Congratulations! Adopting a new dog is so exciting! You have visions of snuggling on the couch and taking long walks on the beach, but first things first: your dog needs to adjust to his new life.
Your new friend may have been a stray who never lived with a family, saw a vacuum or heard a toilet flush. He may be an owner surrender who is wondering what happened to his previous pack, or he may be relieved to be rid of them. During the past month or so your dog has probably spent time in a shelter and a foster home before taking a 2,000 mile road trip with a dozen (or two) of his closest doggy friends. He is probably exhausted, confused, stressed and afraid. Luckily, our experience over the course of hundreds of successful rescues and adoptions has taught us some tips for making the transition as smooth as possible.
- Ask us about your dog’s current schedule and habits. What is he eating? What is his feeding schedule? How are his leash manners? Does he need a harness or gentle leader as opposed to a collar? Is he house trained? How often is he walked, and for how long? Are there any specific toys he likes?
- Purchase supplies for your dog including a leash and martingale collar or harness, food and water bowls, food, treats, toys, a bed and a crate. Be sure to purchase the same food your dog has been eating. We strongly recommend that you purchase a 5 or 6 foot flat or round nylon leash. Retractable leashes do not offer adequate control, can snap, get tangled, or trip people, and are unsafe especially for larger dogs. Because it is easy for a dog to slip out of a flat collar, we recommend that you purchase a nylon martingale collar. A martingale collar tightens as your dog pulls on the leash, and then loosens when the pulling force lessens. Many dogs slip out of normal collars, often on their first day of adoption because new owners are reluctant to make the collar tight enough and the dog is often anxious and may be looking to escape. Slipping a collar is especially tragic because a dog’s identification is attached to the collar and if the dog is found, it will have to scanned for microchip before we will be notified.
- Purchase an inexpensive ID tag with your phone number and address on it and bring it when you pick up your dog. If you haven’t decided on a name, that’s okay – you can always purchase another tag later. All newly rescued dogs are considered flight risks and the tag will offer some protection if your dog becomes lost.
- Decide where your dog will be spending most of his time during his transition to his new home. The kitchen is often the best choice because it is a busy room that is easy to dog-proof and clean up in the event of an accident.
- Dog-proof your home: secure your trash cans, tape down loose wires, store cleaning products out of reach, store breakables, and move plants and rugs. You may want to install baby gates and put baby locks on cabinets, especially those where food is stored.
- Set up your dog’s crate if you plan to crate train him, which we recommend that you do.
- Have a family meeting to agree on rules and expectations for your new dog. Will he be allowed on the furniture? Where will he sleep? Are there places in the house that are off-limits? Is there a certain place in the yard where you want him to “potty”? Who will feed and walk the dog? Will he be fed once or twice a day? Will he be walked once or twice a day? What time? Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on steady routine. Having consistent “anchors” will help your dog adjust more quickly to his new surroundings. Use this time to create a consistent vocabulary your family will use when giving instructions to your dog. For example, “down” means “lie down” and “off” means “get off the counter/couch/UPS guy”