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Bringing a Puppy Home in the Car – Super Easy Guide

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Getting a new puppy is a really exciting time! One of the first experiences your puppy will share with you is the car ride home. Bringing a puppy home for the first time can be scary if not handled well; follow these tips, and your new puppy will have the best experience possible.

If you’re bringing a puppy home, you’ll first want to start getting things ready at your house. If possible, it’s best to schedule a time when you’ll be able to be around the house for a few days to get your pup adjusted to its new environment. A long weekend is a great time to do this. You won’t want to have too many people around or much on your schedule that will take you away from home.

dog in car

Home Prep

Clean – Before bringing your new dog home, make sure to clean up a bit. They’re going to want to explore everything in their new environment. Their natural approach to examining will be to pick or chew objects that are sitting around. Everything can be a toy! Hide your shoes and other things they might grab.

Remove harmful materials – As you’re cleaning, put away any chemicals you might have. If you have oil or fertilizers in the garage, put them away. Anything with a smell will be particularly interesting.

Check your yard – Don’t forget to check your yard for any hazards, toys, plants, or other things you don’t want your pup chewing on.

Shopping for a New Puppy

You’ll want to be able to head straight home with your puppy, so go out ahead of time and get the supplies you’ll need at home. If you just read our new puppy checklist you should be set, but if not, here are some things to consider:

  • Food (dry puppy food usually; check and see what they are currently eating)
  • A crate (see crate tips below)
  • Food and water bowls
  • Toys to chew
  • Rawhide, treats, etc
  • A collar & leash
  • Paper towels
  • Pet odor neutralizer/cleaner – (I like Nature’s Miracle brand)
  • Poop bags

Once you have everything, take a quick walk through your house and make sure everything is ‘puppy-proofed’. New pups can be chewers, and you’ll want to make sure they don’t get ahold of anything they shouldn’t.

Crate Options

There are two primary options for a dog crate: wire & plastic. I’d lean more toward a plastic crate for a small dog and a wire one for a large dog… but either work; check out the advantages:

Wire (check out size options here):

  • folds flat (especially important if you buy a large crate & don’t have a truck)
  • cheaper, especially at large sizes ($20 – $60)
  • fast setup/takedown
  • usually comes with an extra panel so you can size the crate to the dog instead of having to buy a new one if you continue using the crate as your dog grows
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Plastic (check out size options here):

  • bulkier to transport
  • more expensive ($30-$200)
  • easier to carry for small dogs
  • more darkness/privacy
  • nicer looking
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Picking up Your Puppy

When you head to pick up your puppy, you’ll want to bring along some treats, something to chew, a blanket/towel, the leash & collar, poop bags, and cleaning supplies (in case there is an accident). If you can, bring someone with you to keep the puppy occupied while you drive. Ideally, your pup would be able to take this ride out of his crate under someone’s supervision, but if not, you can crate them.

When you pick them up, make sure you’ve got all the paperwork and know the current feeding schedule and type of food being used. Often, you can get a sample of their current food to continue feeding them or integrate it with the new food they will be eating. Make sure they aren’t being fed right before you head out to help avoid any sickness.

Before you put your pup in the car, it’s a good idea to take them for a walk to tire them out a bit for the ride and to let them go to the bathroom. When you put on a new collar, make sure it’s tight enough so it doesn’t slip over their head. It may seem tight at first, but having just 2 fingers able to fit when it’s around their neck is a good measure.

Bringing a Puppy Home – The First Car Ride

If you can, have the puppy sit in the back seat with someone else. You can encourage them to get in the car by putting a treat in there. You want to make the experience as pleasurable as possible so they are comfortable going on car rides in the future. Barking or crying is normal for a pup on this new experience, and you should reassure them calmly. Don’t reinforce their fear by becoming overly excited or overly affectionate. Your passenger can hold them in a blanket, or you can set them on a blanket on the seat to protect your car. If they’re uncomfortable, you can put them between the seats on the floor (it’s more like a den to them). Also, you can give them something to chew.

If you’re taking your puppy for a long drive, you can stop along the way to walk them and let them go to the bathroom but don’t stop at a highway rest stop or park. Your puppy probably hasn’t been vaccinated, and you won’t want them to go where lots of other dogs have been to the bathroom to keep them healthy.

Once you’re at home, make sure to bring your puppy outside so they can go to the bathroom, and remember to be calm and comforting. Let your puppy explore their new environment at their own pace.

Here’s a video from Doggy Dan showing his puppy’s first ride home and covering some of these tips for bringing a puppy home:

Now that you’ve got your puppy home you’ll want to get them on a schedule and begin to establish yourself as their new pack leader and start in on training.

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  1. Mandi Desbiens

    Our car ride to pick up our 8 week old puppy is 6.5 hrs one way. Obviously, I’m going to have to make stops for fuel, coffee and bathroom breaks. Should I feed or water my puppy at all on that 6.5 hr trip home? If so, how long after ingestion should I stop to take the puppy potty? Also, if we get home at 7 pm or later, should I feed and water my puppy, or is that just going to result in a 2 am potty break?

  2. andrea

    i think those are questions to ask the breeder regarding at what times they need to feed. each puppy is different. i would personally let them eat, walk them for about 15 mins, and then get back into the car. a full, tired puppy will want to nap for a bit, and as soon as they wake up, stop for a potty break immediately.

  3. Madie

    Hi next Friday I’m bringing my new puppy home . Should I get a blanket and get my scent on it so she can have it in her crate ?

  4. Sue

    Is that not dangerous to have them in the front while you’re driving? Surely it would have been better for him to be in the back with your wife?

  5. Ann Marie Zinowich

    We are picking up our 8 week old lab and have a 3 hour drive. Is it ok to hold him in a blanket that has been scented with the litter?

    • Kyle J. Larson

      That should be fine, best to sit in a back seat and make sure someone is always available to attend to the pup (vs having the driver do it).

  6. Michael

    What brand is the dog bed? Thanks!

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