Welcoming an adopted dog into your family is an exciting time; a new beginning for a dog with a possibly storied past, and a new member of the family to shower with love and affection.
You’ve done the legwork on adopting a dog – collars, treats, training classes, a soft bed – and your family can’t wait to rush down to the animal shelter and bring home the newest, fuzziest member. But … adopted adult dogs come with a story of their own.
Sometimes integrating an adult dog into your family may take hard work and dedication, but if you do your research and plan ahead, you can make the process seamless. Is your family up to the challenge? Read on and find out
How to Prepare Your Home
One of the first steps in welcoming your new dog into your home is to prepare your home itself. From giving your dog his own space to making sure he feels safe and secure, there is much to be done!
Puppy proof your home, regardless of how old your new dog is
A dog will naturally be very interested in his new environment, and will likely want to sniff around and investigate. You need to make sure that there’s nothing your dog can get into that will hurt him, and nothing too accessible to your dog that you’d rather have out of the way. Prepare the same way you would if you were bringing a curious new puppy home for the first time. A great way to do this is to get at the dogs eye level. Yes, that’s right – crawl around on your hands and knees and see what he will see. If there’s anything potentially dangerous your dog could easily get into, move those things to a safer location.
Also, keep in mind that a new dog won’t automatically know all the rules of your house. Start your training regimen right away, and be consistent. Consistency is key in transitioning a dog into your home.
Provide your new dog with a safe, private place to call his own
Your adopted dog may feel a bit anxious when he first gets to his new home. Giving him a private, comfortable space where he can lay down and feel at ease is the key to making the transition to your home an easy one. A crate with a soft bed or blanket inside, even with the crate door open, will allow your dog to get comfortable in his new space, and will also help associate his crate with a positive feeling.
Plan your new dog’s arrival
Schedule the arrival of your new dog when you can take off of work and don’t have any social obligations. Having a few days off with your new dog will make the transition into your home easier – leaving him at home alone right away could be traumatizing for your new dog.
Limit the activity in your home to prevent your dog from becoming overstressed
Many adopted dogs come from stressful backgrounds or homes where he didn’t feel safe. Your new dog may be excited to be in his new home, but he also may feel overwhelmed at first. Limiting activity and keeping a calm environment for the first few weeks with your new dog can help put his mind at ease. Don’t try to force him to do too much at once; limit guests from coming to the house, and make sure your children give their new family member some space to get adjusted.
How to Choose Your Adopted Dog
Choosing a dog to adopt is a big decision. The first thing you should do is think about your own lifestyle and personality. Do your best to ensure that the dog you choose to adopt is a good fit for you, as the last thing you want to do is return a dog who has already lost his previous family.
Consider the following before adopting a new dog:
Activity level – Are you active? Would you enjoy a dog that loves to run with you, or a dog that would be happy going on a short walk each day?
Work schedule – Do you work long hours? Are you able to accommodate your new dogs needs by hiring a dog walker, or by coming home for lunch? Even if you are physically active, if you work a lot active breeds are not recommended, as they may become destructive or depressed when left alone for long periods of time.
Home life – Do you have other people or pets in the home to consider? Do you have a fenced in yard?
Personality – Are you laid back, or high energy? Are you loud, making sweeping hand gestures, or quiet and reserved? It’s important to find a dog that is compatible with your personality.
If possible, visit perspective dogs as much as possible before adopting, and bring any other people or pets that reside in your household. If not, make your best judgements at the shelter, or look for foster homes that are similar to your own.
Welcoming An Adopted Dog Into a Home With Children
Getting a new pet is a milestone in a child’s life. They get to learn about responsibility, friendship, and perhaps most importantly, unconditional love! Your child’s first experience with dogs may make a lifelong impression, and it likely that your dog will be your child’s first best friend. With any such large impact on a child’s life, it is important to take the process seriously.
Some things you should consider when adopting a dog when you have children are:
How old are the children? There is a huge developmental difference between years, and oftentimes months, in children. A dog’s temperament needs to be much more gentle when dealing with a toddler than a six year old. Doing your research on different dogs you’re looking to adopt is key to a smooth transition in bringing your new dog home. Especially with adult dogs adopted from previously bad or abusive situations, it is important to take the personality of the dogs and your children into consideration.
Introducing children to dogs – Children should be able to interact with dogs before they get their own. This means proper etiquette such as not reaching for a dog’s food or treats when they are eating or chewing, not pulling on body parts or their tail, petting gently, and not putting their face up to the dog’s face. If a child is old enough, teach them to not maintain eye contact, and the signs of a dog being scared or uncomfortable, such as bristling fur, ears pushed back, wide eyes, or low growls.
Teaching children how to interact with dogs – Once you adopt a dog, be diligent when teaching your child how to interact with dogs. Don’t allow them to be rough with the dog, pull on its fur or body parts, or act in ways a dog might interpret as aggressive. Dogs that are otherwise laid back and gentle may become extremely aggressive when someone goes toward their food – make sure your child knows to leave dogs alone when they are eating.
Knowing your new dog’s history – If a dog has been abused or neglected, it may be naturally fearful. Dogs that are afraid may act aggressively. It is especially important to teach your children to be gentle and keep their movements slow around such dogs, and very young children should be introduced slowly, under close supervision.
The first few weeks – For the first few weeks after you bring your new dog home, be very careful never to leave your child unsupervised with the dog. Dogs, and children, can become easily overwhelmed with life changes. Prevent any bad incidents from happening by supervising any interactions with your children and their new family member.
Introducing an Adopted Dog into a Multi-Pet Household
Introducing a new dog when you have other pets can be a stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be. There are steps you can take to make the process as painless as possible.
Introduce first by smell – Familiarize each animal to the smells of the other. This can be by having them smell bedding, collars, or toys. Familiarizing their scent will help ease the transition of adding a new dog into the home.
Keep the first introduction short – Even if the meeting of your new pets goes well, it is important not to get overzealous. Keep the first introduction short as to not overstimulate your pets. A good introduction can quickly turn into a negative one if one or more pets gets overwhelmed. Increase the time spent together in increments to allow all of your pets to get used to each other.
Introduce in neutral territory – If they are both dogs, be sure the first meeting is in a neutral territory, such as a park. Some dogs are territorial over their home or even just their crate or toys, which can cause unnecessary tension and aggression when meeting a new dog for the first time.
What if they don’t get along? If something does go wrong, such as your new dog chasing your cat, or if one of the dogs exhibits unwanted behaviors such as growling or urination, seek training. With dogs, it is normal for the ‘original’ dog to become territorial, or fearful that they are losing their position in your ‘pack.’ Some dogs will become aggressive to show the new guy in town that they rank above them in your pack. Make sure you are giving your dogs lots of individual attention.
What if something doesn’t work out?
Sometimes, unexpected problems arise when adopting a new dog. They may exhibit bad behavior that was not disclosed or unknown to the animal shelter or foster home. Oftentimes, they can show signs of being anxious due to their environment changing again, such as chewing, urinating inside, or being otherwise destructive. It is important to give your new dog time to adjust to its environment, and all the new people, smells, animals, and routines it isn’t used to. Dogs exhibited unwanted behavior due to the stress of being rehomed – this is usually temporary.
Of course, if the new dog is severely aggressive, has harmed another person or animal, or is otherwise dangerous, don’t hesitate to contact the person or organization from which you adopted your new dog. They may be able to assist you in finding training resources, or as a last resort, find a home that is a better fit.
Welcoming an adopted dog into your family is an exciting time that will change your life, and the life of your new dog, forever. The right amount of research, patience, and love, can turn the process into a wonderful memory for everyone