When you adopt a dog from a shelter, you’re not only enriching your own life with the presence of a furry best friend—you’re giving a loving home to a dog who deserves it, and possibly even saving a life. Maybe you’re adopting a dog from a shelter in honor of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; perhaps you’re simply perusing your options as you consider adding a four-legged family member to your home sometime down the road.
Getting a dog isn’t a decision that should be taken lightly. It’s a long-term commitment for which you want to be well-prepared. In order to assist with the transition from shelter to new home, we’ve compiled a list of common mistakes to avoid when bringing home a new dog.
Mistake #1: Rushing Into It.
Adding a dog to your family generally isn’t something that should be done spontaneously, even if those puppy dog eyes are irresistible. You need to be completely ready to commit to caring for a dog, with time for regular walks and training, and a budget for food, toys, and other expenses.
You should also do plenty of research to ensure you’re choosing the right breed for your household and lifestyle. For example: if you have allergies or don’t want to deal with constant shedding, consider a hypoallergenic breed. If you live in a small apartment without a yard, steer clear of large dogs who need a lot of room to run around.
Check out our new dog adoption checklist for a comprehensive list of questions to consider, supplies to purchase, and other necessary things to know.
Mistake #2: Overlooking Older Dogs.
Puppies are adorable bundles of joy… and energy. Bringing home a dog requires a lot of time and energy in the first place, and puppies require a lot of extra work: potty training, socializing, and obedience training, for example.
While adult dogs can come with their own baggage, they have just as much love to offer as puppies. Plus, they tend to already be housebroken and trained.
Mistake #3: Not Getting to Know the Dog.
Every dog is different. Before you make a dog a permanent member of your family, try to get as much information about him as possible. Learn about his personality, behaviors, background and home history, health conditions, and whether he gets along with other animals or children.
Some dogs act differently in a shelter than they would at home. Consider scheduling a few meet and greets (if you have another dog you’re introducing, do this in a neutral location) or even sleepovers at your home. You may also want to consider a temporary foster placement before committing to a dog adoption. Not every dog and family are a good match, and it’s best to find out if it’s not a good fit sooner rather than later.
Mistake #4: Introducing Too Much Too Soon.
When your new pooch arrives to his new home, he’ll need some time to decompress. It could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for Fido to fully understand that he’s home and able to get comfortable.
As your dog adjusts to his new home and family, avoid introducing him to too many people and places. This could be incredibly overstimulating and stressful, and potentially prolong the adjustment period. Keep things low-key with a consistent routine until he’s familiar with his environment and surroundings.
If your dog is feeling overwhelmed as he adjusts to his new environment, try PetHonesty’s Premium Hemp Calming Chews, a non-sedating blend of natural ingredients to calm and soothe an anxious dog.
Mistake #5: Forcing Familiarity.
Remember that your dog is still learning that this is his home and family. He needs time to adjust to his surroundings and decompress from the transition and his time in the shelter.
You’ll have plenty of time to bond and spend quality time together—for now, give your dog the space he needs and prioritize establishing a sense of trust. Of course, if he comes to you looking for cuddles, then by all means, cuddle away!
Mistake #6: Switching Diets Too Quickly.
Every pet owner wants to provide their pup with a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you have plans to switch your dog to the highest-quality brand of dog food or even a raw diet, though you may want to hold off for a bit.
Transitioning your dog to new food is something that requires an intentional, structured plan (not to mention, vet approval). As your dog adjusts to his new surroundings, it’s best to maintain familiarity by continuing to feed him the same diet he had at his previous home. Moving is stressful enough in the first place—there’s no need to add potential tummy troubles to the mix!
Promote your pup’s healthy digestion with PetHonesty’s delicious Digestive Probiotics Chews.
Mistake #7: Allowing Too Much Freedom.
If your dog was previously kept in a confined space, freedom to roam around his new home may seem like the right call. However, too much space to explore can actually be overwhelming for a dog. Plus, you need some time to figure out if your dog has any bad habits such as chewing.
Set boundaries right away by pup-proofing your home and limiting your dog’s freedom to one or two rooms, or even a crate where you can monitor his behavior. Gradually allow more freedom as he continues to behave appropriately.
Mistake #8: Abrupt Routine Changes.
Ideally, you would be able to take a few days to stay at home with your new dog as he gets used to his new environment. Keep in mind, though, that during that time he’s also getting used to your presence. If you’re home with your dog for several days at a time and suddenly leave for a full day of work, your dog may not know how to cope with the change. He may even act out due to separation anxiety.
If possible, gradually increase the time that you’re gone over the course of several days so your dog can get used to the idea of you being gone. It may also be helpful to have someone come check on your dog during the day if you’re gone for long stretches of time.
Mistake #9: Only Acknowledging Bad Behavior.
Of course, you want to teach your dog when his behavior is unacceptable: chewing on furniture, digging under the fence, and peeing in the house, for example.
That said, a crucial part of dog training is teaching your dog which behaviors are good. When your dog behaves well—peeing outside and following commands, for example—respond with plenty of positive reinforcement. Treats and praise can go a long way when it comes to promoting good behavior.
Mistake #10: Skipping Vet Visits.
Shelters typically give standard medical exams to dogs, but this shouldn’t replace a regular vet visit. This is especially important as many shelter dogs have have minimal background information available.
Do your research to find a local vet, and bring your dog in for a visit soon after adoption. The vet will be able to perform a thorough exam to rule out underlying health conditions and give individualized insight for your dog. Continue visiting the vet on a regular basis to ensure a happy, healthy pet.