Congratulations, new dog owner! Whether you've just made the decision to get a new dog or you've already welcomed a new furbaby into your home, we've got the scoop on how to be the best dog parent your pup could want. Follow these ten tips to help your new dog feel welcome and secure in his new home.
Before He Arrives
Being a good dog parent begins before your four-legged companion sets foot in your home. These preparations will help ensure he has a smooth transition on adoption day.
1. Prepare Your Home
Dog-proof your home by going through the house and viewing everything at dog or puppy-eye level. Is there anything that might pose a choking hazard? Is there an item you don't want to get chewed? If so, be sure to move it out of reach. Use pet gates to block off anything that might hurt or ensnare your dog, or to cordon off parts of the house where he won't be allowed to roam. Designate a safe space for your dog to hide if he starts to feel overwhelmed. This might be a dog crate, a room, or an area off the kitchen blocked off with a pet gate.
2. Talk Roles and Responsibilities of the Family
If you'll share the responsibility for your dog's care, establish ahead of time who will be in charge of feeding, walking, bathing, etc. If you have children, talk with them about the new family member coming into the home, and establish rules about how he's to be treated. Young children especially may need to be taught how to be gentle with a dog and also closely supervised during play.
3. Get Your Other Pets Ready
If you have dogs or cats already, all of their shots should be up to date. Provide cats with a safe place to escape from unwanted attention from the new guy, and prepare a way to keep other dogs separate until they all get to know each other. If possible, let your current pets become familiar with the new dog's scent ahead of time. Provide an item their soon-to-be brother slept on or played with for them to sniff.
4. Gather Necessary Supplies
Dogs need more than just your love and affection to keep them happy and healthy. Make sure to stock up on all the right dog supplies including food and water dishes, a leash, dog toys, dog bed, and grooming supplies. If you plan to crate train him, have the crate ready on his first night home. The Humane Society of the United States cautions that you should choose a crate that doesn't have any wire that would snag a collar or paws. It must also have plenty of room inside to stand, turn around and sit comfortably. Also, be sure to add in a blanket for him to cuddle up with, as well as a toy to keep him entertained when you're not around.
5. Purchase Food with Balanced Nutrition
Although you'll want to ensure he's getting nutritious dog food, it's best not to change your dog's food right away, as this could lead to an upset stomach and anxiety. If possible, obtain a week's worth of his current food from the shelter or breeder, and gradually change him over to the new food, adding a little more each day over about a week.
Once He's Home
By now you've made all of the preparations necessary to welcome your new buddy home, but your work isn't done yet. Following these steps after your new pup arrives will help you be an awesome dog parent.
6. Make Introductions Slowly
Kids and other pets should be allowed to meet their new family member one at a time and under close supervision. Talk with your kids again, reminding them of the rules for safely greeting and handling the dog. Bring other dogs outside to meet the new guy on neutral ground, allowing plenty of time to sniff and size each other up. Keep cats separated for the first few days, allowing them and the dog to smell each other first through closed doors, and then through a pet gate or screen, before letting them make contact.
7. Choose a Veterinarian
As soon as you can, make an appointment for a wellness check for your new pup, and make sure he's up to date on all his shots. Your vet can also advise you of any health issues your dog may be prone to because of his breed. He or she can also teach you how to prevent some conditions.
8. Get Identification
Your pup will be coming home to an unfamiliar neighborhood. Should he somehow get lost, an ID tag with your contact information will make it a lot easier for him to find his way home.
9. Set a Schedule
Dogs are routine-oriented, so the sooner you can start getting your pup used to his new normal, the better. Establish designated mealtimes and bedtimes and stick to them. Show him where it's okay to relieve himself and start getting him used to going on walks. If regular walks won't be in the picture, begin another kind of daily fitness routine, even if it's just a simple game of fetch.
10. Begin Training ASAP
House training, crate training, obedience training, and socialization are all things a young dog needs to learn, and the sooner the better. Older dogs might already be well socialized and potty trained but will still need to become familiar with household expectations and rules. And if your dog is getting a new name, it's important for his own safety for him to learn it and respond to it as quickly as possible. You can find an abundance of resources to help properly train your dog, from books and online videos to classes and professional dog trainers. However you go about it, it's important to remember that the keys to success are consistency and patience. Don't bother with obedience classes if you won't be able to follow up with daily practice.
Owning a dog is a big undertaking. As much as this is a big transition for you and your family, it's important to remember that this is also a major transition for your dog. The most important things you can give your new dog during this uncertain time are plenty of love and patience as you accept him into your home. With this in addition to the above steps, you'll become the best dog parent your new buddy could ever want.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent and pet blogger from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.