High Paw to you if you are planning to adopt or have just adopted a dog into your family! Its an exciting time with equal parts of nerves and stress thrown in for good measure. It is a confusing time for you and your new furry family member so it is best to set off on the right foot and paw.

This is my overview of how to get the best out of your first day together and life beyond! Just remember that each dog is different, don’t rush you new dog but be mindful of the stress that they could be going through or have been through before they have even crossed your front door.

Before You Get Your New Dog.

  • Supplies & Equipment. Collar, Lead, ID Tag, Bed(s), Crate or dog gates, food bowls, Poop bags, Cleaning supplies, towels (Old human ones are fine), Blankets, Toys – although no need to over do this at the beginning, Chews, Food (The rescue center should be able to tell everything you need to know about their current diet), training treats and Grooming supplies.
  • Dog Proofing. Its a good idea to go through your home and remove anything that you don’t want your dog to get his mouth around. Tie up cables/wires. In short move anything you consider valuable / essential.
  • The Dogs Area. This is the time to decide where your dogs bed/crates will live ie in the living room or maybe its one in the kitchen and one in your bedroom. Where will his food be kept, where will his water and food bowls go?
  • The Dog Rules. Decide what your dog rules will be before your dog comes home. Will they be allowed on the sofa? Will they be allowed in every room or just a select few? its best to stick to these rules, its no good allowing your dog on the sofa for the first couple of days then getting frustrated he’s still getting on a week, month or year later. Ensure all the household members agree to and follow the rules too.
  • The Dog Schedule. When will they be walked, fed, trained, toileted? what will happen when you go out to work or to the shops? Who will be responsible for dog walks, feeding and clearing up after them?

The First Day:

  • Plan where your dog will ride in your car on the way home. Will they be in your boot, in a crate or crate on the back seat. Ensure it is comfy with blankets and bring a couple of towels incase of travel sickness.
  • Head Straight Home, do not pass Go and do not run errands. It is best to avoid making the trip longer than needed so no nipping to the shops on the way home. Remember although you may have met your new dog a few times before he will still be confused about whats going on.
  • When you arrive home toilet first. Take him straight to the garden/yard or street area where you’d like them to do their business. You may have to wait, but as soon as they ‘go’ praise them and reward with a treat.
  • Outside meetings. For people who you live with ensure they come out to meet you and your dog first. Keep it calm and low-key. Let you dog be the one to approach, sniff and control the interaction. Respect your dogs space so NO hugging, kissing, picking up, staring at, or patting on the top of the head. No welcome-home parties either, friends and family who don’t live with you can wait a few days to meet your new arrival.
  • Bring your dog into your home on their lead. Show your dog around their new home but initially keep them to areas they will be allowed in, ie kitchen, dining room. If they aren’t going to be allowed in a particular room then keep the door closed. Keep calm and relaxed, don’t rush your dog let them sniff away.
  • Show them their bed, ideally bring a blanket they have just been lying on in the car and place it on their bed. This will help them settle.
  • Toilet Breaks. Your new dog main be house trained, but in a new home they may need a little refresher. For the first couple of days give them frequent breaks, then get them in to your routine I.e they go out first thing, then maybe a few hours later etc.
  • Chillax. Both of you need to just relax, so don’t expect big playtime, cuddles and good manners right away. Instead let your dog relax and take in their new home which includes the new sights, smells and sounds. You need to relax too just go about your normal day at home.

Day Two and Beyond:

  • Sleeping. You’ve already placed their bed/crate(s) in the areas you’d like your dog to sleep at night, so get in the habit of putting them to bed with a treat, in that area. This will become an established routine so your dog knows this means sleeping time. Don’t get stressed if your dog sleeps elsewhere like on the carpet and not the cosy bed you bought them.
  • Feeding. Try to follow the same feeding schedule as the rescue center which should be 2 meals a day, you can slowly adjust this to suit your timetable or even your dog if you find they are better suited to 3 meals a day. Again follow the same diet as the rescue center and if you want to change it then do this slowly over a few days. Always seek the advice of your vet if you aren’t sure about which food or amount.
  • Walkies. Local walks only to start with, a walk routine in an area you are familiar with is best. then once you are familiar with your dogs behaviour, you can venture further afield. Playtime is also a good form of exercise, bonding, and training so don’t forget this part it can happen on your walks or before you leave the house. Initially don’t go for long walks keep them short and sweet, build them up over time. Avoid interaction with other dogs and unfamiliar people until you and your dog are comfortable with each other.
  • Chew Toys/Interactive Toys. Chew toys are a great way to direct your dog’s attention to appropriate chews, and away from home items that you don’t want your dog to destroy. Antlers, Nylabones, Oliver Wood, Root chews are all great options. Interactive food toys such as Classic Kongs are a brilliant way to work your dogs brain providing mental exercise. Top Tip mental exercise will tire your dog out quicker then physical exercise.
  • Daily routine. Start practicing your usual daily routine ASAP, which means if you will be going out to work, or are at the gym most mornings, are you an early riser etc. You need to practice going out for short periods and coming back several times a day. Don’t make a big fuss of coming or going. Even if you work from home there are still going to be times when you go out to the shops, to lunch, to meet friends so you still need to practice leaving your dog on their own.
  • Dog Training. Physical and mental stimulation are necessary parts of your dog’s well-being. Training will not only help you and your dog bond, but it will help your dog settle into their new home and teaches your dog confidence to fit into their new life. Try going to dog training classes once your dog as settled in your home, I run Practically Perfect Dog Training Classes for Rescue/Adopted dogs, with the aim of teaching confidence, relaxation and fun training games to the dogs and their owners. Click Here to Learn more.

Final Thoughts

Remember you need patience and positivity to help your dog, they have gone through a big change and its easy to only see the bad stuff. If you are ever feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and think about things from your dogs point of view. It isn’t always plain sailing but adopting a dog is worth it.

Take Care

Suzanne, Chief Canine Happiness Officer at Edinburgh Holistic Dogs

Suzanne Gould 36, lives in Edinburgh, a lifelong lover of dogs she has grown up with Old English Sheepdogs. She has adopted Old English Sheepdogs of her own over the past 8 years and is currently owned by two Old English Sheepdogs Erick 5 and Ally 2.

Suzanne created Edinburgh Holistic Dogs an unrivalled dog walking service in February 2017. Providing Edinburgh’s canines with her own unique Adventure Filled Walks.

In February 2019 she launched Practically Perfect Dog Training transforming mischievous mutts into practically perfect pooches.

Putting the fun and simplicity back into dog training and specialising in training classes for Rescue/Adopted dogs which have been inspired by the dogs she has adopted and worked with over the years.


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