Adopting a shelter dog can be a hugely rewarding experience. But it also takes a lot of preparation and patience. Though you may want to start spoiling and snuggling your new pup right away, he may take a little time to adjust. Get yourself and your home organized to welcome your new family member with these steps:
- Ask the shelter what food your new dog has been eating. While you may want to switch him to a different diet, start him out on his familiar kibble until he’s comfortable in his new home, then slowly transition to the new food.
- If you plan to crate train, purchase the crate in advance so it’s assembled and filled with soft bedding, ready for his arrival. Make his first encounter with his new crate a pleasant one by filling a stuffable toy with peanut butter and luring him into the crate with it.
- Don’t buy too many toys at first. Start with a few different types of toys – plush, squeakers, balls, etc., – and wait to see what becomes his favorite.
- Arrange a dog bed or pile of blankets somewhere near to but not in the middle of where your family hangs out. Your dog may need a quiet retreat if he gets overwhelmed.
- Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a comprehensive exam and to stock up on any medications or supplies that you might need.
- If possible, bring your new pup home on a Friday so that you have a full weekend to spend time together. Use that time to help him adjust to his new surroundings, to work on potty training or crate training, and to play together.
- When you first arrive home, lead your new pup around the house on a leash. Allow him to sniff and explore. If he seems relaxed, drop the leash and allow him to explore on his own. Before you unclip the leash, take him out to go to the bathroom (while showering him with praise and treats, of course).
- If your dog has an accident in the house, don’t scold or “correct” him. It’s bound to happen. Just make a note of when and where, and be more diligent about taking him out. It’s your responsibility to help him succeed.
- Sign up for a training class (after your vet gives the okay). Even if you’re a great trainer and even if he already knows a handful of commands, it’s a great way to establish a trusting bond with your new dog.
- Most importantly, practice patience! Your pup may take a while to adjust to his new house, new routines, and new family. He may not want to snuggle or get belly rubs at first. Be patient. Before you know it, you’ll have a happy, healthy, well-adjusted new best friend!