Tips to Remember When Bringing Home a New Dog

Adopting a dog as a new member of your family can be a great experience, but also an overwhelming one. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D. and PetFinder provide these initial tips to help smooth the process of bringing a new dog into your home.

Patience, patience, patience. Just because a dog isn’t a puppy anymore, doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a lot to learn about you and your family. It can take over a year for a dog to truly settle into a new home. Have patience! If there are some rough moments during the transition, don’t panic! Compassion, training, and patience usually smooth things out.

Immediately start reinforcement. Train your dog from the first moments at home. Take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use when giving your dog directions. This will help prevent confusion and help your dog learn commands more quickly.

Re-house train. Just because a dog is house trained in one house doesn’t mean that is the case in your home. Treat all dogs, no matter how old, like puppies for the first couple of days. Take them out to potty often and give them instant praise for doing so in the appropriate place. Keep a careful eye on your new dog for quite awhile—just because they didn’t chew on someone else’s couch doesn’t mean they won’t chew on yours!

Remember your dog has a past. If your dog came from another home, objects like leashes, hands, rolled up newspapers and magazines, feet, chairs and sticks are just some of the pieces of “training equipment” that may have been used on this dog. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may cause a reaction other than the one you expect.  If your dog led a sheltered life and was never socialized to children or sidewalk activity, this may also contribute to a never-ending series of scrambled communications and unreal expectations that will require patience.

Keep calm. For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your dog, limiting too much excitement (such as the dog park or neighborhood children). Not only will this allow your dog to settle in easier, it will give you more one-on-one time to get to know each other and your dog’s likes and dislikes.

Three is the magic number. Your dog will adjust slowly, so remember the power of threes. Repeating “three days, three weeks, three months!” is a wonderful way to remind yourself that most dogs are in shock the first three days in a new home, need three weeks to begin to show you their true personalities, and three months to begin to understand the family rules.