Welcoming a New Dog to Your Home

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 01:00
Woman and her pitbull mix. Bringing a new dog home is a fun and exciting time, but requires preparation.

Before you bring your new dog home, there are a number of ways that you can prepare for the new addition to your family. First, before you pick up your new pet, get the dog an ID tag with your name and phone number on it.

Before leaving the adoption site, check that your new dog’s collar is not too loose (so she doesn’t slip out of it). If the dog pulls out of her collar, she will be loose in an area that she’s unfamiliar with. To be extra safe, you might want to purchase a martingale collar (a no-slip collar available at pet supply stores) or a harness to use, in addition to the regular collar, until your dog has demonstrated that she can handle all the new, and potentially startling, sights and sounds, such as other dogs, city noise and traffic.

Keep your new dog on leash except in a fenced-in yard or an approved, fenced off-leash area. Always use a leash or lead near traffic, since your dog can be distracted or fearful for just a second and run into the street. If your dog is very nervous or shy, you can even leave a leash on her to drag while she’s getting used to her new family and surroundings.

What does my new dog need?

To be happy and healthy, your dog will need:

  • Constant access to a bowl of fresh, clean drinking water
  • A nutritionally balanced diet
  • A safe place to eliminate outside
  • Some daily exercise

Taking training classes with your dog is a great way to build a positive relationship with her. If you decide to hire a trainer, be sure to pick one who uses humane methods. Humane trainers do not use chain or prong collars, nor do they advocate yanking on or lifting the dog by the collar. For more information, read "How to Find a Good Trainer."

As you and your dog get adjusted to living together, she will rely on you to show her the way, so you will also benefit from the training classes. If you don’t take responsibility for building a positive relationship with your dog and providing gentle guidance, she will start making decisions on her own, some of which may be inappropriate or put her in danger.

If you can’t afford a trainer or can’t find one in your area, you can get a lot of training ideas in the Best Friends online library at bestfriends.org/resources. Below is a short video about basic training.

Your dog also needs daily, loving interaction with you — and a social life. You can socialize your dog by bringing her on car rides, letting her be around children and other dogs (if she is friendly toward other dogs), taking her to the groomer, shopping with her at pet supply stores (some of them let you bring your dog in) and walking her in public places. As you do these activities, watch your dog’s body language to make sure she is comfortable in these situations. You want these outings to be fun, not stressful. For more about signs of stress, read Dog Body Language.

Strive for structure and consistency in your dog’s daily routine to give her a healthy feeling of stability as a member of the family. The relationship between your family and your new family member can be great if you are patient, positive and consistent.

You should also select a veterinarian with whom you are comfortable, since you’ll need to bring your dog in for regular checkups. Finally, find out what the local dog laws are (such as leash laws) and what the licensing requirements are for dogs in your area.

Do I need to dog-proof my house?

Before your new dog arrives, you should dog-proof your home in much the same way that you would child-proof your home for a toddler. Look at your home from a dog’s eye level. What can she reach? If you don’t want her drinking out of the toilet, tell everyone in the household to make sure they put the cover down. If anyone in the house smokes, put ashtrays out of reach, since cigarette butts, if eaten, can lead to nicotine poisoning.

Will her wagging tail inadvertently wreak havoc on your prized possessions? Dog tails have been known to sweep the contents off the top of a coffee table. If you like to keep lit candles around, make sure they are above the dog’s reach. And check to see if there’s anything she can trip on or become tangled in, such as electrical cords.

How can I prevent my new dog from chewing up my stuff?

Setting boundaries is crucial when you get a new pet. One great way to help do that is to put a dog crate or X-pen in your home. The crate provides a quiet place for your dog to rest when she needs a break from play or socializing. You can put her in the crate when you’re not able to supervise her, ensuring that she won’t chew on things you don’t want her to chew on. To make the crate a positive place for her to spend time, add a comfortable bed and give her treats in the crate.

In addition, she may be less interested in chewing up human things if she has her own toys. Buy durable rubber or nylon toys that satisfy dogs’ urge to chew. Toys that you can stuff treats into (like Kongs) should keep her occupied for a while. If she does start chewing one of your personal items, immediately get her interested in a dog toy instead. 

What should I know about making my yard safe?

Do a walk around your yard. Is your yard completely fenced in? Are there any spaces or gaps that your new dog can escape through? (Small dogs and puppies can squeeze through very small spaces.) Is there anything that she can climb on that would allow her to escape over the fence (such as a wood pile, a fountain, latticework or a garbage can)? Some dogs know how to flip open gate latches, so latches should be clipped or locked if your dog can reach them.

What sort of plants do you have in your yard? Snail bait and some plants (such as oleander, azaleas and rhododendrons) are poisonous to dogs. Antifreeze is another hazard for dogs because it is toxic and can be fatal. Dogs are attracted to its sweet taste, so don’t allow your dog to drink from standing water near where cars have been parked.

Do you have an uncovered pond or pool in your yard? Dogs have been known to drown in backyard pools when they jumped or fell in and couldn’t get out. You should also make sure your trash cans have tight lids to avoid “dumpster diving” by your dog. Besides the smelly mess that an overturned trash can creates, some of the items in your trash (like chicken bones) may be dangerous for your dog to ingest.

Ideally, you should check your yard for safety before your new dog comes home. If you haven’t done this prior to the dog’s arrival, supervise the time that your new pet spends outside. Even a child’s toy can be trouble if it is chewed up and swallowed.