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I brought home a new puppy yesterday. We picked him up around 3pm on Sunday, and I’m going to detail how we survived our first 24 hours together. Of course, your mileage may vary based on your new puppy’s personality, but this is what worked for us.
My puppy is a 9 week old male border collie named Niffler. His parents are both competitive sport dogs and he was raised by a fabulous breeder with Puppy Culture protocols. My other dog Barley is a 7 year old male border collie.
In case you don’t want to read this in detail, here’s what to take note of:
- I start leaving Niffler alone for a few minutes at a time right away when he gets home. This is partially due to the setup of my cabin (my bathroom and kitchen are in a different building), but would have been done intentionally if that wasn’t the case.
- Whenever I can’t be playing with or training Niffler, he’s in the pen. I don’t need poopy carpet, chewed shoes, or an electrocuted puppy on my hands.
- Even “easy” puppies have their vices. Niffler hasn’t had an accident yet and isn’t very bitey. I think overall he’s been a super easy puppy and I’m thrilled with him! BUT every time I put him in the pen and I sit more than a few feet away, he howls and screams for 15 minutes. He doesn’t do this when I’m GONE, so I suspect it’s more frustration than fear.
- Socialization and training are woven into our day in small chunks. We don’t rely on an hour-long puppy kindergarten or a huge outing to a pet store to do socialization for us. I play doggie socialization playlists on Spotify, we watch cars go by for 5 minutes, we meet a person and then nap. He encountered slippery floors, stairs, sirens, and car rides in tiny chunks as part of a multi-hour outing that included lots of breaks and naptime.
- I didn’t get much done. Yes, I managed to write this blog post and make my way through my email inbox and record a podcast – but that’s about it! I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do much else and it was hard for me to do any tasks that required ongoing intense attention. I planned this out intentionally to prepare so that I wasn’t stressed out.
- Socialization is absolutely NOT about other dogs. Niffler has only met Barley and my roommate’s ancient papillon. Other dogs are not my focus at all. I want Niffler to tolerate and ignore then for the most part, so I don’t want to heavily focus on teaching him that playing with other dogs is the most fun thing in the world!
Going forward, I’ve already identified some of the areas Niffler needs work. He could use practice being behind a barrier when he can see me but not reach me. That’s one of my top priorities for my own sanity. He also is definitely more aware of sirens than of other socialization sounds on the Spotify playlist, so we’ll layer those sounds in.
We haven’t tested a lot of other things yet. I plan on seeing how he does with horses, chickens, and other farm animals later on December 22. He’ll tag along to Barley’s agility class that evening. He’ll go to puppy kindergarten on December 24. He’ll meet some of my friends for an outdoor, socially distanced Christmas. He still needs to meet some adult dogs, the vet, and a variety of other things!
- 2:30pm: We arrive to pick Niffler up from the breeder. I leave Barley in the car to go in and talk to the breeder and greet the dogs.
- 2:45pm: We let Barley into the house to while we cook a late lunch. Niffler barks at him a few times so every time Barley approaches the puppy pen, Niffler gets some chicken.
- 3pm: We take Niffler, his sister, and Barley outside for a full greeting. Niffler quickly starts pouncing, prancing, and chasing him. All is well!
- 3:30pm: We load Niffler up into the crate with a blanket from his mom and siblings and a familiar toy.
- 3:30pm-4pm: I feed Niffler a tiny piece of chicken every few moments while we drive. He screams and howls on and off before settling in about 20 minutes into the ride and falling asleep.
- 4pm-10pm: Driving. Niffler is quiet and calm in the crate overall. We take 3 quick potty breaks along the way. Because Niffler isn’t vaccinated yet (he’s only had one round of shots), I was careful to only stop at places where few dogs would go – random pull-outs on country highways. He got 1/3 of a pig’s ear each time we got back into the car.
- 10pm: We arrived home. We did a bit of playtime in the yard and some name recognition work. I simply called his name and crouched down. When he ran to me, he got a treat. We only did this 5-7 times and I only did so when he was already paying attention to me and very likely to come when I called him.
- 10-Midnight: Whenever I couldn’t be playing with or cuddling Niffler, I put him in his play pen. This is a Carlson Pet Products gate with garage floor mats beneath. He’s got a crate with a cozy bed, a potty area with pine pellets in it, water, shreddable toys (brown paper bags), chewy toys, squeaky toys, teething toys, a child’s zylophone toy, and a snuffle mat.
- Midnight: I settled Niffler into his crate on my bed. Yes, ON my bed. He’s an infant who’s never been away from his mom and siblings, so it will be a bit less stressful to sleep this way for now. Over time I plan on moving his crate to a table near my bed, then on the floor near the bed, and eventually across the room in his play pen.
- 3am: Niffler woke up and started chewing on his toy. I couldn’t sleep through this, so I took him out for a quick potty break. He pottied, got a treat, and we went back to sleep.
- 7:30am: I woke up (exhausted) and took the dogs out for a quick potty break again. We played on the floor a bit with a doggie socialization playlist on Spotify going (thunderstorms, gunshots, car alarms, etc.) and then I left both dogs alone while I went to brush my teeth. Niffler was quiet while I was gone but jumped and whined at the gate when I returned. Everyone ate breakfast.
- 8:30am: I took both dogs for a little walk around our property. Niffler chased Barley around some and Barley mostly avoided him.
- 9am: Niffler kept jumping on Barley’s face. Barley would stiffen up, growl, and move away. I praised both dogs and would separate them when I could. As I was pulling on my shoes, Barley growled, barked, and put Niffler’s head in his mouth. Niffler screamed and ran away but was unhurt. This was my fault for not supervising, but was appropriate communication from Barley. I cuddled both dogs to help diffuse the situation (Niffler first, then Barley).
- 9:15am: I left Niffler with a pig’s ear while Barley and I went for a 45 minute run. This was the longest he’d been alone so far, and according to my Furbo he only whined a few times. I left Spotify playing a classical music playlist.
- 10am: We returned and gave Niffler another potty break before going to take my shower. Again, he whined for a moment while I was gone.
- 10:45am: We went for another quick walk and I practiced a bit more name games with Niffler – calling his name and rewarding him for coming with a few treats.
- 12pm: I settle in to get to work on my computer (and this blog post). Niffler fusses in the pen a bit (it’s about 6 inches from my desk chair) then falls asleep.
- 12:45pm: Another potty/play break.
- 1pm – 2:30pm: I record a podcast episode for Pandemic Puppy Podcast. Niffler mostly sleeps, but also plays with his toys some. I am sitting less than 1 foot from his pen/crate area.
- 2:30pm: Another potty/play break and a meal.
- 3pm: Niffler and I head into town. I have a job interview and he waits in the car. No fuss in the car.
- 4pm: Niffler and I visit my old apartment (new place!) We play some tug o war after I clean out the last of my stuff and he meets the office ladies when I check my mail. We then go to watch traffic drive past at a safe distance. I feed him some treats when an ambulance goes by and we keep the session short – less than 5 minutes.
- 4:30pm: We swing through a small local pet food store to see if they have a specific supplement I’m lookng for (they don’t). Niffler meets the two office gals and takes treats from them.
- 5:30pm: Home, another play/potty break and a meal. We play a few small searching/scent games with this meal.
- 6pm: Niffler is loose and we play tug o war while Zooming with my family.
- 6:30pm: I put Niffler in his pen area as he seems to be getting tired/cranky. I settle on the couch to keep chatting with my family. Niffler is about 10 feet away and protests (whines, howls, hops on his hind legs) quite a lot about this. This is the biggest issue we’ve had so far.
- 7pm: Quick potty break, then I go to get some dinner and leave them alone. No crying while I’m away in the other house (I live in a single-room cabin and the kitchen is in the main house).
- 8pm: I take both dogs out for a walk and Barley does some scentwork.
- 9pm: I give Niffler a Groov training aid for the crate but even with me ~10 feet away on the couch he cries, screams, and tries to climb out of his pen. I ignore this but occasionally use my Treat and Train to feed him when he’s quiet. After about 15 minutes he settles in and starts to fall asleep.
Kayla grew up in northern Wisconsin and studied ecology and animal behavior at Colorado College. She founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She’s an avid adventurer and has driven much of the Pan-American Highway with her border collie Barley. She now travels the US in a 2006 Sprinter with her two border collies, Barley and Niffler. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams.