This is the third article in my four part series about bringing home puppies:

  1. Before you bring the puppy home
  2. Fear imprint stage
  3. New home: a scary place
  4. The first night

Puppies arriving home can be very frightening to the pup.  Your new puppy is arriving home probably between the age of 8 to 10 weeks old which is just the time he is entering the important Fear Imprint Stage as discussed in Tip 2.  Your puppy’s brain is at its peak rate of growth between the amazingly young age of only 8 to 16 weeks.   Remember that your puppy will age much more quickly than a human. Consequently,  this eight week old puppy is functioning at the equivalent of a human adult level of learning in terms of his ability to absorb information. Do not underestimate the fact that he is learning every minute and with every action that is happening.

That’s right, let me repeat this, an eight week old puppy is learning at nearly the equivalent of an adult, human level.   And, in fact, by the time the pup is just 16 weeks old, the ease in which he learns will noticeably start to decline (read our next few articles for more information on this).    So when this new eight week old pup enters your home for the very first time, make sure every experience is positive and that nothing scares him. 

If you are a working person, hopefully you have been able to take a few days off work so you could pick the pup up on a Thursday and can spend a four-day weekend with him.  So if you are bringing this puppy home on a Thursday morning, the kids are at school, the spouse is at work and the house is quiet.  You don’t want to add to the stress of the pup by having kids yelling. friends pawing at the pup, dishwashers growling while the TV is ringing the rafters.  Quiet is good.   You are the puppy’s new leader and now he will look to you for everything he needs and for his security.  So remain calm and assertive with him and allow your puppy to take his time in gaining the confidence he needs to approach new people and situations.

Have a warm, cozy den made up for the pup in a corner of the kitchen where he will be near people and not isolated and alone.  Have a crate available right away plus a separate bed outside the crate.  Read our article on crate training.    Once the pup appears to be comfortable with his personal den area, allow him to explore the kitchen.  You will have contained him in the kitchen by having installed a baby gate.

At this point there are two areas of thought.  Some trainers believe the pup should be allowed to explore and roam the whole house.  Others feel that’s too much and if he roams the whole house, he will start thinking he owns all that space and later become more dominant and controlling.  One trainer said to me one time,  “if you take three trainers the only thing the first two trainers will agree on is that the third trainer is wrong”.  In other words, no two trainers agree on absolutely everything.

Personally, I recommend not overwhelming the pup by allowing him too much space in which to roam. Think about the situation he just came from and how the mother dog was treating the pup.  He was not allowed to wonder all over.  The mother dog put limits on the pup and so should you.  And, certainly if you don’t want the puppy using the whole house as a restroom, you should confine him a good portion of the time in his den and under supervision in a tiled area like the kitchen for the first few weeks while he gets acquainted and you work on housebreaking him.   If you see him sniffing and walking tight circles, take him out immediately to his particular potty spot.  Read our articles on housebreaking. When the family arrives home in the late afternoon, ask them to sit quietly and allow the puppy to approach them. Read our article on introducing kids to the puppy.

Structure and leadership are two highly important items in the life of a puppy or any adult dog.  But what kind of structure and leadership are we talking about?   Read on:   The First Night