You’ve gone the extra mile and decided to adopt your dog from a shelter or rescue, which is a wonderful way to get a new pet! Now you want to make sure that your friend has a smooth transition to his new home and that you bond as lifelong companions. You can create a deep and loving connection by choosing the right dog, preparing for his homecoming, making him as comfortable as possible, and training him to be the ultimate family member.
Before You Bring Him Home
When you do your research about the adoption process, make sure you learn all you can about the dog you want to take home. Many dogs end up in rescues or shelters because they’ve been abandoned or abused. A reputable adoption shelter or rescue will give you as much history on their dogs as they can. Three important things to consider when you’re deciding if a dog will fit your living situation include:
The adoption organization can be a great source of information for the supplies you’ll need as well. Ask if the dog has a special toy or blanket and take it home with you. It will smell like him and help make his surroundings feel more familiar. Find out what kind of food your dog has been eating. If you want to switch brands, use a week’s supply to gradually make the switch and prevent stomach upset.
Make sure you have food and water bowls ready for him and that he has a designated place to sleep. If he has been crate-trained, or if you wish to crate-train him, prepare the supplies ahead of time.
Dog proof your home before your bring your dog home. Crawl on the floor to get a dog’s-eye view and stow away any hazardous items, such as electrical cords and small objects he can swallow. Block off his access to the waste bin, toilet, and any other off-limits area.
Home Sweet Home
Once you bring your dog home, there are several ways you can start the bonding process. In those first few important days, be with him as much as possible. Take him home on a weekend or take a few days off from work. There may be a couple of rough nights in the beginning as he adjusts to his new environment—this is a good time to establish rules. For example, if you don’t plan to let your dog on the furniture, make sure you teach him from the very beginning. Set clear boundaries so he doesn’t get confused.
Introduce him to family members and children as gently as possible. This is not a good time to throw him a welcome party! Provide him with a calm and quiet atmosphere so he can explore his surroundings at a comfortable pace. If you have other pets, make sure that you closely supervise their interactions.
Find out what your dog’s schedule was and try to stick to it. A consistent routine of feeding, sleeping, and outside time will help him feel more secure. Don’t forget to make time to have fun! See what your dog likes to do—a retriever mix might love to play fetch, but a smaller breed might prefer squeaky toys. Take him on walks around the neighborhood and introduce him to new experiences slowly and calmly.
Continue the Love
Training is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your dog. Start training him as soon as he comes home. Use healthy treats to teach commands like sit and stay. Long walks can help him learn to behave nicely on a leash. He’ll start looking to you for clues on how to be a well-behaved pet, so guide him right away. If your dog has any serious problem behaviors, consult a professional dog trainer to help you navigate anything beyond the basics.
Above all, have patience. Remember that this dog is in a new environment and may not have the best memories of his old one. If you make your dog comfortable and spend time with him as he learns the ropes, you’ll have a grateful and loyal friend for life.