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What to expect as your puppy adjusts to their new home

Your puppy's first days home with you - are they doing ok?

Tequila Rose- with her new Dad


Reviewed by Dr. Nate Ritter, DVMHealth & Screening Lead at Good DogDr. Nate Ritter, DVM is the Health & Screening Lead at Good Dog. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology from Lafayette College and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, New York State Veterinary Medical Society, and the Veterinary Medical Association of New York City. Additionally, he is a USDA-accredited veterinarian

By Dr. Mikel Delgado, PhD and Dr. Judi Stella, PhD

The day you pick up your new puppy is so exciting! It’s the first day of the rest of your lives together. But it’s important to remember that for your puppy everything is new so it can be a very stressful time. This may be their first time separated from their mother and littermates and they may have even traveled a long distance, possibly by plane. Then they are brought into your home: a new environment with all new people.Many puppies will be affected by the stress of this transition.

Puppies are already immunocompromised, meaning that they are less equipped to fight off diseases than an adult dog. Adding stress to the mix can increase the risk that your puppy will be susceptible to any parasites or viruses that are lurking. So how can we reduce the stress our new puppy is experiencing? And what are some warning signs that they need help?

When can my puppy come home?

Puppies should be at least eight weeks old before they leave their mom and litter mates. Breeders may keep puppies until 12 weeks of age because they learn more appropriate social interactions with their siblings between 8-12wks, once Mom is done playing referee. Puppies who are separated from their mothers too soon are more fearful and anxious as adults, so as much as you might like to get your puppy early, it’s critical to wait until they are ready! The puppy socialization window (between approximately 3 and 12 weeks of age) is when your puppy best learns about how to be a dog by interacting with and observing mom and litter mates. Positive interactions with new people and being positively exposed to different sounds and experiences is especially important during this time. You can continue these life lessons at home with your new pup. Puppies are especially sensitive to stress between 8 and 12 weeks of age, which is why it is soo important to help them feel safe and secure if they transition to their new home at this time. 

Being Prepared

One of the most important things you can do before you pick up your puppy is to set up a veterinary visit for them, ideally within your puppy’s first 24 - 72 hours at home. As soon as you know your puppy’s pickup date, call your veterinary clinic to make an appointment. Having this appointment set up ahead of time ensures that your puppy will get a wellness check and any health concerns will be caught right away. You’ll want to bring all medical records the breeder provided for you, along with anything else your clinic recommends (a stool sample for example, especially if your pup has had any diarrhea). 

Reducing stress for your new puppy

Help your puppy adjust to moving day with some simple techniques: If possible, bring blankets/bedding, toys, or other items for your breeder to collect scents on. Some breeders with already supply something. The smell will be comforting to your puppy as they get used to their new environment. Make any dietary changes gradually! (unless directed otherwise by your veterinarian). . Ask your breeder what your puppy has been eating so you can keep their diet consistent. It's best to buy a bag of what your pup is used to even if you want to change it up. Gradually introduce any new foods by mixing old food with new. Be sure to puppy proof and prepare your home so your puppy will stay out of trouble! Be sure to socialize with your puppy, but don’t overwhelm them with too many visitors or activities the first few days. It's best to wait a week before introducing a lot of new people.

What’s normal and what are some warning signs?

Changes in appetite

Many puppies will have a reduced appetite during the first day or two, but they should be eating some food. You can help by first offering them their familiar diet that they were eating with their breeder. If they don’t eat the familiar food, you can try something more enticing (such as meat-based baby food mixed into it or a warm broth over it) to see if that stimulates their appetite. Remember XL breeds should be slow growers, so don't over do it.

Diarrhea

Some puppies may have a little soft stool when they first come home – this can be related to stress, a change of diet (food or even water), or something more serious. Puppies with soft stool usually still have control over their bowels, and do not generally have an excessive number of bowel movements. White rice, or 100% pumpkin can help.

Vomiting

Vomiting can be more concerning than diarrhea as it can quickly cause dehydration. Vomiting can also indicate a serious infection, such as parvovirus. If your puppy vomits only once and is otherwise playing, eating and drinking normally, then you can continue to monitor them closely. Make sure they have access to and are drinking fresh water. Parasites or worms

Parasites and worms are really very common in puppies, which is why puppies need to be dewormed multiple times. If your puppy has parasites, it doesn’t mean that they were not appropriately dewormed by your breeder. Puppy parasites are a fact of life and they can be persistent! If you see worms in your puppy's stool, or your puppy has soft, smelly stool, be sure to bring in a sample for your puppy’s wellness visit so your veterinarian can take a closer look. 

If your new puppy is a toy breed

Toy breed puppies (such as Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Toy Poodles, and Pomeranians and their related crossbreeds) need regular, small meals to maintain safe levels of blood sugar. Their small size means that they cannot store as much sugar, so they need to eat more frequently than other breeds (approximately every 4-6 hours). When their blood sugar levels drop (hypoglycemia) they may develop a lack of appetite, low body temperature, seizures or even a loss of consciousness. Hypoglycemia can become a medical emergency quickly. If your toy breed seems unwell after travel/delivery, is not eating, or seems withdrawn or lethargic, be sure to take them for veterinary care immediately.

Warning signs

Seek veterinary care if:Your puppy seems withdrawn, lethargic or painfulYour puppy is not eating or drinking for more than 6-8 hours (4-6 hours if your puppy is a sm