What to Expect When You Adopt a New Pet

Mac, a German Shepherd mix, was an adult when he was adopted from the local shelter in Carlsbad, CA. At his first veterinary visit after adoption, the veterinarian estimated him to be between 2 and 3 years old, skinny but in great health, and, “A very handsome fellow!” Mac seemed to settle into his new home quickly but his owners were a bit more hesitant. Not only was Mac a big dog but this was their first dog in many years. They were a bit overwhelmed.

German Shepherd dog, Mac

Does this scenario sound familiar? Adopting a new pet is fun, exciting, and rewarding – but can also be challenging! Making sure your new dog or cat is comfortable in his new home is imperative. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re adopting a new pet!

Create a Routine

Dogs are creatures of habit and thrive on a routine. When the important things in his life happen on a schedule it can give the newly adopted dog a sense of security. After all, he’s in your home now but really has no idea where he is and who you are. It’s all new and some dogs are unsure, worried, and even fearful. A routine can ease some of that anxiety as he learns where he is.

Every motion of every day doesn’t need to happen at the same time every day but some of the important things should. Meal times, trips outside to relieve himself, and walks should, whenever possible, happen at the same general time each day. Playtimes, extra walks, and grooming sessions don’t have to be scheduled; do these things as you can.

Introduce Grooming Slowly

Many times, the new owners of an adopted dog will have no information at all about the dog’s history. Therefore, you may not know if he’s ever had his ears cleaned or nails trimmed or whether he’ll protest if you try and comb through a tangled coat.

Introduce body care slowly, gently, and with some really good treats. That means when you bring him home, if he really needs a bath, his ears cleaned, and his toenails trimmed; don’t do it all on his first day home. Take a week or so to catch him up on any grooming or body care that he needs. Gently brush him, for example, interspersing brush strokes with treats. Maybe clean one ear and then give him a break. Trim the nails on one paw one day and do the second paw the following day. Slow and gentle is best right now.

Puppy had accident on carpet

House-training May Be…Difficult

It’s not unusual for newly adopted dogs to have some house-training accidents. Not only is the dog in a new house, with a new (to him) routine, but he may not understand where to relieve himself or how to ask to go out. Plus, his house-training skills in his old home may have been nonexistent, too.

Mac’s new owners found out quickly that their new dog must have been an outside dog; he appeared to have no idea that he wasn’t supposed to relieve himself inside. As soon as they came to that conclusion, they simply treated him like an eight week old puppy. They took him outside every time he needed to go, they taught him a word meaning where and when he should relieve himself, and they limited his freedom in the house. Mac learned quickly and very soon was reliably clean in the house.

Training is Good for Everyone

Once a newly adopted dog is settled into his new home, knows his new name, and some trust has been established; training should begin. Obedience training, either in a group class situation or with a individual trainer, is good for both the dog and his new owners.

Training helps create better understanding and increased communication. Working together builds the dog and owner relationship. Plus, with training, the owner can also help teach the dog some rules for his new home, such as, “Please, don’t dash out any door that opens,” or “Jumping up on people is not allowed.” Just remember that training should not be like military bootcamp; instead, work to build cooperation and don’t forget to have fun!

New dog made a mess in the house

Stuff Happens

As your new dog learns the rules of his new home, undesirable stuff may happen. No, that isn’t true, stuff WILL happen. A shoe will be chewed, a child’s toy may be destroyed, the cat food will disappear, and you’ll find dog hair all over the sofa. There isn’t a dog in the world who is absolutely perfect just as there isn’t a dog owner who is without flaws.

As much as possible, while your new dog is settling in, prevent unwanted behaviors from happening. Close bedroom doors and make sure family members put things away. Use your new training skills, the leash (yes, in the house), and a pocketful of dog treats to teach your new dog what is allowed in the house and what isn’t. Then be patient.

Mac is Doing Great

Six months after his adoption, Mac and his owners are doing great. They graduated from a training class, he’s learning the rules of his new home, and he’s acting like he’s lived in that home all his life.

His owners have relaxed, too, now that they know how to communicate better with Mac. Plus, they are all getting more exercise as they walk and play with Mac on a regular basis. Mac’s new Dad says, “I wasn’t sure we had made the right decision when we first brought him home. But now, I’m so glad we stuck it out. He’s added so much joy to our lives; he’s a part of our family now.”

By: Liz Palika

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