Homeward Bound

Counting down the days to your puppy’s arrival? Using this time to prepare your home, garden and family will make for an easy introduction, Stephanie Hollebrandse explains.

So you’ve done the research, chosen the ideal breed for your family, found the right breeder and finally picked your puppy. The next step is to prepare for the day you bring your new loved one home.

When parents know they’re expecting a child, the preparations begin from day one. A room is turned into a nursery, painted petal pink or powder blue, and filled with baskets of nappies, toys, bottles and bibs. Similar steps need to be taken when preparing to bring your new puppy home. 

Home sweet home

Just like a newborn baby, your puppy is going to need a room or place to call their own. Investing in a crate will achieve just this, and it’s a good idea to get one big enough for them to use when fully grown. Fill the crate with towels, blankets and toys so it becomes the puppy’s special place.

You will of course also need food and water bowls, chew toys and a soft, comforting toy, a collar and leash with identity tags, and plenty of newspapers or training pads if you intend to housetrain your puppy inside.

The food you’ll need to prepare depends on what the breeder has been feeding the puppy. It’s wise to feed them the same meal for the first couple of weeks, slowly introducing any new items you’d like to add. Starting a new diet from day one could lead to stomach upset for your puppy.

Breeder, Lee Pieterse says a good breeder will provide new owners with a puppy pack and a diet sheet.

“Breeders are actually required to provide an outline of what the puppy needs to be fed at various stages of their life, as well as a small sample of the food they’ve been eating at the breeder’s home,” says Lee.

“The one thing to avoid early on is milk – puppies are lactose intolerant so this is definitely one to avoid.”


It goes without saying that puppies love to play – so if you want to protect Grandma’s antique vase or your favourite pair of shoes, it’s a good idea to puppy-proof your house before the new family member arrives.

The best thing you can do is to get down on all fours and look for potential hazards at puppy level. Move anything they might knock over to a higher shelf, and any objects they’d like to chew on out of reach. As puppies push and nudge, they could even learn to open cabinets, so make sure any detergents or cleaning supplies are locked up tight.

It’s especially important to think about any lethal hazards such as electric cords and cable wires – chewing on these could end up burning the puppy or worse, electrocution.

Animal Behaviourist Kate Mornement says it’s just as important to puppy-proof your garden as your home. Ideally, the yard will be fenced so be sure to check for any potential holes your puppy could sneak through. If you use weed killers or other chemicals on your garden or plants, make sure the puppy stays away from this area.

Providing shelter in your garden is also important. Kate suggests a kennel lined with carpet or a blanket. If your puppy is going to spend the majority of time outside, position the kennel close to the house so they can still be part of the action within the family home.

Family matters

Controlling that action is also an important part of preparing for your pup. If you have a young family, making sure they understand how to handle the puppy is an important step to take.

Kate says you can prepare children for the big day by talking about the responsibilities that come with the joy of owning a pet. Have the conversation before your puppy arrives to ensure such duties aren’t forgotten amongst the excitement. Getting them involved with puppy’s meal times, grooming and daily walks is a good way to introduce this responsibility.

If you’re children are especially small, Kate recommends parental supervision at all times. Small children need to be taught that the puppy is not a toy and should be treated with care and respect. When both the children and the puppy are interacting in a friendly and calm way, reward them both with praise.

Breeder advice

Bringing your new puppy home is a learning curve for everyone, so don’t forget the breeder is there to help you. Keep in touch with them as much as possible in the lead up to the big day – this will help you understand the personality and progress of your puppy, their likes and dislikes.

The breeder should also be socialising the puppy at this stage, although this doesvary from breeder to breeder. Use this time to ask them how your puppy is being socialised, so you know what areas need to be worked on back at home.

“Most breeders will do an excellent job at socialising their puppies with different people, children, dogs, other animals, as well as household appliances such as the washing machine or vacuum cleaner,” says Kate.“A lack of socialisation may result in puppies that are overly fearful in new situations.”

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to visit your pup at least twice in the week prior to you picking them up, if circumstances allow. “This will help the puppy with the transition from the breeder’s house, where everything is familiar, to the novelty and uncertainty of the new home because you will be known to the puppy,” says Kate.

Keep it cosy

Leaving the breeder’s house can be very stressful. The puppy isn’t just leaving it’s first home, but its mother and littermates. Veterinarian, animal behaviorist and dog trainer Dr Ian Dunbar says limiting the pup’s emotional trauma is a prime consideration – and it’s all about timing.

“If the puppy leaves home too early, he will miss out on early pup-pup and pup-mother interactions. The developing puppy may grow up under-socialised toward his own kind,” says Ian.

“Eight weeks has been accepted as the optimal time to take a new pup home – sufficient socialisation has taken place, but the puppy is still young enough to form a strong bond with his new family.”

And that bond begins during the first car ride home, so make sure it’s as comfortable as possible.

The main problem dogs have with car rides isn’t usually motion sickness, but anxiety about the sounds, vibrations and movements in the car. Dogs that develop problems with car rides can get nauseous as soon as they realise a family outing is about to take place. With this in mind it’s crucial the first trip is a positive experience.

 You can ensure this by following a few simple steps. Try to get your puppy to go to the toilet before the trip begins and don’t put them in their crate for this first journey. The pup is small and easy to hold, so wrap them up in a blanket and keep them snug on your lap. Finding ways to distract them from the ride is another good idea so having some toys and treats on hand is recommended.

If it’s a long journey ahead of you, you will need to stop from time to time for the puppy to have a bathroom break. In doing so, be sure not to use a common highway stop. At this stage in their lives, puppies have very little protection from common dog diseases and these areas are often contaminated with the organisms that lead to these conditions.

But at the end of the day, don’t sweat the small stuff. This is an exciting time for you and your family, so enjoy every minute of it. Being prepared for your pup is an important step to take, loving them every day from here on in is crucial.

A growing family

Introducing your children to the puppy is an exciting time – but don’t forget to set some boundaries. The whole family needs to be aware of any ground rules that have been established, before you teach them to the puppy.

Some basic rules for children could include:

  • Pick up your toys ... or they may get ruined
  • Try not to wake the sleeping puppy – they need their rest
  • Interrupting a puppy’s dinner time could lead to you getting bitten
  • Carrying a puppy around unsupervised is dangerous – puppies break when dropped
  • Don’t hit the puppy – it’s an adult’s job to discipline
  • Our puppy should be treated like a friend, not a toy