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How to Help Your Dog Adjust to Their New Home


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Published: 6/21/2021

Bringing a new fur-baby home is an adjustment for everyone, but especially for a new dog. Being introduced to a new family and home can be extremely confusing and overwhelming for dogs, especially if they've been with their previous family for a long time.

Puppies tend to adjust fairly quickly, but rescues and older dogs can take much longer to acclimate. In this guide, we'll address ways you can help your dog to adjust to their new life and how to make the transition easier for them.

Preparing for Fido's arrival

Preparing for a new dog's arrival is an exciting time, but you mustn't forget the necessities in all the excitement. 

Before your dog's arrival, you'll need to make sure you have everything they need, which means a crate, blankets, toys, leashes, a collar, and food. It's best to pick a crate of the same size and type they're used to and the same brand of food they're accustomed to eating. Having these things on hand will help your dog to adjust to their new setting more quickly.

Schedule preliminary visits

If possible, visit with the dog a couple of times before bringing them home. Preliminary visits help build trust and familiarize Fido with you and your scent. What's more, visiting with Fido beforehand will make them more willing to go with you when the time comes.

Before your visit, ask the caregivers what the dog's favorite treats are and bring them along to help gain trust. You’d be surprised at how far a bag of treats can get you, even with the most skittish of fur-babies. 

At the visit, ask the current caregivers about Fido's normal eating, exercise, and potty schedule, since you'll want to keep that the same for the first few weeks.

When it comes to Fido, keep things lighthearted with lots of play and treats during the visit. Ensuring a positive first impression is essential for getting a pup to trust you.

When picking Fido up

When picking up Fido, politely ask the previous family to keep goodbyes short and sweet. Long, drawn-out goodbyes tend to make the transition harder for dogs. 

You may also want to make arrangements for a friend or family member to accompany you to pick up your new pooch. Dogs may get anxious on the ride to their new home, so it's best if someone can ride in the back with them during the drive. 

When you get home

When you arrive at your home, the first thing you should do is take Fido out to potty. Even dogs that have been housebroken for a long time can become confused by the new space and have an accident. After their potty break, take a few minutes to show your new fur-baby around the house. 

Introduce your family members one at a time to avoid overwhelming your new pup. If you arrived at a new place and several strange people ran up to you, you'd probably be standoffish, right? That's probably how your dog would feel too. 

Keep Fido near you at all times the first few days to help them feel more secure and promote bonding. When you have to leave, place Fido in the crate (if they will tolerate it). For many pets, crates are a sanctuary where they feel protected from the outside world. Don't push it if your dog is uncomfortable exploring their crate — this will only make them afraid of it. Instead, try these crate training techniques to get your dog accustomed to their new kennel. 

Give Fido space to decompress

Transitioning to a new home is hard for dogs, so give them lots of love but plenty of space too. Try to keep it calm and quiet in the house, especially if you're dealing with a rescue. Rescues are often skittish and may take a while to warm up to their new family members.

Set your ground rules from the beginning

It's crucial that you set your house rules from the very beginning — that means working on training and housebreaking from the get-go. You may be tempted to let your pup lie on the couch to make them feel comfortable initially, but if this will be a problem in the future, you should nip that behavior in the bud from the start. 

We know it can be hard to enforce rules at first, especially when your rescue gives you those big puppy dog eyes, but you need to stick to your guns. Reinforce positive behavior with lots of love and praise and use a firm "no" to correct negative behaviors. Don't yell at or hit your dog since this can make them distrustful and even fearful of you.

Try to keep things the same.

Try to keep Fido on the same food, exercise, and potty schedule. Dogs thrive off of consistency, and the more their schedule stays the same, the more quickly they will adjust to their new life. 

Resist the temptation to change your pup's diet for at least a couple of weeks after bringing them home. When that time is up, change their diet slowly. Add a few tablespoons of the new food at a time to the old food, until your dog is eating nothing but the new food. Abrupt changes in diet can cause a dog to become sick.

Put safety measures in place

Supervise your pooch for the first few weeks when you're at home, and try crating them when you have to go away. New dogs may try to escape, so make sure to mend any holes in your fencing and lock the doggy door. You may also want to puppy-proof your home until you see how Fido reacts to their new surroundings. Dogs with separation anxiety often become destructive when left to their own devices.

Give your dog time

Most of all, be patient with your dog as they adjust to their new home. These things take time. The best thing you can do is love your dog through the transition and offer them as much support as possible. Remember, stay as consistent as possible and take the integration process slow, introducing your pup to family members one at a time. Your pup will be a proper member of the pack in no time!

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