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.

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.

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

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 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).

Afterwards 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.

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 (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.

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 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 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.

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

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597 Comments

  1. I brought home a beautiful 3 month old Dogue de Bordeaux puppy today- he is amazing!😊. He is perfect for myself and two sons. It’s first night in the crate, it’s the giant metal crate with the divider so i made it smaller with still enough room for him to be comfy with his blanket and his little lamb (has the heat pack and heart beat plush toy) and i put a chew ring in with him…two hours in and we heard him bark for the first time and whine a bit, which is when i grabbed my phone and found this site, started reading what I should do- knowing if i went right away to get him he would think that’s all he has to do to get out- great information and reinforcement of my initial thoughts, it became very quiet- i thought wow it worked- so i quietly went to take a look. i found my fifteen year old son made a bed outside of Thor’s crate for himself- and there they both were sleeping!😊So cute- whatever works! Clearly we will have to discuss our family plan moving forward as i’m certain he won’t want to sleep on the floor every night – but for night number one- so far so good! Thanks I will continue to visit and learn from this site- good night!

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! A puppy’s first night can be tough. I’m glad your son found a way to comfort Thor without having reinforcing the barking. Good luck with your training!

  2. This is great advice!

    I was reading this post while we were driving 2 hours to pick up our 8 week old pup. Of course, I did not have time to buy the puppy kit or stuffed animal. Instead, I made a decision to relinquish my long sleeve cotton shirt to the cause. While we were picking out our puppy, I rubbed my shirt/sleeves on the litter mates and mom.

    When we got home, I bought a stuffed animal, crate, and towels. I set up the crate with the towels, stuffed animal, and my cotton shirt. Lastly, I got an app on my phone that plays the sounds of a mother dog’s heartbeat all night long (You Tube also has heartbeat sounds). I put my phone on our bedroom floor right next to the crate.

    That night she slept for over 9 hours in her crate with NO crying/barking!

    We have had her a week and every single night she sleeps in her crate, at least 8 hours, with zero sounds.

    Thank you for the advice!

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! Great thinking sacrificing your shirt. It’s well worth it if it helped your puppy get used to her new home. Great idea on having the mother dog heartbeat playing on your phone. That’s so awesome that your puppy is a good sleeper. We’ll probably get another puppy sometime within a year and I hope he/she will sleep through the night too. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  3. How do I start my pup off going to the loo every hour it’s owe first night and I just don’t know him yet so I have been taking him out all most ever 5 minutes, he’s just very unsettled because he has just traveled in a dog mover van for about 7-8 hours now in owe home feeling a bit lonely I do have a toy dog that is heated for him in he’s bed but he just wants to be with me so he wakes up every 20 minutes looking for me 😢

    1. The first night home with a new puppy is a tough one. If you’re working on his potty training take a look at this article which has some good tips: https://puppyintraining.com/how-to-potty-train-a-puppy/. If you are in touch with the breeder, litter mates, or mother I’d suggest taking a plush toy and blanket and rubbing it all over siblings and/or mom. If you are crate training placing the crate next to your bed can be helpful. Here’s another post that lists things that can help a puppy (it’s specific to crate training, but some tips can be used in other situations): https://puppyintraining.com/crate-training-puppies/. Hopefully those help. Good luck with your puppy!

  4. I’ve had really good luck so far with our new pup, Oscar. He’s a yellow lab and we brought him home at 10 weeks old. The first night I got 2 hours of sleep, then had to take him out. He took about an hour to go back to sleep. Then I got 2 more hours and that was that. The second night was similar. The third night I laid next to him in his crate and it seemed to calm him a bit. The fourth and fifth night he woke up at 3 am to go relieve himself and then he went back to sleep until I woke up at 7. One problem…Oscar CAN NOT STAND to be in his crate without it being covered. He whined and howled and barked for almost 2 hours probably 3 or 4 times. I read in another article that covering the crate will help. When I cover his crate with a blanket he is fine in there. Whines for maybe 3 minutes and then I can hear him chewing on his toy and he’s fine for an hour or 2 before he needs to go potty.

  5. My wife’s birthday is coming up in a couple of months, and I want to surprise her with a new puppy that she has been wanting. I found it helpful when you talked about how it is important to avoid taking a dog to bed with you at night. These tips you shared will help us properly drain the puppy when we get it in a couple of months.

  6. Hi Colby,
    We are on night 2 with our Berniedoodle, Sophie. We have a 3 year old Goldendoodle, Humphrey and received the same crate advice. Keep her in the crate, by your bed. GENIUS! And it works! We took it one step further and have the crate on a small chest so it’s the same height as the bed. The first week or so we keep her up by our heads. We will slowly move the crate to the middle part of the bed then eventually the bottom of it. Finally onto the floor. As we are only on night 2 my fingers are crossed. My question is about during the day. Should I move the crate to a corner of the living room so she develops a better sense of joy in it? I’ve read leave the door open and let her explore. Put treats inside. Don’t close the door if she wanders in. Or just leave it in the bedroom so it represents sleep time only. Thoughts??

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! I love your idea of raising the crate to the same height as the bed. Believe me I will try anything if my puppy is crying in her crate at night. I’ll have to add that to my list.

      Regarding your situation I’d say it’s up to you how you want to proceed. I don’t think it will be a bad thing to move the create out into the living room during the day. However, I keep my crate in the bedroom and part of the reason is because I live in a one story house and the master bedroom is very close to the living and family room areas. Therefore it’s easy for me to do the things you mention like leaving the door open, putting treats inside etc. throughout the day. If I lived in a two story house with the crate a greater distance away I might bring the crate into the living area or buy another crate for the living room so I could work on crate training throughout the day.

      Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your training!

  7. Hey! Just got a puppy (17 week toy Aussie Shepard)! She is so snuggly and sweet, we just got home 9pm and I brought her inside and she peed on carpet, I picked her up as quick as I can and brought her outside. It’s 11 pm now (2 hours later) and she hasn’t explored or anything- won’t eat or drink. I placed her in her crate and she is just laying there- I think she’s really depressed, not sure what to do?

  8. Hello Colby, this is night two, for me and my 8 week old labradoodle Clifford. I’ve been told by quite a few family and friends. That I should just let him cry and wimpier and get upset i n his crate. But that just didn’t sit right with me to do that.
    Last night I came down to him in the kitchen with him really upset so I made a bed beside his crate, went for a pee and he Slept with me.😮
    So tonight Yet again because of Peer pressure I went against my better judgment and left him downstairs in the kitchen on his own. I woke to him cry and really upset again. My daughter had text me and said she’d been trying to settle him for almost 2 hours but as she left Clifford started getting really upset again.
    I came down stairs took Clifford outside for a pee. I made a bed for me with sofa seat pads beside him got Clifford back into his crate, laid beside him and with in (I would say ) 15 minutes tops, after a tiny bit of crying he was asleep. He’s now fast asleep! 😀
    I’m wide awake mind 😂 Thinking about tomorrow night (night3) so this is what I’m thinking…
    I’m going to sleep beside him from the start of the night. And do this for at least the next week.and moving my bed a bit further away from the him and the crate. Do you think this will work?

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! Sorry to hear you’re not getting much sleep. You’re plan sounds good, but every puppy is different and you may need to improvise. We start all of our puppies out next to our bed and pretty much every puppy reacts differently. Some have fallen right asleep and been perfect from day 1 and others have taken months to get used to the crate even with me sleeping on the floor and doing pretty much everything I could to help them adjust. Here’s another article we wrote that has different suggestions for helping your puppy get used to the crate: https://puppyintraining.com/crate-training-puppies/ Hopefully that helps. Good luck with your puppy!

  9. I’m so glad I came across this website. I’ve read a lot of blogs online that talk about how important socialization is. What are your thoughts on a puppy being socialized (i.e. through puppy class) but hasn’t gotten all the vaccinations yet? We brought home a golden retriever puppy that had distemper but we didn’t know (vets didn’t diagnose him properly) till many weeks later. At first, without knowing that he was sick, we were planning to take him to puppy socialization classes. He was getting treated for diarrhea so we decided to wait till he got better. But for owners who are oblivious or (sorry to say) don’t care about other puppies, I imagine they would still take their puppies to classes like this even if their puppies were sick. Is socialization worth getting your puppy exposed?

  10. Thanks for your website!
    I got my puppy about 24 hrs ago. it is 4 am in the morning and I am awake.
    My puppy is throwing up white stuff once in awhile and go back to sleep.

    How much food do I give to my 8 week old puppy . I did get the puppy from GDA. I am a puppy raiser (Never done this in my life). I have Zero experience 🙁
    Thanks

    1. Hi Martha! Congratulations on your new puppy. If you think there’s something wrong with your puppy contact the GDA emergency number and they’ll walk you through what they want you to do with your puppy. The amount of food you feed your puppy should be in your Puppy Raiser manual. There should be details on how much to feed your puppy and how many times per day. Also, you can contact your area leader for help if you’re having trouble. The first few nights are always the most difficult since it’s your puppy’s first night away from her litter mates. I see on the GDA Facebook page you named your puppy Athena. That’s a cute name. I’ve had two “A” litter puppies: Adelle and Archer. I hope that helps. Good luck with your puppy!

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