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Welcoming a New Puppy: Puppy-Prep Guide from a Canine Behaviourist

Caroline Spencer, Canine Behaviourist (Dip.AdvCanBhv) at ProDog Raw, shares her tips for making your new puppy feel right at home. Drawing on decades of canine experience and advice drawn from Parenting Your New Puppy, co-authored by Caroline and Lesley Harris, she offers sound guidance to help new puppy parents be well informed and confident.

Edited By: Anna Bain

Welcoming a New Puppy: Puppy-Prep Guide from a Canine Behaviourist

Bringing a new puppy home can be both exciting and at times, stressful. There’s a long “new puppy checklist” to consider before your new addition arrives, including learning to understand your puppy’s needs,their language, what they’ll eat, where they’ll sleep, and all the puppy care essentials.
The good news is your willingness to meet their needs, find professional support, become educated in canine ways, confidently lay down fair boundaries, and guide them towards more appropriate canine behaviours will take you far when bringing up a happy, healthy puppy.

This article explains all the puppy care essentials for bringing a new puppy home and how to negotiate the first days and weeks— including what puppies need from you, toilet training, socialisation, nutrition and more.

The pet parent mindset

New puppies are both tons of fun and hard work. The result? Many moments of frustration intertwined with the joy of having a puppy about the house.

However, the process of bringing a new puppy home can go a lot more smoothly when adopting the right mindset. Learning about common puppy behaviour issues (and solutions), canine body language, and how to see the world from your puppy’s point of view will help tremendously during your first few weeks as a new pet parent and throughout their life.

Ups and downs are natural when bringing a new puppy home. Their adorable ways can sometimes become a frustration to you, so it’s up to you to understand the reasons behind these behaviours. Are they overtired, overstimulated,misunderstood,fearful, overwhelmed or frustrated? All of which can all result in common puppy behaviour issues.

With time, patience and understanding, you can help your puppy learn to make better choices.

Your puppy is simply communicating whilst trying to make sense of the world around them, and your guidance will help them to make better choices as they mature. Showing them you understand them, that they are safe and loved, and that they can put their trust in you are the best gifts you can give them, and will ultimately secure your bond of mutual understanding in the long run.

Considering the needs of your puppy as opposed to how you want them to be will serve you (and them) well. Pups that consistently have their needs met are far more likely to become the best versions of themselves.

Allow them to be dogs, go at their own pace, and be patient with them as they learn to fit naturally into your family with your support and guidance. This approach will help them develop a secure attachment to you, bringing peace of mind, confidence and resilience and making learning and retaining information easier.

Learning the skills of sit, recall and heel are of course important for puppies. However, learning life skills of self control, how to interact or be neutral in various situations, and how to fit into the world naturally is key to a successful and happy life.

Dogs are learning from us all the time, whether we’re consciously teaching them or not. They figure out what works and what doesn’t through your reactions to their behaviours, so being mindful of how/when you engage is important [1], [2]. My simplest puppy training tips include praising behaviours you like and helping them make different choices for the ones you don’t. Doing this will lead to a well- balanced, confident adult dog.

Bringing home a new puppy

There are lots of things to consider before bringing home your new puppy. Puppy care essentials, puppy teething solutions, and best puppy food recommendations are all important, of course. However, there’s one preparation you should make that will help all others seem much easier to handle: educating yourself on canine language and your puppy’s fundamental needs as a dog.

Your puppy is a unique individual and you will learn their likes, dislikes, abilities, needs and wants through observation and daily interactions with them. It’s crucial to understand the basic needs of a dog: safety, nutrition, sleep, exercise/play, mental stimulation, connection, company and a person/people to advocate for them.

Preparations to make

Setting up your space

To ensure a safe and comfortable environment for your puppy, get on your hands and knees to see things from their level. Look for exposed wires, children’s toys, shoes, and other small items that may become choking hazards for curious puppies. A clean floor also limits the potential for inappropriate chewing, helping your puppy to avoid this undesirable behaviour in a more proactive way.

Also, decide on a room in the house where your puppies bed and water will be. Many dog owners opt for the kitchen, as it’s easier to clean up any accidents, but choose what works best for you. A large open crate or puppy pen can be a helpful tool for when you’re busy or want to keep children and puppies separate.
Essential supplies checklist
Here are my recommendations for puppy care essentials to make life easier during your first few weeks:

  • Flat feeding board — A more natural feeding surface than a bowl (and easier for dogs to pick up their food)
  • ProDog Raw Puppy Meals — Consult our Raw Dog Food Calculator for how much/when to feed
  • Water bowl
  • Old carpet square or blanket for a bed — I recommend waiting until after the chewing stage to buy the nice fluffy ones
  • Soft collar and ID tag
  • Soft harness and lead — These are just for familiarisation purposes in the early weeks
  • Teething chews — Frozen sweet potato slices, paddywack and cow hooves work a treat, or find more options in our Puppy Treats range
  • Mop and bucket — I don’t recommend puppy pads as they teach puppies to eliminate in the house
  • Car crate
  • Poop bags/scoop
  • Baby gates — For stairs/off limits areas of the house

Learn More

Discover more about feeding your puppy the natural way in our Puppy Raw Feeding Guide
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Puppy’s first days in their new home

The first days and weeks that your puppy spends in their new home should be low-key. Don’t expect too much too soon; be calm and supportive, giving them the time they need to adjust to their new environment. Whilst it will of course be tempting to invite all your friends and family over to meet your new addition, give them a chance to get to know you and your immediate family first.

Give your puppy time to simply be around you while independently familiarising themselves within their new home. One room is best initially, and ideally needs to be where their bed space and water is.

Getting to know their personality, becoming familiar with their needs, and learning how they communicate takes time. Once they become comfortable, you can then begin introducing them to new people, dogs, and environments in a slow, safe way.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what the first few days and nights might look like with your new puppy:

Day time

The first day, let your puppy wander around the garden for a while and allow them to pee or poop. Begin their toilet training straight away by rewarding them when they have finished, and continue this going forward. Once they’ve toileted, bring them inside and offer them something to eat. Rub a blanket that has their scent on it against their new bed, giving them something familiar to find comfort in, allowing them to investigate it at their leisure.

Call your puppy to you for a short massage or play, keeping things peaceful and stopping before your pup becomes over-stimulated (play that is over the top or too long will result in overzealous behaviour such as nipping and an inability to sleep).

Remain in the area of the home where their bed will be initially; you can introduce them to a new room when they are chilled and you’ve time to supervise. Be near them, but allow them to be with themselves as well. Give them time without attention as you stay close by, this will enable them to feel safe and find a cosy spot to sleep.

Night time

I recommend sleeping near to your puppy, at least for the first few nights. They’re away from their mum and littermates for the first time and being alone will be stressful, so your presence will comfort them.

Playing soft, calming music throughout the day will help the nights feel less quiet. Weaning them off your constant presence during day time hours introduces them to alone time, allowing them to relax more in general and eventually sleep on their own overnight too.

Dealing with separation anxiety

It’s natural for puppies to become anxious when left alone, which is only compounded by being in a new environment. Not having the support they’re used to (mum, siblings and familiar surroundings) is a scary change, but with help from you they can adjust. Starting this process early will set your puppy up for success as an adult dog:

Over the next few days, starting with when they’re asleep (or chilled at least), walk out of the room and shut the door, leave them alone for a few seconds and return. This will gradually increase to minutes as they remain peaceful and you become confident they are content.

Moving onwards, practise when they are more awake. Remember to go at their pace and be patient; they’ll learn that being alone is safe before long. To prevent the development of hyper attachment, read my guide on Overcoming Separation Anxiety, which details my step-by-step process for helping dogs feel safe alone.

puppy prep guide overcoming separation anxiety

Puppy nutrition

Choosing the right puppy food

Nutrition is the foundation of health for all species, with dogs being no exception. Starting your puppy off with the appropriate nutrients will contribute towards their healthy development, giving them the best chance of a long, happy life. This is done by feeding them biologically appropriate foods, such as a raw, whole food diet, which is what I recommend to my clients.

ProDog’s Raw Puppy Meals are a fantastic choice for puppy health and development.

Feeding schedules and portions

Puppies need to eat more frequently than adult dogs to ensure the energy requirements of their rapidly growing bodies are met. As a general rule, 8-week old pups need to eat four times a day, with the frequency reducing as they meet certain developmental milestones. Each puppy will require different portions based on size, activity levels, breed, specific health needs, and developmental stage.

You’ll find detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to feed puppies in our Puppy Raw Feeding Guide.

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Exercise and play

The benefits of physical activity

Physical activity is important for puppies: they expend their energy, learn new things, and strengthen their bond with you through play and movement. Age-appropriate activities for puppies include exploring the garden with a watchful eye from you but giving them some independent time, playing with toys, and mental stimulation activities.

Play is also a great way for them to feel settled in their new home, as well as an opportunity to teach them some foundational skills such as recall, fetch, and lead work.

Enrichment is different from play, but just as crucial to puppy development. Simple, relaxing activities such as sniffing and foraging allow them to use their brains to figure out their surroundings, as well as helping to decrease anxiety and stress. Allowing them sniffy time in the garden or providing a snuffle mat sprinkled with tiny treats for them to investigate can help to encourage this natural canine behaviour. This can also be achieved at mealtimes by spreading or placing dollops of food on a flat wooden board.

Fun and stimulating toys

There are thousands of options when it comes to puppy toys, and each puppy will have their own preferences. I always caution my clients around rope toys or soft stuffies as they’re easily ingested if not carefully supervised. Ideally do not leave puppies alone with any toy they can potentially destroy. Instead leave a natural chew toy for them, like a root chew or coffee wood chew,

As dogs love to investigate, a simple cardboard box can be a fantastic toy for your curious puppies. Other toys I recommend are the robust, hardy varieties that are difficult to destroy, and durable fabric toys that are double-stitched.

The importance of adequate sleep

Whilst puppies are little bundles of energy, their active periods are usually short spurts followed by long naps. These rest periods are important for your pup’s development and should be made a priority throughout the day.

On average, puppies should be sleeping 16 to 18 hours in a 24 hour period; all that growing is tiring work! A common symptom of an overtired puppy is a shift in their behaviour, so if they become overzealous it’s probably time to tone things down and let them rest. Better still, keep play and interaction simple and stop before they become over-stimulated.

A good way to develop a regular sleep schedule for your puppy is to disengage from them after interactions. This doesn’t mean leaving them alone or shutting them in a cage, but rather giving your attention to other things whilst in the room with them. Doing this allows your puppy to follow their natural body clock and take the time to sleep when they feel tired.

Being allowed to investigate the world (e.g, your home) on their own also inspires confidence and reduces their chances of becoming needy/clingy due to constant attention from you.

House training

Set your puppy up for success

It’s important to be proactive when toilet training your puppy. This approach both reduces accidents and instils a routine that your pup can become familiar with quickly.

When they are very young, going out upon waking, after meals, during play sessions, and every half an hour is ideal. Your puppy is still physically developing, so control of bladder and bowels comes over time. This means they need frequent opportunities to toilet, and outside is much better than in!

I don’t advocate the use of puppy pads simply because you end up toilet training twice; once inside and then out. This makes twice the work and is not really necessary if you follow the above guidelines. There will be a few accidents but these will decrease with time, and at around 6 months old all toileting accidents will have been resolved.

The key is to ensure your puppy is taken out regularly (and yes, that means rain or shine). Try to give them space when it’s time to toilet so they can focus on their needs rather than playing with you for the moment. Remain quiet as they pee or poop and only when they have finished, give immediate praise and reward.

Night time and house training

As mentioned earlier, puppies need their sleep. Whilst their little bladders won’t usually be able to hold it all night for the first few months, I don’t recommend waking them throughout the night to toilet. Not only does this interrupt their precious sleep (and yours), but it might set the stage for years of night time wake-ups, which no one wants.

I prefer putting puppy in a safe room or large penned-in area for the night, and dealing with any potential accidents in the morning. Taking them out to toilet just before bedtime is a given of course.


Safe interactions with other dogs

Before your puppy is fully vaccinated, ensure that only fully vaccinated dogs are allowed to visit. By the same token, it’s also important that any dogs they come into contact with are well-balanced and tolerant of puppy behaviours, as negative associations with other dogs will only cause fear-based behaviour down the road [3].

However, appropriate corrections from older dogs are also a great opportunity to show your puppy that unruly behaviours are not the best way to make friends. Supervise and step in as required, because some pups will not take no for an answer from their visitor.

Once fully vaccinated, you can take your puppy further afield. Your growing puppy must learn to be neutral when passing other dogs, animals, people, vehicles, etc. They do not need to engage or play with every dog they meet. They need to feel safe with you, learn that you are the best fun and not be put into situations that make them feel uncomfortable or forget you even exist because they’re having fun more elsewhere.

Distance from new and unfamiliar stimuli is important in order that they are able to self manage as they mature. When we remain neutral, give them time to assess at a safe distance, they will follow our lead. Above all, puppies need to feel safe and able to put their trust in you. It’s important not to force things, but to be there for support when necessary. We break trust when we encourage too close an encounter, whereas giving them a little time to work new sounds, smells and sights from a safe distance inspires confidence.

Exposure to new environments

In new environments, it’s easy for puppies to feel overwhelmed and/or afraid. Remaining confident when with your puppy and visiting new places will allow them to feel more at ease. In new open spaces take time to sit and give your pup time to forage and sniff, play chase with you, or engage them in a fun activity as opposed to focusing on what may concern them. This way, they will learn that whatever is happening around them, all is well and you are neutral to any potential triggers.

It is vital to ensure you are at a safe distance when introducing new sights, sounds, and smells to your puppy: it gives them time to figure things out without being rushed into a situation they’re unfamiliar with. Once your puppy appears comfortable at a distance, over time the distance where they can remain neutral will naturally decrease.

Prevent people encroaching into your puppies space, instead ask them to stand quietly so your puppy can move closer to investigate if they wish, it has to be your pups choice.

A note on fear periods

Puppies go through periods in their development where anything unfamiliar or familiar for that matter can be a source of alarm. These occur between 8 and 11 weeks and again between 6 and 14 months, and require special patience and understanding on your part.

While you may see the world around them as a new exciting experience, your puppy may not, so take it slow and be mindful of their feelings and emotions.

You also need to be aware of how you are and how you feel, as these all impact how your puppy sees and reacts to the world around them. Negative associations during fear periods can last into their adult lives, so it’s important not to force any unwanted interactions and ensure that your puppy feels safe and supported.

puppy-prep guide socialisation

Other housemates

Other pets

Take it steady when introducing your new puppy to resident dogs/cats/other pets in the home. They will make friends in their own time, these friendships can’t be forced. Each family member needs time to adjust to the new arrival in their house too.

Baby gates are very helpful for many households initially. They create a safe place for the puppy and allows your existing pet/s their own space. This will make it easier for you to be more relaxed about the initial introductions and times when you cannot supervise.


Small children and puppies can grow up together wonderfully, but it’s very important that they are supervised. Teaching children to respect your dog and their needs will ensure they live in harmony, keeping both children and dogs safe from potential harmful encounters.

Never allow children to hug puppies tightly or be rough with them, and keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort such as lip-licking, turning away, etc. from your puppy. Baby gates and puppy pens are helpful here as well, giving you a break from constant supervision while keeping both puppy and children safe. For more detailed information on how to teach kids to behave around puppies, I often refer my clients to Kids Around Dogs.

New puppy FAQs

What vaccinations does my puppy need?

Puppies need core vaccinations until about 16 weeks of age, and may need boosters at various intervals after that. Core vaccines are Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, and Hepatitis. Optional vaccines include Leptospirosis and Bordetella (Kennel Cough). Ask your vet for their recommendations.

How often should I take my puppy to the vet?

Puppies should get an initial checkup once they’re settled into their new home, along with annual wellness visits. If the puppy is unwell this warrants a vet visit. It’s also a good idea to pop into the vet’s from time to time to familiarise with the space, sights and smells which helps them to see the vet’s as a good place. 

What's the best diet for a new puppy?

Feed your puppy their existing diet for the first week home with you, there are many new experiences already and an immediate change of diet may be a step too far for some, you can then transition to raw puppy food gradually. Check out our Raw Puppy meals information page for more details.

Can you recommend safe toys for my puppy?

Any toys should be strong and sturdy for teething and inquisitive puppies; durable fabric with double stitching, coffee wood and root chews is what I recommend. Always supervise your puppy during play, and never leave them alone with stuffed toys or rope toys.

How do I house train my puppy?

Being consistent and sticking to a routine is the best way to set your puppy up for success. Check the house training section above for more detailed information.

Is socialisation important for puppies?

Yes, socialisation needs to  be done safely and at your puppy’s pace. Socialise appropriately with well-balanced dogs who will be great mentors for your puppy. Socialisation does not mean meet and greet every stranger,(human or dog). Ensure interactions are positive and don’t make them feel unsafe, over stimulated or overwhelmed. Read the socialisation section for more information.

What legal obligations do I have as a dog owner?

You’re legally liable for keeping your dog under control whilst in public, as well as having your puppy/dog microchipped.

How often should I groom my puppy?

This depends on their breed, coat type, and other factors. Getting them familiar with touch using massage, moving onto a grooming glove then a brush/comb over time will ensure they love grooming sessions with you, and later with a groomer if you choose.

What signs indicate a healthy puppy?

Signs of a healthy puppy include:

  • Damp. cold nose
  • Healthy weight
  • Clean, dry skin without redness
  • Healthy appetite
  • Healthy, shiny coat
  • Firm stools
  • Clean, clear, relaxed eyes and ears
  • Happy to play, rest and sleep
  • Tolerant of handling
How can I prevent common puppy health issues?

Feeding puppies a fresh, species-appropriate diet is the foundation of their continued health. Our Raw Puppy Meals provide all the essential nutrients pups need to grow up healthy and strong.

Meanwhile, ProDog’s Colostrum supplement is an excellent dietary addition for extra immune and gut support, leading to healthy growth and development.

Mental health is also important for puppies; it can affect their physical health either positively or negatively. Exercise, play, attention from you, choice and healthy boundaries allow puppies to grow up happy and confident.

Welcoming your new puppy

Bringing home a new puppy can be a wonderful experience with the right tools. Understanding your puppies likes and dislikes, getting to know their personality, and encouraging independent, confident behaviour all contribute to a long and happy life for your dog.

Balanced nutrition, a lifestyle that allows for their breed specific and individual needs to be met, a safe and supportive environment, regular exercise, play, enrichment, and adequate sleep are all key for puppies’ development. Your puppy will look to your for calm, confident leadership. A human that can guide them lovingly to make the right choices will foster an unshakable bond between you both, creating opportunities for wonderful memories in the years to come.


1. Stanley Coren PhD., DSc., FRSC. Psychology Today. How Puppies Learn from Dogs and People. Accessed Dec 2023.

2. Fugazza, C., Moesta, A., Pogany, A., Miklosi, A. July 2018. Social learning from conspecifics and humans in dog puppies. Scientific Reports;, 8(9257). Doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27654-0

3. McEvoy, V., Espinosa, U., Crump, A., Arnott, G. Oct 2022. Canine Socialisation: A Narrative Systematic Review. Animals;, 12(21):2895. Doi: 10.3390/ani12212895

4. Caroline Spencer, Leslie Harris. Parenting Your New Puppy: How to use positive parenting to bring up a confident and well-behaved puppy. Accessed Dec 2023.

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