How many times have you imagined bringing your new puppy home? Have you pictured them running through the front door and zooming around your entire house, smelling every single nook and cranny as they excitedly explore their new home? This may sound like a happy picture in our human mind, but this is actually one of the worst ways to introduce a new puppy to their forever home.
Puppy’s brains are like sponges – constantly absorbing and processing new information to learn from their environment and those in it. So if their first experience in your home is one of over-excitement, that is what they will immediately learn the house represents and it will be incredibly difficult to create calm with your puppy inside your home moving forward. It is very easy to create excitement with dogs, especially puppies, but it is much more difficult to create calm. It is for this reason that you should ensure your puppy’s introduction to your home is a very calm, controlled experience that is led by you. This will start your puppy on the right (calm) foot in your home and in your life, making each day moving forward that much easier.
When bringing your puppy from the car and to your home, I once again suggest walking them in on leash as long as they are already used to this tool. If possible, take your new puppy for a short walk down the street or around the block to introduce them to their new environment and to give them some physical exercise to help work through any anxiety or excitement they may be feeling being in a new place.
Once you are at your front door, have your puppy sit and wait calmly as you open the door. Do NOT let your puppy rush into the house ahead of you – a pack leader always leads through doorways no matter what. It may take some time for your puppy to be calm, but be patient! Wait calmly inside the door and allow your puppy to work through their anxiety and excitement on their own, possibly giving them a quick but firm correction if the excitement becomes too much. Once they are siting politely outside of the doorway and they give you eye contact, then invite them to cross the threshold CALMLY. If they rush into the house, repeat the exercise until they get it right. Repeat this same process for every single doorway and threshold in your home. I know it may sound tedious, but skipping these seemly minute but very important details could lead to an overexcited or anxious puppy. As I mentioned earlier your puppy is constantly learning from you, so if you set clear boundaries, limitations, and expectations inside the home from the start they will already have respect for you and view you as their leader.
Once inside your home, the theme of ‘calm’ continues! Keep your puppy on leash as you lead them through your home to their designated puppy area that you set up for them in advance. Your puppy is allowed to be curious and sniff around as they walk through their new home, but they should never lead you anywhere. Once you reach their assigned puppy area, lead them into it and allow them to calmly explore, still keeping them on leash and keeping any excitement to a minimum. Once they are in a calm relaxed state, drop the leash and allow them to explore on their own. I highly suggest leaving a leash on your puppy at all times as this allows you to easily interrupt any unwanted behaviours and will help them get used to this new tool. However, make sure to supervise your puppy constantly when they are wearing the leash to be sure they don’t choke themselves.
By this point you’re probably dying to love up on your new puppy; you’ve been waiting weeks for this after all! Once your puppy is relaxed and settled in their new home and play area, feel free to give them lots of CALM affection. As I mentioned earlier, it is very easy to create excitement with a puppy so when you do give them some affection, make sure it’s slow and relaxed and please do your best not to use a high pitched ‘baby’ voice when you speak to them! Remember, you get what you pet! So as long as your puppy is relaxed and not anxious or excited, cuddles and belly rubs are always welcome.
Introducing your puppy to your home is an incredibly important process that cannot be rushed, so be sure to set aside lots of time so you don’t feel pressure to speed things along. I myself took the entire day off work which allowed me to remain calm and patient throughout the entire introduction process. To give you an idea of what your puppy’s first experience in your home should look like, here’s a little story about Sprout’s first day home.
As I previously mentioned, Sprout did not come to me leash trained. As such, I brought her inside the front door still in her travel crate rather than on leash. We live on a very bust street and I wanted to make her first experience with the leash was a very calm one, so I decided to wait until we were inside to introduce her to the tool.
Once inside, I opened up the door to her crate and allowed her to exit on her own terms by sitting on the floor about two feet away and encouraging her with sound to come out. Once she was out of her crate, I shut the door so she couldn’t run back in should she become afraid and try to escape her new surroundings. Next I put her slip over her head, being careful not to apply any pressure. I sat on the floor silently beside her, allowing her to get used to the feeling of the leash around her neck as well as to check out her new surroundings with her nose and eyes. She tried to climb into my lap a few times, but I gently pushed her off and back onto the floor – this is a form of insecurity, and had I allowed her into my lap and began petting her I would have actually nurtured that insecure response. Once she was relaxed, I began to move down the hallway. This is where we hit our first major roadblock.
Sprout put on the brakes, refusing to follow me down the hallway and fighting the tension that was now on the leash. I did not panic – I remained silent, calm, and confident while she worked through this new challenge on her own. I relaxed the leash and waited for her to be calm again before adding a very light bit of pressure to coax her forwards while using my voice to also call her in. Still she fought the leash, and still I remained calm. It took us about ten minutes to make it down the hallway, but eventually once I added pressure and called her name she moved forwards with me rather than fighting against me. Success! It may seem small, yes, but this was actually an incredibly important moment in our relationship. It taught her that I may sometimes ask her to do things that scare her or make her unsure, but that I will always help her through those situations through calm, confident leadership. This simple exercise did a LOT to build her trust in me as her leader, and the rest of the house tour was a breeze!
So remember, while this is a very exciting day for you, it is also a very scary one for your new puppy. As much as you will want to immediately shower them with affection and give them the run of the house, do your best to remain calm and confident in leading them into and through your home. Your puppy will be looking to you for leadership, be sure you are able to give it to them!
Until next week,