The first few days in your home are special and critical for a pet. Your new dog will be confused about where he is and what to expect from you. Setting up some clear structure with your family for your dog will be paramount in making as smooth a transition as possible.

Before You Bring Your Dog Home:

  • Determine where your dog will be spending most of his time. Because he will be under a lot of stress with the change of environment (from shelter or foster home to your house), he may forget any housebreaking (if any) he’s learned. Often a kitchen will work best for easy clean-up.
    • If you plan on crate training your dog, be sure to have a crate set-up and ready to go for when you bring your new dog home.
    • Dog-proof the area where your pooch will spend most of his time during the first few months. This may mean taping loose electrical cords to baseboards; storing household chemicals on high shelves; removing plants, rugs, and breakables; setting up the crate, and installing baby gates.
    • Training your dog will start the first moment you have him. Take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use when giving your dog directions. This will help prevent confusion and help your dog learn his commands more quickly. Not sure which commands to use?
    • Bring an ID tag with your phone number on it with you when you pick up your dog so that he has an extra measure of safety for the ride home and the first few uneasy days. If he is microchipped, be sure to register your contact information with the chip’s company, if the rescue or shelter did not already do so.

    First Day:

    • We know moving is stressful — and your new dog feels the same way! Give him time to acclimate to your home and family before introducing him to strangers. Make sure children know how to approach the dog without overwhelming him.
    • When you pick up your dog, remember to ask what and when he was fed. Replicate that schedule for at least the first few days to avoid gastric distress. If you wish to switch to a different brand, do so over a period of about a week by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days; then switch to half new food, half old, and then one part old to three parts new.
    • On the way home, your dog should be safely secured, preferably in a crate. Some dogs find car trips stressful, so having him in a safe place will make the trip home easier on him and you.
    • Once home, take him to his toileting area immediately and spend a good amount of time with him so he will get used to the area and relieve himself. Even if your dog does relieve himself during this time, be prepared for accidents. Coming into a new home with new people, new smells and new sounds can throw even the most housebroken dog off-track, so be ready just in case.
    • If you plan on crate training your dog, leave the crate open so that he can go in whenever he feels like it in case he gets overwhelmed.
    • From there, start your schedule of feeding, toileting and play/exercise. From Day One, your dog will need family time and brief periods of solitary confinement. Don’t give in and comfort him if he whines when left alone. Instead, give him attention for good behavior, such as chewing on a toy or resting quietly.
    • For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your dog, limiting too much excitement (such as the dog park or neighborhood children). Not only will this allow your dog to settle in easier, it will give you more one-on-one time to get to know him and his likes/dislikes.
    • If he came from another home, objects like leashes, hands, rolled up newspapers and magazines, feet, chairs and sticks are just some of the pieces of “training equipment” that may have been used on this dog. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may bring forth a reaction other than the one you expect.Or maybe he led a sheltered life and was never socialized to children or sidewalk activity. This dog may be the product of a never-ending series of scrambled communications and unreal expectations that will require patience on your part.

    Following Weeks:

    • People often say they don’t see their dog’s true personality until several weeks after adoption. Your dog may be a bit uneasy at first as he gets to know you. Be patient and understanding while also keeping to the schedule you intend to maintain for feeding, walks, etc. This schedule will show your dog what is expected of him as well as what he can expect from you.
    • After discussing it with your veterinarian to ensure your dog has all the necessary vaccines, you may wish to take your dog to group training classes or the dog park. Pay close attention to your dog’s body language to be sure he’s having a good time — and is not fearful or a dog park bully.
    • To have a long and happy life together with your dog, stick to the original schedule you created, ensuring your dog always has the food, potty time and attention he needs. You’ll be bonded in no time!
    • If you encounter behavior issues you are unfamiliar with, ask your veterinarian for a trainer recommendation. Select a trainer who uses positive-reinforcement techniques to help you and your dog overcome these behavior obstacles.

    Congratulations! If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to having a well-adjusted canine family member.

    Tips for Bringing a Second Dog Home:

    Thinking about doubling your doggie pleasure? Here are some tips for those who are thinking about bringing a second canine home to join the family:

    1. Make introductions slowly. Don’t throw two dogs together in a car, house or yard and assume it will be all roses. If you bring the new dog directly into your home, your first dog may feel that his territory is threatened and could react defensively or aggressively. Introduce the dogs on neutral territory – in a park, for example – not in your home.

    2. While making the first introduction, keep both dogs on a leash to give you control if one becomes aggressive. (You hold your dog’s leash – have a friend hold the other.)

    3. Keep the dogs separated by a gate or side-by-side crates the first week or so. This allows them to get used to each other slowly.

    4. Keep a positive attitude and speak calmly so the experience is pleasant for the dogs. You can give treats for good behavior. Timing and a connection to the good behavior is crucial to make the dogs remember and understand what is desired.

    5. Dogs determine their social ranking through a set of behaviors, which include body postures and vocalizations that usually do not result in injury. Examples of these behaviors include: one dog “standing over” the other, placing his paws or neck on the shoulders of the other; lip licking; mounting; and rolling over. Some dogs may take toys away from other dogs and insist on being petted first or having control over food and sleep areas.

    Canines should be allowed to determine among themselves who is the top dog. If the dogs get into conflict, don’t step in too soon as this may bring some unresolved conflict to the next encounter.

    When the conflict is over, give attention to the winner and this will help reinforce the hierarchy just established by the dogs themselves. Once it’s established, the competition to be top dog should stop.

    6. If you do need to break up a fight, use a water bottle and squirt the dogs or make a loud noise to interrupt them. Never break up a dog fight by grabbing the collars or getting any part of you in between them. Touching dogs while they are fighting can result in “redirected aggression,” where a dog may bite you because he thinks you are part of the conflict.

    7. If the dogs have an accident in the house, simply clean it up without comment. Again, this should stop once the hierarchy is established. Give the new dog more opportunities to go outside to relieve himself until he becomes used to your routine and schedule. If either dog starts to urine-mark inside the house, consider a behaviorist.

    8. Give your first dog the same amount of affection he received in the past. Don’t give him a reason to be jealous. If he got a walk or a play session before, continue that. The less his routine is disrupted, the better.

    9. Each dog should have his own food and water dishes, with space between them. Food can be one of the most competitive things for dogs – feed them separately if you have any doubts about their relationship.

    10. Remember change is stressful for both dogs. Do not overwhelm them with visitors those first days in your home. If your first dog is crate-trained, it is best to do the same with the new dog (in a separate crate). Dogs are den animals; properly crating a dog in a correctly sized enclosure under reasonable time limits is not cruel and may help the animal feel safe and secure.

    11. Within a few weeks, the dogs should be getting along nicely. They should be happy to have each other as pack members. At that point, you should all be one big happy two-dog family.

Where your dog came from:

The dog that you adopt may be a rescue from a kill shelter, abandoned dog, rescued stray or a dog that someone has voluntarily surrendered for adoption.

Whether he was born in the bushes behind the laundromat or an adolescent abandoned on the streets by his once-upon-a-time owner, the streetwise stray can be a real challenge to incorporate into your life. The famous “he followed me home, can I keep him, Mom?” canine is a special animal that needs time and space, patience and understanding.

This is a dog that has had to compete to stay alive; he’s fought for food, scrambled for shelter. His reliance on his inborn canine savvy kept him alive on the streets long enough to be rescued and adopted by you. Now you’ve comitted yourself to him, it becomes a crash course in Canine Socialization and Human Interaction 101.

If he’s street-born, chances are he’s never heard a toilet flush or seen a vacuum cleaner in action. He’ll gobble up his food, throwing furtive glances left and right. The acoustics of the indoor environment may make him anxious. Edgy, he’ll whine and pace. A sudden sound and he’ll either bolt upright ready for action or slither along behind you.

Be reasonable in your expectations. Be sensitive. It’s culture shock, pure and simple. Put yourself in his shoes. Just imagine that you’ve been snatched away from home and suddenly find yourself in an aboriginal outback community. No language or gestures in common. Communication is by trial and error. Be patient and supportive. You’ll succeed.

The stray that was “previously owned” enters your home with a completely different set of baggage. Leashes, hands, rolled up newspapers and magazines, feet, chairs and sticks are just some of the pieces of” training equipment” that may have been used on this dog. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may bring forth a reaction other than the one you expected. Or maybe he led a sheltered life and was never socialized to children or sidewalk activity. This dog may be the product of a never-ending series of scrambled communications and unreal expectations.

As an adolescent or adult dog, he’s already formed his opinion regarding humans. Be prepared to meet with confusion, reluctance and resistance as you retrain this fellow. He may flinch when you reach to pet him, make a sudden move or raise your voice. But don’t let yourself be held hostage by thoughts of past cruelties and abuse. Don’t treat him like a victim. The key here is confidence. Build his with consistent training and you’ll turn him around.

The dog that has been voluntarily surrendered for adoption may have somehow let someone down. Not housebroken, too active, too noisy, destructive when left alone, too friendly. Or maybe he’s a victim of circumstance. Divorce, an owner who died, is ill or was arrested. A newborn who is allergic. Whatever the the familiar smells that make him feel good all over. He misses them, he mourns them. His pack, his family … where are they?

When you get him home, he’s confused and disoriented. Sights and sounds are simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar; things are jumbled up. He jumps on the couch and bed, he drinks from the toilet bowl, barks at the phone and makes wild lunges at strangers. In another life, these behaviors may have been encouraged or maybe just not discouraged. Don’t worry; he’ll catch on. He’ll get past it all. He’ll become your dog.

Taking on the responsibility of a dog with a past is hard work. At first, it may seem overwhelming. Most of the problem behavior you’ll encounter is an expression of the dog’s inability to cope with the demands of your personality and lifestyle. Make sure you and he are indeed suited for each other; that you can meet his needs for activity and companionship according to his breed type. Things may proceed slowly; you’ll hit frustrating learning plateaus. But if you’re committed you’ll get there. Remember that the basic period of adjustment can be anywhere from six to twelve weeks. Go into this with your eyes open… and then stand back and marvel at the transformation. . . it will knock your socks off!