four-legged family member into your home is certainly an exciting time. However, that isn’t to say that those first hours with a new dog (or a new baby for that matter) don't come with their own unique challenges. There’s accidents and sleep deprivation and, much like becoming mom and dad to a human baby, many pet parents will wonder if they’re “doing it right. Here's what to do in those first 24 hours to help ease the transition for both the human and canine members of your family.
Let them Settle In
Within the first few hours after your dog's arrival, you’ll want to make sure that they have everything they’ll need to make your house feel like a forever home. Have the basic necessities already stocked, like:
- A leash and collar
- Poop bags
- Puppy food (preferably the brand they've already been eating)
The last thing you'll want to do is make a run to the nearest pet store when your dog is just getting used to their new environment (and people).
You’ll also want to make an effort to keep those early hours calm and relaxed. Keep visitors to a minimum while your pup has peace and quiet for napping and exploring their new digs. Encourage younger children to lay low for a day or two and give the dog some privacy to prevent the dog from getting overwhelmed, and keep other pets away from your new pup until they're more acclimated.
Be aware that your new adorable pup could sleep up to 20 hours a day, and as soon as they wake, they’ll probably need a bathroom break, so prepare to take off work for a few days.
When they're not sleeping (or sniffing), one of the first things you’ll want to do is introduce your new family member to their potty area. Whether it’s a specific section of grass out front, your fenced-in backyard, or you plan to use an indoor wee-wee pad, potty training should begin within minutes of your pet’s arrival. For new puppies, set an alarm to head to the “potty” every two hours or so.
Even if you've adopted an older, previously house-trained dog, it's likely that there are still going to be some accidents as they acclimate to their new surroundings. The sooner you can establish a routine—and get into the practice of heaping lots of praise (and treats!) on your pet for doing their business outside—the faster you’ll be on your way to a potty-trained pooch.
Setting Simple Boundaries
Much like potty training, those first few hours your dog is home is also the prime opportunity to teach your furry friend the house rules. Don’t want your puppy chewing on the furniture? You’ll have to keep a watchful eye on your mischievous pup to catch them in the act and interrupt the misbehavior. That’s the best time to introduce an exciting new toy and offer lots of praise for chewing on a bone instead of your dining room table.
Introduce Pet-Friendly Zones
After the first few hours, you might find yourself needing to get things done around the house or take a break from the 24-hour supervision that a new dog requires. That’s where a crate, gate, or playpen comes in handy. You’ll want to take time to introduce your dog to any pet-friendly zones you've prepared for them. Outfit their special areas with a dog bed, blanket, toys, and any other cozy additions to make them feel at home. Since you’ve already started establishing daily routines, acquainting your pooch to their section of the family room or a guest bedroom is a great thing to do after they’re done exploring the house—and if you haven’t already, now is a good time to pet-proof any other areas of the home that they seemed to take an interest in, such as closets with your favorite shoes.
After they've been home for a few hours, get all of the members of the family down on the floor to engage in some quality play-time to begin a positive association. If you’ll be feeding your dog in the kitchen, serve them a meal in the place where they will now be dining. If you'll be taking your dog for a leashed walk around the neighborhood or letting them burn off some energy in their new backyard, that they are constantly supervised and prevented from letting their curiosity and excitement put them in danger.
Get Some Sleep
Plan to hit the hay a little earlier than normal—much like a new baby, a puppy will likely prevent you from sleeping much those first nights. Even an older dog may feel scared or uncertain in their new surroundings (so don’t be overly alarmed by whining or crying in the wee hours of the night), and they might need a few potty breaks throughout the night. Many pet owners have their dog’s crate set up in their bedroom to provide that physical closeness and reassurance—as well as fast access to the outdoors when needed—and you’ll want to be sure to make their crate as comfortable as possible with bedding, a blanket, or even a soft plush toy (assuming the dog can be trusted not to tear it to shreds).
Whenever possible, you may also want to provide something that reminds a puppy of their mother, such as a blanket or towel that they used before you took them home, or even some of the mother’s bedding if you're able to take it home from the breeder.
No matter what your new dog's age, taking these steps to help them feel at home—while still establishing some boundaries and house rules—can make those first 24 hours with your new four-legged family member feel like a walk in the park.