Bringing a new dog home is undoubtedly a very exciting but also overwhelming experience. Whether you are new to dog ownership or already have furry friends at home there are lots of ways that we can ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Step 1: Prepare!
I’m sure you’ve heard the quote ‘preparation is the key to success’, well it certainly applies to adopting a new puppy or dog. There is nothing worse than first getting them through the door and realising you are missing an important piece of equipment. Dogs have a sixth sense of being able to pick up on our mood and body language, therefore if we are stressed they become stressed too. This is the last thing either of you need on adoption day. Some useful pieces of equipment to purchase in advance include:
A crate with a cover and a puppy pen
Lots of bedding
Lots of different types of toys
The food you wish to feed your dog eventually AND their current food
Fixed length lead, collar and harness
Adaptil plug-in (calming dog pheromone)
Enrichment feeders such as Kongs and Lickimats
Step 2: Puppy proof!
Set your new dog up for success; this mantra applies to all aspects of dog training, especially when it comes to introducing them into your house to ensure you immediately get off on the right foot. Puppies and even adult dogs are keen to explore when they move to a new home and this involves using their teeth. Dogs investigate new items with their mouths, it is how they learn about objects and how they play, as they don’t have the luxury of opposable thumbs! Therefore, rather than attempting to remove items from them once they inevitably pick them up, puppy proof your house as much as possible to stop access in the first place. Second dog training mantra; prevention is better than cure! Place items out of reach where possible, or if not, use a puppy pen or baby gates to block access.
Some prized possessions for dogs (and humans!)
Cables and wires
Rugs and doormats
Step 3: Hometime The big day! Adoption day is an anxious time for humans so imagine just how overwhelming it is for a puppy; leaving their Mum and siblings and moving into a new house with strangers. For newly adopted rescue dogs, this transition can be even more worrying, particularly if they have spent a long period of time in kennels, have recently lost their owner or have moved house multiple times in the past. Therefore it is really important that we make their first night as stress free and pleasant as possible. Make sure the car has more than enough fuel for the journey home and avoid stopping. The quicker you can get your dog home the better, as many dogs are worried by the car or can become travel sick. It is therefore important to make sure your dog has not been fed for a couple of hours before the journey. Not only is it not ideal for you to be getting a car valet the day after you welcome your new dog, but it leaves your dog with a very negative first impression of car travel with you. Sit with them in the car to ensure that you can comfort them if they become stressed or anxious. If you already have another dog, it is important that they meet the new dog before they come home. The first meet should be on neutral territory i.e. away from your house or garden. Avoid forcing interaction between the dogs, brief meets on lead and then time away from each other to explore and sniff is key to a successful and lifelong friendship. Ensure each dog has their own bowl, toys and bed to prevent resource guarding from surfacing. If you have other pets at home keep them separated from your dog initially. Once each pet has had a few days to settle, the initial meet should be on lead to prevent any chasing or inappropriate behaviour (remember prevention is better than cure!) Ensure their crate is situated in a warm and comfortable area of the house where they won’t be exposed to loud or scary noises. It will be necessary to sleep next to your puppy and potentially your rescue dog too for the first couple of weeks to ensure they do not panic that they are alone when they wake up during the night. I’m sure you’ve heard the advice to ignore a dog when they cry and not to go down to see them, but this is an outdated and disproven theory that has been shown to increase the likelihood of separation anxiety. Generally after a couple of weeks when they have settled and the initial anxiety of moving house has subsided they are comfortable sleeping alone and you can move back up to bed! If your dog is showing signs of being frightened by the crate such as kicking the door or whining, open the door and place a puppy pen around the crate instead. Asking the breeder for an item of the Mum’s to take home can really help your puppy to settle on their first night. Similarly placing a worn t-shirt of yours into their crate is comforting and can aid a peaceful sleep. Step 4: Live in the moment and enjoy! It is important not to expect too much of your new addition as their true personality will not be fully apparent until they have settled with you. Long walks, excessive cuddling and multiple visitors should be avoided for the first few weeks to avoid overwhelming them during their initial settling period. Welcoming a new dog can also be more overwhelming for you than you initially expected and when the honeymoon period begins to subside behavioural issues can begin to appear. It is important to take note of the progress that your dog is making, no matter how small to keep yourself motivated each day. It is all too easy to focus on the issues that you are experiencing and to overlook the positives. Remember their lives are short! And what is life without a dog.