It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Your new dog is coming home! Whether they are a puppy or an older dog you adopted from the shelter, there are several things you can do to make sure they feel welcome and at home in their new environment.
Pick up “Uh, oh” items
Before you bring your new dog into your home, take some time to look around your house and make sure it’s “dog appropriate”. You want to set your new dog up for success and part of this is making sure they don’t have the opportunity to get into anything they aren’t supposed to. Doing this can save you A LOT of frustration down the road and curb some bad habits before they even begin!
This could mean picking up loose shoes on the ground (they look super chewable), making sure your trash can has a good lid, getting a hamper for dirty laundry or putting their dog food in a container with a lid. Look around your home and see if there is anything that looks super inviting to a dog learning the new rules of the house, or anything within dog reach you specifically don’t want them to get into.
Prepare a space just for them
Chances are, coming home to a new environment will be a little overwhelming for your new pup. Having a space that they know is just “theirs” is usually a great comfort. For a puppy, this could mean a little playpen with a crate and toys that they can relax and play in when you’re cooking dinner or they clearly need a break.
For an older dog, this may just mean a crate or a dog bed that they can feel safe in when they’re ready to take a break from all the new stimulation.
Choose house rules
It’s important to decide on the house rules for your dog before they arrive. If you live with family members, have a conversation with them about who will be responsible for the dog’s feeding and walk schedule. You also need to determine the general house rules the dog will follow. Are they always allowed on the couch, allowed only when invited, or not allowed at all? Dog’s thrive on consistency, so deciding on these rules early and having everyone on the same page will allow you to set the right tone as soon as your dog comes home.
Plan a routine
Remember, dogs thrive on consistency. Having a set routine can help them settle in and feel safe much quicker in their new environment. Planning your feeding, exercise and training routine early also makes sure that you have enough time in your schedule to give your dog the attention they need.
When planning your dog’s exercise schedule, don’t forget to take their individual needs into consideration. Talk with the shelter if you’re adopting, or the owners of the puppy’s parents to see how much exercise your dog will need to stay stimulated and happy. For some dogs, two 30 min walks is plenty and for others you’ll need to plan for more rigorous exercise.
Take the tour
When your dog first arrives in their new home, take the tour of the house with them. Keeping them on a lead, walk them through each room of the house, allowing them to spend a few minutes in each space. It’s important to do this on a lead, so that your dog can fully experience each room in the appropriate way. Let them sniff, explore and get comfortable at their own pace.
Take a long walk
Taking a long walk when your dog first arrives is a great way to introduce them to their new neighborhood and let them burn off a little steam. You can familiarize them with your regular route and let them get to know the neighbors a little if they feel comfortable. This also helps them get used to the new sights, sounds and smells of their new home.
Teach them to “settle”
Now that you’ve set up their very own “chill” space, be sure to introduce them to it with lots of rewards. Whether it is a crate or a dog bed, reward them when they step into on or on it, and extra praise and rewards when they lay down to relax. This will teach them that their dog bed or den is a great place to relax and settle down when they need to or you want them to.
Pick something fun to learn
New training games are a great way to build a relationship with your new dog and teach them that training with you is fun! It will also teach them that this new space is an enjoyable and rewarding place to be. Decide on a few tricks or games that you want to teach your new dog and work with them every day. It can be basic manners like sit, stay and heel or it can be something sillier like bow, spin or shake! It’s important to make this time to work directly with your dog so that they learn you are the source of all things tasty and fun.
Choose a veterinarian
Now that you have your new dog, you’ll want to make an appointment with your vet to establish their medical history and get any vaccinations they may need. You may already have a vet you like to work with but if you don’t, take some time to research the different vets in your area and choose one that you can trust. Things to consider are their experience with your type of dog and their specific treatment philosophy. Don’t be afraid to call their office and ask a few questions before deciding which vet is right for you.
Plan your adventures
It may take a little while before you and your new canine partner feel comfortable enough with each other to go on long adventures, but it’s never too early to start planning. Do some research on sites you want to visit, hikes you want to experience or even specific sports you may want to participate in with your dog. You can start working up to those longer adventures and it will give you a good idea of what skills you and your dog will need to reach those goals.
Stay present and patient
Having a new dog can be overwhelming. Things won’t always go perfectly, your dog is certain to have challenges at some point, and you may have days where you wonder if you’re doing anything right. Take a deep breath and be patient, with yourself and your dog. Life isn’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, and your dog isn’t perfect either. That’s perfectly ok. The important thing is to be present for all the little wonderful and challenging moments that are certain to come your way and enjoy the beautiful experience of owning a dog. In the end, you’ll be glad you savored every moment.