What to Expect When You Are Expecting a Puppy – Part 1
Before Puppy Comes Home
So you’ve decided to get a new puppy – congratulations! Bringing home a new furry friend is so exciting, but can also be overwhelming if you aren’t sure what supplies you’ll need, how to prepare your space to keep your puppy safe and comfortable, or what you should know before they step into their new home for the first time.
In this three-part series I’ll share my top tips for welcoming a new puppy, starting with what you’ll need to know before your pup even comes home!
1. Get Everyone On the Same Page
Before your puppy comes home, sit down with all the members of your household and get on the same page about routines and organizing for your new pup. Where will the puppy sleep? Who will be responsible for feeding them? Where is their designated potty area and who will be responsible for taking them out to the bathroom? Where will their food, treats, and toys live? This is also a great time to meet with a qualified positive reinforcement trainer and go over any questions you have about puppy behavior and training and get personalized guidance on how best to introduce your new dog to your home (more on this in the “Finding Your Support Team” section below!).
Reading puppy books together is also a fun way for everyone in your household to prepare for your new pet!
This blog post from The Dog Behavior Institute has some excellent recommendations on four puppy books to get started with, including my personal favorite dog book to recommend – Doggie Language by Lili Chin.
2. Prepare Your Space
Once you know where your puppy will sleep, eat, and play, set up your space before they come home. Along with making sure you have standard items like food and water bowls, a harness and leash, treats, and toys, there are other ways you can prepare for your new pup’s homecoming by making your space as puppy-friendly as possible. Puppy-proof by picking up or putting away items like shoes, children’s toys, jewelry, or anything you don’t want to get chewed on. Any potentially dangerous items should be stored somewhere that your puppy can’t get to them (cleaning products, medications, plants that are not pet-safe, batteries, etc.), and electrical wires and cords for blinds and curtains should be safely tucked away.
Trainer Tip: If you are planning on using a confinement space like an x-pen, get that set up with whatever bedding, chew toys, and enrichment items you want to include. Pet gates can also be a great option for keeping puppies safe and out of trouble while they learn the ropes in their new home, so get those set up and make sure they are secure. Child-proof locks are also helpful for low cabinets that a curious pup might get into, and trash bins with a closed lid are helpful for preventing dumpster diving!
If your puppy will be using a yard, do a yard walk-through to check for any items they may pick up and ingest, and look out for toxic plants that need to be removed before your new furry family member moves in. Keep lawns trimmed to reduce ticks, and avoid treating your yard with fertilizers or pesticides right before your puppy comes home as these can be harmful for them!
I recommend a sturdy physical fence (wood, chain-link, iron, vinyl, or similar) if you are able to install one, as this provides the safest option for both keeping your dog contained in your own yard and for keeping other critters out! Fencing should be secure and strong, tall enough that your puppy can’t jump over it, and without holes or open space at the bottom that they can crawl through.
If you aren’t able to install a physical fence, make sure you have a well-fitted, non-restrictive harness and a leash or long-line leash to use when taking your pup outside. The Puppy Starter Kit linked at the bottom of this post includes a few of my favorite harnesses and leashes!
3. Find Your Support Team
Caring for a dog takes a team, and finding members of that team can start before your puppy comes home! Your team can include your veterinarian, dog trainer, groomer, pet sitter or daycare, dog walker, or anyone else who helps you and your dog live their best life together. By finding your support team early on, you will be prepared for all of the training, grooming, and health support your puppy needs, right from day one.
Trainer Lyz and her dog Buck doing some training outside of the vet clinic
Finding a Trainer:
It is never too early to reach out to a trainer, whether for puppy classes or for one-on-one training sessions! Many trainers (myself included) even offer pre-puppy consultations to help you feel prepared and empowered with all of the information you need to be ready for your puppy’s first days and weeks at home. Connecting with a trainer early is a great way to prevent bigger behavior issues in the future and to get you started on the right foot (or paw!) with teaching your puppy important life skills.
When searching for a trainer, look for someone who uses positive reinforcement methods! Positive reinforcement training is not only the method most backed by science and recommended by organizations like the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, but it’s also fun AND effective! Tip: Avoid trainers who use terms like “alpha” or “pack” when referring to dogs and behavior or who use punishment or corrections during training, and we don’t recommend using tools like prong collars or e-collars.
There are several different certifying organizations for positive reinforcement trainers and you can search on their websites to find a trainer near you, or a trainer who works virtually (check out this blog post about why we think virtual training is so great!):
- International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants
- Fear-Free Certified Practitioners (their directory includes veterinary staff, trainers, and pet sitters!)
- Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners
- Victoria Stillwell
- If you have children, I recommend reaching out to a Family Paws Parent Educator for targeted advice on creating safe and happy introductions with puppies and kids
Finding a Veterinarian:
The Fear-Free Directory has a lot of veterinary staff listed, so I recommend that as a good place to start your search. If there are no Fear-Free Certified veterinarians near you, look into local vet clinics and check out their reviews online, in public forums, and/or from other local pet guardians you know. Your puppy will likely need several trips to the vet soon after coming home so that they can finish getting their puppy vaccines, and there are a lot of ways our veterinary staff can work with you to make those visits low-stress and prevent behavior challenges during future vet visits. This on-demand mini-course includes tips for communicating with your veterinarian and advocating for your dog to help them have pleasant first experiences at the vet!
Finding a groomer, pet sitter, daycare, or dog walker:
Even if you don’t need pet care or grooming right away, start researching what options might be available! Some dog breeds require regular trips to the groomer, and having good positive experiences when they are young makes it much easier for puppies to enjoy their grooming experiences throughout the rest of their life. If you will need pet care services, do some research into what options are available near you. What kind of qualifications do pet care providers have? Do they have insurance? How many dogs are they walking or caring for at once? What level of care do they offer, and how do they interact with client’s pets? Finding someone that you trust to take good care of your beloved dog is key! The Pet Sitters International and National Association of Professional Pet Sitters directories, along with the Fear Free Directory are a good place to start your search, but don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and make sure you feel comfortable before hiring a pet care professional.
This is the first in a three-part series all about welcoming home a new dog! Tomorrow’s post will be about Day 1 with a new puppy, followed by tips for Week 1 and beyond including my trainer tips about socialization and getting started with training. For customized puppy training support, check out our services designed just for Puppies and New Dogs.