Bringing Home a New Dog

Adopting an adult dog can be a very rewarding experience!
Adult dogs need time to adjust to new homes.

Congratulations! You just added a new dog to your family! In addition to showering them with love and playing with all those new toys together, there are a few other things that you can do to help ensure a smooth integration for everyone.

Consider the actual event of taking your new dog home. Though it may be tempting to go shopping together for a new toy or stop at the doggy park, the best plan (and most stress free for everyone) is to go straight home. Keep your new pal on a leash, even if your yard is fenced, while you stay in the yard until the dog has relieved himself. Just because your experience with the dog so far has been calm and collected doesn’t mean that he can’t get spooked by something in this new place and take off. Also, just because a dog was house trained in his previous home does not guarantee that he will not have an accident in his new home. Dogs don’t generalize well and may not immediately realize that the same rules apply in this new house. Staying outside until the dog uses the yard- and then praising him for it- will help him make that connection. This applies to adult dogs just as much as puppies.

Remember that, regardless of the background that your new dog comes from, your home is a new world for him. Expect him to spend time exploring and to be distracted by his new environment. Also expect him to be a little less outgoing than he was when you met- he may even choose to hide out for a while. Think about how you would feel if you suddenly found yourself in a completely new place, surrounded by people you didn’t know. You can help your new dog adjust by giving him plenty of patience. You can make the process less overwhelming for him by limiting his access to the house, which will also help keep him out of trouble. Leaving his leash on may another good idea- this way, you can quickly intervene if any mischief begins to brew.

Many folks who are bringing home a new dog already have canines in the house. By being proactive, humans can help to mitigate any arguments before they begin. The first step is introducing the dogs to each other in a neutral territory. This means a place that neither dog frequents and can consider his own territory. Walking the dogs in a brisk, jovial manner next to each other is often a good way to begin. Once everyone is comfortable, it’s time to consider going home. This is the place where trouble can arise from the resident dog. One good trick is to let the new dog go into the home first, while the other dog spends some time in the yard. When he does come inside, the new dog is already there, so he doesn’t have to get upset and defensive trying to prevent entry into his territory. If they don’t get along immediately, don’t panic! Be patient, go slowly, and consider talking with a behaviorist. Always supervise the dogs’ interactions, meaning watch their body language, not just be in the same room. Remember, though, that sometimes it doesn’t work out. In that case, when the safety and quality of life is at risk for any member of the situation, it’s not just okay to call it quits, but a preferable choice.

What about the resident cat? The first step is selecting a new dog with a good or neutral history with cats. Remember that cats are not just predators, they are a prey species as well. Many dogs will give in and chase a cat that runs. They may injure the cat- or worse- simply because their genes tell them that this is what they should do when a prey animal runs. Other dogs may simply want to play, but play too roughly for the fragile feline. When you bring the new dog home, be sure that your cat has plenty of places to escape to that the dog can’t reach and keep him on a leash the first several times that they meet, just in case. For your own safety, don’t hold the cat while the dog investigates her. A spooked cat’s claws can be painful!

Remember that animals are individuals and each will adjust in his own time and in his own way. You’ve done something great inviting this animal into your family. Take your time and enjoy the process of getting to know each other on your journey to a long, happy life together!