You’ve found the dog you want to adopt and you’ve got all the supplies, now what?
- Make sure all the supplies are set up where you want them so you can give your dog a smooth transition into their new life.
- Dog-proof your house. You never know what to expect when you bring home a new dog even if they are in a foster home. Prepare for the worst by putting all valuable items out of reach of the dog and making sure any dangerous or hazardous items are locked away. The last thing you need while bonding with your new dog is to have them accidentally ruin your favorite pair of shoes or having to rush them to the E.R. for ingesting something hazardous.
- Make sure everyone in the household is on the same page. Decide on rules before bringing the dog home. Decide on a schedule for the dog and who will be responsible for which chores.
- When you get home, let them explore the outside area of the house while on leash. If you have a fenced in yard, let them explore off-leash once they seem comfortable. If you will be introducing your dog to other human family members, have this happen outside the house at first. Make sure everyone is calm and respectful of the dog’s space. Let the dog approach people at their own pace.
- Once the dog is comfortable outside, bring the dog inside. Give your dog a tour of the house on leash and let them sniff and take their time. Once your dog seems more comfortable, let them off leash to explore. Be sure to show them where the bowls, bed, and toys are! Make note of any items they seem particularly interested in, and use that to inform how else you might need to dog-proof the house.
- Watch your dog closely and bring them outside frequently. Even if they are potty trained, it’s important to establish a routine right away and to encourage them to go potty outside as if you are newly potty training them. This will help prevent any accidents. Bring treats outside with you and reward them for going outside. If they do have an accident inside, do not punish them. Clean up the mess with an enzymatic cleaner, and watch them more closely next time.
- Moving to a new home is stressful. Let the dog acclimate at their own pace. Establish a routine quickly, but don’t bring your dog on any major excursions until they are comfortable. Do not invite a bunch of friends and family members over right away to meet your new dog. Keep the atmosphere calm for the first couple of days to let them settle in.
- Keep walks short and positive so you can see how your new dog is reacting on leash. This will help you identify any problems early on, like if they have leash reactivity issues or are fearful of certain things. Then you can work on establishing a training plan or consult with a trainer to address issues right away.
- Try not to make special rules or exceptions the first week that you don’t plan on keeping later on. For example, if you don’t want the dog to sleep on the bed, don’t give in the first week to make them feel more comfortable. Establish these rules right away to avoid confusion and frustration later.
- Some people like to stay home with their new dog for the first couple days to help them acclimate. This is great but can also lead to separation anxiety if you suddenly are gone all day long without working on getting the dog used to this first. Start by going on short trips away from the house. Don’t make a big deal about leaving or coming home. Leave your dog with positive things to do while you are gone, like yummy chew toys or stuffed Kongs. Gradually make the trips longer. If you suspect your dog has separation anxiety issues, make a plan to address this right away. Consulting a dog trainer is your best bet, along with arranging a dog walker to come visit the dog during the day or seeing if your dog will enjoy daycare while you are gone.
- Be patient with your dog. It can take several months for an adopted dog to fully feel comfortable in their new home. Be prepared for the dog’s behavior to continue to change as they feel more comfortable and be willing to adapt to meet their needs. Be proactive with things you see as potential issues and don’t punish the dog for making mistakes.
- Many adoption centers and rescues offer a discount on your first veterinary visit and training classes. Take advantage of these! Get your new dog to a vet within a week of bringing them home to check out any medical issues. Sign up for training classes with your dog. Even if you have skills as a dog trainer, training classes are a great way to build a bond with your new dog while also providing them mental stimulation and setting them up for success!
- Last but not least, enjoy your new dog! Enjoy watching them relax and begin to trust you. Take time to appreciate them and how far they are coming along.
Introducing your dog to existing pets
Introducing a new dog to resident dogs and cats can be tricky, so making sure the initial interactions are calm, controlled, and brief can set everyone up for success in the long run. A lot of people put new pets together right away to “work it out.” This can be detrimental in the long run. If the initial interactions are negative, this could lead to poor relationships for the rest of their lives, so read our tips on how to do introductions between pets.
- For dogs: If you are bringing a dog home to another dog, chances are you have already done dog-to-dog introductions and know the dogs get along well. However, bringing a new dog into the home is a very different experience for your current dog. It might have been all fun and games when they met before, but now this dog is on their territory, using their favorite items and getting attention from their owners. Make sure each dog has their own set of toys, bowls, and beds, and give your current dog plenty of attention while the new dog is settling in. When you first bring the new dog home, have the dogs greet each other outside. You can have them meet in the yard or you can bring both dogs on a walk (it is best to have one person walking each dog at this point so you can separate them if needed) right away to encourage a productive interaction. Keep the leashes loose during this first interaction and don’t correct or punish either dog. Keep interactions quick and then distract the dogs away from each other for a few seconds, then let them go back. Have treats to reward good behavior. Watch both dogs’ body language to know whether they are happy and comfortable, or if either dog is tense, fearful, or anxious with the interaction. Introduce the new dog to the home without the resident dog, letting a family member or familiar friend take the resident dog on a fun adventure so they don’t feel left out. Watch both dogs when they in the house together for any resource guarding or other aggressive interactions. Try to keep interactions productive and brief, and reward both dogs for good behavior.
- For cats: Even if your new dog has been around cats before, you may not know how they will react to your cat(s). Keep the new dog on leash initially to see how they may react. Prevent the dog from chasing the cat by using the leash and treats to encourage them to pay attention to you and ignore the cat. Ensure the cat has a safe space away from the dog for at least the first couple of weeks until you know that the cat will be safe. Putting up gates is a great way to give the cat free access to the house but also giving them a safe space to get away from the dog if needed. If the dog is showing aggressive or predatory behavior towards the cat, you need to consult a trainer or behaviorist right away, or consider consulting the adoption agency or rescue about finding a more appropriate dog for your household.
- For any other types of small pets: Follow similar protocols as for cats with any other type of small pet in your home such as birds, guinea pigs, gerbils, or hamsters. Have the dog on leash at first and only have supervised interactions until you know the dog is not a threat to the other animals. If the dog shows too much interest in these animals and you are worried the dog may be aggressive or predatory towards them, keep them out of reach or completely separated from the dog, especially when no one is home.
- For any other types of large pets: Follow similar protocols as for other dogs with any large animals such as horse, goats, or pigs. Have initial interactions be on leash and use treats to distract the dog and encourage good behavior. If the dog is showing aggressive or predatory behavior towards these animals, consult a behaviorist or trainer, or consult the adoption agency or rescue about finding a dog more suitable to your situation.