Dog Adoption Handbook Chapter One: Settling into a New Home Forever

We know how exciting the process of coming home with a new dog can be. But we also know how nerve-wracking it can be, especially if it’s your new furry friend!

If you’ve just adopted a dog or are deciding if this is for you, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive and practical guide. To kick off the series, we start with the basics of getting your home in order.

When preparing for a new puppy, it’s important to think about the different ways you might need to prepare. Whether it’s protecting the house from dogs or making sure the ride home goes smoothly, there’s a lot to keep in mind. Here’s a helpful guide to make sure you’ve mastered the basics!

When protecting your home from dogs, it’s important to make sure it’s safe not only for you and your belongings, but also for your new puppy. Remove or cover any hazards such as toxic chemicals, batteries, or electrical cords, and check for access to poisonous foods or plants.

It’s also important to check for any objects or decorations that could be knocked over and hurt your pup.

Many dogs (especially puppies!) love to chew. Make sure they have safe chew toys (like a Kong filled with part of their breakfast or dinner). Giving them a proper outlet for such natural behavior will help keep them and your household items safe!

You should also be prepared with plenty of enrichment activities for your dog, especially if he occasionally has to be left alone, to reduce the chance of stress and boredom. Make sure they have access to a bathroom or make sure you can come home and let them out every few hours.

Your dog should also have an adequate supply of fresh, clean drinking water at all times.

After you’ve got everything safely inside, it’s time to move into the backyard! If your dog has access to an outdoor space, it’s important to check that the space is completely enclosed, with no space for your pup to squeeze through.

Make sure your yard has sheltered areas to protect your new dog from the elements, especially rain, wind, extreme heat and direct sunlight.

Giving your dog his own safe space in his environment can really help him settle in. They can choose their own favorite spot to rest or a quiet space in another room away from everyone else to start with.

If possible, avoid their space being a passageway. Rugs, blankets and cushions can be used for extra comfort and should be washed regularly.

It can be helpful to write a checklist of what is needed for your puppy before they arrive. Important items to consider include food, bedding, dog toys, a collar and harness for walking, and any equipment a dog might need for grooming.

There are a few items you will need for a safe and successful return home. Unsecured dogs can confuse drivers, attempt to jump out of car windows, or (in the event of a collision) injure drivers and passengers, as well as themselves.

Vehicle restraints are available for dogs that connect their harnesses to existing seat belts or with tethers to attach directly to the car’s seat belt buckle. Loading gates can hold dogs in the back of a station wagon and transport crates are also available.

If you choose a crate, make sure it’s spacious enough for your dog to stand up and lie down comfortably in a natural position. The crate must also be well fixed in the car.

To prevent the handler from being distracted by the new dog, it can be helpful to have someone accompany you – this can also help your new puppy feel more comfortable. Also consider fresh water, snacks, and bathroom break logistics for long journeys.

Never leave your dog unattended in a car. Heat stress and heatstroke are very real risks in the summer, but temperatures inside a car can climb quickly, even in mild weather.

Certain breeds and ages of dogs are also more prone to heat (for example, short-nosed dogs, puppies, and senior dogs).

Helping your dog feel safe and comfortable in their new home is one of the most rewarding things! A move can be very stressful for everyone, and especially for rescue dogs, some of whom may have been neglected and/or traumatized. The most important thing is to make sure that the first days (or weeks, depending on the dog) in the house are calm, calm and predictable.

The first few days are not the time to make new human or canine friends, go for walks in crowded places, visit the dog park, or throw a welcome home party. In fact, it can take several days for the stress of a shelter environment to leave your dog’s system and for him to begin to learn how this new life with you works.

These days are best spent quietly, allowing them to explore their yards and homes, being the giver of all the goodies – tasty treats, meals and toys – and helping them learn your routine. Predictability can help reduce excess stress and worry.

If you have brought home a puppy less than 16 weeks old, he will be in a critical socialization period and it is important to take this time to maximize any positive experiences with the world.

It’s essential to introduce young puppies to all sorts of sights and smells at this stage (as long as it’s safe), as good experiences during this time will help them and you succeed in the life. Socialization is not about playing with other dogs, but rather about being able to observe things in the environment and knowing that you are safe.

Good socialization allows for carefully managed and supervised interactions (if the puppy wishes) and prioritizes new and unfamiliar experiences with people (of all ages), dogs, other animals, places and things.

Places like dog parks, school drop-offs (being around groups of children), or uncontrolled exposure to something scary or overwhelming will have the opposite effect on your pup’s confidence.

Enrolling your puppy in one of our RSPCA SA puppy training courses or investing in a consultation with a qualified non-strength trainer is a great way to ensure you are on the right track! You can read more about socializing here.

All dogs will need daily exercise, and walking your new companion is a great way to ensure that this need is met. Start your walks in calm, quiet places with plenty of opportunities to sniff around. Playing with your dog every day is another way to ensure that he receives adequate physical and mental stimulation.

You may find that certain behaviors appear as your dog becomes more comfortable in the home. Investing in lessons or consulting with qualified non-strength trainers is a great way to overcome any unwanted behavior with the support and understanding of an experienced professional.

You should ensure that your new puppy is microchipped with up-to-date details so that they are identifiable in case they accidentally get lost. All dogs adopted by the RSPCA are microchipped. If required, you can change the previous microchip details through the SA Government Registry – Dogs and Cats Online (DACO).

Your dog will need to be registered with your local council within 2 weeks of adoption.

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