What to Expect When Bringing Home a New Dog
Bringing your new dog home is an exciting and fulfilling experience, but it can also be a bit daunting, especially if you’ve never shared your home with a furry companion. If you’ve adopted a new dog or even if you’re still thinking about it, figuring out what to expect when you bring home a rescue dog, shelter dog, or dog from any other background can help you prepare. (BTW, you can find your dream dog with our search tool). Here are some tips to get your relationship off on the right foot (or paw, as the case may be)!
1. Be Prepared
Before you adopt your dog, know which training method you’re going to use (we love clicker training and other positive-reinforcement techniques) and read up on it so you can employ the philosophy from day one. Research dog care and nutrition in advance as well, and decide which food you’ll feed your dog and how many times a day they’ll eat (usually twice). And think about the details, like how you’ll manage driving your newly adopted dog home. The more prepared you are, the smoother your new family member’s transition will be.
2. Be Flexible
While it’s good to be prepared, remember that your new dog is a living being with a mind of their own and may express preferences that run counter to your plans. If the sleeping arrangements you’ve laid out just don’t work for them, you may have to shuffle things around a bit. If the sound of the clicker scares them to death, a different training method may be in order. If they’re used to a completely different environment, they’ll likely need time to adjust.
Maintain a good sense of humor and try not to get exasperated. The transition period won’t last forever. Take it slow: get a routine set that works for both of you and introduce your pet to new people, animals, and places after you’ve had a chance to bond over the first week or two. Soon you and your new buddy will have a well-established routine.
3. Shop For the Basics
You’ll need a leash, collar, a bed, food and water dishes, and, of course, food (to pick the best food for your new dog, check out our guide to choosing the right food for your dog). It’s a good idea to have these items in place even before you bring your new dog home.
One other thing to buy right away: an ID tag! Put the tag on your dog immediately — we can’t stress that enough. You’ll notice that a crate isn’t on the list of things to buy in advance. If you plan on crate training, it’s best to take your dog with you when you shop for the crate so you can find the correct size.
4. Make Sure All Family Members Are On Board
Set some ground rules and make sure everyone in the family agrees to follow and enforce them. For instance, if you don’t want your new pup on the couch, all the training in the world won’t help if your daughter lets them sit there with her when you’re not home. Also, if caring for your dog will be a family effort, be certain everyone understands and agrees to their particular roles and responsibilities.
5. Help Your New Pal Adjust
Over the first few days to the first few weeks, your new dog will go through an adjustment period. Keep in mind the “3-3-3 rule” for adopted dogs: expect your new dog to feel overwhelmed or nervous for three days, take three weeks to settle in, and need three months to build trust and bond with you.
You may also notice some symptoms of anxiety, including a lack of appetite and suppressed bowel habits. Your dog may even hide under or behind furniture or stay in one particular room for a few days. Don’t be alarmed, as this is absolutely normal behavior, but you may be wondering how to comfort a dog who is feeling this way and help them adjust to cohabitating with you. By showing your new friend patience and understanding, you’ll be helping them through a tough, scary time and showing them how wonderful their new home really is!
6. Establish a Schedule of Feeding And Walking And Be Consistent
Try to walk and feed your new pup at the same times each day, and signal the walking and feeding times with the same keywords every time. For instance, right before you feed them, you might say, “Dinner time!” A reliable routine is an important tool in successfully integrating your new dog into your family and helping them feel secure.
7. Set Aside Time to Bond
Spend some quiet time with your dog each day, petting them gently and speaking in a soothing voice. Touch is an incredibly powerful communication method that is almost impossible to misunderstand. Show your dog they’re safe and loved, and your relationship will get off to a beautiful start.
8. Everyone Needs Time Alone
Your dog is no exception! Give them time every day to be alone and explore their new surroundings. Observe from a distance to make sure they’re safe but not close enough to intrude on their “me” time.
9. Slowly Introduce Them to New Things And People
We know you’re dying to show your amazing new family member to all of your other family and friends, but take it slowly! A good rule of thumb is to introduce no more than one new person to your dog each day. Also, save the first trip to the dog park or any other busy environment for a few weeks later to avoid overwhelming and confusing them.
10. Get Them a Tune-Up
Schedule a first visit to your dog’s new veterinarian during the first week (or immediately upon adoption if you have other pets at home or suspect your new pup might be ill). Bring any and all medical and vaccine records supplied by the shelter or rescue from which you adopted your dog. Many veterinarians will even provide a free first checkup to folks who adopt a pet. This first visit is a great time to get clues about your dog’s personality and history, so don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Also, have your dog microchipped right away (if they’re not already), so you can be reunited if you ever get separated.
Bringing Home a New Dog FAQ
How Can I Prepare My Home Before Bringing My Newly-Adopted Dog?
Buy a leash, collar, bed, food and water dishes, and food before your dog comes home. If you’ll crate train, bring your dog to shop for the crate to find the right size.
What Is the 3-3-3 Rule For Adopted Dogs?
Expect your new dog to feel overwhelmed or nervous for three days, take three weeks to settle in, and need three months to build trust and bond with you.
How Long Does It Take an Adopted Dog to Adjust to a New Home?
Every dog is different, but over the first few days to the first few weeks, your new dog will go through an adjustment period.
What Should I Feed My Newly Adopted Dog?
Research dog nutrition to decide what and how often to feed your dog. To help pick the best food for your new dog, check out our guide to choosing the right food for your dog.
Want to Track Your Progress?
Check out our five pet parent checklists that cover everything from heartworm to house rules.