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Adopting a dog can be overwhelming if you don't know where to begin, but bringing home a pup is also fun and exciting! This milestone is the first bonding moment of many between you and your new fuzzy friend. To help ease that stress, here are ten things you can do to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.
1. Gather His Supplies
Get everything you'll need to make him safe and comfortable before bringing him home. In addition to the basics—a collar and leash, as well as food and water bowls—you'll also need a dog bed, pet gate, toys, treats, and grooming supplies. It's also a good idea to have training pads and enzymatic cleaner on hand for accidents in the early stages of house-training.
2. Prepare Your Home
Similar to babyproofing, it's always a smart and safe idea to ready your space before your pup comes home. Walk through your home and stow away items that might be harmful to small or overly curious pups, and pick up those items you don't want to get chewed.
You should prepare the rest of the family, too: Discuss which family members will take up feeding, walking, and training. If other animals already live at home, be sure their shots are up-to-date for everyone's safety. And if you have any cats, you should have a designated dog-free area where they can retreat, giving them a way to acclimate to the new arrival's excitement on their own time. This may seem like overkill to some, but this preparation helps keep your pooch safe and eases everyone's transition process.
3. Assign a Safe Space for Him
Just as you would for existing pets, make the same private space for your new one. Some pet parents have an aversion to dog crates, but the nonprofit Best Friends holds that dogs actually see them as their own room to rest, much like a den. They also serve as a place to feel safe while they adjust. If you'd prefer not to use a crate, of course, use a pet gate to block off a room just for him. You can visit him there to help the bonding process, but keep kids and other pets out for the time being.
4. Plan How (and When) to Bring Him Home
If possible, take a few days off work or plan to pick your dog up on a weekend when you have free time. But don't pick him up at the beginning of a long vacation; if he gets used to you constantly being home, he can develop separation anxiety when you go back to work. Have someone else drive you to pick him up, or ride along to help comfort him while you drive. Don't forget to take his collar and leash, and bring him straight home without making any distracting stops.
5. Show Your Dog around the House
Keep him on leash as you let him explore and sniff inside. Show him his food, bed, and toys, and let him know what's off limits with short but firm commands such as "no" or "leave it."
6. Explore the Yard on Leash
Adopted dogs should have plenty of time and space to sniff out their new surroundings. If you've designated a potty space in your yard, lead him to it and reward him with a treat when he uses it successfully.
7. Introduce the Family
The Animal Rescue League of Boston recommends bringing family members and other dogs outside one at a time to meet the new canine. Keep other dogs on their leashes and supervise their interactions, keeping in mind that too heavy an introduction can cause them to become territorial with the new arrival. Restrain kids (and other parents) from kissing or hugging the dog (however adorable he is), but they're free to make friends with a sniff and a treat.
8. Switch Your Dog's Food Slowly
If you can, incorporate some of the food the shelter or breeder was feeding him, and gradually switch your dog's food to the brand you intend to serve him regularly in order to avoid digestion issues due to too quick a change.
9. Begin Training Right Away
Even adult dogs who were previously housebroken will require a little house training. If you plan to crate train your dog, introduce him to his crate right away, and practice leaving him in it—with a toy—for short periods while you step out of the house to let him acclimate. Interested in formal obedience training? You'll still want to start working with him to establish the rules from day one.
10. Get Him Checked by a Vet
Within a week of bringing him home, you should visit a veterinarian for a health check and to make sure he has all his vaccinations.
Adopting a dog is a big transition for both the dog and your family. Covering these basics will help your new dog feel secure in his new surroundings and make it easier to bond with your new wet-nosed pal.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is fiction author and freelance writer and editor living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She writes frequently about pets and pet health in her home office, where she is assisted by a lapful of furbabies.