Congratulations! You’ve adopted a dog and he or she going home with you, so what’s next? After dog-proofing your house and gathering the necessary supplies (collar, ID tag, water bowl, crate, food, toys, and cleaning products), you’ll need to think about how to acclimate your pup the moment his paws walk through your front door.
Before You Bring Your Dog Home:
- Gather Needed Supplies – Leash, Collar, ID Tag, Crate or Gates(if needed), Bed, Bowls, Food, Treats, Toys, Grooming Supplies, Waste Bags, Enzymatic Cleaner.
- Dog-Proof your house by looking for and removing hazardous items and valuable items that the dog could chew.
- Setup your house for the dog’s arrival. Determine where the dog’s crate, bed, and bowls will be placed. Decide where food, treats, and supplies will be stored. Determine the house rules for the dog and make sure all family members know what they are.
- Decide what the dog’s schedule will be for walks, play, training, feeding, and potty time and who will be responsible.
The First Day:
- Determine ahead of time where the dog will ride on the way home. It’s best to have two people if possible; one to drive and the other to pay attention to the dog. Bring towels just in case the dog gets car sick.
- Bring the dog straight home – try not to run errands on the way.
- No welcome-home parties. Limit/discourage visitors for the first few days so that your new dog isn’t overwhelmed.
- When you arrive home let the dog sniff around the yard or outdoor area near your home on a leash. Bring your dog to your designated potty spot and reward the dog with a treat for going there.
- Introduce your dog to your family members outside, one at a time. Keep it calm and low-key. Let the dog be the one to approach, sniff and drive the interaction. Offering a treat can help the dog to associate family members with good things(food!). No hugging, kissing, picking up, staring at, or patting on the top of the head during the initial introduction – these things can be scary for some dogs.
- Stay close to home initially. No major excursions. You need to learn your new dog’s behavior before you can predict how it will respond to different stimulus. Establish a walk routine in an area you are familiar with. Structured play in the yard is also a good form of exercise, bonding, and training.
- Bring your dog into the house on a leash and give it a tour of the house. Try keeping the mood calm and relaxed and redirect any chewing or grabbing of objects with a “leave-it” and offering an appropriate toy.
- Bring your new dog outside often. Dogs don’t generalize as well as we do, so even though your dog may have been house trained in its previous home, your dog needs to learn your house rules, which includes a house training refresher.
- Make sure your new dog gets ample “quiet time” so that your dog can acclimate to the new surroundings. Be observant of the dog’s responses and go at the dog’s pace.
- If you have a resident dog(s), have the initial meeting outside (one dog at a time if you have several). Don’t rush it. Keep the leashes loose with no tension. Make sure they meet in a food-free, toy-free zone. Don’t leave them alone together until you are absolutely sure it is safe to do so. Watch and manage all interactions between the dogs initially. When walking the dogs a different person should walk each dog.
- If you have a resident cat(s), keep the cat secure until you know how the dog will react to it. Use doors, gates, and leashes to prevent contact initially. Don’t give the dog the opportunity to chase the cat. Make sure the cat has escape options. Keep initial encounters brief. Manage all interactions.
Establish Daily Routines:
- Sleeping-Initially the crate or bed should be in the room you would like the dog to sleep in eventually. The area should be safe, dog-proofed, easily cleaned, cozy and quiet, with familiar scents. Don’t put your new dog in an uninhabited area like the garage or basement.
- Feeding-Check with your vet about what the recommended food and amounts should be for your dog based on breed, size, age, activity level, and health. If possible, feed two smaller meals per day rather than one large meal. You may need to reduce the meal size to allow for treats during training. Make sure the dogs food dish is in a safe, out of the way area.
- Walks – Keep the walks short at first (5-10 minutes) until you get to know your new dog’s behavior and how it responds to different stimuli. Keep to relatively quiet places at first. Avoid interaction with other dogs and unfamiliar people until you and your dog are comfortable.
- Chew Toys/Interactive Toys – Use of the crate and appropriate toys are great ways to keep your new dog out of trouble. Management of your dog and the environment prevents problem behaviors. Chew toys are a great way to direct your dog’s attention to appropriate toys, and away from objects that you don’t want your dog to destroy. Interactive toys help your dog to use its mind and tire them out, mentally. With a new dog, avoid rough and tumble, slapping, wrestling, and chase games when playing with your dog.
- Prevent separation anxiety – Use a crate and a toy in combination with leaving for short periods and coming back several times a day, starting with your first day with your new dog. Don’t make a big fuss of coming or going.
Patience- have patience with your new dog’s behavior, level of training, and the time it takes to establish a bond with you. Give your new dog time and space to adjust. Commit time the first few days to get to know your dog’s habits and personality. Establish a routine for the dog and balance interaction and down-time. This is a period of trust-building, so don’t scare or yell at the dog or try to force close contact. Watch your dog’s postures and expressions. Learn to read him. It may take even up to several months for you to get to know your dog’s true nature. And don’t forget, your new dog is trying to do the same with you!
Training- physical and mental stimulation are necessary parts of your dog’s well-being. Training helps your dog settle into a new home, teaches your dog how to fit in to a new family, and strengthens the relationship between you and the dog. Once your dog has settled in and you are familiar with your dog’s responses, take a positive reinforcement style training class (avoid dominance-based methods). You can sign up for humane dog training classes at the Animal Rescue League’s Boston or Dedham’s Branches.
Last: Remember to manage your dog’s environment so that you set him up to succeed. Be proactive, not reactive. In other words, prevent inappropriate behavior from happening, and then you won’t have to correct it.