Congratulations on adopting your new dog!
The first few days and weeks will be a special and important time for both you and your new furry companion. Prepare for things in your household to change! To help you get through this time, we have put together this awesome guide packed full of handy tips.
It accompanies our Post Adoption Checklist (which you should totally read right now).
The tips in this post go beyond just getting through the first few weeks as you and your BFF-to-be adjust to the new changes in your lives. We offer advice on how to set up a clear structure and routine for long-term success.
Most of our readers are allergy sufferers, and if this is you, we’ve also got some special tips to help keep your sanctuary allergy-free right from the get-go! Adopting a hypoallergenic dog isn’t enough to keep allergies at bay so pay close attention to the section we’ve dedicated to you.
Let’s dive in!
Before Bringing Your Dog Home
You’ll need to make some big decisions before your fur baby sets their paws into your home. You’ll also need to prep your home and get things in place for the move in day.
1. Your Dog’s Space
Figure out where your pup will spend most of its time at first. It’s ideal for this to be a comfortable space that’s also easy to clean. You know, in case your pup is so anxious she forgets any house rules she learned in the past and does her business wherever!
2. Reduce Anxiety
Be prepared with products or resources to help limit your dog’s anxiety. This will help your fur baby settle into your home easier and faster. There are pet anxiety jackets and other products we suggest you have on hand for this. Bonus – they can also come in handy during storms and other events causing pet anxiety.
3. Crate Preparation
If you plan on crate-training your dog, have a crate set up and ready to go before bringing your dog home. They can learn to adjust to it from the very start this way.
4. Dog Proof Your Home
Dog proof your home! Especially the areas your pup will spend most of their time. This can include taping up electrical cords, storing cleaning products and household chemicals out of reach, moving plants, rugs and breakables. You can also install baby gates to block off areas of your house.
5. Start Training Immediately
Be ready to train your dog from the moment they set their paws in your home. Make sure everyone in your household uses the same words and actions to give the dog directions. The more organised you guys are, the easier it will be for your dog to adjust to the new routine and to learn commands quickly.
6. Prevent Escape
Pre-empt the possibility that your dog might try to escape or that it might accidentally get lost. In the first few days, it can be especially difficult! When you pick up the dog from the shelter, bring an ID tag with your contact details. If your pup is already microchipped, make sure to register your contact details as soon as you can!
7. Feeding Schedule
Before you pick up your dog, ask the adoption shelter what and when she was fed. Make sure you copy this schedule and have plenty of the same treats and food at first to keep some level of continuity in your dog’s life.
The First Few Days
You know how moving is a stressful situation? It’s just as stressful for dogs. Imagine having your entire world flipped on its head!
New faces. New sights, sounds and smells. Moving can be a huge sensory overload for dogs! With time they will adjust, but the first few days will certainly be a challenge.
The biggest tip we can offer is to be patient. Be patient with yourself and be patient with your pup. Take things one step at a time.
9. No Visitors
We advise that you give your dog a few days to settle in before introducing her to more people. You and your family have the chance to interact with the dog before adoption, they are more familiar with you. But they still feel out of sorts being in a new place. Keep any other new people, places and things to a minimum.
10. Introducing Children
Make sure your kids know how to approach your dog without overwhelming her. You don’t know your dog’s history. Forceful children can be one of the biggest fears a dog may have from their past!
11. Consistent Diet
Want to switch your dog to new food? Today’s not the day. Keep the same food and feeding schedule for at least a week to avoid gastric distress. Trust us, you definitely want to avoid this!
12. Toilet Training
Once you get home, the first thing you should do is take your dog to the toileting area. Spend loads of time with her here so she gets used to this area and feels comfortable relieving herself here. It’s a good start though you should still be prepared for accidents!
13. Crate Training
If you are crate training your dog, leave it open so they can go in and out as they feel like it. Be sure to check out the do’s and don’ts of crate training here. You can also have a crate ready in your car on the day you’re planning on moving your dog. Many dogs find car trips stressful so having a place they feel safe will make the trip home easier on everybody.
14. Don’t Be a Softy
You might be tempted to go easy on your dog in the first few days and let them just do what makes them comfortable. Our advice would be to start your training schedule from the moment you bring your dog home. Start your ideal feeding, toileting, play and exercise schedule on Day One.
15. Solitary Time is Fine
Prioritise family time just as much as solitary time. It might be tempting to give in and comfort your dog when they whine if left alone. Instead, reward good behaviour, such as resting quietly, with your attention.
16. Keep Excitement Low For Now
You might also find that keeping excitement levels down can help in the first few days as everyone adjusts. Stay calm and quiet around your dog and give them the opportunity to settle in easier. One-on-one time can go a long way towards connecting and also getting a feel for likes and dislikes.
17. Re-Training Old Behaviours
Note down any behaviours that might seem like learned behaviours. You don’t know what kind of prompts or words your dog may respond to as a result of past training. Keep an eye on how your dog responds to your commands and if they show unexpected behaviour. With time, you can re-train them to follow your commands so be patient with them as they learn.
After the First Week
In the weeks following the adoption, you’ll notice things in your household adjust to a new routine. Everyone, including your dog, will start to feel more at ease and settled.
Once you see things starting to settle, it is a good time to slowly introduce new rules and environments.
18. Introducing New Foods
New food can slowly be introduced. Make the switch over the period of a week or two. Start with 25% new food to 75% of the familiar food for several days. Then switch to 50% of each for a few more days. And then 75% new food and 25% old food for a few more until finally, you can ditch the old stuff altogether.
19. Stick to Your Ideal Schedule
Stick to the schedule you intend on keeping in the long run. Plan feeding, walks, play and socialization activities into a routine your pup will get used to. A schedule will show your dog what’s expected in your household and help them fit in much easier. It will also help your dog know what to expect of you and when.
20. Build a Solid Connection
Keep the one-on-one connection and family time as a priority. Many new dog owners don’t see their dog’s personality for weeks after an adoption. It takes time for the initial stress and anxiety to wear off and for your dog to start feeling at ease in your home. Patience is key.
21. Training Through Positive Reinforcement
If anyone in your household suffers from allergies or if your dog is showing behaviour problems, invest in training. We suggest finding a good dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement techniques.
Not only can they help address behaviour issues, they can also help you instil new behaviours that help manage allergies in your home. In particular, make sure your dog won’t lick you, or shake their fur indoors.
You can also block off certain areas of your home and stop your pup from going on the couch, bed or other textile surfaces which trap fur and dander.
22. Going to a Dog Park
If you feel ok to take your dog out to a park, have a chat with your vet to ensure they agree it’s safe too. If it’s all cleared, start off slow and take your dog to group training sessions and to a small dog park in your area where they can meet and play with other dogs. Add this into your scheduled routine.
Tips for Allergy Sufferers
Even if your dog is hypoallergenic and doesn’t appear to trigger your allergies right off the bat, you’ll still need to be extra careful.
In addition to maintaining a consistent schedule and investing in positive reinforcement training, here are some other tips to help make sure you won’t have allergic reactions triggered by your new pet.
It may be difficult at first but you will need to get your dog used to being groomed. Whether you choose to do this at home or go to a professional, introduce this in the early days so that your dog knows this is part of your routine.
They may not have been groomed as much in the past so be gentle yet firm. It really is imperative that you maintain a high standard of grooming practices to ensure minimal spread of allergens in your home.
24. Allergen Vigilance
Similar to the above, use dog wipes to keep your dog clean after a trip outside. Make this part of the routine too and add elements of play so your dog can look forward to the experience! You want to make sure that allergens like grass and pollen don’t enter into your home. Not only for your sake but also because dogs can have allergies to these substances too!
Regular vacuuming and other cleaning practices can also ensure that allergens are kept to a minimum. Also, be sure to change filters in your appliances, like air purifiers and vacuum cleaners frequently.
25. Minimise Contact with Allergens
You may need to make adjustments to feeding and toileting habits to avoid contact with allergens your dog produces. A protein that dogs produce, known as Can f 1, has been found to trigger most allergies to dogs. It’s found in hair, skin, saliva, mucus, urine and other secretions your dog produces. Whatever your routine is, ensure you enforce minimal contact with these and train your dog to follow your rules if you want to avoid allergic reactions!
We suggest going through our Post Adoption Checklist as we have heaps of handy tips for allergy sufferers there too!
And there you have it! By following these tips, you’ll have a well-adjusted canine family member in no time. You’ll also ensure minimal allergic reactions in your home in the process.