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Bringing a New Dog Home (2019 Guide)

Commercial pet product photo of a dog on a bed from Keetsa mattress.

Whether you’re adopting a senior rescue dog or bringing home a young puppy, introducing a new canine member to your household is often a rewarding and overwhelmingly positive experience. But with that said, bringing a new dog home can be frustrating and at times out right nerve racking – especially if you’re under prepared, it’s your first time caring for a dog, or simply unsure of how to best integrate the latest furry member into your family.

Be Ready BEFORE Your New Pup Arrives

When your new dog arrives your focus should be on them. You don’t want to leave them at home for huge amounts of time while you shop for basic supplies or ignore your pup while you dig through a supply closet for cleaning supplies. Which means you need to make sure that your home is prepped and properly stocked with all of the items you will need before your dog ever steps through the door.

How do you prepare for bringing a dog home?

1. Dog Proof Your Home & Yard

Bringing home a dog is really not all that different from living with a super athletic toddler that doesn’t have any thumbs. Unlike a toddler, your dog will struggle to open most screw on caps and will be unable to place anything in wall sockets. A dog is also less likely to stumble and bust their head on a sharp table, but unlike their toddler counterparts most dogs are extremely fast and capable of jumping great distances and heights. Which means that less controlled situations have the potential of escalating very quickly.

When dog proofing a home you should have three goals, 1) eliminating threats to safety, 2) eliminating escape routes, and 3) reducing the risk of unwanted behaviors. It is important to remember to dog proof all areas of your home that your dog may be able to access including your basement, laundry room, garage and yard.

Eliminate Potential Safety Threats

If you already live with a dog, odds are your home is fairly dog safe. That said, not all dogs have the same temperament, interests, or abilities. If you live with a smaller dog and are planning on bringing a larger dog home, it’s important to appreciate that they may be able to reach things on higher surfaces or be able to force themselves out of less secure enclosures.

  • Secure heavy items that may tip or fall.
  • Lockdown trashcans, toilets, and litter boxes.
  • Make toxic items (chocolate, onions, antifreeze, candles, detergent, fragrances, etc.) inaccessible.
  • Make pest control devices (poisons, snap traps, glue traps, etc.) inaccessible.
  • Remove sharp or rusty debris from the ground.
    • Check your yard for nails and screws with the help of a magnet.
    • Make sure your deck does not have any nail or screw heads poking out that your dog’s paws or claws may catch on.
  • Make sure pools (even covered ones) are inaccessible or easy to exit.
  • Make sure that there are no high spots that your dog may fall off or leap from.
  • If you own cats or other pets a dog may confuse with prey, make sure that they have sufficient escape routes and safe spaces to hide in.

Eliminate All Potential Escape Routes

You want to make sure that your dog can not get out of your house. And, if they do manage to let themselves out that they absolutely can not get out of your yard. If you’re adopting an older dog, they may already have great recall. But it may take a few weeks or months before they get their bearings within their new neighborhood, and it may take some time for them to realize that their new home is their new forever home.

  • Secure all fences, gates and other barriers.
    • All gates should latch securely and not open when pushed.
    • Fences should not be easily dug under or leapt over.
  • Secure all doors and windows, so that they can not be pushed open.
    • Be weary of lever style handles on storm doors, as some dogs may accidentally press these when “greeting” mail carriers and door-to-door solicitors.
    • Window screens are designed to keep bugs out and are not a reliable method of containing larger animals such as dogs.
  • Remember to secure the upper floors of your home.
    • Some dogs will hangout on roofs if given a chance.
    • Just because leaping out of a 2nd floor window is a bad idea doesn’t mean a dog won’t try it.
  • Baby gates can be an easy and affordable way to limit where small and medium sized dogs can travel within your home.
    • Keep in mind, while these gates can be effective deterrents then can often be jumped over or knocked over my more determined and larger pups.

Prevent Unwanted Behaviors Before They Happen

Most dogs are great discriminators, but it may take your pup some time to understand what is ok and what isn’t ok for it to do inside your home. Until a routine is established, make things easier on your new pup by limiting access to things and potential behaviors that may put a strain on your budding relationship.

  • Store dog food and treats in an inaccessible container with a latch-able or screw on lid.
    • Should be large enough to hold a large bag of dog food (Most larger bags of kibble will fit inside a 14 – 16 gallon container).
    • Air tight to prevent moisture from spoiling food.
    • Solid enough to prevent dogs and other pests (such as mice) from gnawing a hole in the walls.
  • Keep toilet seats down when not in use.
    • For larger toilet bowl drinkers that may be inclined to nose a lid open, you might want to consider using a toilet seat latch or keeping the bathroom door closed.
  • Store footwear in a closet with a door or on a rack not easily accessible by your dog.
  • Limit access to rooms with furniture you do not want the dog to sit on.
    • The simplest way to keep a dog from jumping on your bed when you’re away is to close our bedroom door.
    • Don’t want your new dog jumping on your sofa? Limit their access to your living room with the help of a baby gate or pull your coffee table up to the edge of the sofa when not in use.
  • Remove treats from pockets jackets and pants when not worn.
    • If you are treat training your new pup, make sure that you remember to always check your pockets for treats.
    • Always keep pocketed treats in a bag made of plastic or another nonporous container, and never store treats loose inside of your pocket.
    • Consider using a standalone treat pouch that can clip on to your belt or purse.
      • PRO TIP: molle pouches make a great lower cost alternative to pet specific treat pouches.
  • If you already live with other dogs, remove any of their toys or other personal belongings shortly before the arrival of the newcomer.
    • This will help your new dog from accidentally using any items that your current dog might claim as their own and in turn, help mitigate the potential for conflict.
    • Immediately replace these discarded items with a new batch of toys given to both dogs simultaneously.

2. Stock Up On Food & Treats

We don’t recommend purchasing larger quantities of dog food within the first month, as it can be difficult to tell what your dog will be willing to eat within the first few weeks and what (if any) food sensitivities or food allergies your dog might suffer from. But you will want to make sure that your dog has sufficient access to food and water — as well as something to eat and drink out of.

Dog Bowls

At a minimum you need separate dedicated bowls for your dog’s food and water. We recommend stainless steel bowls, as they’re easy to clean, extremely durable, scratch resistant, rust resistant, shatter resistant, relatively inexpensive, and are generally better for the environment than comparatively priced plastic. Though a solid and stable porcelain bowl will also work great.

If your dog ever spends more than 5 minutes alone outside, be sure to pick up a 3rd bowl to keep outside to be regularly refilled with fresh water. Collapsible or smaller travel bowls are also a great idea if you are someone who often travels with their pet, hikes or just takes their dog out with them when completing daily errands.

Dog Food

Dog food comes in a variety of mediums from a wide assortment of ingredients. Some dogs eat nothing but kibble, others eat nothing but wet foods, others eat nothing but raw diets. Like any other health related topic, your vet is the best source of information on what your should and should not feed your dog.

If you find yourself in a pinch, either because you failed to prepare for your dog coming home or you find yourself hosting a dog unexpectedly don’t fret.

It’s generally understood that it is safe to serve most dogs most unseasoned cooked animal proteins such as boiled or grilled chicken breast, ground beef, steaks, lamb, pork, and boneless fish, as well as cooked starches such as rice, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, strawberries, and watermelon.

Never feed a dog…

  • plants from the allium family, as they contain thiosulfate and n-propyl disulfide (onions, garlic, shallots, scallions, leeks, and chives) — unless under the direct guidance of your vet.
  • foods that contain alcohol or artificial sweeteners like xylitol.
  • chicken bones, smaller beef bones, or cooked bones that may shard and result in bowel obstructions.
  • foods that contain caffeine (coffee, chocolate, colas, and tea).
  • foods that contain theobromine (kola nut, chocolate, yerba mate’te, guarana, and carob).
  • grapes, raisins and currants.

Treats

High motivation treats are a great way to maintain the attention of your new dog and reinforce positive / wanted behaviors. If you are rewarding your dog often and regularly, consider using smaller morsels that are easy to chew, and are relatively low in salt and fat.

Dogs LOVE Beef Jerky

Dehydrated ground beef jerky often makes for an effective, easy to make, easy to portion, low sodium, low fat, and affordable DIY alternative to most off the shelf dog treats. While beef jerky can be quite expensive to purchase at the store. It’s actually fairly easy to make jerky treats at home with the help of a food dehydrator.

Dog Biscuits

We don’t recommend using dog biscuits as a positive reinforcement tool, as dog cookies tend to be more difficult to chew safely and often contain more calories than the morsels mentioned above. But dog biscuits can make for an enjoyable in-between meals snack time diversion.

Homemade Dog Biscuit Recipe

If you’re looking for a healthier and more affordable alternative to store bought dog biscuits, you may want to check out our easy-to-follow recipe for homemade dog biscuits. Our recipe uses only common and affordable kitchen ingredients, and produces healthy treats that most dogs go absolutely bonkers for.

3. Don’t Slack On The Creature Comforts

Coming to live with a new family can be a stressful time for a pup. Be sure to make the transition as comfortable as possible by giving your new dog plenty of outlets for safe chewing, playing and rest.

Chews

While some dogs are more avid and destructive chewers than others, all dogs depend on chewing to keep their teeth and gums in good health. If you do not give your dog something appropriate to chew, odds are they will inevitably find something inappropriate to chew on.

When selecting a chew toy it is important to consider the size of your dog and their chewing habits. Remember, a bone or other chew device such as a Kong are not food. If your dog is destroying or swallowing pieces of whatever they are chewing it may be time to consider a chew toy that is tougher and more durable, as swallowing bone shards and rawhide pieces may result in bowel and intentional blockages.

Deer Antler Chews

For pet lovers looking for a safer all natural alternative to bones may want to consider deer antler chews. Deer antlers are made from similar nutrients as bones, but are far less likely than bones to crack into sharp shards. As deer are native to most of the continental United States, antlers can be quite common finds in most woodland hikes – especially in the later winter and early spring when deer naturally shed their antlers. Best of all, as antlers are shed and can be collected without harming the animal, deer antlers are a cruelty free alternative to bones, rawhides, and bully sticks.

Toys

Just like you and I, dogs can get bored. To help keep your dog out of trouble, it can be helpful to lend dogs toys to help engage them physically and mentally in thoughtful play. Your dog may find some toys more interesting than others depending on their temperament and breed type.

Types of Dog Toys

Different dog toys serve different functions and purposes. While most dogs might argue that they can never have too many toys, most dog behavior experts we’ve asked agree that a happy dog should have access to multiple toys that fit at least one or more of each of the following toy types.

1. Interactive Toys

These toys are intended to be use in cooperative play, either with you the dog’s caretaker or another dog. Interactive toys include fetch toys (balls, flyers, and frisbees), tugs (handled tug toys and ropes), and teasers (laser pointers, remote treat trainers, and tail teaser wands).

2. Self Amusement Toys

These toys are usually stronger and more durable toys that are generally intended for the dog to play with while they are home alone such as wobbly balls, self propelled balls, automated ball tossers or rigid balls that make noises when rolled.

3. Comfort Toys

Comfort toys are items that a dog might bond with and often sleeps with. These comfort devices are typically plushies or stuffed dolls, but may be something as simple as a special blanket or a sock. If your dog carries a toy around, but would never consider destroying it odds are it considers the item a comfort toy.

4. Training Toys

Training toys help dogs learn, often providing guidance on what is ok to chew and can help with teething. Most chew toys, such as deer antler sheds, bully sticks and nylon bones fall in the training toy category.

5. Enrichment Toys

Enrichment toys are generally a hybrid of the training and and self amusement toy categories, and are intended to provide mental stimulation and help fight off boredom. Treat dispensing toys, dog puzzles, and plushie toys that contain squeakers and puzzles, are effective toys that your dog may enjoy on their own and find quite entertaining, but often require more supervision than standard self-amusement toys to ensure that they are used safely.

Bedding

Even if you allow your dog on the furniture or to sleep with you, it is still important to give your dog a safe and comfortable space that they can call their own (or at least share with your other fur babies). Most dog owners opt for buying their pups dog beds. But an old pillow, pile of blankets or towels if dedicated exclusively for the dog’s use, may serve the same purpose if you are a dog lover in a financial pinch or time crunch.

4. Remember You’ll Need Restraints, Crates & Gates

As we mentioned earlier, adapting to a new home can be a stressful time for dogs. To help your new fido friend’s adjustment to their new surrounding as stress free as possible it is important to lend your pup a safe space that they can call their own.

Dog Crates

There are two ways to lend your dog their own safe space. You can either give your dog a dedicated bedroom or for those dog lovers who don’t live in a manse, we recommend picking up a dog crate for this purpose. Never use a crate as a form of punishment. You want your dog to see their crate as a safe and happy place.

Dog Runs & Leads

If your dog is a regular Houdini or escape artist, you may want to consider picking up a long tether or run to help confine them to your fenced in yard. If you do decide to help restrain your dog with a dog run, do not leave them chained for long period of time and make sure that there is no risk of them being caught or strangled by the tether when used.

Baby Gates

We are huge fans of baby gates. Baby gates are collapsible gates that allow dog caretakers to minimize dog traffic in between rooms. As these gates are generally temporary structures and are often at a height intended for most adult humans to be able to easily step over, they are not entirely full proof. Larger and more agile dogs may leap baby gates with ease, and some bruisers may simply crash through them.

That said, most dogs quickly learn that gates are not something intended to be transversed and as such, these temporary barriers can be a helpful training aid, effectively communicating to a dog where it should and should not be.

5. Stock Up On Cleaning Supplies BEFORE They’re Needed

Accidents happen and the first few weeks of homing a dog can be some of the messiest. Puppies can take time to learn solid and consistent house training habits. But even older dogs when placed in new or stressful situations can be prone to minor potty related setbacks. Remember, your dog is in a new space, learning a new routine and learning how to communicate with you their new person. Those kinds of huge adjustments can time some time to process. So, it pays to be ready for when the inevitable happens.

Must have pet cleaning supplies

How to introduce a dog to a home that already has dogs

1. Do not take your current dog to meet your new dog

We do not recommend taking your current dog to meet your new dog at the shelter or breeder. You are not likely to learn anything helpful introducing your two dogs at that particular juncture. If your current dog is uneasy at the shelter or breeder’s property (there are a lot of strange and potentially triggering sounds and smells at either location), it might have a negative reaction to what might have otherwise been a well received introduction.

Alternatively, your dog might react positively on location, but turn hostile once you arrive home on their turf. Not to mention, you’re really rolling the dice asking two dogs who just met each other to share a ride in a car — especially if your current dog perceives your car as their car.

2. Introduce dogs individually

If you already live with multiple dogs, be sure to introduce each of them individually to your new dog, as to help prevent your current pups from ganging up on the new dog.

3. Every dog needs a dedicated handler

There might come a time that you will feel comfortable walking all of your dogs at once, this is not that time. Your dogs should be handled with care during their initial interactions, with close attention paid to their respective body languages. If one or both of the dogs shows signs of fear or aggression, they should be separated immediately in a controlled fashion.

4. Introduce your dogs on neutral territory

Dogs can be fairly territorial. Which is why it’s typically a good idea to introduce dogs in neutral territory outside of your house, preferably somewhere relatively quiet and peaceful.

5. Maintain chill vibes

Dogs are great investments, in that they always return what we put into them. If you’re tense or nervous, they’re going to get tense. If your new dog sees that your current dog is scared, it’s going to get scared. And, if both dogs are afraid that’s typically when you see aggressive outbursts.

But if you act like the interaction is no big deal, your dogs will likely realize the same in short order. Keep your dog under control with loose and relaxed, but constant feedback through the leash. Let the interaction play out at a pace that both dogs are comfortable with.

6. Reinforce good behavior with treats

Do not give treats to your dogs while they are interacting or if they are presenting defensive, fearful or stressed body language. But once separated and no longer focused on each other, reward the good behavior of both pups with high value treats.

7. Pay special attention to body language

If either dog demonstrates fearful body language or defensive posturing, separate and distract the dogs with play or other enjoyable activities. Once your dogs begin to relax you can go back to introducing them, but try to keep these initial introductions fairly brief and closely monitored.

8. Short repeat introductions are the key

Our primary goal with these repeat initial introductions is to prevent the escalation of excitement and tension. When all of our dogs are calm and no longer demonstrating any greeting behaviors (i.e. touching noses, smelling snouts or crotches, bully bowing, etc.), that is when we know that our dogs are finally ready to move forward into the home.

9. Tired puppies, are happy puppies

Once your dogs are no longer greeting each other, take a quick hike around the block. This will allow your dogs to get used to being around each other in a non-confrontational way. A walk will also help wear out your pups and encourage both dogs to mark the fire hydrants outside of your home, rather than mark any of your favorite furniture or rugs. If you do a fair job tiring your dogs, they’ll likely settle in together quick, just happy to take a much deserved nap.

10. Formally introduce your home with the grand tour

Once you have returned from your walk and entered your home, calmly lead both pets through all of the dog approved spaces in your home — including the fenced in portions of your yard or porch. Try not to interact too much with your dogs at this time. The emphasis of your tour should be on introducing your home, not on other activities such as fetch or belly rubs. If your pups can accomplish this calmly, they may remain off leash for your tour. But you will want to make sure that they are well supervised either way.

How to introduce a dog to a home that has cats

Introducing a dog to a cat house can sometimes be tricky. While some cats and dogs get along great and quickly become best friends. Other times, Fido and Fluffy never learn to see eye-to-eye. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to have both species living in harmony under the same roof.

While there are number of factors to consider and things that a pet lover can do to help ease the transition of a dog into a cat home (for a more detailed guide please read our recent article discussing on how to safely introduce a dog to a cat home), the most important thing to remember is that your cat needs space. Never trap your cat in a room with your dog. Never force your cat to hang out with your dog. Always give your cat plenty of room to run and lend it a room or two that it can hide out in, safe outside the reach of your dog.

Take it slow when bringing a dog into your home

Bringing any new dog home, especially rescuing an unwanted senior pup or a black dog from a shelter, can be one of the more rewarding experiences in life. But it can also be a stressful time for both you and the latest furry addition to your family. To help ease this process and make it as stress free as possible for everyone involved you’ll want to make sure that you are prepares, maintain a positive attitude and above all — take it slow.

Tips for bringing home a new dog

Do you have a tip for how to best introduce a dog to your home? Or do you think we missed a crucial step? Drop your feedback in the comments below. If we think your advice is helpful, we may even add it to the article above.

PLEASE NOTE THAT WE ARE A PROFESSIONAL PET PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO AND ARE NOT VETERINARIANS. THIS POST IS NOT INTENDED AS MEDICAL ADVICE OR AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR ADVICE FROM A VETERINARY PROFESSIONAL. ALWAYS BE SKEPTICAL OF WHATEVER YOU READ ONLINE, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES TO ANYTHING AS IMPORTANT AS THE HEALTH OF YOUR DOG. WHEN IN DOUBT ALWAYS ASK YOUR VET. 

The Puptrait Studio may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.

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