This blog post is brought to you by our friends at Wiley Pup
Congratulations on making the decision to adopt a rescue dog! Among the many reasons to adopt, one of the most rewarding is just knowing that you have saved a life and given a loving dog a second chance at a fur-ever home.
This article will explore things you can do before your dog gets home as well as in the first days and weeks of his arrival. Smoothing the transition will set your dog up for success!
Before the Big Day
Manage the Environment
If this is your first dog, then your home may need a little prep work to be ready for your new furry friend. Similar to child-proofing your home, dog-proofing requires making sure potential poisons such as cleaning supplies, medicines, and people foods are secured out of reach. The same is true for valuable items that might be attractive to a dog such as stuffed animals, shoes, or grandma’s handmade throw.
Likewise, double check the security of your outdoor spaces, such as a fenced yard. New dogs can try very hard to escape, in many cases to try to return to their previous home. It is best not to leave your dog outside unsupervised for the first few months.
Prepare a Dog Safe Space
You will need a place that you feel confident leaving your dog alone while you are away at work. Many professional trainers recommend crate training which serves this purpose. However, you can also use a room that you set up with a comfy bed, indestructible chew toys and a water dish. Double check to be sure it is free of any valuables that may be destroyed in your absence.
Decide on House Rules
One of the most important things you can do to ensure a smooth transition for your new pooch is to be consistent with the expectations. Make sure the whole household has had a conversation about what rules will be in effect and enforced by all. For example, you may decide the dog won’t be allowed on dad’s recliner.
A conversation about consequences (such as a time out) for infractions as well as what rewards are appropriate can also be helpful to ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Establish a Potty Zone
Before bringing your dog into the house, take her outside to her potty area. Since dogs can be quite nervous in a new place, be sure to take her out several times in the first few hours, rewarding with praise or small treats every time she successfully uses her potty spot.
Accidents, even with well house-trained dogs, can happen in a rehoming situation. Try to be patient and consistent with potty training.
Keep it Calm
While it may be hard to resist the urge to play and roughhouse with your new pet, it is important to keep the vibe mellow in the house for the first few days. It will help your new dog relax and settle in. Keep more vigorous exercise, such as a game of fetch, outside.
Make Neutral Introductions
Introduce your rescue dog to the people and other pets in your home in a neutral space first. This is particularly important when it comes to meeting her new canine pack mates who can be territorial in their home. Giving them a chance to meet when the stakes are not as high allows them to become comfortable with each other without feeling threatened.
Establish a Routine
Routines help dogs feel secure. A regular time for feeding meals, potty breaks, walks and playtime can make a tremendous difference when it comes to helping your new dog adjust.
Look for opportunities to reward your dog for the kind of behavior that you like to see. This can be anything from sitting for a greeting, walking well on the leash, or just plain old polite behavior.
It is your job to communicate a job well done – your pooch isn’t a mind reader. While it can be easy to focus on mistakes and punishment, your canine will be much more confident and balanced if he is given plenty of praise and even some tasty rewards when he is on the right track.
Enroll in a Training Class
This is particularly important if you are new to dog ownership or have never made the time to learn the basics of positive reinforcement based dog training. Great classes would include those that focus on clicker training or basic manners. Learning the skills of dog training gives you tools to help your rescue dog adjust to your home and will serve your bond for life.
Schedule a Visit with the Vet
Even if your dog is up to date on vaccines, it is important to get in with your veterinarian in the first few weeks if possible. For one thing, your vet may notice something related to your new dog’s health that you may have missed. Second, in the event of an emergency, your veterinarian will have the necessary records on file, such as vaccination history.
Seek Opportunities for Socialization
Dogs need opportunities to socialize with other dogs. Although this is particularly true of puppies, spending time playing with other canines is important to making sure your dog has the skills to play well with others.
Arrange play dates with your dog owning neighbors or coworkers, attend dog socials hosted by local pet stores or restaurants, or visit the dog park. Keep a close eye on how your dog is doing with others and consult a professional dog trainer at the first sign of any behavioral issues such as fear or aggression around other dogs.
When you lay the groundwork for helping your rescue dog adjust to their new home, you increase the chances that things will work out for the best all around. In addition, you will be cementing your bond – a relationship that will be with you for many years to come.
Remember that rehoming is an extremely stressful time for our canine companions. As social animals, their sense of safety and security with their pack is critical to their sense of wellbeing. Try to be patient with any mistakes and set your pooch up for success by being prepared for their arrival and consistent with their training.