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Home Sweet Home

In This Chapter

Mom’s right again: First impressions really do count. To make your puppy’s transition into your home as smooth as possible, you have some choices to make — from where to put the crate to what to buy at the pet store. In this chapter, I lead you through the days building up to the main event and show you how to get everyone on board and how to outfit your home in preparation.

Now is the time to have some heartfelt discussions with your friends and family. Each person will have her own vision and idea of how things should go and what should be done, but you don’t want to confuse your puppy. A disjointed approach can overwhelm her. In this chapter, I shed light on the “how and why” of your first week together so that you’re able to back up your rally call with puppy facts. By following my advice, you can welcome your puppy into a calm, consistent, and supportive new environment.

Shopping for Initial Supplies

When you first walk into a pet store, you won’t see just one of anything. Today’s market is flooded with as many dog toys and gadgets as there are for children. And like a toy store, everyone has different tales to tell — one puppy loved such and such a bone, while another stuck it up her nose; one loved this bed, while another preferred to sleep on the floor; one puppy needed a crate, but another housetrained just fine in a gated bathroom. So,  what works for you? In this section, I run down the list of what you need toconsider and buy before you bring your puppy home.


Shopping for your puppy can be a mind-boggling experience. In order to avoid blowing your budget (and your mind), remember that less is more, at least initially. Though you may have the temptation to buy everything you can for your pup — from the latest toy to a designer raincoat — I suggest you bring a list and stick to it.


Your puppy needs two bowls to start: one for water and one for food. Stainless steel is ideal because it doesn’t break and it’s heavy, which reduces the chance of the bowl being knocked over. Ceramic is fine as well, although it will break and can chip. Plastic is another viable option. However, some puppies chew their bowls, and others can develop a reaction that causes nose discoloration.


All right, I agree with you: The sight of a crate looks like an oversized guinea pig cage. However, the truth is, your puppy will like it because the enclosure feels like a cozy den. Especially useful during the early stages of training, the crate helps your puppy feel safe when you’re away. Crating a pup also encourages bladder control because puppies don’t like to potty where they sleep.


Still not sold on crate training? Think about it this way: Having her own special place to play and rest is synonymous to giving a child his own bed and tucking him into it when it’s time to rest. You wouldn’t let a child sleep in the middle of a large, unprotected room, would you?

When you shop for a crate, you’ll have more options than in buying coffee at your local coffee shop! You’ll find all sorts of different sizes, materials, and colors. Should you get a divider or leave space for potty paper? Should the sides be covered or open for air flow? Whew! Here’s the scoop:

Plastic crates are standard for travel and can also be used as an everyday crate in a well-ventilated environment. If you plan to travel, buy this type — it will give your pup more security when you’re away from home. It also will give your puppy more security when she’s away from the home.

Wire crates allow for better air flow and viewing and can be covered with a blanket at night to create a more denlike experience. Dividers are also available to size the crate according to your puppy.

A wicker crate is less of an eyesore. However, you have to pray that after paying top dollar, the puppy won’t decide to chew her way out!


Crates can be an invaluable training tool, but they can also be emotionally destructive to your puppy if overused. Crates are ideal in the following situations:

If you’re leaving your puppy alone for a duration of time not to exceed six hours.

During sleeping hours for young, unhousebroken, or mischievous puppies.

As a feeding station if your puppy is easily distracted.

As a timeout for overly excitable pups. In this case, don’t use the crate as a form of punishment; simply lead your puppy there with a toy and place her in calmly. Sometimes, you both need a timeout from each other!

A crate does have the following drawbacks, however:

It doesn’t communicate leadership.

It separates you from your puppy when you’re at home.

It can’t communicate how to behave in the house.


If the idea of a crate turns your stomach, or if you’re home all day and you can get through the early stages without one, use a playpen or small, gated room. If your puppy is older, you can lead or station her to keep her close as described later in the chapter.


Gates come in handy to do the following:

Close off a playroom when you’re around to supervise your puppy or play with her

Block stairways

Control your puppy’s access to a dangerous or off-limits room


Some people feel less guilty when leaving their puppies in large gated areas, rather than in small rooms or crates. Big mistake. Big rooms make a puppy  feel displaced and lonely — she may potty or chew out of sheer anxiety. Dogsare den animals who feel safest in small, manageable spaces. If your goal is peaceful separations, enclose your puppy in a crate or small enclosure when you leave for more than a few minutes. If you’re leaving for more than six hours, consider the playpen as a happy medium, and locate a dog walker to break up her day. See the next section for more info on playpens.



A playpen, which is a fully functional enclosure, is quite the multifunctional little purchase. It can be used for the following purposes:

Acclimating her to other pets

– Containing your puppy when you’re out of sight

Keeping her out of wide thoroughfares

Paper training her

Temporarily containing her outside

A folding playpen (see Figure 5-1) can be tucked away or transported easily.
Figure 5-1: A playpen is a safe and portable place for your puppy to stay.

Toys, bones, and treats

Promise me one thing: You won’t buy out the pet store when in the toy and bone aisle. Puppies, like children, have specific likes and dislikes, and overwhelming your pup with options is disruptive. She’ll grow up thinking everything on the floor is fair game — even your beloved, oh-so-broken-in slippers.


Your puppy’s first days will be spent nosing about — interactive play can take 2 to 4 weeks to emerge. Even older puppies have to get their bearings straight before they feel comfortable enough to play. Meanwhile, test your puppy’s likes and dislikes by giving her one toy or bone at a time. When you discover one that strikes her fancy, you can then buy multiples.


Puppies like things that bounce and roll. You’ll have plenty of selection, and for the record, your puppy won’t mind if you choose a red ball or a blue one — it just needs to bounce. Toys come in as many different shapes as you’d find in a high school geometry book, so prepare yourself. The psychology behind an odd shaped toy? Animals of prey never run in a predictable pattern, thus why should your toy? Some squeak, others make noise, and many have holes in which you’re encouraged to stuff a creamy spread or kibbles. Choose a couple, discover what capture’s your puppy’s heart, and you’re set.
You’ll also find stuffed toys at the pet store, most of them containing squeaks — again meant to stimulate the sound of prey animals. Many puppies love to toss and play with these. However, some insist on ripping them limb from limb to dismember the object until the squeaker is removed. This isn’t an ideal toy for this crowd: For these pups, search for toys with the word “indestructible” on the packaging.


When you say the word “puppy” at the pet store, you’re going to get tons of advice on which gadget or bone is best. Some people say one is great, while others may disagree. Generally, you can’t go wrong with indestructible plastic, but the problem is that most puppies find them, well, boring. Rawhide is accepted by the masses, but it’s problematic with dogs who chew obsessively because they gulp it as they go.


Personally, I’ve had the most luck with pressed rawhide, animal-part sticks, and vegetable-matter pulp bones. Test it out yourself — find a bone that satisfies your puppy’s craving, make sure it passes the “systems” test (her digestive system, that is), and buy it in bulk!


To treat or not to treat? That used to be the question. Now the question is “What type of treat is best?” Honestly, if your puppy is gaga for her kibble, use it to reward her, borrowing against portions of her meal. If she’s cool on her kibbles, test out some small or easily broken treats from the pet store. Remember that it’s not the size of the treat but your enthusiasm when sharing that’s the best reinforcement!


Avoid grocery store treats. Most are junky and fill your puppy up with additives that can cause stomach upset, gas, and behavioral frustrations.


Even though you’ll find some adorable and comfy dog beds on the market, resist the urge to buy a collection until your puppy is housebroken and past her chewing phase: Either habit can make waste of your cozy purchase! Instead, fold up an old quilt or purchase flat mats that can be spread out to help your puppy identify with a place in her room. Toys can be contained to her mat, and her food and water dishes can be placed nearby.


If the puppy has a strong chewing tendency, skip the bedding. Ingested blankets and towels can cause serious intestinal problems in puppies.


Take your pup’s mat with you wherever you go. It will help your puppy feel safe and at home whether you’re going to the vet, for a stay at the kennel, or on a family trip. It’s like having a security blanket!

Two leashes

I discuss training leashes in the section “As Puppy Grows Up: Training Leashes and Collars.” For now, all you need to purchase is a lightweight nylon leash and a long line, which you use for outdoor playtime in open areas (away from streets) and, later, for advanced training.

A drag lead

Drag lead is a fancy term for a short (4 to 6 feet), lightweight nylon leash that stays on your puppy when you’re together in the house. A drag lead is useful for quick corrections that distance you from the activity, whether the activity be jumping on the counters, chewing a plant, or nipping at the kids.

A long line

Long lines (30 feet and over) are great to let your puppy romp around the yard and to encourage distance control. Constructed from canvas or nylon mesh, a long line allows freedom to play, and yet it also gives you plenty of leash to grab onto to retrieve your puppy if she should wander off.
For young puppies, long lines are great for wandering in a yard or field — take along some favorite snacks and reward your puppy each time she checks in with you. You can also use long lines to encourage off-lead training.


Microchips: Built-in lifesavers

Your veterinarian and breeder are likely to suggest that you microchip your puppy. I strongly recommend this too! Your veterinarian will inject into your puppy’s neck or shoulder (no more painful than a typical shot) a preregistered, computer-recognizable identification chip. If your puppy gets lost or ends up at a shelter, a simple wave of the wand allows your puppy to be returned to you immediately. Many breeders have a microchip inserted in each puppy’s shoulder before sending them home. If your pup hasn’t had a microchip inserted, make an appointment immediately.

ID tag

Even though you won’t secure this tag on your puppy until she’s conditioned to her collar, it’s good to have one on hand. Some national-chain pet stores now have machines that create personalized tags in minutes. I find the best message to write is “Please Help Me Home [555-555-5555].” Use an ID tag in addition to the microchip, since lay people can’t identify the information on the microchip without the appropriate machinery.


I suggest that you not add your puppy’s name to her tag because it could endear her to wrongdoers. Also, you can add the word “Reward” if you’re prepared to offer one.

A few other odds and ends

Treat cups: To create a treat cup for your puppy, purchase an inexpensive plastic container (or use an emptied deli container), cut a small round hole in the lid, and fill it half full with dried kibbles or broken-up dog treats. By connecting the sound of the cup shaking with a food reward, you can use the treat cup to cheerfully condition your puppy’s cooperation from game playing to name association to fetching.

More on its uses in Chapters Kids and Puppies and Using Cool Tools and Groovy Gadgets.

Snack packs: Purchase or find a fanny pack. Stow snacks and poop bags in it and take it with you when you go outside with your pup. You’ll have the snacks handy for rewarding your puppy for returning to you and for outdoor pottying. Check out Chapter Using Cool Tools and Groovy Gadgets for more uses of snack packs.

Clicker: A clicker is a small handheld toy that, when depressed, lets out a clear noise that is unmistakable. When this sound is paired with a treat, your puppy will go to great lengths to initiate the noise. You may use the clicker to teach basic skills or shape household manners like housebreaking and greeting rituals. Flip to Chapter Using Cool Tools and Groovy Gadgets to find out more.

As Puppy Grows Up: Training Leashes and Collars

Later, after your puppy gets settled into her new home and starts growing up a bit, you’ll need to make another trip to the store — for training leashes and collars. This section covers some of the different kinds of equipment you’ll encounter at the store.


Training collars and leashes may make you and your puppy’s lifestyle feel restricted, even overly structured. When used properly, however, they aid in helping your puppy to earn household freedom — besides, using them is a temporary thing!

Training leashes

Leads are a training essential. They also enable you to keep your puppy secured. The car comes to mind quickly. While you’re driving, keep your puppy secured for her safety, as well as your own peace of mind. During romps, too. If you’re not in a confined area, don’t let your puppy run free.

Retractable leashes

Retractable leashes are fun when used in the right setting. The longer, the better. Initially, this leash is great for exercising. Your puppy can run like mad while you stand there reading the morning newspaper. When you progress to off-leash work (see Chapter Graduating to Off-Lead Control), the retractable leash is a staple. Its design works like a fishing reel, letting length in and out. Although using it takes some coordination, once you’ve mastered it, you probably won’t be able to live without it.


You do need to take a few precautions, however. Don’t use a retractable leash near roads or heavily populated areas. Its high-tech design takes getting used to, and even a seasoned pro can lose hold of the slack. If you’re out with other people, watch their legs. Most puppies get a little nutty when you give them some freedom to run. If a person gets sandwiched between you and your prancing puppy, he’s in for a wicked rope burn. It’s best to keep playtimes private.

Teaching Lead or equivalent

As your puppy matures, she’ll want to hang with you when you’re home. The same puppy who curled up quietly in the kitchen while you showered will eventually protest the separation. Simply dismantling the gates won’t be the answer. A young puppy gets overwhelmed with too much freedom, even inside the house, so you’ll want to keep her on a lead. (Don’t worry about keeping your puppy on a lead in the house; it’s only temporary.)


To keep it simple and structured, you can use a technique called the Teaching Lead Method, which I explain in more detail in Chapter Teaching Everyday Etiquette. The three aspects of this method — leading, anchoring, and stationing — are invaluable to condition your puppy to household freedom and civilized walking manners. Use this chapter to find out how the Teaching Lead Method can

Take the place of the crate when you’re home.

Encourage good manners inside and out.

Teach everyday commands, such as “Stay,” “Heel,” and “Come.”

Resolve housebreaking, jumping, nipping, and other annoying habits.

Seat Belt Safety Lead (SBSL)

Letting your puppy ride in your lap or hang her body halfway out the window when you drive may seem like a good idea, but it’s really not. Maybe I’ve witnessed too many accidents, but to me, cars aren’t toys, and your puppy is too precious to lose in a fender bender. Here’s my safety rule: Confine your puppy while driving. If you’re preoccupied with your puppy when you should be paying attention to the road, you’re creating a safety hazard for both of you and other motorists.
Either use a crate to block your puppy in the back seat or cargo area of a station wagon or SUV, or secure your puppy with a system I call the Seat Belt Safety Lead (SBSL), which protects puppies in the same way a seat belt protects people.


You can reference my Web site ( for photos specifying leash use and collar options.

Short lead

“Short” is relative to the size of your puppy. A short lead should not be more than 8 inches; for small dogs, 1 to 3 inches will do. You can use it for encouraging manners and for off-leash training. Here’s the theory behind both:

Encouraging good manners. A lot of clients complain that their puppies behave like a saint on leash, but when they take the leash off, the old derelict emerges. A short leash can serve as a nice transition from using a regular leash to full-fledged freedom. Wearing a short lead reminds the puppy that you’re still watching her; it also gives you something to grasp for correction purposes if you need to.

Off-lead training. When you progress into off-leash work (see Chapter Graduating to Off-Lead Control), the short lead again serves as a reminder of your presence and authority. In addition, it gives you something to grab graciously if your puppy slips up.

Training collars

Adjustable collars made of cotton, nylon, or leather are called buckle collars. Buckle collars don’t slide or choke. Their purpose is to carry your puppy’s ID tags. On the flip side, the purpose of a training collar is to discourage lunging and leading you on the leash as you use positive reinforcement to encourage your puppy’s focus. If you have a puppy who would rather chase a leaf than stay with you, you need to invest in a training collar. This section clues you in to the different types of training collars available.


You can’t simply ask for a training collar. You need to be more specific. Many different types of collars are available, and finding the one for your situation is a must. An ineffective training collar can hurt your puppy, as well as hinder the training process.

You have quite a few collars to choose from. If you’re confused about which one is most appropriate, ask someone who knows: Other trainers, veterinarians, pet store professionals, or groomers may be helpful. Keep in mind, though, that some dog people are one-collar oriented and tell you that only one type works. Stay away from that advice; every situation is different. What may work wonders for you could be someone else’s nightmare. Choose a collar that works for you from those described in this section (try them all out if you have to).


Although head collars and no-pull harnesses (discussed later in this section) are safe options and will condition cooperative walking skills from the start, avoid using all other training collars on a puppy younger than 16 weeks. Remove the collar when you leave your pup unattended because it can be deadly if snagged. Put your puppy’s tags on a buckle collar.

Head collar

Head collars are my favorite choice for puppies, and they can be used from the start — even with puppies as young as 8 weeks of age. They’re also ideal when original training collars fail. All my dogs have used the head collar system in their first year: It’s a nonconfrontational conditioning tool that encourages cooperation and good following skills from the start.


You may think this collar looks like a muzzle when you first see it. Trust me, though; it’s not a muzzle. Puppies can eat, chew, and play happily while sporting their head collar. In fact, using this collar is probably the most humane way to walk a dog. It eliminates internal or external pressure around the neck. Using it is similar to handling a horse on a halter.

So how does this wonder collar work? It works on the “mommy” principle. When your puppy was very young, her mom would correct her by grasping her muzzle and shaking it. This communicated “Hey, wild one, settle down!” The head collar has the same effect. Left on during play, the pressure on the nose discourages rowdiness and mouthing. By placing a short lead on your puppy when you’re expecting company, you can effectively curb jumping habits. Barking frenzies are drastically reduced, and training is made simple as you guide your puppy from one exercise to the next.
For those of you who can look beyond its muzzlelike appearance, the head collar is a safe, effective, humane training tool that gives you a leg up in correcting negative behavior patterns. Another plus is that leading by the chin demands minimal physical strength, so nearly everyone can use it — kids too. Here are a few more notes:

Wearing time. How often you should leave the head collar on is a question best answered by your puppy. If yours is relatively well behaved, you can use it exclusively during walks and lessons. If she’s the mouthing, jumping, or barking type, leave the collar on whenever you’re around. Remove it at night or when you’re out.

Sizing your head collar. Head collars have a sizing scale. The head collar must fit properly around your puppy’s neck. If it’s too loose, your puppy can pull it off and perhaps chew it. You want the neck strap to fit watch-band tight around your puppy’s neck about her ears, with enough room to fit two fingers under her neck. You may need to tie a knot with the remaining slack after you adjust it to prevent it from loosening.

Observe how your puppy reacts. Initially, puppies don’t love the idea of a head collar. Their reaction reminds me of the first day my mother dressed me in lace — I hated it. But after an hour or so, I hardly noticed it at all. I learned to tolerate it. So will your puppy. When you see her flopping about like a flounder, take a breath. After she realizes she can’t get the collar off, she’ll forget about it. Some puppies take an hour to adjust to the feel of the collar; some take a day or two. If you give this collar a try, you may have to tolerate some resistance. Be patient.


If a head collar irritates your puppy’s nose, buy Dr. Scholl’s moleskin at the drugstore and wrap it around the nose piece. It’s softer and will feel more comfortable. If that treatment is ineffective, remove the head collar and contact your veterinarian for ointment.

Harnesses and other gadgets

On the market are several no-pull harness designs that I’ve found very effective in encouraging good following skills in puppies as young as 8 weeks. Further, a harness is an ideal system for small or giant-size breeds and can be used safely if a puppy’s neck is simply too fragile to bear the resistance of a neck collar (noted by constant hacking when attached to a neck collar). It prevents pulling by humanely curbing your puppy’s gait.
Some people use other generic harnesses. Although you can use a harness, with many puppies, harnesses may instigate a pull-back response, forcing your puppy in front of you, not beside you. A regular harness is best used to sport tags with smaller breeds or to be used in car travel.

The original correction collar

I call this collar the “original” because it has been around the longest. It has some other names too, like a chain or choke collar, even though when used properly, it should never choke your puppy. Choking and restraining only aggravate problems. It’s the sound of the collar, not the restraint, that teaches. To be effective, you must put on the collar properly and master the zipper tug.


If put on backwards, this collar will catch in a vise hold around your puppy’s neck and do what the collar is not supposed to do — choke.

Take these steps to ensure you put on the collar correctly:

1. Decide which side you want your puppy to walk on.

You must be consistent; puppies are easily confused. Because left is traditional, I use left as my reference.

2. Take one loop of the collar and slide the chain slack through it.

3. Create the letter P with the chain.

4. Holding the chain out, stand in front of your puppy. Show her the chain.

5. Give your puppy a treat as you praise her and slide the loop of the P over her head.


In order to effectively train your puppy with this collar, you must master the “zipper tug.” Your puppy should learn by the sound of the collar, not the restraint. When used properly, a quick tug, which sounds like a zipper, corrects your puppy’s impulse to disobey or lead. Practice the zipper tug without your puppy:

1. Stand up straight and relax your shoulders, letting your arms hang loosely at your sides.

2. Place your hand just behind your thigh and snap your triceps so that your elbow swings back freely.

If it helps, pretend that someone else’s hand is there and you’re trying to hit it.

After you have the hang of the movement, find your puppy. Place your hand over the leash and tug quickly as she starts to lead forward.
If you find yourself in a constant pull battle with your puppy that’s only broken by occasional hacking, investigate other collar options, especially the self-correcting collar or head collar.


How many ways do you think you can hold the leash? Just one way when you’re training your puppy. If you hold the lead improperly, pulling up instead of back, you’ll pull your puppy off the ground, which chokes her. To hold the leash correctly, wrap your thumb around the bottom of the lead and your fingers over the top. Keep your arm straight as you walk your puppy and quickly tug straight back when necessary.

Nylon training collar

These collars work best on fine-haired dogs. Like the original choke, you slide it over the head in a P position. You can use this collar with more cooperative dogs. Count your blessings if your puppy falls into one of these categories.

Self-correcting collar

I admit that this collar is big and bulky, and the stainless steel version looks nothing short of torturous. Fortunately, though, this collar has been replicated in plastic, which is visibly more appealing and far less intense for your puppy. It’s humane for hard-to-manage dogs — especially if you fall into the Ican’t-stop-choking-my-puppy category using an original training collar. This collar works wonders for puppies who are insensitive to pain or too powerful to be persuaded with simpler devices.
The plastic collar has been termed a “good dog collar,” though the metal version is still referred to as a prong collar; I reference both throughout the book as self-correcting because the collar requires little strength on your part. A slight tug will alert even the rowdiest of puppies to slow down


If you decide to try this collar, let me warn you: Occasionally, these collars pop off. To prevent a possible emergency, purchase an oversized training collar and attach your leash to both when walking in an unconfined area. Use this collar only when you’re working with your puppy on a leash.

Prepping Your House for Your Puppy’s Arrival

Prepping your home for a puppy is much like setting up a nursery. Like formal preparations for bringing home a baby, readying the house before you get your puppy will take a load off your mind when the day finally arrives. Lay out your purchases and read on to get started!

Puppy’s room


Your puppy needs her own space to get away from the hubbub. Because a tired puppy can become ornery (just like you), designate a quiet area that can be darkened like a child’s nursery. Whether you choose a crate or a gated room, make it cozy by laying down a flat mat and a couple of toys to occupy her when she’s restless (think pacifier). Avoid fluffy beds or cushions because both can encourage chewing or accidents. A radio can be placed nearby to play calming music while you’re out of the room.


An especially helpful product for puppies is called a SnugglePuppy, which mimics the warmth and comfort of a pup’s mom. The substitute companion has a pocket for heating packs and has a motorized beating heart. These features make the SnugglePuppy ideal for easing your puppy’s transition from her first family to her final one.

Free play zones


Designate a free play zone, which is an enclosed room for play and interaction. A carpet-free space is ideal — especially if your puppy isn’t housebroken. Roll up area rugs too because the fringe and corners may tempt a pup to chew and the absorbent texture may prompt elimination. Tape wires down, remove low-sitting temptations, and place your shoes elsewhere. You can also create a play station in this room (see the next section).


If your free play zone will correspond with another pet’s domain, reorganize their area well in advance of the puppy’s arrival. For example, if your cat’s bowls and litter box are within the puppy’s area, relocate them ahead of time so that your cat won’t feel displaced by the new arrival. For more tips on introducing your pup to the resident pets, flip to the section “Introducing other pets,” later in this chapter.

Play stations

Help your puppy identify an area of the free play zone that is home base. This area will be your puppy’s play station. Place a flat mat, folded quilt, or bed in a spot set off or portioned by walls. Put your puppy’s toys and bones on the mat, and if possible, arrange her dishes nearby. Sit there with your puppy and treat her so she thinks that area is special. If you make this area the focal point of your interactions, your puppy will bond to it quickly (see Figure 5-2).
As you introduce new rooms in the house, either bring your play station or create a permanent one in this room. Your puppy should have a pre-established play station in each room you plan to share.
Figure 5-2: Establish play stations throughout your home.
If you’re adopting an older puppy, create play stations in every room and she’ll always feel welcomed.

Feeding areas


Feed your puppy by her play station in her free play zone or, if she’s distractible, in her crate. Place one dish for water and one for food. Take up the bowls at appropriate times and wash the dishes after every feeding.

The route

Whether you’re paper training or teaching your puppy to go potty outside, decide on a route through shared rooms to the door or papered location. (See Chapter Housetraining for Success for a diagram.)


Place papers in the decided area or select a door and potty area no more than 10 to 20 feet from your home’s entrance.

 The Ride Home

The day has finally arrived. You’ve thought ahead, prepared family members and friends, and probably shared your excitement with a few strangers. Yes, this ride will be a literal thrill ride for you. Your puppy, however, may feel a little differently. Leaving her dog family for the first time and being separated from her birth mom can be stressful and scary.


Make every effort to plan as stress-free a trip home as possible. If you can, arrange the trip during her nap time. Also think through both the best- and worst-case scenarios, so that you’ll be prepared for anything that may happen. For example, think of the following scenarios:

Best-case scenario: Your puppy will sleep the entire way home. Keep your energy subdued and speak softly to your puppy if she wakes up. Calming music may also be effective.

Worst-case scenario: Your puppy will throw up, howl, or have an extreme case of diarrhea. The worst-case scenario is a drag, I know, but it happened to me once and it may happen to you. Pack three rolls of paper towel, plastic bags, your favorite carpet or upholstery cleaner, and towels. No matter how disappointed, disgusted, or frustrated you become, don’t stress or correct your puppy.


Here’s your checklist for the trip:

Paper towels

A towel to spread under the crate to prevent slipping or to clean up accidents

Light collar with an identifying phone number in case of emergency or accident

A few chewies or a soft toy

A SnugglePuppy, if you’ve purchased one — batteries and heat packs included

You’re good to go!


If you’re traveling in a car or by plane, crate your puppy in an appropriately sized plastic kennel. Plastic kennels can be purchased at a local pet store in advance. Ask the breeder or caretaker what size is most appropriate for your pup. In the car, secure the kennel by bracing it with pillows or literally tie it down on a leveled surface and play calming music as you navigate home. If you’ve purchased a SnugglePuppy, use it now and for the next few days to help ease your puppy’s sense of isolation. If others are riding with you, ask that they sit near the opening of the kennel and speak softly to the puppy when she wakes up.


Don’t sit the puppy in your lap while driving. Driving is enough of a chore, and to make matters worse, a slight fender bender may release the air bag. Like infants, your puppy won’t survive the blow.

Making the First Introductions

When planning your first day with your new pup, remember to keep it simple. If you have kids or other dogs, tire them out and use bribes to ensure their cooperation. Don’t tolerate fighting and commotion — your puppy will have enough on her mind. Keep all stress at bay for the next 24 hours. One simple way to relieve some stress is to reschedule home-repair appointments. Let this be your puppy’s day.


If you’re welcoming home a young puppy, between 8 to 12 weeks, introduce her to one main room, such as the kitchen, for the first week. An older puppy can be gradually exposed to new areas of the house, but make sure you use a leash because unleashed she’s likely to explore or chew or soil areas you rather she not. You’ll be forced to interfere, which can cycle into a pattern of behavior because your attention is the strongest reinforcement. On leash a gentle tug can guide her to areas or toys and help her to format acceptable behaviors from the start. If you’re planning to let your new pup sleep near you at night, use a large, open box or crate as a bed and carry her there after her last potty run.

Rolling out your welcome mat

The day that your puppy first comes home may be on a future “fondest memories of childhood” list — talk about excitement. However, it’s your job to keep the kids calm because too much squealing and loving in the first five minutes can be somewhat overwhelming for a pup.


Explain the situation ahead of time and ask your children to help you make the puppy feel comfortable. The rule is that they can follow quietly and speak gently, but roughhousing, shouting, and fighting is forbidden. This may be your last peaceful moment for a while, so enjoy it!

Forming a welcome circle

Gather everyone and create a large circle by spreading your legs so your feet touch. Give everyone a handful of the puppy’s kibble and place her in the center of the circle. Let her approach everyone on her own and show everyone in advance how to pet and hold her to make her feel safe and welcome.

Calming the kids


If you have more than one child, chances are likely that they’ll compete with each other for the puppy’s attention. Here are a few tricks I’ve found useful in dispelling early tension, frustrations, and physical fights:

Model, model, model: The saying “Monkey see, monkey do” applies to children, too! Because your children pick up on habits by watching you, show them how to act with actions instead of words. I can assure you that something is bound to not go as planned (your child will have a tantrum, your partner will not be as excited or interested as you), but if you stay calm and ignore the impulse to badger or boss, you’ll have a calmer home on your hands. Kids, and even some spouses, react poorly to negative reprimands. Stay cheerful and model the right behavior as your children are watching. Like monkeys, they see — and then they do.

Assign tasks: Assign everyone a task ahead of time by using the chart in Chapter Kids and Puppies. Make raising the puppy a fun family affair where everyone plays the role of the parent.

Advanced discussions: Talk to your children ahead of time. Get them involved in your plans and warn them of all the possible situations that may arise. Tell them that the puppy may be sad and withdrawn and may not want to interact with anyone. Though this may be a letdown, you must respect the puppy. The transition is rough, but she’ll snap out of it in a few days and will be delighted to have such a respectful, loving group to bond to. On the other hand, the puppy may be nippy and rough. So that the children don’t go running from the room, make sure they’re aware and help them interact with the puppy when she’s calm.

Watch, listen, and share: Have a talking toy to pass around the table at mealtimes. Whoever has the toy gets to share a story or a thought about the puppy. We have a sharing shell at our house and whoever has the shell gets to talk (uninterrupted) for as long as they want.

Take the puppy away: Your puppy will get easily riled by your children and may express herself through nipping, jumping, and tugging. To prevent this behavior, tell your children in advance that if they get too riled up, you’ll take the puppy aside. The key to this technique is to follow through.


Talk to your kids about the different phases of puppyhood — comparing it to different-age children they know. Using the section “The Five Stages of Puppy Development” in Chapter Socialization and Civility, help your kids understand exactly what’s going on with your puppy at each age.

For example, an 8- to 12-week-old puppy needs a lot of sleep because her brain is still developing. Thus, yelling should be avoided because it only creates fear or (worse) confrontation. Older puppies may nip a lot and want to engage in tug of war, which shows they’re determining where they fit into the group and just who they can boss around.

Introducing other pets

Though it may come as a letdown to you and your family, you have to realize that your resident pets will not be wearing party hats when you walk through the door with a new companion in your arms. Young puppies in particular are annoying — and the oodles of attention she’ll garner from everyone will be totally off-putting to the resident pet. It may take some time for the two to get used to each other.


Here are some tips to help ease the tension:

Keep your new puppy in a confined area. If you choose an area (the kitchen, for example) that has been the feeding area for your other pet, think ahead. A week before your puppy comes home, change the feeding area to a quieter environment. Do this for litter boxes and caged pets, as well. Move them well ahead of time to ensure a positive association.

After your puppy is in the home, introduce the smell of the resident pet to your puppy first. Then take a blanket from the pup and place it near your resident pet.

If the resident pet is caged, bring your puppy into its room after a meal and playtime. This restful state calms the scenario. Bring in your puppy’s favorite mat and chew toy and sit near the cage, petting your puppy calmly. Repeat this exercise often.

Royalties to the resident pets

All royalties go to your resident pets — especially in the initial stages. Here’s some advice regarding your resident pets:

Feed them first (dividing their meals into three parts if necessary).

Treat, greet, and play with them first and foremost.

If the resident is a dog, let her pass first (on stairs or through doorways).

If your resident pet approaches you while you or anyone is interacting with the puppy, turn away from the puppy and address her immediately.


If you follow these tips, I assure you that your puppy’s feelings will not be hurt. She’ll grow respectful of your other pet and act accordingly. Aside from conditioning your resident to the idea that the new addition guarantees more food and attention for her, you’re reinforcing respect for those pets who came first.

Other dogs

It’s unlikely that your older dog will be keen on the idea of sharing his space with a new puppy. If you’re bringing home an older puppy, introduce the two in a neutral area. Otherwise, bring your resident dog out of the main living space to meet the new addition. Whatever his reaction, stay calm as you focus your affections on your resident pet. Follow these tips:

Organize the introduction, preferably at a time your resident pet is most calm.

If you’re introducing a young puppy, have a friend hold her (if she’s not inoculated, don’t let her frolic in an open environment) as you approach with your dog on a loose leash.

Feed your dog treats as you focus your attention on him.

Once he’s accepting, invite your friend to carry the puppy into your home.

If you’re concerned about your dog’s reaction, buy a playpen or crate ahead of time and place the puppy in it as you continue to react with your dog as though the puppy were not there.

Stay calm as they interact and keep your attention focused on your dog. If any altercations happen, side with your resident. It’s normal for him to “put the puppy in her place,” using seemingly dramatic postures. Stay calm and let them work it out.

If you’re introducing an older puppy, bring the two to an enclosed space and let them greet each other on their own terms. If you’re nervous, you can muzzle both dogs, although I don’t recommend it. Let them figure each other out, and then let your resident lead the new puppy into the home.


Growling, teeth snarls, and pinning are actually very good signs of normal acceptance. The big dog is showing the little dog who is boss. Your puppy may actually shriek, roll over, and pee. Again, don’t interfere. If you comfort the new puppy, you may alienate your resident dog and make the relationship between them rocky. The puppy shrieks communicate volumes and let the big dog know just how submissive and defenseless the little dog is. It is all good. Let them work it out in their own way.


If you’re earnestly concerned that your resident dog might harm the puppy, muzzle him or leave a leash dragging to enable easy interference.

Some older dogs completely withdraw, going so far as to act as if they’ve never met you. Don’t be put off. Instead, just shower them with love and attention. If your youngster badgers or bullies your resident dog for sport, discourage it immediately by using a drag lead or a spray away.


Most cats could live without a puppy in the house. Some are fearful of puppies, while others are outright annoyed. Sometimes you’ll see them head for the highest cabinet, only to stare at you reproachfully. If you have a confident cat, he’ll probably wait stoically for the puppy to approach close enough for him to give the pup a solid bat on the nose. In any case, keep your responses lowkey. Overreacting can put all species on edge.
Following are some suggestions to make the introductions go as smoothly as possible:

If you’re introducing a cat, place the puppy in an enclosed room or crate (with a special chewy for diversion) and let your cat wander around the room at his own will. Don’t try to influence or interfere in your cat’s reaction. If your puppy starts acting wildly, however, step in to calm her.

When your cat is accustomed to the puppy’s presence (it may take awhile, perhaps a week), place your puppy on a light drag lead and bring the two together in a small room. Hold your puppy’s lead if she acts up and divert her with a toy.

Don’t be too surprised if your cat growls or bats at the puppy. Corrections only make matters worse. Your cat is defining her space, which is a necessary boundary for coexistence.


If your cat can’t come to grips with the idea, keep the two separated until your puppy is acclimated to a leash and collar and can understand the concept of “No.”

Other animals

If you have other pets in the house, such as ferrets, birds, or rodents, give the puppy a few days to acclimate to you before introducing the rest of the menagerie. If your pup’s reaction concerns you, attach a leash to curb her reaction.
Also try the following suggestions:

If you have a free-roaming animal, introduce him as you would a cat.

If this animal generally lives in a cage, bring the cage out when your puppy is calm and her needs (eat, bathroom, play) have been satisfied.

If your puppy is impulsive, sniffing intently, place her on a head collar before you proceed.

Use treat cups and/or a clicker to keep her focus on you while you simply hang out as if there were no cage in the room. If she looks at the animal calmly, fine; if she gets overstimulated, tug her leash and say “No.” Redirect with a familiar cue. Work at short 10- to 20-minute intervals until your puppy is calm around your other pet.


When I was a kid, I got a French lop-eared bunny. Shadow, the bunny, grew to be a whopping 24 pounds. Unfortunately, another favorite pet of mine, Shawbee, my Siberian Husky-Shepherd mix, decided that 24 pounds was big enough. The inevitable happened: Shawbee ate Shadow. It was a horrible sight to see. The moral of this story is that if your puppy won’t give up her snackhunting vigil, you may have to reconsider keeping both under the same roof.

Saving your friends for another day

Everyone gets excited when they hear the word “puppy.” Friends and neighbors crawl out of the woodwork and want to welcome you home. Don’t be persuaded! Limit early introductions to only the closest friends and family. Resist extracurricular visits and drive-by welcomes until the next week, when your puppy has fully transitioned into your home and has bonded with you and the people closest to you.


Sometimes your friends can be the hardest to control. Many will have opinions and will, without provocation, share their views on everything from housetraining to how to discipline your puppy when she misbehaves. Promise me one thing: You won’t listen to them. Even though they may speak the gospel about what worked for their puppy, you’re not raising their puppy — you’re raising your own. Like children, what works for one pup may not work for another. If you follow everyone’s advice, you risk confusing your puppy. If you need more help than this book offers, skip your friends’ advice and sign up for a class or call a respected professional.


When the time has finally come for you to introduce your new pup to your friends, here are some tips for the formal introductions: Ask your guest to come in calmly and sit on the floor. If your puppy is jumpy and excited, show your guest how to “close shop” by folding his arms in front of his face. Brace your puppy by clipping your thumb over her collar and resting your other hand on her back (Chapter Life from His Paws: Understanding Your Puppy’s View of the World). If she’s still too excited or nervous, offer her a toy to dispel her anxiety. By ignoring her when she’s excited and petting her when she’s calm, you’re getting a head start on encouraging good manners.

What to Expect the First Week

Well, you’ve made it home! All the anticipation has come to this very moment. Even though you want to rush in and give your newest member the full tour, hold your huskies! Simplify the day by showing her the main area that you’ve already customized, and share in her curiosity as she checks out the room.


Speak to her softly and don’t correct her or respond if she has an accident or chews on something she shouldn’t. Right now, she’s too disoriented to retain anything, so you’ll only succeed in frightening her. Relax. You’ll do fine. This is just the beginning.

Surviving the first 24 hours

Prepare yourself and your family for the fact that the first day home with your puppy can be a little odd. After all the anticipation and preparation, your puppy is home. She may jump right into the mix, or she may pass out for days. You may get one who sleeps straight through the night, or she may be up all night whining. Your puppy may be rough, sweet, or completely aloof. Don’t take anything personally. This adventure is all very new and she’s just trying to get a handle on what’s going on.


Initially, enclose her in a room and just observe. If she seems interested in your presence, follow her about, preferably on all fours. If she sniffs, sniff back. If she’s interested in looking out the window, join her. Reflect her interests calmly. If your puppy wants to rest, be a quiet presence. When she wakes up, take her to her designated potty place and give her water. Try not to overwhelm her with your interests or affections. She needs time to adjust.

Days 2–7

The first week is very progressive. By day 2 or 3, you’ll notice your puppy taking you in — watching you and getting excited when you walk through the door. You may be surprised to note the different reactions, but remember, her emerging personality is a sure sign that she feels safe and welcomed. Use the “Needs Chart” in Chapter Socialization and Civility to organize the day, and remain patient with accidents or exploratory chewing, especially if she’s young. If you notice your puppy chewing furniture or wires, use a distasteful spray like Bitter Apple to discourage her. Avoid loud or physical interference because it will only overwhelm your puppy and discourage bonding.


Right now, the most important lessons are

Helping your puppy learn her name as outlined in Chapter Teaching Everyday Etiquette.

Teaching her where to potty as described in Chapter Housetraining for Success.

Make these lessons the focus of your first week and you’ll be well on your way to a wonderful life together!

Bonding moments

When puppies are very young and are experiencing stress, they’re not thinking about you too much. Absorbed in their own confusion, they just want to feel safe and calm. The best way to establish your first loving bond is to create an environment that satisfies both of these needs. Be present for your puppy, but remember silence is more calming than mindless chatter or yelling. If your puppy is small, she’ll feel more nurtured if you’re on the floor next to her than towering above. Puppies like to nestle, and they feel cozy when they find a little cubbyhole — your puppy may even curl into your lap if you let her.


The best approach is to follow your puppy’s rhythm for the first week as she is getting acclimated to her new home and all the others in it. If your puppy wants to sleep, let her — put her in her crate or on her play mat. At feeding time, put her food on or near her mat and leave her alone for 15 minutes. Don’t worry if she doesn’t eat. She’s probably just nervous. Give her some water and take her to her potty spot often.

Ideally, your puppy should sleep near someone at night. She may whine initially, so if possible, keep her at your bedside and lay your hand in the crate or over the side of a large open box.

Sarah Hodgson
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