Bringing Home a New Dog
Bringing home a dog is an exciting time for everyone involved. However, while you get to return to the comfort of your home, your new pet might not initially feel the same comfort. They’re in an unfamiliar environment with new people, new smells, and a new routine.
Whether they’re coming from a shelter or breeder, every dog will have a period of adjustment as they get used to their new home. Your dog’s adjustment period might last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, to even a few months. Don’t be discouraged and don’t take it personally, but simply be understanding and just be there for them. With life having just been flipped upside-down, your new family member is depending on you to guide them through this transition period and establish comfort and confidence in their new life.
Whether they’re coming from a shelter or breeder, every dog will have a period of adjustment
Prepare for Success
Before bringing your new dog home, be mindful about the following details to make your home as calming and safe as possible.
- Set up soft, comfortable bedding in a crate or corner so your dog will have a cozy, safe place to retreat and relax. Often times, dogs will choose their favorite spot where they feel safe. You may want to take note of this and put a comfy bed for them there. Read more in this article for more tips on how to create a safe space for your dog.
- Choose a designated area for food and water bowls.
- “Dog proof” by installing gates and picking up any potential hazards around your home.
- Toys can be a great way to provide entertainment and comfort. Pick out a variety of toy types so that your new pet will have options to pick his favorite. Here’s some important information and advice on providing your new dog with safe chew toys. And don’t forget about interactive toys and puzzle feeders. These can be great to occupy time and provide some wonderful mental and physical exercise.
The adjustment period — signs of stress
Depending on your dog, as all dogs are different, it may take several days to several weeks before your pet becomes comfortable and settled into your home. It’s important to be patient during this time and not ask too much of your pup.
Some signs of stress you may notice during this time include:
- Hiding or attempts to run away
- Anxiety upon your absence, such as destructive chewing, scratching, or barking
- Refusal to eat or tummy troubles such as diarrhea
- Potty accidents, even if your dog came to you house-trained
You can help ease the transition process by taking this time to bond with your new pet and allow your pup to adapt to their new home. Have plenty of patience during this time and simply make yourself available to your pup. Start by establishing a daily routine so your dog can expect when to be fed and go outside. Set boundaries, whether it’s “no getting on the furniture” or “no begging for food” and be consistent with them from the beginning. Reward your dog with praise and treats for positive behaviors and redirect undesirable behaviors, such teaching the dog to sit instead of jump up on people. To help your dog gradually adjust to being home alone, practice leaving them alone in your home for short increments (a few minutes at a time).
Though it is wise to take a few days off from work and other activities to help your dog adjust, it’s important to continue about your daily home activities so your new dog can get used to objects and noises such as a broom or a blender.
What NOT to do during the adjustment period
While you and other members of the household are bonding with your new dog, there are a few activities that should be postponed until after your pet feels more comfortable. Hold off on inviting all of your friends and family over at the same time to meet your new addition. Because he is already very stimulated by so many changes to his life, the presence of lots of strangers vying for his attention will feel overwhelming and add to his stress.
Secondly, while you and your new pup should start to establish a relationship with your vet in the first week or so, we recommend waiting to take your dog to the groomer or dog daycare. Allow your new pet to relax into his environment before shaking things up with another change of scenery.
Patience is a virtue when bringing your new dog home
You can expect some distance and uncertainty from your new dog, and he may not want to play or cuddle right away, but don’t be discouraged. In time, your dog will warm up and let their unique character shine. Simply give them space and provide your love, support, and guidance (training), and they will soon realize that they really have found their “forever home.”
My story... well, really Kaya's story
Recently I brought home a 5-month-old rescue pup who was flown over from Taiwan. Having likely spent her first crucial weeks of life on the streets, she was very nervous and skittish around people, so I knew that we’d have to be very patient during her adjustment period and not expect too much from her, too soon.
I gave Kaya lots of toys and treats to make my home feel fun and welcoming to her. On separate occasions, we invited my in-laws and my sister to come over and sit on the floor so she could get used to a few different people. While we are still working on her “skittishness” around people, she has grown leaps and bounds and her confidence shines when she chases a ball or gets puppy zoomies around the apartment.
One of Kaya's favorite comfy spots