Your puppy’s first night at home. It’s definitely exciting…It’s definitely fun…Here are some things to think about before your puppy arrives at your home.
It’s been just about a year since I brought Stetson home from Guide Dogs of America. It made me think of our wonderful first meeting in Sylmar, CA and also the countless nights without sleep for the following four weeks. Guide Dogs of America does not leave you empty handed. They give you a guide on what to expect and what you should do during those first few days and nights. These steps aren’t only for guide dogs and can be followed by anyone bringing home a puppy for the first time.
Everything’s New…Everything’s a First
Much of this is taken from my GDA handbook some of it paraphrased with some of my comments mashed in between.
First things first…We are informed that up to this point your puppy has been with his mother and his littermates in a sterile environment. It’s advised that your puppy’s first week at home should be a quiet one. The puppy should be allowed to explore and meet his new family. You should now start teaching the puppy his name (amazing because, now Stetson knows his name like the back of his paw). When you first arrive home give your puppy a chance to relieve itself in an area you have designated for that purpose (Stetson’s designated spot was in the dirt area on my patio).
Take your puppy out on leash (without his bib on) — GDA puppy’s in training are never allowed to “Get Busy” with their bib/jacket on — and repeat “Get Busy” (Remember this may be the first time your puppy has heard these words). Allow your puppy 10-15 minutes, if he hasn’t relieved, take him inside. Try again in 10 minutes. If the puppy does relieve itself in the proper area, give him lots of praise. Then let him explore the house (remember to supervise – don’t let him out of your sight). Afterwards your may take it inside, but remember to supervise the puppy; do not let it out of your sight. Talk to the puppy when it explores to make it feel more at home.
Puppy’s First Night At Home
If you’ve raised a puppy before then you probably know this is where the real fun begins.
From the GDA handbook:
The first few nights at home may be difficult for both you and your pup. At night the puppy will feel lonely and will probably demonstrate this by whining (Oh, you betcha!). These are a few things that you can do that might make the puppy feel at home.
- Your puppy’s sleeping quarters should be in a small crate. – I had a large crate with a partion and put a blanket over it to make it seem more cozy.
- Keep the crate in a draft free area next to your bed. For approximately the first three weeks, if your puppy cries, take him out, on leash to relieving area. After relieving put him back into his crate. Do not give him any treats or any play time. Put him right back into his crate and he should go back to sleep.
- Give the puppy a stuffed dog toy to snuggle with. – I was told to bring a toy with me to GDA when we met the litter and get each of Stetson’s littermates scent on the toy. Then when it was time to crate Stetson for the first night he could snuggle with the toy and smell his littermate’s scent.
- Under no circumstances take the puppy to bed with you. This will form a very undesirable habit. - trust me…it’s difficult to avoid doing when your puppy is whining all night, but it’s very important to leave him in his crate.
Puppy’s First Feeding
This will be your puppy’s first meal by himself. Once your puppy’s food is prepared, you will start having your puppy sit and wait for his food. Hold your puppy by his collar by slipping your thumb in his collar and set his food about two feet away. As soon as he stops wiggling, say the words “O.K.” and release your puppy. This should be done at every meal throughout training.
My Experiences With My Puppy
At Stetson’s puppy kindergarten I was always reminded that every puppy is different. Even within a breed. There are several people in our group who have raised 10 or more Labrador Retrievers in the Guide Dogs of America program and each one is different.
My experience with Stetson was very difficult in the early days and weeks. I had no problem with Stetson when I first got him home. I already knew about the trials and tribulations with house training and crate training. Puppy’s tend to piddle about every 10 to 20 minutes. You have to watch them like a hawk or they will end up using your house as their personal restroom. Stetson had some accidents here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The agony came in the evening. Stetson did NOT take to the crate! He whined, and howled, and cried, and barked…probably made every noise he could possibly produce, but would not relax and go to sleep. He did sleep once in a while. During those first 4 weeks the most sleep I got was approximately 6 hours, broken up 3 or 4 times a night by whining, howling, barking…you get the picture. I was a wreck and I thought Stetson would never get used to his crate. The only way I was able to get him to sleep was to talk to him for 5-10 minutes, telling him what a “good boy” he was when he wasn’t crying (if he did cry I would just keep silent tell he stopped). To try and quiet him down I’d either say “quiet” or “Shhh”.
I have two words for you – consistent and patient. After about 4 weeks of consistently sticking to my guns, not letting him out of his crate, and praising him when he was quiet Stetson suddenly stopped making noise in his crate. He’d let me sleep through the night and I thought I’d reached bliss.
I’m constantly reminded that I need to be consistent with Stetson’s training and patient. In the long run it pays off. Stetson has not barked, howled, or whined in months. In a matter a fact I can only recall him barking one time in the past 1/2 year (he barked because he was trying to get my attention to go outside). I actually think it’s kind of unusual that he doesn’t bark at all anymore, but it gives me more peace and quiet.
What experiences do you have with your puppy’s first night at home? Was it miserable? Did you get any sleep?