Make the transition from shelter life to forever home a smooth one.
Reviewed by Natasha Diehl
Once you decide to welcome a rescue dog into your family, it's important to have things just so for their arrival. Experts say rescue dogs need about three days to decompress, three weeks to begin learning new rules, and three months to feel comfortable in their new surroundings.
These 10 tips and tricks will help you prepare for your dog’s transition from shelter to forever home, so you can spend more time helping them adjust and less time catching up on the details.
Prepare Your Home
Puppy proof, puppy proof, puppy proof—even if your dog isn't a puppy. You might be surprised to learn about the dangers hidden in plain sight. And you should never underestimate what a curious or anxious dog can get into. But before you let your new dog have free reign of your pup-proofed home, you’ll want to start them in a separate space, away from the hustle and bustle of your household.
“This can be a quiet room or a corner of the den with a dog bed or crate with an open door,” says Dr. Gary Weitzman, DVM, president and CEO of the San Diego Humane Society. “Remember that your pet is getting used to his new human family as much as you’re getting used to your new pet.” He adds that stocking your dog’s space with engaging toys like a Kong stuffed with peanut butter can help relieve anxiety and reduce the chances of destructive behaviors.
Do a Pet-Store Run
From leashes and toys to grooming supplies and treats, there are many things you'll want to have on hand when your rescue dog arrives home. Don’t hesitate to ask shelter staff what supplies your dog enjoys and anything special you’ll need to accommodate their age, breed, or temperament. You can use this essential doggy gear list as a starting point.
All too often, pet parents arrive on pick-up day without a collar and tags in hand, Weitzman says. If you’ve picked out a name for your pooch, it’s never too early to order a collar and personalized tags with your dog’s name, your address, and your phone number. And if you haven't selected a name just yet—it may take a few days to decide if she's a Birdie or BeeBee—Weitzman says a budget-friendly collar with your name and number in permanent marker is better than leaving your dog bare.
“One in three pets will go missing in their lifetime,” he says. “A well-fitting collar with an ID tag is essential, even for pets who remain primarily indoors or in fenced yards.”
The shelter you’re working with will likely also mention microchipping; many shelters microchip pets before sending them home. A microchip is a tiny smart ID that’s about the size of a grain of rice. It’s placed under a pet’s skin and when scanned by a vet or shelter, it populates your contact information. Placing the chip requires a brief injection, but after that, it’s painless, Weitzman ensures. And it’s your pet’s ticket home if they become lost and their collar or tags have fallen off.
Find a Vet
Choosing your pup’s vet is an important part of pet parenting, and it shouldn't be a choice you make on a whim. After all, would you visit a doctor you know nothing about? “First check out online reviews to come up with a short list,” Weitzman recommends. Then narrow the selection down by factors that are most important to you, such as the distance from home and/or work, services offered, and cost. It may make a difference to you whether the clinic is a corporate chain or locally owned and if your pet will see the same practitioner every visit.
Consider Pet Insurance
If you haven’t purchased pet insurance before, now is the time to consider it. For a monthly fee, some pet insurance plans cover everything from preventive care to emergency exams. Others cover a portion of emergency expenses. If pet insurance doesn't fit your needs—and it may not depending on your dog’s age, breed, or pre-existing conditions—you may consider a pet wellness plan instead.
Unlike pet insurance, wellness plans only cover routine care that is essential to keeping your dog healthy, such as their yearly or bi-yearly wellness exams. It’s never a bad idea to pair a wellness plan with an emergency fund to cover any unexpected expenses.
Have a Routine in Mind
While it may seem strange to create a routine before your pup leaves the shelter, a little foresight can go a long way. “Be organized from day one, and life will be easier for everyone,” Weitzman says. Depending on the age of the dog you adopt, your pup will need two or more meals a day. They’ll also need multiple potty breaks and daily exercise ranging from 60 minutes total to two hours, typically broken into short sessions.
Once your pup arrives home, Weitzman stresses the importance of sticking with your routine. “You’ll thank me for that when you start house training.”
Prepare Your Family
“Before introducing a dog to your children, let them know that dogs communicate differently than they do,” Weitzman suggests. This means that children will need to hold back hugs, resist the urge to pull tails and fur, and practice their "pet voice" for gently talking to their new dog. When introducing two dogs, it should be done on neutral turf, and keep them separate in the home for a bit. Cats require a slow step-by-step introduction starting with confinement.
Get Ready for House Training
Prepare for training by choosing where you’d like your dog to relieve themselves. As soon as you arrive home, take them to the designated potty spot, rewarding them for going to the bathroom. This is positive reinforcement and will go a long way in training your pooch, Weitman says.
Be prepared with lots of healthy training treats that can be broken into bite-sized pieces. Keep in mind that most adult dogs need three to four potty breaks daily while puppies need to go more often.
Have a Support System
Having a go-to professional sitter, walker, family member, or friend can make a world of difference when last-minute schedule changes pop up. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional behavioral help either, says Maddie Messina, MA, CPDT-KA, SAPT, FFCP, applied animal behaviorist and founder of Paws for Thought. Some rescue dogs have never lived in a home before and may require extra support in making a successful transition.
Clear Your Schedule
In the first few days after your puppy arrives home, you’ll want to be there, too. Sure, your dog will appreciate some alone time in their safe space to decompress, but it’s important that you’re nearby to address any anxious behaviors and take them potty when they need to go.
Your new rescue dog is going to be feeling a lot of new emotions, like excitement, but likely fear and confusion, too. So the first few days aren’t the time for visitors either. Rather, plan for a few quiet days at home to settle in together, just the two of you and any other members of your household.
Read the original article on The Spruce Pets.