Animal Care

Tips for the First 30 Days of Dog Adoption

The first few days in your home are special and critical for a pet. Your new dog will be confused about where he is and what to expect from you. Setting up some clear structure with your family for your dog will be paramount in making as smooth a transition as possible.

Before You Bring Your Dog Home:

  • Determine where your dog will be spending most of his time. Because he will be under a lot of stress with the change of environment (from our rescue and rehoming centre or foster home to your house), he may forget any housebreaking (if any) he’s learned. Often a kitchen will work best for easy clean-up.

  • Dog-proof the area where your pooch will spend most of his time during the first few months. This may mean taping loose electrical cords to baseboards; storing household chemicals on high shelves; removing plants, rugs, and breakables; setting up the crate, and installing baby gates.  Purina, one of our sponsors, has some more advice on their website for Dog proofing your Home & Puppy Proofing your Home.

  • Training your dog will start the first moment you have him. Take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use when giving your dog directions. This will help prevent confusion and help your dog learn his commands more quickly. Not sure which commands to use? Check out the Purina website Training Advice.

  • Bring an ID tag with your phone number on it with you when you pick up your dog so that he has an extra measure of safety for the ride home and the first few uneasy days.

What you need to buy for your new dog:  

  • *Dog or puppy food – tinned and dried
  • *Food and water bowls – stick to simple plastic for the food and a nice stainless steel for the water
  • *A bed for the dog – depends on the size and type of dog.  You are best to start with the plastic dog beds with a cushion in it
  • Washable blanket for the dogs bed
  • *Pooper-scooper & Poop Bags for accidents while out walking the dog.  You can use baby nappy bags as poop bags or buy the doggie ones
  • *Toys – make sure they are proper dog toys
  • *Collar and ID tag with your phone number on
  • *Good strong lead that is a suitable length for the dog
  • *Brush and *flea comb
  • *Pet Shampoo
  • Books and leaflets on dog or puppy care – we have lots of information on dog and puppy care so why not give them a read.
  • Pet insurance – in case of the unexpected expense of illness or injury.  Please see our information on Pet Insurance.
  • Dog License – this you must have by law and you can get in your local post office.

* All these items can be bought in the DSPCA Shop.

You should either buy these before you bring your dog home or bring them home with you along with your new pet.  Don't wait until after the dog is home before you go out and buy them.

First Day

We know moving is stressful –- and your new dog feels the same way! Give him time to acclimate to your home and family before introducing him to strangers. Make sure children know how to approach the dog without overwhelming him. Go here for more on introducing dogs and children.

  • When you pick up your dog, remember to ask what and when he was fed. Replicate that schedule for at least the first few days to avoid gastric distress. If you wish to switch to a different brand, do so over a period of about a week by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days; then switch to half new food, half old, and then one part old to three parts new. The DSPCA feed our dogs Purina Dog Food which can be bought in the DSPCA shop.

  • On the way home, your dog should be safely secured, preferably with a dog car harness or in a dog crate. Some dogs find car trips stressful, so having him in a safe place will make the trip home easier on him and you.

  • Once home, take him to his toileting area immediately and spend a good amount of time with him so he will get used to the area and relieve himself. Even if your dog does relieve himself during this time, be prepared for accidents. Coming into a new home with new people, new smells and new sounds will throw even the most housebroken dog off-track, so be ready just in case. Need more housetraining tips? Check out the Purina Dog Housetraining section.

  • From there, start your schedule of feeding, toileting and play/exercise. From Day One, your dog will need family time and brief periods of solitary confinement. Don't give in and comfort him if he whines when left alone. Instead, give him attention for good behavior, such as chewing on a toy or resting quietly.

  • For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your dog, limiting too much excitement (such as the dog park or neighborhood children). Not only will this allow your dog to settle in easier, it will give you more one-on-one time to get to know him and his likes/dislikes.

Following Weeks:

  • People often say they don’t see their dog’s true personality until several weeks after adoption. Your dog will be a bit uneasy at first as he gets to know you. Be patient and understanding while also keeping to the schedule you intend to maintain for feeding, walks, etc. This schedule will show your dog what is expected of him as well as what he can expect from you.
  • After discussing it with your veterinarian to ensure your dog has all the necessary vaccines, you may wish to take your dog to group training classes or the dog park. You will receive your dog's vaccination details from the DSPCA when you adopt your pet.  Pay close attention to your dog’s body language to be sure he’s having a good time –- and is not fearful or a dog park bully.
  • To have a long and happy life together with your dog, stick to the original schedule you created, ensuring your dog always has the food, potty time and attention he needs. You’ll be bonded together in no time.
  • If you encounter behavior issues you are unfamiliar with,think about signing up for dog training classes. The DSPCA has private Dog Training classes you can sign up for.

Changing Your New Dogs Name:

Sometimes adopting a dog means adopting a dog with a name you don't particularly like. Actually, it's easy for your newly adopted dog to learn a new name. Don't feel that a dog cannot learn a new name, and don't feel that a dog can't even learn a name completely dissimilar to his previous name. A dog or puppy of any age can learn a brand new name within a few days. Here's how:

  • Decide on any new name you wish for your newly adopted pet, try and keep it simple, 1-2 syllabels.
  • For the first few weeks, carry a pocketful of treats
  • Every once in a while, and also specifically when you do want your dog's attention, call out his new name and then immediately smile, praise heartily, and feed a treat.  Slowly stop feeding the treats so that the dogs don't expect a treat all the time.

Congratulations! If you follow these tips, you'll be on your way to having a well-adjusted canine family member.


Main text Adapted from Article by Sara Lippincott, Manager, Shelter Outreach, Petfinder
Changing your dogs name adapted from an article by Sue Sternberg


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