Updated: Jan 6
So the big day has finally arrived! You have picked up your little fluff-ball, brought them home, showed them a million new things, overwhelmed them with lots of love, and now it’s time for bed.
How to approach this…?
It is not an understatement to say that today was probably the biggest day of this puppy’s life. Today they said goodbye to the only home they’ve ever known, said bye to mum and littermates, and were thrown into a totally foreign environment with some friendly strangers. It can be very overwhelming. It’s also good to remember your puppy is still a baby! This is the equivalent of a two year old spending their first night away from home – it’s a big deal.
Remember your puppy might need a bit of extra comfort tonight, and for the next few nights. This might be the first time the puppy has ever been truly alone. Ensure they are warm, well-fed, and have access to plenty of fresh water.
Have a think about where you want the dog to sleep eventually (downstairs, upstairs in another room, in your bedroom on the floor, or in your bed).
Even if the eventual aim is to have the dog sleep downstairs in the laundry, it is a good idea to allow a puppy to sleep close to people for the first few nights. This will help the puppy to not feel so insecure and alone and will also allow you to be more easily alerted to toileting needs!
You will probably need to get up a couple of times a night to let puppy go to the toilet in the early days. Every time puppy wakes up, there is the potential they will need the toilet. Once the puppy is more settled and sleeping through the night, they will likely hold on longer.
Most people will start by putting the puppy’s bed or crate in their bedroom, or just outside it, with the door open. This allows you to provide a quick comforting check-in if the puppy seems distressed, and you will be more likely to notice if they are circling looking for a spot to toilet on.
If you don’t plan on allowing your dog to sleep in your bed in the future, then it’s best never to allow this, even on the first night. Naturally, your bed is the comfiest, warmest place so once puppy gets used to it, it will be hard to go back!
Make the dog’s bed or crate super comforting and comfortable. Ask the breeder to send something with the puppy that smells like home, such as an old blanket. Put this in the pup’s bedding to help them settle.
There might be a bit of crying tonight – try not to reinforce it too much. Much like human babies, puppies do have to learn to self-soothe, so don’t jump out of bed every time you hear a whine or puppy will start to take advantage of this. Listen carefully and try to distinguish between low-level whines, and dramatically escalating crying where the puppy seems really distressed. If the puppy needs help, go and check them. They might need a toilet break – try this and see what happens. Then once they’ve been to the toilet, settle them back down and ignore any other crying for a while until they calm down.
After a couple of nights you can gradually start moving the puppy’s bed further and further away until you eventually get them happily sleeping in the desired location. Take this step by step – the slower you go, the less likely the puppy is to take notice and get upset.
Crate training is a great option for puppies, and you can start it right from the first night, but always leave the door open until the pup is very used to being left in the crate for long periods. See our blog post on Crate Training to read more on the correct technique.
Remember, for the vast majority of dogs, it is important for them to sleep inside the house. This will keep them safer, more comfortable and make them a more bonded member of your family. Dogs should only sleep outside if you have created a purpose-built space that is temperature controlled and protected from all adverse weather events. Even for large or working breeds, puppies are vulnerable and should always be allowed to sleep indoors for the first few months.