𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗳𝗶𝗿𝘀𝘁 𝗻𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝗱𝗼𝗴
Being a foster carer, I have a lot of "First nights" whether they be puppies or adults.
How I approach first nights has changed so much over the years, I've become more empathetic to the situation, more open minded and certainly not following the go-to advice people give about first nights.
I've learned to work with the dog in-front of me and adjust how we handle that first night based on their own requirements.
🥰 A special needs Great Dane foster puppy a few years back changed how I did a lot of things and before I get into sharing my experiences - know that they are my experiences, they are not rules for you to abide by, they may not be right for your situation, they may not be of interest to you, they are likely to be taboo yadda yadda yadda👍
So, this teeny tiny 1.9 kilo 7 week old Dane puppy arrived, he should have been 8-9 kilos and there just wasn't any way I could feel comfortable about isolating him whether that be in a crate or pen or elsewhere. My dogs have always slept in my bedroom until recently so I have never been one to put a new dog in a bathroom, outside or similar which I think is such a confronting thing to do...why? Because we're taking a puppy from everything it knows and it's never been alone and then we isolate it, it doesn't make sense to me...one of those old fashioned things people do without questioning it...and that old saying..."It's a dog" as though it has no emotions or empathy should be minded.
My experiences with the puppy that first day showed me that I would go against all existing advice and the puppy would sleep in bed with me until a time I felt it was right to pop him on his own in a pen. People ask if I was worried if he would toilet in my bed, no, no matter how much of a deep sleeper you are (as I am), when you have a puppy in your bed, when they start to move, you're going to wake up, and that's what I did, I would get up and toilet him, the first week I think it was a few times a night and then soon enough he could hold over night and that aligned with the time he was ready to sleep in a pen next to the bed where he could see the other dogs. We put down puppy pads in the pen but if I heard him stir I would get up and toilet him so he didn't practice any bad toileting habits.
The other concern people had was that I would never get him out of the bed in the future...no, that's actually the super easy bit and never something I've had any issues with - It's usually dealt with in one night so if you need any tips on that one, post below!
Then other concerns from more traditional trainers is that the dog will feel as though it's my equal or try and dominate me....😂...I always chuckle at this one....no, that's silly. If you want a dog to sleep on the bed with you that's fine but have some rules i.e. you get off when I ask you to and if they don't then you work on that and if the dog acts up a treat in this situation and you don't know how to deal with it, then chat with a trainer because it's likely you have other issues that need to be dealt with too:)
⏩𝗙𝗮𝘀𝘁 𝗙𝗼𝗿𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗿𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗹 𝗼𝗳 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝗳𝗼𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿
She arrives on a Sunday, my preference is a Saturday so that if I'm going to lose any sleep it's not going to matter too much. She had slept in a crate for the previous few nights at the vet and another carer so I pop her in a crate and she's like NOPE! This is not going to work, so my choices here are to just ignore here, correct her, cover her crate, unproductively yell at her, let her out during a brief moment of silence and find an alternative. Given the next day was a work day, I choose to let her out. She just wouldn't settle and was having a hard time so for the first time in my foster care life, I grab my pillow and blanket and sleep on the couch with her - definitely not my ideal situation but it's what got us all sleep that night. Her 2nd night which was last night, she slept perfectly fine in the dog room with the other dogs.
So to me, all first nights are different and not great first nights are not a predictive or future nights. Sometimes we just need to make it work for the first night so the humans can actually sleep and the dog doesn't feel isolated or abandoned.
Now, going back to the little Dane puppy, he transitioned to a pen beside the bed, his first night in the pen, he had a little whine, nothing major, nothing a hand over the side of the bed didn't calm. Once he could sleep through the night and stay in his bed, he was released into general population.
👉I'm in no way against crate training for sleeping overnight, it's a great life-skill for a dog to have, it's also very helpful for toilet training overnight. Some dogs will be perfectly ok with them, others will need a more slow introduction. A crate needs to be big enough to stand, lay and turn around, a dog should be able to stretch out in one. Take care in warmer weather as if puppy gets hot in a crate they can't move to a cooler spot and this will cause distress.
Having a crate in your bedroom next to your bed to start with is often a good start, puppy can smell you, hear you and you can put your fingers through the crate. Once puppy is settled in, you may choose to move the crate bit by bit out of the bedroom.
If you're going to crate a puppy/dog on their first night, have your plan ready about what you're going to do if the puppy/dog screams blue murder. It's better to have this plan ready to go before you're tired and stressed. Letting your neighbours know you have a new puppy/dog is also a good idea in-case they make a bit of noise but also, don't expect your neighbours to put up with screaming every night ongoing if they're within ears shot.
Crate training can be taught at any age, Susan Garrett has a great program called 'Crate Games' which a lot of the performance dog handlers use - dogs develop such a love for their crates with this program and you can slowly get them used to them vs just expect them to accept them.
If you're not looking at using a crate or pen and just want the dog to sleep in a dog bed on the floor in your room, you'll probably need to pop your alarm on a couple of times overnight to take them toilet and accept that there will be accidents.
If your dog has come from a breeder, they will probably already be used to crates and pens so your puppy may have zero issues.
Just remember, there are no actual rules when it comes to first nights or the how your dog sleeps - it's whatever works for you and your family and of course...the dog.