If you have decided to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue group, you should know that you are doing a wonderful thing to help homeless pets everywhere! Once you have chosen the right dog for your household, you can begin to prepare yourself and your home for the arrival of your new canine companion.
Bringing home an adult dog or older puppy from a shelter or rescue differs in many ways from bringing home a very young puppy. Each has its pros and cons. It's only fair that you should know what to expect for the first few weeks after your newly adopted dog arrives in your home. After all, the more prepared you are, the more smoothly the transition will go.
How to Help Your New Dog Adjust
The following tips can help you create a safe, comfortable environment for your newly adopted dog.
- Make sure you have your new dog's personal area(s) set up and dog-proofed before they come home. The should have access to their new bed, bowls, and toys. If you plan to crate train, be sure the crate is ready as well. If your new dog has a special item (such as a toy, bed or blanket) from their foster home or the shelter, find out if you can take it home with them. This can help make their new home feel familiar.
- Have a collar and ID tag with your phone number made in advance, and bring it with you when you pick up your new dog. Worst case scenario, if they run off or wander away, they are unlikely to find their way back to your home. Remember, they are in an unfamiliar place and might be stressed or afraid. Be extra careful to keep them on a leash or in a securely fenced area when they are outdoors to prevent them from becoming lost.
- Find out what food your new dog eats and make sure you have enough of it for the first few weeks. If you plan on changing their diet, wait at least a week to start the new diet. Then, gradually transition them to the new food over the following ten or more days. Both stress and diet change can cause stomach upset and diarrhea so keep an eye out for these or any other signs of illness (many of which may also be brought on by stress).
- Try to spend the first few days bonding with your new dog, but give them some space as well. If they want to spend time in their crate rather than with you, let them do so. However, you can encourage them to interact with you through the use of treats and a soft, calm voice. On the other hand, you still need to establish a routine and set down the "house rules." Begin feeding, walking and interacting with your dog on the same general schedule each day, If there are areas in or around your home that are off-limits to your dog, establish this up front, either by blocking access to the areas or by using the "leave it" command.
- Training should start from the moment your new dog comes home but start slowly. Housetraining is a priority. Many rescue/shelter dogs already have some housetraining, but expect a few accidents over the first few weeks. In other training, work on basic commands and loose-leash-walking at first, then move on to tricks and advanced training. Above all, remember to keep things positive!
- Take your new dog to the veterinarian within a few days to weeks after they come home. It's a good idea to establish a relationship with your vet and open the lines of communication early on. This way, if your new dog becomes ill, your vet will have a better idea of their overall health before they became ill. The shelter or rescue group should have provided you with their vaccine and previous health records. Be sure to bring these records to your first vet visit.
- Be aware that your newly adopted dog may act differently in your home than they did at the shelter or foster home. A long talk with the shelter workers or foster owners can give you an idea of their personality and habits. However, once they come home with you, there's no way to be sure how they will behave. Be prepared for it to take weeks or even months for your new dog to show their true self. Be patient and loving, but also be consistent. Make sure they get plenty of exercises, mental stimulation, socialization, and attention. All of these things can lead to a long, healthy, and happy life together.
Congratulations on your new dog!