Congratulations, the day is finally here. You’ve prepared yourself and your home for your new Golden Retriever puppy, and you’re now ready to step through the door with your new Golden furbaby.
Despite all the preparation, it is quite normal to feel a bit nervous, anxious and excited, and it’s natural to wonder, what should I do for my Golden Retriever puppy’s first day home?
Your Golden Retriever puppy’s first day home is a transitional day. Activities, for the most part, should be limited, and the key is to go slow. The first day should be calm so the puppy can get acclimated to its new surroundings and comfortable with its new family.
Expect some bumps along the road for the first week, but things will rapidly get better as the days (and nights) progress. Be prepared, though, that the first day will be the biggest challenge, especially the night.
While the first 24-hours is mostly a transitional period, there are a few things that you can do to ensure the transition will go as smoothly as possible. And to help ensure you don’t lose your mind.
Before your puppy arrives home, you should have prepared for its arrival. Preparation for a puppy’s first day is similar to getting ready for a new child.
Pre-arrival preparation should include stocking up on essential supplies and puppy-proofing the home. As well as doing some research beforehand on things like getting a veterinarian, resources you’ll need if you work, and obedience training, among others.
If you haven’t done any of this or the puppy has yet to come home, don’t worry. I’ve written a step by step guide on how to prepare for a Golden Retriever puppy, and if you’re interested in reading that post, you can find it here:
If you find you are not as prepared as you should be, or at all, that’s fine. You can still do this quickly by following the step by step guide. It will just mean you need to do some quick running around and some prep on the fly.
Puppy’s New Home: Walking Through the Door for the First Time
You’ve arrived home and walked through the door with your new Golden Retriever puppy. Now what?
First, take a deep breath.
Secondly, it’s a good idea to take your new Golden puppy to go potty immediately. Your puppy most likely will have to relieve itself after the car ride.
Puppy’s at eight weeks of age cannot hold their bladders more than 60 minutes at a time, so be prepared for them going frequently.
It’s also a good idea to introduce the puppy to the backyard or the designated area it will be using for potty breaks. Doing so allows the puppy to explore and sniff around the yard to become familiar with its area. Just make sure you supervise the puppy at all times.
It also gives the puppy a chance to stretch its legs. Depending on your puppy’s personality, it may be playful and more curious. Or it may be more timid and scared. Adapt as necessary.
If your puppy doesn’t relieve itself after 5 to 10 minutes, that’s fine. If the puppy is comfortable exploring and playing outside, you can wait until it goes.
Or you can take it inside but make sure to try again soon. As noted previously, puppies at this age go frequently.
Once you bring your puppy back inside the house, you’ll want to allow your puppy to get acquainted with its new home.
Keep in mind that this is your puppy’s first day away from the family it has known for the first eight weeks of its life and the longest it has ever been separated from mom and siblings. He will need time to adjust. So will you. Go slow. Be patient.
If you opt to introduce the puppy to the whole house, make sure you supervise your Golden puppy at all times.
A good suggestion initially is to limit your puppy’s freedom by using a containment area or device, e.g., a crate or playpen. A mistake most new (and even experienced) dog owners make is allowing their puppies too much space early on. It’s better to control the environment and allow more freedom as your puppy gets older and becomes more behaved.
A confined area for your puppy could include a designated play area with a crate inside or a room with gates to limit his space. Confining your puppy to a designated area make it easier for him to adjust since it’s a smaller space to become accustomed to.
Controlling your puppy’s environment also makes supervising and training easier. It’s much easier to catch an impending accident when your puppy is limited to a small space that you can more easily monitor.
We let our Golden puppy Bailey roam the house the first few days, and we quickly realized it was a huge mistake.
It’s virtually impossible to catch a puppy in time when they have snuck away (puppies are fast and stealthy like Ninja’s), or they’re out of sight. Or the puppy is just too far away that you can’t get there in time.
You should limit introduction on the first day to the immediate family only. You do not want to overwhelm or scare the puppy, and being passed from stranger to stranger might not be the best experience for him.
Socialization is essential for your puppy, but it’s alright to limit it to immediate family only for the first couple of days.
All introductions should be controlled and supervised at all times, especially with children and other pets. A good rule of thumb is to go slow and to keep the interactions both brief and positive.
Small children, especially toddlers, may be keen to pick up the cuddly furball, and they may not be well equipped to do this gently and safely. Keep a watchful eye at all times and prevent children from handling the puppy or pulling his tail.
Have children and even adults sit on the floor and allow the puppy to come to them. Try having family members entice the puppy with a treat. Let the puppy dictate the pace of introductions to feel safe and have a positive experience.
Suppose you have other dogs or a cat. In that case, these introductions require a more nuanced approach, and extra caution and supervision are required.
Most new owners tend to rush these things, and small, baby steps are better than moving too fast and then having to take two steps back. You can even keep them apart for a week or two (or longer), so they get accustomed to seeing and being in proximity of each other before the initial introductions.
Temperament plays a role here as well. Some pups, cats, and dogs will need extra space and time to adjust, whereas; some others will adapt more quickly. Just like people, each one has a unique personality. Either way, it’s better to go slow initially to ensure a positive interaction.
Just make sure all parties are safe. Keep the puppy, and other dogs secured on-leash, and allow the cat to escape if it desires. Supervision is vital, as is knowing the temperament of your animals and how much they will tolerate.
Essential Routines: Feeding Time, Potty Training, and Bedtime
Although the first day is a mostly transitional day for your puppy, some training can start immediately, including feeding routines, potty training, and a bedtime routine. Routine, routine, routine is a puppy’s best friend.
Puppies generally should be fed two or three times per day based on weight and age (consult your dog food bag or follow what the breeder was doing). On your puppy’s first day, you want to get it on a routine of when and where it will be eating.
Depending on what time you brought your Golden puppy home, and if he has eaten a meal already before picking him up, this may be his 2nd or 3rd meal of the day.
It’s best to portion out the food instead of just putting some food out and letting him eat until full. Some pups and dogs are not good at control. Consider doing some hand-feeding. The purpose of hand-feeding is twofold; a bonding experience and teaching your puppy to tolerate and trust hands around its food.
Same as with the feeding routine, you want to establish a pattern on day one for potty training. It would help if you were mindful that puppies usually like to go potty after exercising, playing, eating, or getting up from a night of sleep or a nap.
Puppies can’t hold their bladders for longer than about an hour, so you need to be alert and take them out frequently. The key here is to start learning your puppy’s body language and mannerisms and teach the puppy where to go.
Our Golden Retriever puppy at eight weeks went potty almost immediately after eating. So, we had to learn the hard way that we couldn’t even wait a few minutes. Eat and directly go out; that was Bailey’s routine. Now that he’s older, he can hold it and lets us know when it’s time.
The bedtime routine is the most significant transition for human parents on day one and will test your patience the most. Please be prepared for this and stay calm, loving, and supportive. Trust me; if you lose your patience, you’re going to feel guilty and horrible shortly after that.
Unless you have won the puppy lottery and it sleeps through the whole night, expect to be woken up a few times. And not just because your puppy will have to go out a few times to relieve itself, but your puppy may be anxious due to this being its first night with its new family.
Remember, this is your puppy’s first night away from its mom and littermates. Your Golden puppy is going to be scared and lonely, so expect some heartbreaking whining.
If your puppy whines at night, you can pick him up to take it outside if it has been a while since last relieving itself. However, if the puppy begins whining right after relieving itself, then he’s just lonely.
Do not cave in and pick up your puppy right away. Yes, it’s going to be tough not to. But you do not want to reinforce this behavior and inadvertently teach the puppy that whining results in immediate attention and play.
If your puppy is still whining after, say, 15 or 20 minutes, then pick your puppy up to reassure it. It would help if you only did this for the first few days to a week. Your puppy should be able to go longer and longer without needing comfort.
The goal is to have it sleep throughout the night as quickly as possible.
Also, expect to take your puppy out frequently throughout the night for the first few weeks so it can relieve itself. Be patient. This part of the routine is the hardest, but in a few weeks, your pup will be sleeping a full 8 hours through the night.
Keep in mind that it may take up to 12 weeks of age before they can sleep comfortably throughout the night. Often that happens much sooner.
Nightime comforting and potty training can be a bit of a juggling act and challenging to sync correctly. Do your best.
If the pup whines and it’s been over an hour since its last potty break, take it out. If it complains immediately after relieving itself, then try your best to hold off before comforting it.
Ideally, you want to allow your puppy to learn how to self-soothe at night on its own.
Tips for Bedtime
- Make sure your puppy has had adequate play and exercise throughout the day. It helps with bedtime if your puppy is mentally and physically tired out. Puppies need about 5 minutes for every one month of age. So, an eight-week-old will need about 10 minutes once or twice per day.
- Take your puppy outside to relieve itself just before bed. If the pup doesn’t need to go after 10 minutes, that’s fine. Your Golden puppy will get the hang of it soon.
- Place the crate or dog bed in the bedroom or close to where you’ll be sleeping. Dogs are social animals and want to sleep close to their family. It will also help the puppy feel more at ease knowing it’s near its new family.
- Place a toy or blanket in the bed with the mother’s scent on it. Many breeders will give you a blanket or old shirt that has been with the mother. Ask your breeder if they do this, and supply them with an old t-shirt or hand towel if they don’t have anything they can use.
- Place a ticking clock buried under the covers in the puppy’s bed. The ticking of the clock will soothe the puppy. A hot water bottle wrapped in a blanket to mimic mom’s warmth is another thing you can try.
The first day and night will be the hardest. Both on you and the puppy, because it’s all brand new for the both of you. However, if you’ve prepared thoroughly in advance for your puppy’s arrival, then you are well-positioned for smoother sailing. However, you should expect some challenges.
Tip 1. Accidents will happen, lots of them. It’s just part of the training process, so I have lots of paper towels on hand.
Tip 2. Take a week of work, if at all possible. You’re going to be tired from being up all night, but more importantly, you need some time to bond with the puppy.
A puppy left alone a few days after being separated from his family is not ideal. It would be best if you had time to develop trust and a bond.
If you’re working while raising your Golden Retriever puppy, then check out this post:
Tip 3. Use a house line when your puppy is not in its contained area. A house line is a cheap leash that your puppy has on throughout the day. Cut the loop end off, so it doesn’t get snagged on anything, and now you can control your puppy quickly should the situation arise.
Tip 4. Don’t allow your puppy to meet or interact with other dogs outside of your home or even where other dogs frequent. Your puppy will not have yet been vaccinated fully at this age of its life.
Tip 5. Moderate your puppy’s activity levels. They shouldn’t be busy non-stop. Let the puppy have some downtime. It’s natural for them to sleep a lot the first few weeks, and that’s a good thing.
Tip 6. Use reward-based training as your method of choice to teach your puppy the rules and acceptable behaviors.
To read why a reward-based approach is the best training method for your Golden Retriever, check out this post:
Tip 7. If you had previous puppies that caught on to some things quicker, don’t forget that dogs are unique individuals and try not to compare. You may luck out and have a puppy that adjusts rapidly or one that takes a bit longer. It’s all good; roll with the punches.
It’s not unusual in the first 24 hours for new puppy parents to wonder what you got yourself into. Most likely, that thought will occur during the night.
But, let me reassure you that you’ll be fine and so will your puppy. With lots of affection and love, combined with consistent rules and routines, your puppy will adapt quickly.
Just remember preparation, patience, and routines will set the foundation for the weeks, months, and years to come.