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You've fallen in love with a new furry friend at the shelter, and you're ready to adopt him, but what do you need to know before bringing home a new dog?
When adopting from a shelter, you may not know a dog's full history, so ask the shelter employees what information they have about him. However, they may not know, either. Animals find their way to shelters for a variety of reasons, such as homelessness or their caregivers had to give them up because they were moving.
The home (or streets) from which a pup comes can shape his temperament and his interaction with people, which is why it's so important to uncover as much of his past as you can prior to bringing your little guy home. He might be shy or scared of all the hubbub. To make the transition to his new life smooth, here are some tips on how to prepare your home and family members for the big move.
Before Bringing Home a New Dog
First of all, stock your home with supplies before your new dog arrives. You have to consider everything from pet dishes to installing a fence in your yard to what kind of toys to have on hand. (Soft plush? Chewy rubber? So many choices!)
Must-haves for your dog's first day at home include, but aren't limited to: bowls, a collar with proper identification, a leash, grooming tools, a poop scoop and bags, and a soft, cozy bed. Bringing home a puppy? Set up baby gates in the doorways to rooms that are off-limits.
When it comes to meals, choose his dog food with regard to age, his current health and any dietary restrictions. Don't be discouraged if at first he snubs his food. Introducing your pet to new food is a trial-and-error process and may take a few days.
Is your new pup your first pet? Research and select a reputable veterinarian in your area and bring your dog in right away for a check-up. If you already have a vet for your pets, get in touch with the office prior to bringing home your new fur baby to get any advice on how to give him a warm welcome.
If multiple people and/or children will help care for your new pet, establish ahead of time who will be in charge of which responsibilities. You don't want your new guy to be fed too many times a day or miss out on a much-needed walk because somebody isn't familiar with the schedule.
Whether your new guy is a puppy or an adult, bringing a new dog home requires an adjustment period. Ideally, you should be home with your new dog during this time as much as possible. You'll have a smoother adjustment period if you can spend a week or two together from the outset.
Depending on his temperament, your new dog may bound right in and make himself comfortable, or he may be reluctant and withdrawn at first. If he is shy and fearful, you can help him acclimate to his new digs by taking it slowly. Let him investigate his new home at his own pace, giving him plenty of time to sniff and search. If you have small children in the home, make sure to supervise their time with your new pup. Aggressive touching or petting of a dog in an unfamiliar setting can cause him anxiety making his acclimation take longer.
Make potty training a priority. Even if your pup was at the top of his game at the shelter, he may have accidents because it's an unfamiliar environment. Start training immediately and keep it consistent. Petcha emphasizes, "when correcting a dog, remember there is one golden rule: catch him in the act." In other words, scolding a pet after he does something wrong isn't going to enforce your message. However, it is always best to reward his good behaviors rather than scold him. If you can reward him with praise or a treat when he potties outside, he will be more likely to do so in the future.
In addition to house-training, you'll want to invest in behavior training, too. You should begin puppy training as early as seven to eight weeks old, but it is possible to train an older dog, too. Training can be a great way to teach him certain behaviors, but it is also an excellent bonding opportunity. Dogs enjoy pleasing their pack leader and want to learn. As he starts to get the handle of the basics: sit, stay and lie down, you can start to introduce some of the more advanced commands like shake, rollover and fetch. A dog's ability to learn is directly correlated to your ability to work with him and be patient as he tries to understand what you want him to do.
Nights are often a new experience for dogs in a new home, especially puppies. He may whine at first, causing you to tend to his every whimper, but it is better to establish some ground rules early on. He needs to know that he can sleep in his pen or bed throughout the night and that you will still be there for him in the morning. This is true of most behaviors — if you simply let certain behaviors go because he is new to the house, it will take him longer to know the house rules. So, if you don't want him up on the furniture, don't let him up there even when you are, or he will push his luck far past the initial training phase.
Finally, make sure to keep loud noises and overactive scenes to a minimum at first. If there is too much stimuli for him too soon he could become withdrawn and anxious. Keep things calm and let him discover his new home on his own, and as he gets more acquainted with his new surroundings you can start to get back to normal.
Above all else, be patient and nurturing with your new dog, and you'll make a friend for life!
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mom, and long-time pet parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about family life, pets, and pregnancy. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien