Before we brought our Australian Shepherd puppy Nola home on the first night, we thought we were prepared. We were expecting crying, maybe some obvious home sickness and possible car sickness on the drive home. But the first night with your puppy at home, is really like bringing home your first baby.
No matter how much you think you’re prepared for it, until it happens, you really have no idea what you’re in for.
You prepare with all of the material stuff you need for your baby and prepare for prepare for all the material stuff you need for your puppy. You read whatever expert tips, books and advice you can get your hands on. Then you naively you think you’ve got your stuff together.
But what really happens is a voice appears at midnight when everyone is gone saying, “Good luck, there’s no going back now. Don’t screw this up.”
The first day with our puppy – the drive home
When we picked up our Australian Shepherd puppy Nola from her breeder, we met her Mom and Dad as well as her litter of siblings, which looked exactly like you would imagine a room full of puppies would – the best possible chaos. Cuteness overload. Little balls of fluff all tumbling over each other.
Nola instantly took to our older daughter, which is one of the first things we learned as first time dog owners. That dogs just “know” their person and know who needs extra TLC or love in their family at a given time. They’re so in tune with their family members emotions that it’s as if Nola knew she had been waiting for this moment for 12 years.
She wants to be a vet so we decided to wait until she was responsible enough to help out with a dog before we embarked on the journey to have one join our family.
Driving out of our breeders driveway on their farm was so nerve wracking. I remember thinking, okay this is good, Nola’s quiet and cuddling. That lasted about 10 minutes.
Then what was obviously the realization that she was not at home occurred and a complete baby puppy whine meltdown. Like total sheer panic, get me out of this car panic.
That lasted another 15 minutes. Then she puked.
First night with your puppy at home- here we go…
After that she was happy as a clam and slept for another 2 hours or so until we got home. We brought her home in March and we live in Canada, so there was still a hell of a lot of snow on the ground at that time.
Of course our kids loved watching her play in the snow and investigate her new surroundings. We had planned on crate training her so we had that all ready for her.
The day pretty much went like, wake up, sniff, investigate, sleep. Wake up, sleep, play, sleep. We were like “This is great! We’ve got this.” Denial and naive overconfidence ran deep over here.
Because this was all fine and dandy, until around midnight and then it was like right, that extended sleeping part. We forgot about that part in the excitement of welcoming our new family member. Ok, we didn’t forget, we just kinda said we’ll get through it. Like idiots with a ton of optimism.
Now, we are both way out of the baby diaper phase and into the negotiation for iPad and YouTube time phase with our kids who are respectively 9 and 12, so let me just say that we both forgot just utterly exhausting it is to wake up every couple of hours to crying.
In this case a whining from our “how do you like your new crate, un-crate trained, my bladder is still super tiny” puppy. And setting set your alarm to let your puppy outside to pee every 2 to 3 hours is rough.
Did I mention it was also still winter time? In Canada. At least with a newborn baby you can stay in your PJ’s in your warm cozy home versus grabbing your parka and winter boots to stand outside in -30 windchill and encouraging an tiny ball of adorable fluff to do her business in the dar
Remember sleep before your puppy? That’s a nice memory.
We were like zombies for the first week. The Walking Dead had nothing on this household. The puppy slept great…when she wanted to sleep. We did not. By about night 3, we were fighting with each other about who took what shift to let her outside.
Then by the week’s end we were like setting up camp on the couch next to the crate and thinking, “Maybe I need to sleep on the floor next to the crate.” or “Maybe we should put the crate in the bedroom.” Things we swore we would not do, just to quell the puppy cries and whining at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am, 5 am…
What is it like having your puppy home for the first time? In a nutshell, exhausting. It’s like chasing a toddler with very sharp teeth who insists on eating everything, except the food you actually give them. They’re not fully vaccinated so you’re stuck in what I have affectionately coined puppy prison and are very limited to where they can go and who they can interact with.
By week two we were like searching reviews for puppy trainers like we were looking for water in the dessert.
This is why they look this damn cute. To help you deal with the sleepless nights.
How to make first night with your puppy at home easier
So how does one get through the first night?
Here are some basic and realistic tips to get you ready:
- Prepare not to sleep. Sounds obvious but realize that this little creature has just left their Momma and siblings and was put into a strange environment. Of course they’re going to want comfort, image how you would feel?
- Take time off of work (if possible) due to the point above. You will be exhausted and it’s very similar to bringing home a newborn.
- Have a blanket with their mom’s scent on them where they will be sleeping. They’re going to need as much comfort as possible and this absolutely soothes them.
- On that note, DO NOT bring them to your bed with you or else this will set up a precedence where they are going to consider your bed, their bed.
- Let them explore your home, carefully, slowly and at their pace. They’re familiarizing themselves with their new home.
- If you are crate training, consider moving the crate to a space near you while you, well try to sleep. Otherwise there’s a good chance you’re going to you’re going to be next to it.
- Make sure your crate is cozy and adjusted to their puppy size. Puppies like small, cozy spaces and this has a calming affect on them.
- Realize their bladder is tiny and they’re also dealing with separation anxiety. Make sure to set your alarm to take them outside every 2 hours, unless you enjoy your mopping up your house.
- Set a schedule. This will help develop and build a routine from Day 1. The best thing our trainer ever told us was that is to imagine that they are a human baby and if you wouldn’t leave a baby alone in a room, you have to treat your puppy the same way. They need your guidance and support. It takes time to train them and build a rapport.
- Ask for help if you’re really nervous. Preferably someone who has experience with the puppy phase. Sometimes just having someone there for you can make the whole transition easier and more reassuring, because if you get frustrated, the puppy will sense your frustration, which leads to a cycle of everyone getting frustrated. Having someone there to calm both of you, is actually a very smart idea and there is no shame in asking for help.
You will get through the first night with your puppy at home, then the first week and eventually you’ll look at puppy photos and think they’re so cute, maybe we should get another one.