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 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.

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.

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

  1. BEST PUPPY TOY
    We Like: Snuggle Puppy w/ Heart Beat & Heat Pack - Perfect for new puppies. We get all of our Service Dog pups a Snuggle Puppy.
  2. BEST DOG CHEW
    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.
  3. BEST DOG TREATS
    We Like: Wellness Soft Puppy Bites - One of our favorite treats for training our service dog puppies.
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    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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597 Comments

  1. In the next couple of hours, I will be bring home my new Labador Retriever. And will be trainer her as a service dog. Part of her responsibility will be medical alert, so sleeping with me will be important. Should I allow her to sleep with me, right from the beginning or wait until she is a little bit older?

    1. Congratulations on your new puppy! Our dogs sleep in the bed with us, but I don’t like letting them in bed until after they are potty trained and crate trained.

  2. I am getting a new boxer puppy soon and I’m looking at what the best way to train it might be. Is it OK if it sleeps in my room? What is something to look out for if we need to train it in a certain way. Also Boxers are rambunctious little puppies so how can we get their mind on a different track.

    1. All of our puppies sleep in our bedroom in a crate next to the bed (where the nightstand normally is). We clicker train our puppies and it works fine with any breed of dog. If you can take your puppy to a puppy kindergarten class. This will give your puppy a chance to socialize with other puppies and give you a chance to ask a certified professional trainer questions about your puppies training. Most puppies have a short attention span. Keep training sessions short and mix it up with play time. Good luck with your new puppy!

        1. Clicker training is a training technique that allows you to train positively with your dog. The clicker is a marker that tells the dog exactly what behavior you are looking for. I’ll put together a more in depth post sometime in the future. For now check out clickertraining.com for more information.

  3. Thank you for this post and it’s very helpful. We are a first time pet owner (well, this Sunday, we will be one). We are getting a Goberian, 9.5 weeks old. I have already bought most of the items, which are mentioned in your checklist. But I am clueless on what to do on the puppy’s first night. I have also ordered the book ‘Dummies for puppies’ and hoping that will help a bit.

    We have a crate with divider and from the research, I believe we should be helping puppy get used to the crate from beginning. Should we be feeding puppy in the crate? I saw your tips on what if puppy doesn’t take it to the crate right away…hopefully, it works out with our pup. Anyway, I am patiently waiting but very nervous too; it feels like I am bringing a new baby home for the first time. I have two boys, who are beyond excited!

    Any tips for 1st couple of nights?

    1. Early congratulations on your new puppy! Every puppy is different. We brought home an 8 week old black Labrador Retriever 2 weeks ago. She was already fairly comfortable with the crate so on our first day we put her in the crate with the door open anytime she fell asleep. We gave her first meals in the crate with the door open as well. We also gave her some treats and a chew toy that she played with in the crate with the door open. On her first night when she fell alseep around 9pm we put her in the crate and she did fine. She woke up 5 time the first night, we took her straight to her potty spot, she pee’d and we took her straight back to the crate where she fell back asleep. It was a pretty good night although I didn’t get to sleep more than 3 consecutive hours. As I said it depends on your puppy. If your puppy is not taking to the crate very well then you might try a slower approach that allows your puppy to get used to the crate in smaller steps. To answer your question: yes you do want to introduce the crate to your puppy early. However, it will depend on your puppy how quick or slow you should introduce different the steps of crate training.

      FYI, I’ve had puppies that I plopped in the crate on the first night and they slept a solid 8 hours without interruption. For me it’s like a dream especially since I’ve had others that have taken weeks and talked to friends who had puppies that took months to adjust to the crate. Good luck with your first night home!

      1. We are getting our first golden retriever 8 week puppy next month. This will be our first dog ever. I understand that you should keep the puppy in the crate. But if the puppy doesn’t want to go in the crate at all in the night, what should we do?

  4. Hi, I recently got a bichon frise puppy who is going to be 8 weeks next week. He is crate trained and he has one section in his crate where he sleeps and eats and one where he relieves himself. I’ve moved the potty area outside, next to the crate to distinguish where he sleeps and goes potty. When do you recommend I start taking him outside for potty training as he’s very small and fragile right now. Also when I take him outside the crate occasionally he goes potty on the floor. Should I fully get him used to the idea of going potty next to the crate and then take that potty box outside where I would like him to go?

    1. If I wanted to get another dog then I’d find out all the objections from every one in my family then find a solution to each objection.

  5. Our family brought a puppy home yesterday for the first time ever. An 8 1/2 week Pomeranian. We started crate training last night and after a few whimpers she slept from about 11-5am. Our 14 year old son slept on the couch which is close to where her crate is to get her to her “get busy” spot at 5am she still has had some accidents. It’s pretty rainy and cold outside so we’re not sure if we should train her to go outside yet. She’s so little.

    1. We’ve never had to deal with extreme cold although we did have to potty train Linus in the rain since it rained 2 weeks straight after the day we brought him home. If you think the weather is too extreme for your puppy then it might be a good idea to try potty training with puppy pads or a grass pad indoors.

  6. I’m bringing a puppy home in a month. If he doesn’t immediately take to the crate, how should I go about getting him to sleep inside it on the first few nights? I understand that you should never force a puppy into the crate, so how is that possible for sleeping overnight, before he’s accustomed to it? Let him fall asleep elsewhere, then place him inside? Thanks so much.

    1. Early congratulations on your new puppy. We do our best to give our puppies as many positive experiences with the crate as possible. First interactions are usually as you mentioned picking up the sleeping puppy and putting him in the crate, feedings in the crate, treats in the crate, favorite toys in the crate, stuffed KONGs in the crate. If he’s not taking to the crate right away early on you can try giving him a frozen stuffed KONG. You may also try luring him in with treats. Hopefully some or one of those suggestions help. Good luck with your puppy.

  7. In those first few weeks home, if I have to do something like make dinner and can’t keep an eye on puppy, do I crate her? What if she’s not used to the crate yet?

    1. If your puppy is used to the crate then yes, I would crate her. If not something we’ve done is just attach her leash to our belt buckle so our pup will stay close by or you can try a tie down that’s in the kitchen so you can still keep an eye on her. Here’s a post on umbilical cord training that you might find helpful.

  8. My little sister moved home during this pandemic mess, and decided the family farm needed a new dog. She found and purchased a mostly Great Pyrenees mix, and tonight is his first night with us. My sister says she’s done her research on puppies and training but she was trying to have him sleep in a large storage bin in her room at my grandparents house. (Everything in both houses on the farm is carpeted, so she was trying to prevent messes.)

    Of course the storage bin didn’t work, pup is an 8 week old Pyrenees and within a few minutes knocked it over… so he’s sleeping out on one of our porches. I arrived home at midnight, and he was stuck against the wall of the house, pinned behind some random things piled under the porch. No one bothered to puppy proof the porch, which is a repeat of two years ago when we had two large pups to raise. My family, honestly. (I’m a vet tech and the “animal person” of the family so anything related to animal care and training falls to me.) I pulled out a small bed the former two pups used, and my dog’s neglected stuffed animal toy to give him some doggy smells, moved his makeshift bed to a more desirable location facing the door that we use instead of the strangeness of the garden, and he quit crying at the door in less than ten minutes. So that’s something, thanks for the fuzzy stuffed animal tip!

    Seeing as this little guy is a giant breed and I don’t imagine my family buying or using an enormous crate when he’s grown, and even if my sister moves to a larger city again, it’s very likely he will stay on the farm and never need to be crated or kenneled… is it worth it to crate train for the next few weeks?

    1. Your situation is very different then mine, but I use the crate to also potty train my puppies and have found it easy to get them potty trained much quicker with the crate. However, the #1 reason why I’d recommend getting your puppy used to the crate is just in case you ever have to confine him in an emergency. When Linus got sick and had to spend the night at the vet’s office he had to stay in the crate. I was thankful knowing that he felt comfortable in the crate when he was sick. I would have felt very bad if he was sick and was having anxiety because he had never been crate trained.

  9. Just had my husky puppies first night at home. You’re post really helped, thank you. We just had the crate in the spare room which is just across from our room.

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