The first few days with your new dog

The first few days with your new dog

Bringing home your new dog is incredibly exciting, but it’s important to have realistic expectations.

The truth is moving home is stressful for dogs, just like it is for humans. Your new furry friend doesn’t yet know you, your family or your house. However, the good news is there’s lots you can do to make the transition from shelter to forever home a smoother one.

Before the big day

It’s important to dog-proof your home well before your new dog sets paw in it. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve stocked up on the essentials, such as food, bowls, a lead and collar, a comfy bed and toys.

If you work, it’s a good idea to take a few days off so you can fully devote yourself to getting your dog settled in.

Day One

The day you pick up your dog from the shelter should be as quiet and calm as possible. If you’ve got kids or other pets, this might mean spacing out the introductions. This can be easier said than done – kids, in particular, are likely to be bouncing with excitement. But it can be overwhelming for your dog to meet lots of new people all at once, particularly if some of those individuals are on the excitable side! For that reason, if Granny and Grandpa are able to take the kids for a couple of hours while your new dog settles in that can be an excellent idea. For the same reason it’s best not to have hordes of guests coming over initially.

Lots of new places will also be overwhelming for your furry friend so, instead of offering up the run of the house, it makes sense to just start off with a small area. For example, when you first get home from the shelter, you could take your dog out to go to the toilet and then confine yourselves to one room. Not only is this better for your dog, but it’s kinder on your home since even the most housetrained pooch might have a few accidents when they’re in a new and unfamiliar environment. 

Start easing into a routine from the get-go, so that your dog knows when it’s time for a walk, a play or something to eat. And, talking of food, try to give your dog the same food they were given at the shelter. Not only will this provide familiar tastes and smells, but it’s kinder on your dog’s stomach. After a few days, you can start introducing new food, mixing it in gradually.

You’ll probably be tempted to lavish your dog with attention when they first arrive, especially if they seem a bit stressed or anxious (symptoms of which can include panting, a tucked tail or lip licking). However, it’s best to give your new four-legged member of the family their space and let them initiate interactions. This will help them to feel more confident and at ease in their new home. 

It’s also important to have a consistent set of rules from the start. These will obviously vary from household to household but the watchword is consistency. 

That first night

Even a dog who has seemed to cope well with a new environment during the day can find night-time challenging. 

It’s important before you bring them home to decide where you’d like your new dog to sleep. How do you feel about crates? Are you happy for your dog to sleep in your bedroom? What about on your bed? Different things work for different families but bear in mind that if you’re not opting for a crate, you’ll probably need a playpen or a baby gate to stop your dog indulging in some night-time roaming. 

Need more advice? Check out: Help, my dog won’t sleep!

Day Two and Three

As your dog starts to become more relaxed and settled, everyone can get to know each other better. It’s still a good idea to take things slowly though and, if you have kids, keep gently reminding them of the rules – the dog is not a toy, should be approached gently and respectfully and is not to be disturbed when sleeping or eating. You must never leave a dog and young children together unsupervised either, because even the gentlest most patient dog can snap if little hands are a bit rough.

It’s also a good idea to start gently getting your dog used to the idea that you won’t be around every single minute. A good way to ease into this is using baby gates so that you can leave your dog alone in a room for short periods of time while you’re still in the house.

The following days and weeks

People often say they don’t really see their dog’s true personality until a few weeks after adoption. So it’s important to be patient and understanding and keep to the routine you’ve established.

Lots of people who adopt a dog find they settle in pretty easily, but if you do have any worries, it’s worth contacting the shelter for advice. Not only are they experts on all things dog, but they know your furry friend and want this adoption to succeed.

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