So you’ve adopted a dog… Now what?

Although the dogs we home tend to settle into their new homes very well, there’s a lot of ways you can help make the process go as smoothly as possible, particularly if your dog is going to be an only dog. 

It is important to be realistic in your expectations of your new arrival. After waiting weeks for your new arrival, it’s natural to be excited and want to shower them with the affection they have never known before. However, your new canine buddy may not be ready for this just yet! They have just had a long journey and arrived in a totally new environment, surrounded by new people and often other new furries too. It’s a big change for them and often a whole new world from the one they have left behind and it’s important to remember this and not to overwhelm them. 

On average, a dog takes 2-3 weeks to settle into their new home. Of course, some will settle quicker than this which is great, and some may take considerably longer which is also fine. Patience is the key. 

So, your new dog has just arrived home at last! What do you do? 

Here are some general tips on how to handle your new arrival in the first few days:

As hard as it may be, do not shower your dog with attention. In fact, do the complete opposite. Go about your normal day as if the dog isn’t even there. Don’t force any interaction with the dog (eye contact, fusses, cuddles, play), let them have time to adjust to their new surroundings and figure out their new human friends. Of course, if the dog does approach you, use a positive and cheery tone of voice, kind and open body language and physical contact if you feel the dog is seeking it. If you have adopted a nervous dog, be very careful not to use any body language that the dog may find threatening like large gestures, fast movements or crowding the dog. 

If your family have kids, they will no doubt be the most excited about the new arrival but it’s still important to keep any interactions to a minimum. Children can be loud and scary, even to the gentlest dog and it’s very easy to overwhelm them in the first few days of arriving. Make sure the dog has a ‘safe space’ to retreat to, away from the children where the children know not to bother them. 

Do not introduce your new dog to any other animals (cats, rabbits, chickens etc) in the first few days. Try following our tips for introducing your dog to cats to avoid any problems. Also try to keep all eager visitors to a bare minimum for the first few weeks. Give your new arrival the time and patience to adapt to their new home and life before adding more to their plate.

But what should you do?

Make sure you change your dog’s microchip and get a new tag for their collar. Make sure they stay on a lead at all times and are supervised in the garden until both these things are done. The microchip can take up to 2 weeks to be updated. We advise keeping your dog on a long line until you are confident in their recall. You may also want to test this in an enclosed dog field before letting them off a lead anywhere else. 

Stay calm. It goes without saying that positive reinforcement should be used at all times when training a dog, no matter how frustrating it can be when you wake up to a present on the floor for what seems like the millionth time. 

Let your dog pick a safe space, particularly nervous dogs. A dog will let you know where they feel the happiest and safest. You may then decide to make their space a little comfier with a nice bed and/or blanket. 

It’s important to set boundaries and rules from the start. It’s rare that the dogs we rehome have lived in a house before, and even then, each home is different. They will not know what to do and what not to do. Decide on the house rules from the start and stick to this. 

Here are some good rules to consider:

  • Feed your dog in their own area. It’s common that these dogs have been underfed before and had competition before which can make meal times stressful for them. Give them their own space away from other dogs and make sure they are able to eat uninterrupted. 
  • A dog should not be disturbed in their safe space. Once this area has been picked, make sure the whole family knows not to invade this area, especially when the dog is asleep. 
  • Take it in turns. Let the whole family take turns walking, feeding, training and playing with the dog. It’s important for all of the family to develop a positive relationship with the dog and also helps prevent the dog becoming attached and protective of one individual. 

Rescuing a dog and seeing them learn what love is can be an extremely rewarding and special experience. Some dogs can be more challenging and although we try to match dogs with adopters as best as possible, problems can arise. If you need any help of advice, please contact us as soon as possible so we can help and work through the problems with you. 

If you are adopting a scared dog, read here for further advice.