How To Handle Your Puppy’s First Night At Home

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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 about a year (UPDATE: Yowzers! It’s been almost 12 years now!) since I brought a 7-week old puppy named Stetson home from Guide Dogs of America (GDA).

It made me think of our wonderful first meeting in Sylmar, CA, and also the countless nights without sleep for the following four weeks.

GDA does not leave you empty-handed after you pick up your puppy.

Your Puppy's First Night Home
Your Puppy’s First Night Home

In fact, they give you a puppy manual on what to expect and what you should do during those first few days and nights at home.

These steps aren’t only for guide dogs and can be followed by anyone bringing home a puppy for the first time.

QUICK TIP: You probably won’t be able to get your hands on a guide dog puppy manual. A good alternative that we highly recommend and read before bringing home our first puppy, Linus is Puppies for Dummies.

When You First Get Your Puppy Home

QUICK ACCESS: If you’re having puppy training problems then you should join our Puppy Training Tips email list and get instant access to our New Puppy Owner Checklist PDF. To get started CLICK HERE.

Everything’s New…Everything’s a First…

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 your 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 himself in an area you have designated for that purpose (Stetson’s designated spot was in the gravel area on my patio).

In case you need to brush up here’s a tutorial we wrote up on the basics of potty training your puppy.

Take your puppy out on a 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 himself 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).

Afterward, you may take him inside, but remember to supervise the puppy; do not let him out of your sight. Talk to your puppy when it explores to make him feel more at home.

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: We recently started training our puppies to alert us when they have to go potty by using a potty training doorbell called the Smart Bell. It requires a little bit of training, but it’s a good alternative to your dog scratching up the backdoor.

Puppy’s First Night At Home

Yellow Lab puppy half under couch facing his little plush doggy toy.
How to handle a puppys first night home

If you’ve raised a puppy before then you probably know this is where the real fun begins (sarcasm…this is actually when you learn that you do not get to sleep your first night home with a new puppy).

QUICK TIP: Check out this blog post if you want to know everything you should expect from your 8-week old puppy.

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.

  1. Your puppy’s sleeping quarters should be in a small crate. We use a MidWest Life Stages Double Door Crate which comes with a divider (this allows us to adjust the crate size) and put a blanket over it to make it seem more cozy.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Give the puppy a stuffed dog toy to snuggle with.I was told to bring a plush dog 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 the scent of his littermates.

QUICK TIP: Over the years we’ve tried many different plush toys for our puppy’s first night home. Our favorite and one we highly recommend is the Snuggle Puppy Toy with heart beat and heat pack. Our last puppy, Charlie loved his Snuggle Puppy Toy and it helped him sleep better his first night in his crate.

Puppy’s First Feeding

Little yellow Lab puppy being held by his human (me, Colby)
Picking up Archer. Prepping for another first night home with a new puppy 🙂

This will be your puppy’s first meal by himself. Once your puppy’s food (we feed our puppies and recommend Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Puppy 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 after raising my first rescue puppy, Linus.

Puppies 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 (honestly I felt like a zombie for over a month).

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”.

Black Lab puppy playing with his little purple plastic grenade toy.
Awww, first night home with puppy Stetson was…sleepless…

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.

As 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 I’m lucky to have more peace and quiet.

If you’re having troubles getting your puppy to quiet down in his crate at night then take a look at this article that includes 20 tips for helping your puppy get used to his crate.

Your Puppy’s First Night – Quick Recap

  1. Make sure you have all the essential items you need for your puppy. Check out our New Puppy Checklist.
  2. Get a good book on raising and training a puppy like Puppies for Dummies.
  3. Your puppy’s first few days should be a quiet one. Let him get comfortable in his new environment.
  4. Start training your puppy immediately with basics like potty training, name, and crate.
  5. Always supervise your puppy.
  6. Use a small crate near your bed. – We recommend the MidWest line of crates.
  7. Give your puppy a stuffed dog toy to snuggle with. – we highly recommend the Snuggle Puppy Toy with heartbeat and heat pack.
  8. Puppy’s first feeding – have him wait before meals. – we give our puppies and recommend Wellness Core Puppy Formula.
  9. Be consistent, persistent, and patient when training your puppy.

That’s it! Hopefully, now you’re prepared for the first night home with your puppy.

What experiences do you have with your puppy’s first night at home?

Tell us your experiences in the comment section below.

Yellow Lab puppy sleeping half underneath a couch.
How to handle your puppys first night at home.

UPDATE: This post was originally published on January 30th, 2008. We made some updates and left some of the content the same. We’ve learned a lot over the years and it reflects in the new information.

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Snuggle Puppy w/ Heart Beat & Heat Pack - Perfect for new puppies. We get all of our Service Dog pups a Snuggle Puppy.
    We Like: Best Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites - One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

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  1. I don’t know if this article applies to 6 month old puppies that have been poorly trained and unnamed for that time. I have recently adopted a rescue puppy from a friend half lab half pitbull. The first night home with Karma she did not eliminate at all despite standing outside with her on a leash walking her around for 45 minutes when I brought her inside for the first time she laid down and was asleep until the next day mid morning she actually was awake after me which was weird when we both got up for the day first thing I took her out to eliminate and again she did not. So I fed her breakfast and again tried to have her eliminate in any way outside she still did not. Another 5 to 8 hours later she finally relieved herself outside and did not relieve herself again till the next evening while on a car ride. I had been aware of the irreparable Damage Done to the previous owners vehicle from leaving her alone for a considerable amount of time so invested in a kennel to keep in the car while going into the grocery store and such to avoid costly repairs that may have been in my future. When I put her in the crate the first time she did not want to go in and was quiet for about the first 5 minutes and then all hell broke loose. She urinated so much it completely soaked the blanket in the kennel and was scratching at the gate to the point of almost injury. At this point I immediately realized she has extreme separation anxiety because when I let her out of the kennel she went berserk with need for attention. How can I alleviate the separation anxiety to be able to go into the grocery store or into the tanning salon or even to play Bingo. Her separation anxiety is so bad that I even had to bring her into the bathroom with me so I could take a shower and even then she still wind even though I was on the other side of the curtain. I made sure that she had entertainment by providing her with stuffy toys teething toys, a bone, as well as a couple of different kinds of balls and squeakers. Now I noticed if she has a neighbor dog with her she is totally fine with me not being near her but if she has no play mate then anywhere I go she is right under my feet. How can I get her to calm down and not freak out every time I’m out of sight when she is not occupied from a playmate? Other than that she’s extremely smart and is a fast learner and definitely likes to push her boundaries and limitations with what she can and can’t do . Any help or advice I would be grateful for. Thank you

    1. It might be a good time to bring in a certified professional animal behaviorist/trainer to work with you and your dog.

      Start off small. If she’s not crate trained you should start by working on crate training in baby steps. Here’s an article that covers a slow process for crate training:

      It sounds like you have the right idea when you’re in the shower. Give her things to do when you’re away. Again, I’d start off small and work up. Maybe give her a frozen Stuffed KONG and see if you can leave the room for 5 seconds then come right back. Over time try and increase the time she can stay alone occupied with her KONG or favorite toy.

      Again, I’d recommend bringing in a certified professional animal behaviorist/trainer but hopefully, these quick tips help. Good luck with your training.

  2. I don’t have any questions and only want to say thanks for the effort you have put into these articles. Very helpful and I hope you make lots of money from your links or whatever else you use to monetize this site. Your effort and care shows.

  3. my 11 week cavapoo seems very nervous and hasn’t eaten anything from 6 p.m. till bedtime on her first night here. Is this severe separation anxiety from being taken from her mom and siblings or should I be worried. tomorrow morning I plan to try some chopped turkey if she won’t eat the food the breeder gave me.

  4. You stated
    “Keep the crate in a draft free area next to your bed. For approximately the first three weeks”

    What do you do after those first three weeks? Now our dog won’t sleep in his crate unless he’s in our room and can see us. Is that ok? That also means he hates the crate unless we are in the room in bed so to put him in the crate when we leave for errands or something has been a nightmare.

  5. You mentioned both comforting the pup and taking him/her out to eliminate when they’re upset and vocal during the first few nights, which confused me a bit. To clarify: I should first take the puppy out to eliminate, then if the vocal protests continue immediately after getting back into the crate, I should comfort them, correct?

    Thank you!

    1. Sorry for the confusion. I’ll go back through the article and see if I can be more clear. It’s funny to think I write to a blog when writing was not my best subject in school.

      Normally you should take your puppy out to eliminate then if he’s vocal in the crate then you should ignore him for 5-10 minutes until he falls back asleep. This is what most normal puppies will do. I would not comfort your puppy if it only takes a few minutes for him to go back to sleep. He’ll learn quicker that when he’s in his crate he needs to settle down.

      However, Stetson, the puppy I talk about in this article was not normal. He was different compared to most puppies I raised. He would bark, whine, cry for hours on end if I let him and I had to do that a few times because I needed to run errands and leave him home alone in his crate. The one thing I’d do with him that worked in this situation was talked to him and tell him what a good boy he was as soon as I got him back in his crate. That’s the only thing that worked for us. So, yes in that situation I did comfort my puppy when he was in the crate. We put together a list of other thing we tried (and some we didn’t) with Stetson to get him to stop crying in his crate.

      Most puppies will be fine if you ignore them for a few minutes and will fall asleep, but every puppy is different. Over the 15 years I’ve been raising service dog puppies only two have really rebelled against their crate. The good news is in the end they all have come to love their crate.

      I hope that makes sense. Good luck with your puppy!

      1. My current pup sounds like Stetson. It’s been about 6 hours since we started trying to sleep and I’ve maybe slept for 2 max. I just had to give in to my dogs whining after ignoring it for about 30 minutes until it turning into nonstop shrieking. I live in an apartment so I can’t really let the puppy shriek all night long. The puppy is now asleep at my feet on the floor. I’m not sure how to use the crate when she hates it so much and starts to shriek anytime she’s in an enclosed space 😭 I have a stuffed animal, blankets and a toy in there and the crate is near my bed. Any advice? Have I ruined any chance of sleep alone now that I’ve given in night one?

      2. My 9 week old Pomeranian has barked pretty consistently since 11:30 pm until 7am. I’ve tried all of the suggestions. I’ve never had a dog cry consistently for hours on end without much pause. This was her first night hone. Any other suggestions ? Help

  6. I am trying to understand crate training a new puppy. I have read that you only use the crate with positive interactions such as meals and play, starting with short time intervals and working your way up to longer times. But you use the crate at night for sleep, which theoretically should be several hours. Do you use the same crate for sleeping at night in those first days & weeks, even if they whine and cry? How do you still associate the crate as a positive space if they are sad at night in the crate?

    1. Every puppy is going to be different and you will have to adjust the first few days/weeks. We use the same crate for both day and night. Every puppy is different and you have to adjust to your individual puppy. If our puppy cries the first night in the crate then we wait until he stops crying for at least a few seconds before we let him out. In the past I’ve done different things to help my puppy get used to the crate that I talk about in this article: We also try to make as many positive associations with the crate and follow a lot of the methods from this article: Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your training!

  7. Hello!! We are bringing home a golden retriever puppy in a couple of weeks, at 7wks old. How do I introduce the crate? Do I need to limit time that the puppy is in it at night? We will be home with the puppy for almost a week, then the pup will probably be in the crate for a few hours during the day. But when we are home he won’t be. Our 7year old German Shepherd is not crate trained, hopefully that won’t be an issue either.

    1. When we introduce the crate we always like to start of slow and always keep any interaction positive. We usually start by either feeding treats and their first meals in the crate. Our puppies sometimes will sleep through the night in the crate, but usually they will wake up 2-4 times for potty breaks. We will take them straight outside to their potty spot then straight back to the crate to go back to bed. When we are at home we try to crate our puppy at least twice during the day to help them get used to being in the crate. Our older dogs are crate trained, but we don’t use the crate as often with them. The puppies get used to seeing their older siblings outside of the crate.

  8. Hi I am going to be getting a yorkie puppy soon. She is 7 weeks already and weighs 1lb 2oz! I don’t know where to start!!

  9. Tonight is our first night home, she will be trained to help me know when to take my meds. I started having her use her crate since the moment I picked her up, along with encouraging her to relieve herself where I’d like her to use. Thankfully her breeder has been using the name I chose for her since her 3rd week so she already knows her name. I really appreciate this article as she is right at 7 weeks and where I have done my homework well, it has been 9 years since my senior dog was brought home and this is the first time I’ve ever owned a smaller breed so I was second guessing things which you reinforced here. So thank you for such a well laid out, well written article.

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