Going to a new home can be an exciting and anxious experience for
a dog. He is not sure what is going to happen to him next. He may
have just gotten used to the shelter and now things are changing
again. It is very confusing for him in the beginning and your
patience and understanding during his initial adjustment period
can do a lot to help your new dog feel at home.
The Ride Home
It’s a good idea to have two adults with you when taking your new
dog home. That way one can keep the dog under control while the
other concentrates on driving. Be sure to keep your new dog on
leash until you have him safely inside your home.
The New Home
Be prepared to see some stress behaviors (panting, pacing,
housebreaking accidents, excessive chewing and/or gastric upset)
for up to 3 to 4 months after adopting your new dog. Try to
develop and use a consistent daily routine for feeding,
exercising, and bathroom duties. Dogs are creatures of habit and
routine means security for them. If you do the same things in the
same way and in the same order, he will settle in more quickly and
learn what is expected of him and when. Most dogs will begin to
feel comfortable with your routine after 2 to 4 weeks. For those
dogs that adjust more slowly, patience and gentleness are
Once you’ve arrived home, you should leash walk (even in a fenced
yard) your new dog outside for at least 10-15 minutes or until he
relieves himself. Let him get the “lay of the land” by sniffing
and becoming acquainted with all the smells associated with your
yard. The combination of the car ride and the excitement of a new
family and home will cause him to have to relieve himself more
often, so be sure to give him plenty of opportunities in the
beginning. We recommend you take your new dog out every two to
three hours when you’re home for the first couple of weeks until
he settles in and learns your routine!
It is best to keep a new male dog on a leash when first bringing
him inside. He may, out of nervousness (or he may smell remnants
of another dog), mark a doorway, plant or chair. If he starts to
lift his leg on something, give the leash a short jerk (not too
hard, just so he can feel it) and tell him “No,” and he should
stop immediately and remember his manners.
In the beginning, if you have to leave your dog at home alone for
longer than two hours, try confining him to a crate or a safe,
dog-proofed room. You don’t have to do this forever, just until
he’s learned all the house rules.
Make sure that you teach your new dog what it is you expect from
him, don’t assume he knows your house rules and punish him for
something he hasn’t learned yet. Preventing unwanted behavior is
easier than correcting it! For example, provide bones and chew
toys and keep tempting items like shoes, belts, purses and
clothing out of the dog’s reach. Consistency is critical. Don’t
allow your dog to do something one day, then scold him the next
day for the behavior. If you don’t want your dog to jump on you or
others when you are dressed up, don’t allow him to jump on you
when wearing jeans, he can’t tell the difference. Make sure all
family members know and use the same commands consistently to
minimize confusion and mixed messages to your dog.
The first few nights you may want to confine your new dog in the
bedroom with you or in a crate. Age, behavior and your preferences
will dictate which you choose, but you will not want to give him
too much freedom until you are sure he has learned the house
rules. After the initial adjustment period is over, you might
choose to let your dog sleep in your bed, on a dog bed or just
leave him free to pick his own favorite spot.
Introduction to Other Animals
The ability of animals to get along together in the same household
depends on their individual personalities. In relationships
between animals, there will always be one who dominates. A new dog
will often upset the existing “pack order” or the old dog may feel
it necessary to establish dominance immediately. Wise handling of
the “getting acquainted” period is an important factor in the
successful introduction of a new dog. The first week or two may be
hectic, frustrating and time consuming. Be patient, the adjustment
will take time.
New Dog/Old Dog
Meeting outside (preferably in a fenced yard) can be less
threatening for canine introductions. If you have more than one
dog, introduce them one at a time. Make sure all dogs are leashed
and there is an adult holding each leash.
From the first meeting, you want both dogs to expect “good things”
to happen when they’re in each other’s presence. Let them sniff
each other, which is normal canine greeting behavior. As they do,
talk to them in a happy, friendly tone of voice -- never use a
threatening tone of voice. After a short time, get both dogs’
attention, and give each dog a treat in return for obeying a
simple command, such as “sit” or “stay.” Walk the dogs around and
let them sniff and investigate each other at intervals. Continue
with the “happy talk,” food rewards and simple commands.
Watch carefully for body postures that indicate an aggressive
response, including hairs standing up on the other dog’s back,
teeth-baring, deep growls, a stiff legged gait or a prolonged
stare. If you see such postures, interrupt the interaction
immediately by calmly and positively getting each dog interested
in something else. For example, both handlers can call their dogs
to them, have them sit or lie down and reward each with a treat.
The dogs will become interested in the treats which will prevent
the situation from escalating into aggression. Try letting the
dogs interact again, but this time for a shorter time period
and/or at a greater distance from each other.
When the dogs seem to be tolerating each other’s presence without
fearful or aggressive responses, and the investigative greeting
behaviors have tapered off, you can drop the leashes (if you’re in
a fenced yard) and let them explore the yard together. Leave the
leashes on them so that you can quickly get control if you need
to. When the dogs come inside, you may find that the more personal
space will cause a squabble or two, so you may still want to leave
the leashes on for quick control. You may also want to put all
toys (and especially all treats, like rawhide, etc.) away until
everyone is comfortable.
Feed your new dog away from your other dog(s) but at the same
time. You can feed in the same room, but use opposite corners,
putting the dominant dog’s bowl down first. Watch that each dog
sticks to his own bowl. Keep vigilant during the feeding time for
a couple of months until the pack positions are worked out.
New Dog/Old Cat
Confine your cat to a room and let the new dog walk around the
house and become familiar with his surroundings, including the
cat’s scent. Then take the new dog and confine him to a quiet room
or a crate while your cat is allowed to investigate the newcomer’s
scent which is now in the home.
Next, put the dog’s leash on, and using treats, have him either
sit or lie down and stay. Have another family member or friend
enter the room and quietly sit down with your resident cat, but
don’t have them physically restrain her. Have this person offer
your cat some special pieces of food or catnip. At first, the cat
and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room. Lots of short
visits are better than a few long visits. Don’t drag out the visit
so long that the dog becomes uncontrollable. Repeat this step
several times until both the cat and dog are tolerating each
other’s presence without fear, aggression or other undesirable
Next, allow your cat freedom to explore your dog at her own pace,
with the dog still on-leash and in a “down-stay.” Meanwhile, keep
giving your dog treats and praise for his calm behavior. If your
dog gets up from his “stay” position, he should be repositioned
and praised and rewarded for obeying the “stay” command.
Although your dog must be taught that chasing or being rough with
your cat is unacceptable behavior, he must also be taught how to
behave appropriately, and be rewarded for doing so, such as
sitting, coming when called, or lying down in return for a treat.
If your dog is always punished when your cat is around, and never
has “good things” happen in the cat’s presence, your dog may
redirect his aggression toward the cat.
You may want to keep your dog on-leash and with you whenever your
cat is free in the house during the introduction process. Be sure
that your cat has an escape route and a place to hide. Also, be
sure that your cat still has access to her food, water, and litter
box and is free to use them without being harassed by the dog.
Keep your dog and cat separated when you aren’t home until you’re
certain your cat will be safe.