Bringing a New Dog Home: What to Know

Getting a new dog requires some forethought and preparation to make the transition as smooth as possible for both you and your pet. Before you bring a new dog home, here are some ways to get ready for the new addition to your family. 

How do I 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 they reach? If you don’t want your dog 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 because cigarette butts, if eaten, can lead to nicotine poisoning.

Will your dog's 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. Moreover, if you like to keep lit candles around, make sure they are above the dog’s reach. And check to see whether there’s anything a dog 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 they need a break from play or socializing. You can put your dog in the crate when you’re not able to supervise them, ensuring that they won’t chew on things you don’t want them to chew on. To make the crate a positive place for your dog to spend time, add a comfortable bed and give them treats in the crate.

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

What should I know about making my yard safe for a dog?

Do a walk around your yard ideally before your new dog comes home. Is your yard completely fenced? 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 a dog can climb on that would allow them 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.

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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 create, some of the items in your trash (like chicken bones) can be dangerous for your dog to ingest. Likewise, even a child’s toy can be trouble if it is chewed up and swallowed.

What kind of dog leash and collar should I buy?

Before you pick up your new pet, get the dog an ID tag with your name and phone number on it. Then, before leaving the adoption site, check that your new dog’s collar is not too loose (so they don't slip out of it, especially in an unfamiliar area). To be extra safe, you might want to purchase a martingale collar (a no-slip collar) or a dog harness to use in addition to the regular collar.

Plan to keep your new dog on leash except in a fenced yard. You can even leave a leash on the dog indoors to drag in case you need to be able to guide them while they're getting used to their new family and surroundings.

Furthermore, find out what the local dog laws are (such as leash laws) and what the licensing requirements are for dogs in your area.

How long does it take for a dog to get used to a new home?

It depends on the individual dog for how long it will take them to get used to a new home. Like people, some dogs adapt more quickly than others. But if you meet your dog's needs, it can help move along the adaptation process. 

To be happy and healthy in a new home, your dog will need:

  • Constant access to a bowl of fresh, clean drinking water
  • A nutritionally balanced diet
  • A safe place to eliminate outside
  • Daily exercise and socialization
  • Regular veterinary care

You should select a veterinarian with whom you are comfortable, as you’ll need to bring your dog in for regular checkups. Plus, taking training classes with your dog is a great way to build a positive relationship with them. If you decide to hire a dog 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.

As you and your dog get adjusted to living together, they will rely on you to show them 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, they might start making decisions on their own, some of which might be inappropriate or put your dog in danger.

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

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

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