How to Bring a Newly Adopted Dog Home

A few simple steps can help your shelter adoptee get off to a good start in her new home.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #46

You went to the shelter. You spotted that dog pressing himself against the front of the kennel, wagging his tail in the biggest, fastest circles he could make. You took him out on a first date--uh, sorry, I mean a little walk--and he was maybe a bit bouncy, but your heart melted as you watched him sniff shrubbery and every so often look at you with a big grin on his face. The adoption counselor grilled you about your landlord and your past history with pets and then smiled and approved your application. You’ve got a leash and a collar and a bowl and a bed and a brand-new dog. Yikes! Now what?

Buy Now

As an Amazon Associate and a Bookshop.org Affiliate, QDT earns from qualifying purchases.

This week, how to help your adopted dog settle in.

How to Bring a New Dog Home

First, bear this in mind--your new adoptee has undergone a lot of stress. She came to the shelter as a stray, or her family relinquished her. Even the cleanest and quietest shelter isn’t a home, and even the kindest staff can’t substitute for a long-term family. Now here comes another upheaval--and your new dog has no way to know what’s coming next. It’s a lot to take in even for the friendliest, most stable dog.

So keep Dogalini’s arrival low-key. Give her an opportunity to eliminate in the backyard or on a neighborhood walk; then let her explore her new home at her own pace. If you have children, they should have met her at the shelter so you and the shelter staff could assess how comfortable she is with kids. Hopefully, the meeting has also cut Dogalini’s novelty value, so if your kids are young they aren’t screaming with excitement to have her home.

When to Bring a New Dog Home

What about the adoption’s timing? A couple of days off from work will give you a good opportunity to get to know Dogalini and introduce her to your friends and household routines. On the other hand, there’s evidence that shelter dogs suffer from separation anxiety more commonly than dogs who’ve had the same home all their lives. And some behavior experts feel that separation problems can be triggered by an abrupt increase in how much time a dog spends alone. So if you adopt Dogalini at the start of a two-week vacation and she gets used to having your company all day, she may find your return to work unduly distressing.

Let Your New Dog Get Used to Spending Time Alone

To help avoid such problems, leave Dogalini alone for a while every day. Start small--see how she does by herself as you make several daily outings to the mailbox or the corner store. Then hit the supermarket or go have coffee with a friend. You can also use these early days as an opportunity to crate train her if she came to you without that valuable skill. I’ll discuss crate training in my next article.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).