Bringing home a new dog, the first few weeks

The first few days you bring your new dog home they may be stressed, anxious and act different than you expect. How to help your dog adjust in those first few days.

There are few things in life more exciting than bringing a new dog into your home. No matter where your dog comes from – breeder, shelter, rescue, stray, friend-of-a-friend – you’re always going to be over the moon about adding a new family member who’s going to join in your life and adventures.

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A lifetime of experiences and memories awaits but first, let’s discuss a few very important things…

Your new friend will need time to adjust. A new home is like a foreign country – new sights, new sounds, new smells, a new routine with new people (and often other fur or feather friends). Understanding how your dog processes and adjusts to all these novel stimuli will help ease the transition for everyone.

The two week shut down with dogs

There is something in dog neurophysiology called the Two Week Shut Down. It’s not always two weeks, sometimes it’s as short as one day and other times, it stretches on for a few weeks. What it means is that our dogs need time to feel comfortable in their new home, this brand new place. It means you need to give your pet some time (hence the two weeks) to feel comfortable before embarking on the list of exciting things you plan to do and people you want him to meet.

A new dog can easily be overwhelmed and exhausted by lots of loud, unfamiliar sounds and lively strangers. For the first day or two, keep the mood at home mellow, calm and happy. Wait a couple of days before introducing the dog to your friends or taking him out to crowded public places.

During these first few days and even weeks, don’t jump to conclusions about your new pet’s personality. You really haven’t seen his ‘normal’ yet; usually a dog’s true personality doesn’t shine through till weeks after adoption. Because there’s been so much change in his life, he may be feel nervous or uneasy or shy even around your close family members. Be patient and let him decide when to start bonding with you. Sometimes it takes a little time.

What to do these first few days to help your dog

Set a schedule. This will help show your pup what is expected of him but also will let him know what he can expect from you. In turn, this will help build a trusting relationship. Figure out meals, walks, bathroom breaks, bedtime and be consistent.

In the first few days, spend some time outside with him so he’ll get used to the area he’ll use for his potty breaks. Even an adult housetrained dog might have accidents in the beginning but from the dog’s perspective – he might not have clarity between your indoor and outdoor spaces – this is normal. Again, be consistent with him and he’ll soon learn where to go.

If you’re doing crate training, leave the crate out in an area where your dog can get to it, starting right from the beginning, so if he’s overwhelmed, he already has a ‘safe’ place when he needs quiet. The crate should always be a positive experience – watch our crate-training videos for tips.

In these early days, your dog will need both family time and alone time. He might not want to be alone at first but developing confidence when by himself is good for all dogs. If he whines and protests, don’t give in. Instead, reward the behavior you want, such as chewing on a toy or sitting calmly in his bed and as he gets more comfortable, extend the time you leave him on his own.

You can start doing simple training together to build your bond and communication. Try teaching ‘sit’ and ‘touch’. Think of it as fun bonding time instead of work. Reward your dog generously and he’ll look forward to your sessions together. He may not appear to be food motivated at this time, try working with your dogs dinner or perhaps the tastiest of thats like a small piece of chicken.

Lastly, find a vet near you that you trust. Schedule a first visit to meet your new vet, check his record to see if any vaccinations are missing and get an overall wellness check.

Most of all, remember your dog’s first few weeks at home are a BIG adjustment and major life change for not just him but you too. Take it one step at a time, stick to a schedule, and be patient.

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What to read next?

  1. The first things to train your new dog.
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  4. Mental enrichment games and toys

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