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How to Make Your Adopted Dog Feel Right at Home
DogsBehavior

How to Make Your Adopted Dog Feel Right at Home

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Oct 18, 2022

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Rescuing a dog is a wonderful way to add a new pet to the family. While humans know they're bringing their new friend into a safe and loving home, the rescue does not. It may take time for them to understand they're finally in a forever home. Every dog is different, but a few key strategies can set owners up for success while re-homing their adopted dog.

1

Choose the right dog

Woman with puppies Viktorcvetkovic / Getty Images

Shelters have dogs of almost every breed and background. Staff at these centers are typically trained to help owners match a good match, but owners need to be practical. No matter how adorable, a boisterous, playful puppy may not be the right match for an owner who works long hours away from the house. Big beautiful mountain dogs could be cramped in a tiny apartment. It's important that the dog's breed and temperament match the lifestyle of the family they're joining.

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2

Do research into the dog's background

Young adult woman working and playing with adorable dogs in animal shelter mladenbalinovac / Getty Images

Every shelter dog has a history that will impact how they view their new home. A pooch who's experienced neglect may be frightened of people, while a dog who's been fostered may take more time to understand that this home is permanent. Some have unique behavioral challenges or disabilities. Even healthy dogs from perfectly loving homes may be confused or miss their previous owners. The more information a new owner has, the more they'll be able to understand and respond to their dog's individual needs.

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3

Prepare your home for their arrival

dog resting in dog bed while enjoying sunlight by the window Oscar Wong / Getty Images

Make sure the dog has a comfortable place to sleep, familiar food, and a secure area to play. Frightened canines can have accidents, so it could be worth it to put down plastic on carpets or keep them in areas that are easy to clean. Try to get a sense of their preferences. Some dogs prefer to sleep in a crate or have a favorite brand of food, and these little details can help them feel comfortable.

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4

Keep the first day uneventful

Shot of a young family spending quality time in the kitchen at home Dean Mitchell / Getty Images

Keep introductions limited to members of the household at first. Explain to any children in the house that the new puppy might be scared and encourage them to let the dog approach them first and to pet it gently. It's important to set up a place where the dog can retreat if they become overwhelmed. This may be a crate they can enter and exit as they please or a quiet corner with a bed.

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5

Take time to introduce existing pets

Two funny dogs sniffing smelling scent noses in park on leashes looking at each other pedigree street cute krblokhin / Getty Images

If there are existing animals in the house, try to keep them separated from the new family member for at least 24 hours. Bring them together on neutral ground, like an outside garden or a nearby park, and keep them both on a leash. Even if your animals are typically friendly, stress or territorial instincts may cause them to fight. Be patient. Both pets may need time to get used to sharing space.

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6

Focus on rules and routine

woman walking dog on a leash Westend61 / Getty Images

It's tempting to let a clingy new dog sleep in the bed. However, if the plan is for them to sleep in their crate, it's important to set that expectation from the beginning. Dogs find comfort in set routines and schedules, especially if their previous life was unpredictable. Calmly and gently enforce the rules of their new home. The quicker a dog understands what's expected of them, the more safe and comfortable they'll feel.

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7

Set aside playtime

Pet sitter caring about dogs. She is playing with them at home based environment svetikd / Getty Images

For the first few days, it's best to supervise as your dog explores their new home. A dog given free rein in an unfamiliar empty house may chew on things, scratch up furniture, or try to mark their territory. Some pups may take a few days in their crate before they're ready to venture out. Be patient and reassuring. Try to read their body language and let them approach for reassurance and bonding. Short walks and gentle, positive play help a new dog bond with its family.

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8

Establish partnerships

Close up of a mother and son taking their dogs to the veterinarian Marko Geber / Getty Images

A regular vet is an invaluable resource for keeping a dog healthy and safe. In the early days of re-homing, your veterinarian can answer questions about how they're adjusting, check for any emerging health issues, and get to know the new dog. Professional dog trainers can help with behavioral issues. Some dogs thrive with the exercise, socialization, and mental challenge that training provides.

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9

Take setbacks in stride

Dog sitting on sofa and having a guilty look on his face Christina Reichl Photography / Getty Images

The stress of a re-homing can cause some dogs to exhibit odd behaviors. A previously house-trained pooch may start having accidents, they may develop new behavioral problems, or have difficulty eating. This is all normal. Check in with your vet about any health concerns; otherwise, try to maintain a calm, positive routine. Use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior, offer them food regularly, and consistently enforce rules. As the dog becomes more comfortable, these setbacks usually resolve themselves.

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10

Bond with the new member of the family

A young black man playing with two long-haired dachshunds adamkaz / Getty Images

As your dog becomes more comfortable with its new home and family, owners get to see more of its true personality shine through. The next step is to keep building that bond. Trust takes time. Consistent routine, loving discipline, and regular play all help build the relationship between a rescue and their new companion. In time, the hard work will be rewarded as owners watch their pup go from frightened and unsure to a confident part of the family.

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