My dog’s first night at home

There will be lots of firsts in your life with your inseparable companion, some of which you’ll remember fondly, others not so much. His first night at home will no doubt be one of your most memorable, either because he prevented you from sleeping or because you were so excited you couldn’t sleep.

This moment can be very different depending, for example, on the dog’s age. Let’s start with puppies:

If he’s a puppy...

See how timid he is and how funny he looks with his awkward movements?

He has already got to know his new home and scampered freely around the rooms, and we have also provided him with a “special corner”. If you haven’t yet read the article entitled "Arriving home", we recommend that you read it as it will be very helpful to you.

Do you know why a puppy’s first night at home is so stressful?

He previously lived somewhere else, with his mother and his siblings, and now suddenly everything is different. Most puppies are adopted when they’re around two months old. After having spent many days with his mother and siblings, your puppy will feel disoriented in your house and when left alone (at night) he may start to cry. He is experiencing stress, which we would also suffer if the same happened to us. Be tolerant: this behaviour is very common and requires our patience and love.

  • Start by putting his bed in a corner where there isn’t too much commotion and where you’re sure he will rest like a king. It could be in your bedroom, in a room just for him, in the lounge, in the kitchen... There are many alternatives and it’s up to you to decide. Remember that many puppies (and adult dogs) will be calmer if they can see their new parents from their bed.

    Once the puppy has got used to all the new things, including the house move, the new family and routine, his bed can gradually be moved to the final place you set aside for him. What you must never do is take him to bed with you if after a month you want to teach him to sleep in his own bed. Consistency will be a fundamental part of training your puppy. Therefore you have to bite the bullet and the sooner you start training the better. Remember that a well-trained little animal will bring more happiness and stability.

  • It will definitely help if you can get hold of a piece of cloth or blanket that smells of his mother and siblings to put in his little corner of the house: a recognisable smell in a completely new environment can help reduce the stress.

  • Some puppies remain calmer if, in addition to their blanket, you can leave their crate, with the door open, in the same corner of the house. They can use this to take refuge if they feel unsafe.

  • Leave some toys around. He may not have time to play with all of them on his first day, but being surrounded by soft toys will definitely entertain him if he wakes up in the middle of the night. Puppies always want to play. This way, if he wakes up, there is less chance of him looking for you to play with as he can focus body and soul on the soft toy you have left him.

  • Try to give him a good dinner so he can go to bed on a full stomach and make sure he has relieved himself before going to sleep. Likewise, when you get up in the morning, you are likely to find a few surprises: he can’t control his bodily functions very well yet, so put some newspaper down beside him and you’re done.

  • Avoid getting him excited by having a riotous play session just before leaving him in his bed. Save this session for another time: now it’s best for your puppy to relax as the pace of activities around him slows down and everyone in the house is getting ready for bed.

  • Many puppies also relax if a dog pheromone diffuser is plugged in near their bed. But before you go out and buy one, check with your vet, who will explain how they work.

  • Once you’ve made all these preparations, you can go to bed, but beware, this is where the hardest part begins. Once you’re in bed and the dog starts crying you must be “strong” and ignore him or he will learn to cry to attract your attention. Don’t worry: he’ll soon get tired and you’ll get to rest. Subsequent nights will be more peaceful. However, if the puppy is within sight and has started crying in the middle of the night, a quick look will reassure you that everything is fine: some puppies wake up and whimper because they need to relieve themselves.

This may not be the best night’s sleep of your life but you’ll soon remember it with some nostalgia and you’ll see that he’ll soon get used to what is to be his real home.

If he’s an adult...

The situation is very different if the dog is an adult. You’ll see that his personality is already more than developed so the first thing you have to do is ask his carer, who will be able to advise you and give you a head start, as that way you’ll know the dog before he knows you and, if possible, create a space for him to sleep that is similar to the one he had before.

However, despite the precautions, there will be lots of uncertainties on the first night, for both you and the dog. It’s difficult to predict how he will react to the change, particularly if you have adopted a dog from a dog pound. Will he howl? Will he try to escape? Will he destroy the sofa? If you’re wondering about these things, it would be better not to let him roam around the whole house.

Furthermore, despite being an adult, at the beginning, and especially on the first night, he will be a little insecure and will be missing his previous home, even though it may not seem so to you, but he will soon find his new space so to increase his sense of security get him used to his new corner from the start. To create this space and get ready to spend a peaceful night you can follow many of the tips that also apply to puppies, and remember that a comfortable bed, calmness and patience is what he will need the most in order to sleep well.

An adult dog, particularly if he comes from a dog pound, may come “with baggage”, don’t forget that there are always professionals on hand to help you at any time if you can’t get him used to his new environment, although we’re very confident he will adapt to his new family as soon as he gets to know them.

The first few nights will fly by. With patience and love you’ll have a dog that respects the need to sleep.