Collecting a new puppy - how to make it a happy experience

Collecting a New Puppy – How to Make it a Happy Experience

Collecting a new puppy can be a hugely stressful experience, for you and the puppy, if it is done without thought.

However, with some advance planning (which you are clearly doing if you are reading this!) you can avoid the stress and make it a happy experience instead.

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1 You’re collecting a new puppy. Congratulations!

Having a dog is a fantastic addition to your household.  Before long your dog will carve out a special place in your heart and you’ll wonder how you ever got along without him.

Not only that, but studies have also shown that dog ownership is actually good for you.  

The health benefits associated with having a canine companion, especially when combined with the bonus of getting more exercise, include reduced blood pressure, reduced cholesterol level, and weight loss.

Dog ownership has also been shown to reduce stress. 

Just the very presence of a dog can help to lower anxiety and blood pressure. It also results in increased levels of two neurochemicals (serotonin and dopamine) which help us to relax.  So profound is the effect that dogs play a valuable role at hospitals and care homes, schools and prisons.

Furthermore, dog ownership also provides the opportunity to improve your social life.  Not only will you suddenly begin to notice other dog owners when you are out with your own dog but you will find many people approach you just because of your furry friend. 

I regularly have people approach me and my dog Harvey with an enthusiastic “Hi! How are you?” … it used to take a couple of seconds before it dawned on me that the greeting was directed to Harvey and not to me!  I’m used to it now.

So, by bringing home a new puppy, not only are you getting a four-legged friend who will love you unconditionally and make you smile every day, but he is also positively good for you.

Harvey - puppy - 4 weeks
Labrador puppies at 4 weeks old

2 Be prepared!

So, what do you need to consider before you bring home your little bundle of joy?

2.1 Give your puppy a blanket

You will, no doubt, pay a couple of visits to your chosen breeder to view your puppy before bringing him home.  On one of these visits, you should take along an old blanket, towel or comfy item of old clothing and ask the breeder to keep it in the pen with your puppy, his mother, and his siblings. 

Don’t worry, the breeder won’t think you are crazy! 

The purpose of doing this is to imprint the scent of your puppy’s family onto the item.  You can then bring it home with you when you collect your puppy and place it with him at bed-time – having the familiar scent with him will help him to relax and encourage sleep.

2.2 Prepare your puppy’s sleeping area

Where will your puppy sleep once you take it home? 

Dogs need a place to call their own when it comes to sleeping – somewhere that they can rest, undisturbed, and feel safe.  For the first week with Harvey we had a cardboard box, with the scented blanket in it, in our bedroom. 

This helps for two reasons; firstly, your puppy will be able to hear you and take comfort from this, and secondly, you are more likely to hear your puppy if it needs to be let out to pee (see below).

After this first week, you’ll want to look at getting a crate (a sort of indoor kennel) as a more permanent sleeping place – in its permanent location, not in your bedroom. 

The crate should be big enough for your dog to comfortably stand up and move around.  You’ll need to buy one, or more, bigger, replacement crates as your dog grows.

We have found the Ellie-Bo crates to be excellent (in the USA the Midwest Homes crates look to be comparable).  Easy to put up (and down), robust, and Harv loves being in his crate!

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just buy a big crate from the off and not have to upgrade later – dogs don’t like to mess in their sleeping area but if the crate is too big then you may encourage an attitude of “I’ll pee at this end of the crate and sleep at the other end!”.

Be prepared for having your sleep interrupted! 

Young puppies have very small bladders and often need to pee a number of times through the night.  You can pre-empt this by setting an alarm for the first week and taking your puppy outside for a pee break every couple of hours. 

When your puppy pees praise him and then return to bed (you to yours and him to his!).  Do not make the mistake of starting play or giving too much fuss and attention – if you do there is a risk that your puppy will wish to do this in preference to sleeping!

You may also find that your puppy cries during the night. 

Don’t be annoyed with him – have some empathy and remember that your puppy is only a few weeks old and has just been taken away from his mother, his siblings, his usual sleeping quarters, and the humans that he is used to seeing. 

Cut him some slack! 

That said, don’t make a rod for your own back by having him in your bed with you “Just for tonight” – it will be a hard habit to break.

2.3 Make your house and garden safe

You will also want to ‘puppy proof’ your home. 

Look at things in your house as your puppy might and remember that dogs tend to explore the world around them by smell and then follow-up by using their mouths. 

If you have ornaments, especially valuable ones, at puppy height then find a new location for them.  Shoes and slippers left lying around?  Put them away.  Electricity cables where an inquisitive puppy might chew them?  Tidy them away.

In your garden you have two concerns; your puppy’s wellbeing and the wellbeing of your plants. 

Harvey - puppy - gardening help
Puppies love to explore things, including plants, with their mouths

It would be prudent to take stock of the plants in your garden and, keeping in mind the aforementioned habit of dogs experiencing the world with their mouths, determine which might be toxic to dogs and either remove them or take steps to prevent your puppy having access to them. 

There are obvious ones such as foxgloves, hemlock, and nightshade but there are many others too. The Dogs Trust has a pretty comprehensive list of things to avoid.

2.4 The tools of the trade – what equipment you need

Before bringing home a new puppy there are a number of items of equipment that you need to think about acquiring. 

The essential ones are food and water bowls, collar and lead (*), identity tag for the collar, and poo bags

However, you should also think about acquiring the following: toys, pee cleaner, vet-bed (see description below), stairgate(s), and a brush of some description for grooming.

* In addition, it is well worth considering a harness.  Dogs that have a tendency to pull a lot can do a great deal of damage to themselves with a simple collar and lead arrangement.  If you use a harness instead then the force is taken away from the sensitive neck area.

Pick whatever toys you fancy but, if I were you, I would ensure that I got a few chew toys. When your puppy starts to chew things that you don’t want him to (and he will!) it is far easier to replace his chosen item with a chew toy than it is to try to reason with him. 

Later on, you can teach a “Drop it” cue but for now, just go with replacing with a chew toy. 

We went with some Nylabone Puppy Teething Keys to start with and Harv really loved these. Later you can move on to the proper Nylabones.

Harvey - puppy - teething rings
Teething rings are far better for chewing than furniture!

In terms of other toys, Harvey found these to his liking: Kongs (a fun way to provide food), Chuckit Balls (although be careful not to over-do ball chasing, especially with young puppy joints), and stuffed toys (if your puppy is a chewer, as Harvey was, look out for plastic squeakers inside the toys).

If you are new to dog ownership then you may not be familiar with vet-bed.  It is, as you might imagine from the name, bedding that is used by veterinary practices. 

It is comfy for the dog and is hard-wearing and washable.  It is also a little more bite-resistant than a blanket or towel but not bite-proof – a determined chewer will still put holes in it (I speak from experience!).

Finally, consider a radio.  Nothing fancy – your puppy isn’t a music connoisseur!  It is helpful sometimes to have a radio on a chat station, especially if you have to leave the puppy alone for a period, playing in the background as it helps to calm the puppy.

2.5 Be consistent with your puppy’s food

There is, of course, an obvious omission here– we haven’t mentioned what we will be putting in the food bowl! 

I would strongly advise that you consult with the breeder before collection day and continue to use the food that they have been using, at least for a few weeks until your puppy has settled in. 

If you do decide to change foods then it is essential that you do so gradually – sudden changes can have a detrimental impact on your puppy’s digestive system (and the results won’t be pretty!). 

Look to do something like 90%:10% in favour of the current food for one day, then 80%:20% the next, and so on until you have switched over.

OK, so how much and how often, you may be thinking. 

Again, it is preferable to mimic what the breeder has been doing for a while.  Your puppy has enough change to contend with initially without you changing his feeding routine.

If your breeder doesn’t give any guidance then look to do 3 to 4 small meals spread evenly throughout the day – most food manufacturers will give guidance on the appropriate quantities (although most tend to over-estimate, can’t think why that might be!).

2.6 Find a good vet. Now

Begin thinking about which veterinary practice you would like to use.  Ask around and do some online research to find somewhere that is local (you don’t want to be traveling too far in an emergency) and reputable.

Your vet will help you with vaccinations and also, depending upon the law in your country, putting a microchip in your dog for registration purposes.  Further details of microchipping in the UK can be found at The Kennel Club here and also by database provider Petlog here

They will also be on hand for other treatments should the need arise.  I know that there is a cost involved but if you are in any doubt about your dog’s wellbeing I would always advocate a visit (or at least a ‘phone call) to your vet – better safe than sorry.

Before collecting your new puppy have a chat with your chosen vet about their recommendations for worming treatment and for a vaccination schedule (the latter will determine how long it will be before you can actually walk your dog without any risk of infection).

2.7 Make plans for how to pay vet bills

When it comes to your dog’s health you want to rely on somebody that has had the appropriate training and, ideally, plenty of experience to supplement that training.  Understandably this training and experience will come at a cost. 

And the more complex and time-consuming the case the more expensive it will be.

You may, therefore, wish to consider getting insurance for your puppy in respect of vet’s bills.  Costs of insurance are relatively modest when your dog is young but be prepared for, sometimes substantial, increases as they get older.

Look very carefully at the terms of any insurance policy.  Ideally, you will want lifetime cover (insurers typically won’t provide cover for pre-existing conditions so it’s important to have cover that will continue for ongoing conditions).

Some people decide to self-insure, setting up a savings account to put money aside for emergencies and having a dedicated credit card, not used for any other purposes, should payment be required in excess of any savings. 

Ultimately you have to do what is best for you, financially, and what is best for your dog.

Note that this approach applies only to vet bills – you should consider separate cover for public liability claims.  In the UK you can get up to £1 million of this type of cover if you become a member of the Dog’s Trust:

2.8 Make time for your new puppy

It would be very beneficial to take some time off work when you plan on collecting your new puppy.  Or at the very least do it on a long weekend.  It will take time for your puppy to adapt to its new surroundings and this will be greatly assisted by spending time with this new family – you!

3 Collecting your new puppy from the breeder – the big day has arrived!

3.1 At the breeder’s house

OK, there are a few things to think about in relation to while you are actually at the breeder’s home. 

Keep in mind that, with all the excitement of collecting your new puppy, especially if you have young children with you who have been looking forward to this day, you may forget points that you wanted to raise so … take a crib sheet with you!

You have, of course, already asked the breeder what type of food he is using, haven’t you?  Haven’t you? 

If you haven’t, ask for a few days’ worth of the food that the breeder has been feeding to the puppy.  Puppies have very sensitive tummies and it will greatly help the transition between his current home and his new home if he is able to stick with the same food.

Collect any necessary paperwork from the breeder.  This will vary according to your location and the type of dog.  You are looking for things like registration papers and any insurance policy that might already be in place.

For example, in the UK the breeder of a pedigree litter will have registered it with The Kennel Club.  You will want to receive the necessary details.  Such registration comes with a free (brief) period of insurance too so that you have time to put your own cover in place if you wish to.

Don’t forget the scent-imprinted blanket that you left with the breeder previously.  If your puppy needs comforting on the homeward journey you can use it in the car – otherwise, save it for bedtime.

3.2 The journey home

The weeks have dragged by but you’ve done your Boy Scout bit and now the big day is finally here and you are going to be bringing home a new puppy.  Yay!

It’s worth pointing out at this stage that some dogs can become quite fearful of cars and traveling in them. 

You will, most likely, be making use of car travel with your dog for trips out, visits to the vet, holidays and so on.  It will be a lot easier, therefore, for all concerned if your dog is happy with car travel.  

So, take some time (10 minutes or so) to get your puppy happy with being in your car.  Let him have a good sniff around.  Talk to him.  Offer him a few treats (not too many – you are about to start a car journey remember). 

Don’t be in a rush.  Be calm, be relaxed, be happy! 

If you are stressed your puppy will sense it and also become stressed.  Which will increase your stress.  Which will further increase your puppy’s stress. Which … you get the picture.

So, what do you need to think about for the journey?

Well, ideally, you should take somebody with you – trying to focus on driving and watching your new puppy at the same time is not a good combination!

The safest approach for the journey home is probably to have your puppy in a cardboard box, with sufficiently high sides, with some newspaper in the bottom and an old towel on top, in the footwell of the car with your partner in crime keeping an eye on him.

Or you could try a cat’s travel crate. 

Harvey - cat travel crate, towel and stuffed toy
Puppy Harvey asleep in a cat travel crate

If it is a long journey factor in some scheduled pee breaks (for humans as well as canines!). 

Looking back at my notes I see that we had a hellish journey when we collected Harvey – stuck on the M42 for 2 hours because of an accident!  On the plus side, Harvey slept for the majority of the journey and there were no pee or poo incidents.

You should also take some drinking water for longer trips too.

Bring your collar (with an identity tag attached) and lead just in case.  If you stop for a pee break and, by some misfortune, lose your puppy, or if you are involved in an accident and your puppy escapes, then you will be glad that he has your contact details on his tag.

Remember not to let your puppy wander around during the pee break – he hasn’t yet completed his course of vaccinations!

If you absolutely must have in-car entertainment playing on the journey home (and I know that some people seem unable to live without it!) – keep the volume down to conversation level.

4 Arriving home

OK, the journey is over and hopefully you’ve made it home none the worse for wear.

Let your puppy know that this is his new forever home.  Whether he has been a little angel or a little devil on the journey home you must now make a good first impression.  Calmly bring your puppy in and, before you do anything else, take him outside to toilet!

And when he goes to the toilet outside – praise him and let him know how happy you are that he has gone there and not in the house.  This is the start of your house-training.

Then let him explore.  He will likely sniff, and possibly lick, absolutely everywhere.  This is why you did all of that house and garden preparation beforehand.

Now would also be a good time to let him have a stuffed toy that you may have acquired. It’s something to play with (always a good thing!), it will be comforting in the brand new environment, and it will reduce the chances of chewing other (more valuable!) things.

Harvey - puppy - stuffed toy in trouble?
Puppies (and some dogs) love a stuffed toy
And finally … smile! (It will be the first of many)

5 Things to do first

So, now that you have your furry little bundle of joy, what should you concentrate on first?

Well, there are two areas that you will want to address quite quickly if they are applicable to you – introductions to children and other pets.

5.1 Introduction to children

First things first. Your kids will doubtless be hugely excited about the new arrival, and that is completely understandable.

However, you need to impress upon them the need to respect the dog’s space.

Dogs are, on the whole, incredibly tolerant creatures. But you don’t want to test that tolerance by allowing your kids to become too excited and pushing the puppy beyond its current limits.

So, no tail pulling. No running around screaming and waving hands in the air. You have to play the role of referee and ensure that both sides play nicely.

Encourage your children to be calm when first meeting the puppy.

Ideally, have a tasty treat (like a piece of warm chicken) that they can give to him. This forms a positive association in the puppy’s mind. “I like this little person. They bring me yummy food.”

To make sure there is no chance of unwanted nibbling here, make sure that the treat is either presented in the flat of the hand or even gently thrown in the direction of the puppy.

Don’t allow your children to chase the puppy. Rather, get them to sit down and entice the puppy to them.

Ensure that all petting is gentle and pleasing for the puppy. Calm, relaxing stroking of the fur is best. Nothing rough or too rapid.

Finally, watch out for when either party looks like they have had enough. Keep interactions short and positive initially.

5.2 Introduction to other pets

Dogs

If you already have a dog it might be advisable for the first meeting to take place on neutral ground, like a local park.

Keep both dogs on their leads and watch them carefully. You will, of course, be familiar with your other dog’s temperament but not, perhaps, when meeting a puppy.

Give the encounter your full attention to make sure it is a positive one. Leave your mobile ‘phone in your pocket for the duration of the meeting – I promise you, the world won’t end!

It’s probably best to make sure that your other dog has been exercised and fed beforehand. A tired, relaxed dog that isn’t hungry is generally far more agreeable.

Let them sniff each other for a while and see how things develop. Don’t force it – let them move at their own pace. Separate them after a while to give them time to process the information obtained (dogs pick up a lot of information by scent).

If all goes well you can repeat the process at home.

And after that, you can move on to an ‘off lead’ encounter. Just be wary of any play becoming too rough.

Remember that the puppy is physically little and still developing and mentally not yet fully robust. You do not want to allow any negative encounters if at all possible.

Cats

First of all, make sure that your cat always has somewhere that it can go where the dog isn’t able to go (for example, having a stairgate at the bottom of the stairs so the cat can get through but the dog can’t).

This helps to prevent the cat from becoming stressed about how to escape any unwanted attention.

Make sure that the puppy is on his lead for the first meeting. That way it is easier to control any overly exuberant behaviour.

Again, we are aiming for a calm and relaxed meeting.

Having tasty treats on hand for the puppy may help with this. Pick carefully and monitor the situation – you don’t want the cat and puppy competing for the treats!

An approach many people take is to keep the two apart initially but to place bedding from one in the sleeping area of the other.

That is the cat’s blanket into the puppy’s sleeping area and the puppy’s blanket into the cat’s sleeping area. This allows them to become familiar with each other’s scent.

5.3 House training and socialisation

New owners often obsess over house training and pay little attention to socialisation.

Truth be told, the focus should probably be the other way around.

We’ll cover each of these topics in separate blog posts.

6 Infographic

It’s always useful to have a quick summary of what has been discussed – it helps us to remember the key points. With that in mind, here is a summary infographic.

Collecting new puppy - infographic

7 Frequently Asked Questions

As you have seen, there are lots of things to consider when collecting a new puppy.

Here are some FAQs on the subject:

What age should a puppy be when you collect it?

The recommended age for collecting a puppy is when it is 7-8 weeks old.

You should not accept a puppy that is younger than 7 weeks old as it still needs to be with it’s mother and siblings at this age, learnings things like bite inhibition.

You can (and should), of course, visit your chosen puppy before this time – just don’t bring it home.

Should I sleep with my new puppy?

In a word, no.

If you do, you will set an undesirable precedent which will be very hard to break. Even if your puppy cries all night and you are desperate for sleep – do not relent. Your puppy needs to get used to sleeping in his bed, not yours.

That said, you can have his crate/box in your bedroom with you for the first few days until he is settled.

What should you do if your puppy cries at night?

First of all, have some sympathy. Your puppy has just been separated from his mother and siblings. If he cries, it is his survivial instinct kicking in – he feels vulnerable and wants the attention of his parent (which is now you!).

You need to make him feel comfortable and safe, but without being overly protective – it’s a balancing act.

Before collecting your puppy you should have given the breeder a blanket, towel, or old item of clothing to put in with the mother and her litter. Now is the time to put that item in with your puppy – he will be comforted by the smell of his mother and littermates.

Also, be mindful that small puppies have small bladders. They may not be able to make it through the night – if this is the case you need to schedule regular toilet trips. Do not engage in feeding or play, get the job done and get back to sleeping.

When should you start training your new puppy?

Your puppy is plenty clever enough to start learning things even at this young age.

There are two caveats to this:
1. Keep the training sessions short (no more than 5 minutes at a time) as your puppy will tire easily.
2. Don’t miss out on this enjoyable stage of ownership by focusing solely on training. Play with your puppy and have some fun!

8 Acknowledgements

Image acknowledgements:

Featured image provided courtesy of filinecek.

9 The End

Richie's Room - Harv leaving
Time to go!

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16 thoughts on “Collecting a New Puppy – How to Make it a Happy Experience”

  1. This was super informative! Great tips! We’ll be picking up our puppy in September and I’ll be sure to refer back to this!

    Reply
  2. I’d love to get a puppy, but there is so much that goes into it! Thank you for sharing this post. I am looking to move out in the next few years and a puppy is something i’d love to have. It’s a lot of hard work, but your tips have really helped me to get a better understanding of the care and things they need. Thank you for sharing!

    Em | http://www.loveemblog.com

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Em. Here’s hoping that you are able to get a puppy in the near future – I’m sure that you wouldn’t regret it.

      Reply
  3. I love puppies and dogs!! They are my favorite animals. At one point when I was about 13 years old I had a total of 15 🥰. Great post and these tips are amazing.

    Reply

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