Your first day (and night) with a new puppy

Getting a puppy is a really huge step for anyone and if it's your first puppy it's important to know what to expect. We've put together our tips and advice on the first 24 hours with your four-legged friend.

A new member of the family is a big commitment but also really exciting. If you're a first-time puppy owner, you might have heard stories (good and bad) about owning a puppy. Your first day and night together will help to set the tone for your time together, so it's really important to be prepared. 

Our vets have put together their advice on dealing with your first day with a new puppy.

Be prepared before bringing your puppy home

A black labrador puppy in a black crate

Before you even bring your puppy home, there's a lot you can do to prepare! Remember to make sure to get all the supplies you need first - our new puppy checklist can help you decide what to get.

Bed/chill out area

First of all you need to choose where your puppy’s bed and personal space will be. This will be an area they can go and take naps in, chill out in when they want a bit of alone time and generally feel safe in. All the family needs to know that this is the puppy’s space, and to leave them alone when they are in it.

If you do decide to get your puppy a crate, remember they might not be used to one so you will need to take your time introducing them to it to make sure they are comfortable and happy with it. Take a look at our guide on crate training for more advice.

Food and water area

Your puppy’s food and water area should be somewhere they can easily get to at all times. Growing is thirsty work, after all! Ideally you want this near to their quiet area and bed.

Set some ground rules

Before your puppy comes home, you have some decisions to make. Will they be allowed on the sofa? Are there certain rooms they can’t go in? Are they allowed on the bed?

You need to set some rules and make sure everyone at home knows what they are – and sticks to them! Consistency is key when training any dog and your puppy will be learning all the time. You need have these rules set and make sure they aren’t broken. Imagine how confusing it will be for your puppy if they’re sometimes allowed to do things like sit on the sofa but other times not! Just like for us, it’s much harder for your puppy to break a habit than make a new one.

Puppy proof your house

Make sure anything that could be harmful to your puppy is well out of paws’ reach – our list of poisons and hazards is a good place to start if you’re not sure what could harm them.

Putting in baby gates can be a great way to slowly introduce your puppy to the rest of the house and keep them out of rooms they’re not allowed in. It can also help to keep your puppy away from potential hazards, like stairs, before they’re ready to deal with them.

The first hour at home

A black labrador puppy lying on grass

When you bring your puppy home, the best thing to do first is to take them to their toilet area (especially if you’ve had a long journey!). Puppies will need to go to the toilet regularly, so giving them the opportunity straight away will help before they go inside. Remember to give them lots of praise or even a treat when they go to the toilet in the right place – for more information, visit our toilet training guide.

When you take your puppy inside for the first time, try to take them to their space first. A new home will be a lot for your puppy to take in, so it’s best to introduce them to each room slowly. Showing them where their bed and food/water bowls are straight away will help them get used to their new surroundings and learn where the important things are!

It’s really important that everyone stays calm when your puppy first arrives. It’s an exciting day for any owner (especially if you’ve been waiting for the puppy for a while), but it’s easy to overwhelm your new friend with so many new people and experiences.

We’d recommend avoiding giving your puppy access to your whole house on day one. Too much too soon can get them over-excited or stressed, so slow introductions to new things is key. Make sure you keep your home (and everyone in it!) nice and calm. It’s probably best to avoid visitors for a few days while your puppy adjusts.

Your puppy's first day

A brown and white puppy lying on floor with squeaky toy

For the rest of the day, we’d recommend following our top tips:

  • Keep to their usual routine. Stick to your puppy’s normal food times. The breeder or rehoming centre can let you know when, what and how much your puppy normally eats.
  • Offer lots of toilet time. Give your puppy the chance to go out to the toilet regularly and give them lots of praise when they go in the right place! It’s especially important to take them out after mealtimes and naps as this is when they’re likely to need it most.
  • Playtime can be OK. Puppies are playful and curious, with a lot of energy (when they’re not napping). Short playtime sessions are absolutely fine, but remember that your pup will tire out quickly so keep them short and sweet.
  • Naps are important. Puppies are still growing, which is tiring! Some can sleep 18-20 hours a day, so don’t be surprised if your new addition prefers to nap, especially after playtime.
  • Avoid walks. Your puppy is unlikely to be fully vaccinated when you first get them. Until they’ve had their full primary course of vaccinations, it’s important to keep them in places where no other unvaccinated dogs have been so they don’t pick up any nasties. Stick to supervised playtime in a secure garden, keeping them away from water sources and thick undergrowth where rats could have been.
  • Spend lots of time together. Your puppy is always learning, so make sure you spend lots of time with them so they know they can be happy and safe around you.

First night with a new puppy

A golden labrador puppy asleep in a grey dog bed with a striped blanket

We’re not going to lie to you – the first night (or even first few nights) with a new puppy can be a little tricky. They’re used to sleeping with their siblings and mum, so not having them there is a really big change and can be upsetting at first.

There are a few rules we’d recommend sticking to for your pup’s first few nights (and beyond):

  • Stick to a set bedtime. Pets love routine, so get your puppy into a regular routine as soon as possible!
  • Decide where they are sleeping. Whether you plan on your puppy forever sleeping in your bedroom, or want them in a separate room, you need to start this from the beginning and stick to it. If you have your puppy in your bedroom but plan to move them into a different room at a later date, this can be really distressing for them.
  • Keep calm. Keep bedtime as calm as possible for your pup. Give them gentle praise (such as a few strokes) when they settle where you want them to.
  • Sleep in the same room for the first few nights. For the first few nights, your puppy will need time to adjust to being without their mum. Wherever you decide to settle them in your house, it’s a good idea to spend the first few nights in the same room with them so they don’t wake up in a panic because no-one is there.
  • Remind them of mum. Breeders will usually give you something that smells of the pup’s mum to take home (such as a blanket). Pop this where they sleep every night as it will help to comfort them and keep them calm.
  • Night time toilet breaks may be needed. Puppies have little bodies and little bladders! For the first few weeks you might find they need a toilet break during the night.
  • It’s OK to comfort them. If your puppy is worried during the night, they might cry or bark. This is completely normal as they adjust to a new home and environment. Don’t worry about teaching them they’ll get attention whenever they cry or bark – leaving them (even if they seem to settle) can cause a lot more stress. When your puppy is scared, comforting them will help, but being ignored will make them feel isolated and even more frightened. It’s OK to go and comfort your pup until they get more confident sleeping alone.