Making your puppy feel ‘at home’


This is when life really gets exciting… the day you bring home your new baby puppy. Here is how to make the transition away from his mother, keeping his feeling and grief in mind.

Preparation for the D-Day

To make this separation little easier for your puppy, try to arrange with your breeder to allow you to visit your puppy a couple of times before you fi nally collect him. A few days before you bring your puppy home, give your breeder a small cloth or towel, which can be placed with the mother and other siblings. You can take it home with the puppy as it will contain their smell for a number of days.

If your puppy
makes a mistake

  • Never shout at or tell your puppy off. Your puppy cannot do anything wrong, at least not deliberately. There is no need to shout ‘No’ to your puppy as he will not understand this, it may only get him stressed. If he is stressed he is not likely to learn and is likely to make more mistakes.
  • Take him gently out of the situation.
  • Never grab or shake your puppy by the scruff. Wild or domestic dogs only grab their prey by the scruff in an attempt to harm by shaking and breaking his neck. A mother will not do this to her puppies. If you do grab your puppy by the scruff it may be sending the message that you mean him harm. This could have a devastating effect on your relationship with your puppy.
  • Stoke him gently and slowly. If you find it difficult to stroke gently and slowly, using the back of your hand may help. Your puppy is just beginning his life with you. Keeping things slow and calm; respecting one another; communicating and understanding your dog’s body language; meeting your puppy’s needs; and allowing him to make choices, explore and use his senses are the keys to having a happy puppy and an enjoyable relationship together.

Allow the puppy to have this cloth as much as he likes and to sleep with it. It may be dirty and smelly but to your puppy it will be a comfort and you can throw it away or wash it after a few days when he is more settled.

When you collect your puppy, try to have another person with you who can sit in the back of your car with the puppy, especially if you have a long distance to cover, and stop a few times in safe places to allow the puppy to relieve himself and drink some water if he needs.
Your puppy may be a little worried and cry or bark, especially if this is his fi rst time in a car or away from his mother and siblings. He may or may not settle on the journey, so try to be patient with him; after all, this will be a very traumatic time for your puppy.
Exploring his new home
Once you get your puppy home, take him out into your garden area immediately so he can relieve himself. Allow him to walk around and explore the area – he will need to check things out. Open the door into your house and allow him to go in when he is ready and check that out too.
Speak softly to him and walk very slowly with him so you do not frighten him with quick movements and keep everything calm. Show your puppy where his bed is and where his water and toys are.
Try not to leave your puppy alone during the fi rst week, give him adjustment time and time to bond with you. If you need to go out for any length of time, take the puppy with you if it is safe to do so, or have someone else stay with your puppy for the time you are away.
Activities in the first few days
Allow your puppy to become involved in your daily routine so long as he is calm. Keep all activities calm. Fast, excited high activity may only cause your puppy’s adrenalin to rise. This adrenalin may take up to six days to come back down to normal, providing nothing else happens in the puppy’s life during that time. This means your puppy will be unable to relax and enjoy the rest and sleep needed. Your puppy should be resting or sleeping at least 18–20 hours per day. If your puppy is unable to do this, perhaps look at calming things down a little in his life and be careful not to overdo the exercise.
Symptoms of a puppy that has too much activity in his life may be destructive behaviour, biting ankles, chasing anything that moves, inability to settle, barking, training diffi culties and many more.

Give comfy bedding

Bedding should be warm, dry and comfortable for your puppy. There are many suitable and comfortable dog beds in the market, you will need to fi nd one that suits your puppy. Be aware that puppies will chew, so using bedding that can be chewed without too much damage to the bedding may be most suitable. A good stock of old blankets from charity shops can be used, chewed and thrown away or replaced when fi nished with.

You may want to have two beds for your puppy. One in the living area where he can settle during the day and one for night time, next to your own bed so the puppy knows you are around and you can be there if he needs you or needs to be taken out in the night to relieve himself. You can also reassure him if he is feeling upset or lonely in the night. With a bit of time, patience and understanding your puppy should settle within a few days.
It may also help your puppy to settle at night if you place a few of his toys with him and also a quality chew or a kong stuffed with nice soft foods he likes. Kongs are very calming for a puppy. It may help him settle more easily. Make sure he also has fresh water near his bed.
(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying, and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifi cations over the years such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience veterinary nursing. She is a regular radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socialising groups for dogs with social problems.)