Getting a dog
In this section:
- Arriving home
- Feeling secure
- Establish a routine
- Training and positive reinforcement
- Food and drink
- Registering with a vet
- Arranging insurance cover
Before bringing a new dog or puppy into your home, there are many things you can do to help them settle in. There are also certain items you will need:
- Travel crate or car harness
- Collar, ID tag and lead
- Food and water bowls
- Food (including treats)
- Toys and enrichment items
- Poo bags
- Grooming tools
- Choose a quiet and calm area of your home where your dog can retreat to if they feel overwhelmed. This could be a crate, a cosy corner or a specific room where they’re least likely to be disturbed.
- Set up designated areas for their bed and bowls.
- Make sure there are no nooks and crannies your puppy or dog could get stuck in whilst they’re exploring their new environment. Remove anything that could be a choking hazard or dangerous to eat. You may also wish to remove items like ornaments or vases and cover furniture or move it to another room to prevent any damage.
- Make sure you have no work planned on your house and limit the number of visitors until your dog or puppy is settled.
- Make any adaptations needed to ‘dog proof’ your home. You may need to build a fence around your garden, install a baby gate at the bottom of your stairs or ensure harmful foods are kept out of reach.
- Depending on your individual dog, it may be a good idea to be at home for a few days after your dog has come home to support them as they settle in.
- It’s best to travel on an empty stomach to prevent sickness. However, ensure that your dog is well hydrated.
- Make sure that your dog is safely secured either in a crate or strapped into a car harness. Provide a blanket for comfort, ideally one that already has their scent on it. Crates should be large enough to allow your dog to sit, stand and turn around comfortably.
- Some dogs get very anxious when travelling. Remaining calm will help your dog feel more relaxed. Avoid talking to your dog or playing loud music. We’d also recommend covering the carrier with a blanket or towel to create a den.
- Make sure the car is well ventilated but that the windows aren’t rolled down enough to allow your dog to escape.
- Take your dog straight home and avoid unnecessary stops.
When moving into a new environment there are lots of sights and smells to get used to.
Sadly, many of the dogs we rehome have lived in distressing situations so may need extra time and patience to make them feel safe.
It’s important to know what to expect when getting a new pet so that you can make them feel at ease.
Something familiar from their previous environment, such as a blanket with their scent on it or their favourite toy, will help your dog settle.
When you first bring your dog home, choose a quiet and calm environment for the initial introduction to the home. Keeping your dog on a leash initially will prevent them from darting around from room to room and potentially getting injured. You should also keep the leash on in the garden to begin with.
Let your dog sniff around to get accustomed to their new environment. If there are any areas of the house your dog won’t be allowed, such as upstairs, close off these areas from the beginning to avoid any confusion and frustration in future. Once they are calm, you can remove their leash providing doors and windows are closed to prevent escape. If your dog approaches you, reassure them with gentle strokes. However, if your dog seems uneasy, speak gently to them and avoid overcrowding them. Dogs can bite when they feel threatened so make sure you and any children give them plenty of space and time.
Although bringing your dog home is very exciting, it can be overwhelming for your dog. As owners, we know we are going to care for our dogs and have lots of adventures together, but our dogs don’t know that. If you have rehomed a dog from kennels, it will take time for their stress levels to reduce. Give them plenty of time to relax and settle in, and give them space to explore in their own time.
Trigger stacking is where a dog experiences multiple situations, good or bad, in quick succession without time to relax in between. For example, your dog could have a vet visit in the morning, then that afternoon you have visitors round, and then that evening there are fireworks. This results in increasing stress levels and the dog potentially becoming overwhelmed.
Bringing your dog home to a new environment, new people and unfamiliar noises, smells and sounds is stressful for them. However, there are things you can do to help minimise potential triggers. For example, avoid inviting visitors for around a week until your dog has settled. Also, do not take your dog on a walk straight away; begin with a couple of short walks in the first few days, just in your local area. Even if your dog likes car travel, other dogs and so on, even positive experiences contribute to trigger stacking and may mean your dog responds in ways you wouldn’t expect such as growling at another dog, when you believed they liked other dogs.
Each dog is individual and will have their own ways of communicating how they are feeling.
Certain types of body language, vocalisation and behaviours can having different meanings depending on your dog’s individual characteristics and should be considered alongside other factors such as breed, conformation (size and shape), and their past experiences.
All dogs are different, and they will communicate how they are feeling in different ways. Here are some signs to help you know how your dog might be feeling.
|Signs that your dog might be feeling worried, fearful, or stressed||Signs that your dog might be feeling relaxed, comfortable and happy|
|Head lowered, crouched with a low body posture, tail low or tucked under between their legs.||A loose relaxed body posture – if they are wagging their tail, it is loose and swooshing, and their body will be moving too.|
|Yawning (an exaggerated yawn, not when they’re tired or have just woken up).||Relaxed mouth – may be slightly open without tension, tongue lolling.|
|Panting.||Play bowing – when they bend down with their back end in the air, loose body language with front legs on the ground, their head low but relaxed body posture.|
|Licking their lips (not when they’re eating or have just finished eating), showing the whites of their eyes.||Floppy or relaxed ears in a natural position.|
|Avoiding eye contact or moving away from something.||Soft relaxed eyes (not staring, no whites of eyes showing).|
|Going very still or tense.||Bringing you toys with loose body language or initiating physical contact.|
|Lifting one of their front paws up (when not cued to or in pain).|
|Showing their teeth, snarling or growling.|
|Snapping or biting.|
If your dog is finding it particularly difficult to settle in, consult an accredited behaviourist. Some insurance policies cover this.
Any sudden changes in your dog’s behaviour should be discussed with your vet.
Creating a routine will help your dog relax and know what is happening and when. Sticking to a consistent schedule for feeding, walks, playtime, and toilet breaks will help your dog feel secure and settled.
Dogs are very intelligent animals and can be taught useful cues like sit, stay and lie down.
Use treats, praise, and positive reinforcement to reward good behaviour. This will help your dog associate your home with positive experiences.
It helps to set clear boundaries and expectations for your dog straight away and remain consistent. If you don’t want your dog going upstairs, into certain rooms or on the sofa, use positive reinforcement techniques and remain consistent. We do not recommend aversive training methods. This includes any form of punishment or unpleasant action designed to suppress or diminish an unwanted behaviour.
When bringing your dog or puppy home, we highly recommend feeding them the same brand and type of food they’re used to eating as this will provide a sense of familiarity and help prevent tummy upsets. The centre or breeder may have spare food to give you. Always ensure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water.
We understand that getting a new pet is exciting but try to avoid overwhelming your dog with too many visitors or other pets to begin with.
If you have other pets in the household, it’s vital that introductions are done gradually. Sharing their home with a new pet can be stressful for any animal. Make sure they are able to spend time away from each other so they can rest and relax. Pheromone diffusers may help to reduce stress.
Never force your pets to be close to each other. Give them plenty of space and ensure they have direct access to their own individual resources such as beds, food and water. This will help reduce tension, but if you are worried about the introductions, keep your animals separated and contact an accredited behaviourist for advice.
Be mindful of differing dietary requirements. If one pet is on a special diet, or gets medicine administered in their food, feed them in separate rooms and don’t leave any leftovers out. Also be aware that dogs may mistake the contents of a cat’s litter tray for a tasty treat!
When choosing a vet, do your homework into local practices. Before getting a dog, enquire which veterinary practices in your area are taking on new clients. There are many different services and plans on offer so it’s important to also ensure they can meet the needs of you and your pet.
We recommend registering your dog or puppy with a vet as soon as possible after collecting them. Some vets will allow you to register your pet in advance but check first.
When rehoming from one of our centres, you will be provided with a record of your pet’s full veterinary history to take to your vet. If the animal has a pre-existing condition, our team will send the vet paperwork prior to visiting so you can discuss it with your own vet. Breeders should be able to provide you with proof of any treatment your dog or puppy has had to date.
Your vet will be able to discuss any remaining vaccinations and regular treatments for fleas, ticks and worms. They will also be able to advise when to neuter your dog.
We would highly recommend insuring your dog to avoid unexpected costly vet bills. It can be more expensive or harder to find policies which will cover senior dogs or canines with pre-existing conditions, therefore it’s important to make sure your policy offers the right level of cover for you. Your insurer is likely to ask for vet details so you must register with a vet first.
When rehoming from us, you will receive four weeks of free insurance cover from PetPlan which can be extended into lifetime cover. You will also receive free access for 10 days to Pawsquad who can help should your become unwell.