I don’t believe there is a fixed right way to settle puppy in it’s new home the first few nights after being collected from it’s breeder. Finding out what the breeder has been doing the previous few weeks can give a new puppy parent some insight in to what their puppy has been used too. Whatever the situation though your new puppy is still without it’s siblings and has moved into a new environment with new people and possible other pets as well.
Personally I am not a big endorser of starting a puppy off in the bedroom over the first few nights, I am sure you will come across this method in your research. In my experience to start off there can prove more difficult to reverse when your puppy may well have initially settled elsewhere. It may be a case the bedroom is used if puppy is not able to settle at all without you and this all depends on the individual puppy and its own inner confidence
Somewhere along the line after the first few nights you have to work on changing the bedroom situation if you are not planning on having your dog in the bedroom for life. If you are happy for this then that’s fine but in my experience it will still require some proactive training to change the situation which may cause separation anxiety to develop as the puppy has become used to being with you overnight and bedtime becomes bedtime for all.
I do feel it is a choice every new puppy owner has to make and it very much depends on the personality of the individual puppy, how it had been reared, genetics and breed type characteristics can play a huge part in how easily your puppy will settle the first few nights. Certain breeds such as gundogs have been bred to have a close attachment with their human. Other breeds dislike being isolated but are fine if another dog or animal is with them. It is very much a case of having a plan set up that you are happy with and you have acquired all the necessary equipment prior and be prepared to tweak this as and if you need to.
The method I recommend I have used myself for my own puppies and I have recommended to the puppy parents of puppies I have bred in the past. Even being a gundog breed every single one of my puppies has slept through their first nights in another area of the home to their owners. Yes, there may have been a couple of minutes of whining on the owner departure but then puppy has re-settled for the night. This is the method I have passed onto to all my clients of many different breeds who have reported back happily on the successful settling of their new puppies.
I am very conscious of separation anxiety problems later on so it worth seeing the early days through in allowing your puppy time to grow an independence in being able to settle on their own. Collecting your puppy in the morning is advantageous as your puppy will have some time to get to know you and have a nap in the day time before the first night experience. Indeed being there for your puppy and on hand for the first few weeks during the day builds bonds and gives your puppy a sense of security in it’s new home and this helps the puppy feel safe to be able to self entertain and to self sooth into restful sleep. Being on hand does not mean never leaving your puppy alone at all, day alone times are built up gradually whilst you puppy has nap times and this helps to continue the good night-time regime .
I also believe that dogs in general sleep more sounder not in the close presence of their humans as with any movement or noise we make in the night can alert out dogs.
If you puppy whines, barks or cries certainly offering some assurance that someone is about and they are not isolated is recommended but there is a fine line between being there for your puppy to see or becoming your puppy’s sleep comforter.
Rescue puppies that have travelled from other countries may have experienced a grueling journey in confined spaces. In these cases, I may look to have a different routine for the first couple of nights to offer reassurance to the puppy that there are no more huge changes about to happen. For other puppies that have had just the one move from the breeder to their home then this is the regime I have successfully used with great results.
- Firstly, a crate is a good long-term asset, but I much prefer to add an X pen to the crate joined onto the open end of the crate. Closed crates initially for puppies first experience in their new home can be too confining and frightening. If your breeder has crated trained then this may be an option to continue but remember it is very different now for your puppy as it no longer as the company of it’s siblings. If using a crate only option be certain to obtain the biggest possible option you can accommodate so it works like an X-pen with a roof. Certainly, crate training can proceed if the aim is that your adolescent and adult dog are crate trained but if they have developed a crate phobia in those early days in their new home it is very difficult to eradicate that negative abandonment emotion. X pens can be purchased off eBay, Amazon and Pet Shop outlets and you can make the gates up as you wish. Ensure the height of the pen is suitable for the size of your puppy, they grow quickly so going higher is advised. I have attached example pictures below. If you do not have the space for this a utility area onto a kitchen area with a gate can be used as long as this area is not too isolating for the puppy. Be wary of baby gates as at this age a puppy can push their head through or bite the bars and get their teeth stuck on the rungs, so a purposeful dog gate is better. Or the use of plywood. mesh or cardboard attached to the outer side to prevent this from happening.
- A kitchen/diner area is preferable than the lounge area as your puppy can have evening naps away from you which sets up your night-time routine nicely. If the apartment is in the lounge and your puppy has had your company all evening it can be too much of a sudden shock when it becomes darker, less noisy and puppy suddenly is all alone.
- Ensure puppy has had some mental stimulation and company throughout the day as well as the advised amount of physical exercise for your puppy’s age.
- Tempting as it is, try to not allow your puppy to fall asleep on your lap all of the time, have some occasions when puppy is put to bed as this promotes self- soothing rather than the security of your lap or on your foot! Once they are older, hey that is fine your dog has adapted to both ways.
- Keep to a good routine every night, TV off, last toilet, turn the lights down and a bedtime biscuit or filled Kong. If puppy has slept some of the evening this is normal. More sleep promotes sleep, do not try and over stretch your puppy by stopping it from sleeping in the early mid evening times as often the reverse happens and puppy gets overtired and over stimulated. Quite often this will result in an hour cat nap and then wide awake again.
- Puppies seem to come alive later in the evenings when we are most tired, expect some later bedroom routines for those first few nights until a pattern has formed
- Keep your puppy calm before bedtime, an excited puppy will not be a tired puppy
- A crate with a bed in and attached to an x pen, the crate door open and the x pen door closed.
- Within the bed you can place a puppy safe heated pad to give comfort or a microwaved snuggle pillow, purchased off the internet
- A heartbeat lamb toy can be left with your puppy. Toys can be purchased off the internet for use to help your puppy settle the first few nights. I think these are great!
- Rolled up blankets or jumpers into sausage shapes so they mimic siblings
- A nightlight
- Newspaper as a toilet area one end of the area or puppy pads but sometimes these can get chewed, played with and feel too much like carpet under puppy’s foot. I must prefer paper, an artificial grass toilet or a large flat tray with stones, sand, soil combination.
- A water bowl which is not close to the toilet area. Some bowls clip onto the crate/pen to prevent your puppy knocking them over.
- Give all meals in the pen for the first month and have a cue to go into the pen and close the pen door
- To prevent the onset of separation anxiety I would use the pen for quiet nap times with a Kong or safe enrichment item in the daytime, the Kong can be tied onto the bars sometimes to encourage puppy to lie to eat the contents. (Remember to remove as puppy will surely try chewing/eatting the rope if left unattended for longer periods) People can be around and about in the home so your puppy can hear you are there, but you are not interacting. If you have children or any visitors request that they do not to make a huge fuss of your puppy whilst in the calm, chill out apartment
- To begin with, toilet your puppy and then supply a Kong with some treats in or a final biscuit, I say ‘Night’ quietly and leave the room. You may hear a few cries, whines or attention barks. As long as all your puppy’s needs are being met, I would leave puppy for a few minutes, if after that amount of time your puppy is still being noisy then I would go down to puppy and open the door a little and say ‘shush’ quietly with not actually entering the room then leave again. You may have to repeat but I have found this the most effective way. This should then only take 1-3 nights for things to settle down
- Your puppy will awake at night a number of times to assess the environment is safe, to toilet. have a wander about and to have a drink. They should settle back down themselves even if you hear a few quiet whines first.
- In the morning do not make a big fuss when re-entering the room, calmly let your puppy out of the pen and take out to toilet. Bring your puppy back in and clear up any overnight mess and feed your puppy breakfast back within the pen and then take your puppy out again for another toilet and play time.
- In the daytime do not leave your young puppy for more than 2 hours in the pen at any one time. Ensure your puppy has plenty of interaction with you inside and outside the home when they are not resting. The pen is for sleeping, chilling out and learning some independence from you. If overused for long periods, the pen will become an area of dislike and this in when anxiety starts to set in as your puppy is lonely and bored.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: There is a time when your puppy will become more toileting aware so will not want to soil in the sleeping area or the apartment as it is deemed to now be indoors by the puppy, and it is now going outside to toilet. It depends on your puppy’s breed type but on average around 13-16 weeks of age. Be mindful of this time, as your puppy develops then the night-time whining and barking usually around 4-5am will mean they do need to be let out to the toilet, usually a poop! On hearing this early morning barking it is then fine to go down to your puppy, do not engage just let puppy out to toilet and then place back in the pen again until the appropriate morning time. Within a few weeks your puppy’s physical development will catch up and the night-time toileting will cease. So, prepare for a few broken nights until their digestive system catches up and they are hold then toileting a bit longer.
- A pen is invaluable as it is a safe place and becomes the relaxing area even when you are in the home and you are not encouraging your puppy to shadow you and be with you every minute of the day. If you need to go upstairs or you are starting to go out of the home for short spells your puppy is used to the area and knows it is somewhere safe and secure and your furniture remains intact.
Eventually the time will come when you may consider your puppy has come through the major chewing stage and you no longer require the surrounding pen. This can be broken down to widen the area to the room that the pen was in, whether that was the kitchen, lounge or utility area. Your puppy will just use the crate as his bedroom bed then. Additional crate training may be required to get your puppy used to the door being closed or you may wish to the door open and cover the crate with a blanket making a cosy den area.
With puppies it is not just the night-time situation to be aware of, you can work on this along with prevention of long-term separation anxiety which is far harder to deal with later on. I have experienced for some puppies just the use of an enclosed crate straight away on those first few night can escalate anxiety as the over-night period is too long and puppy can feel trapped then anxiety sets in. Therefore, I advise the use of the two pieces of equipment, a pen and a crate and then the crate can continue to be a positive place later in your dog’s life. If you are not using a crate, then a nice comfortable bed at one end of the pen is fine. The X-pen conditioned as a boundary area day and night is your puppy’s place to relax and feel safe and helps prevents your puppy shadowing which lessens the chances of separation anxiety developing.
I consider this a very important aspect of your puppy’s development and this crucial part of early puppy training often gets over-looked. Yes, toileting is high on the agenda and socialisation but prevention of the on-set of separation anxiety can be sorted with the first few days of getting your puppy if it is placed as a priority and the correct areas are set up.
*** Please note If your puppy is unduly distressed this can promote separation anxiety becoming a problem in the future. Therefore, if your puppy does not settle within the time frame stated, is panting and pacing then another viewpoint should be considered for your individuals puppy’s personality. For the first few nights it may be necessary to have the apartment in your bedroom until your puppy has built its confidence and bonded with you and its new home environment. Then, gradually move it out and then downstairs over a week or so period. Alternatively sleep within your puppy’s sight for the first couple of nights whilst they get accustomed to not having their Mum and siblings around. I have known people doing this in the initial couple of days but don’t leave it much longer than that as it can then become expected by your puppy. Every puppy differs in how they cope with the separation from Mum and siblings. Some will take it in their stride others find the process very difficult but handled correctly they all reach the same point long term.
Once your puppy feels safe and secure in its new home and has bonded with you it will be more willing to accept its apartment enclosure at night away from you. Introducing the apartment for its daily nap times first will help this become the norm for the night-time!