This post may contain affiliate links, check out our disclosure policy for more details.
So you want to adopt a new dog and have everything run smoothly.
Don’t we all?
A dog, like any new addition to your life, is a game-changer that will affect your work, relationship, hobbies, and free time.
Many dog owners like to go on about how adopting a new dog can be likened to having a baby.
Luckily for us, many people welcome babies and dogs into their homes every year. If they can do it… so can you!
Hopefully, this isn’t one of your ‘new year, new me’ fad. But, you’ve actually thought long and hard about your decision to adopt a dog and it is rock-solid – seriously, you should do so if you haven’t.
I’m now going to show you the smoothest way to adopt and get a new dog settled into your lifestyle without feeling buyer’s remorse down the road.
Let’s start with what you need to do before the dog arrives.
Before Bringing Home An Adopted Dog.
Adopting a new dog and bringing it home is not like going in to buy new kitchenware (no offense to kitchen wares). You must plan and make some adjustments to your home and lifestyle to accommodate the new addition. These 7 steps can help you do just that.
1. Determine The Best Dog Breed for You – And Your Family.
Dog breeds differ and so do families. That’s why it is important to do thorough research when choosing a dog for your family and lifestyle.
Be honest with yourself.
If you love to do things indoors on the weekend or have little time left after work, you’re better off with a low-energy breed. Or if you live in an apartment or a small home, a cattle dog that needs room to run is probably the worst choice. You will have an easier time living with a bulldog.
If you are stuck at picking a dog breed, consider taking a dog breed quiz to help you narrow your options.
Another factor you should consider is the age of the dog – do you want a puppy or an adult dog. They both have pros and cons, so the decision is a personal one. Do you have the patience to train a puppy or the perseverance to deal with an adult dog’s baggage?
Carefully go over the behaviors you are and are not ready to deal with and pick the age of your new dog based on that.
Remember, they both have pros and cons.
While you’re at it, consider members of your household that are allergic to animals. Are they okay with a dog or do they need to make some changes that’ll help them live with the new dog?
2. Choose a Good Vet.
Yes, choosing a good vet before getting a dog is the best way to go about adopting a new dog.
That’s because many pet adoption processes require you to list the name of your vet before the application is approved. So you see, having one makes the adoption process hassle-free.
Get suggestions from family and friends, then contact the recommended vet to let them know you are about adopting a new dog and you need information concerning their vet practice.
Find out what hours they are available and if they offer after-hours emergency service, plus how much they charge per visit so you can compare. I recommend meeting your top candidate in person so you can analyze how they interact with humans and animals.
I must warn you though, just because you don’t vibe with a vet doesn’t mean that they are not ‘good’ at what they do. Some of them are so deep into their practice that they relate better with animals than they do with humans.
Once you decided to work with a particular vet, go ahead and ask them to recommend a trainer, food brands, and must-have pet supplies. It’s okay to have a different preference. However, having access to professional input when you need it will make the job of caring for your new dog easier.
3. Purchase Supplies for Your New Dog.
There are lots of dog supplies you can get for a new dog, but you don’t have to buy all of them before the new dog arrives. To avoid feeling stressed and overwhelmed on the day you bring your new dog home, it is best to have the basic dog supplies in place – you can borrow some from a friend.
When you’re at the pet store or browsing online, be mindful of the size of the dog you are buying these things for. A bulldog’s supplies are smaller than those of Mastiff or Great Dane, especially the sleeping bed and crate.
Here are the basic supplies you need to get started:
Food and Water Bowls.
Look around for appropriately-sized products for your new dog. I recommend getting a non-slip stainless steel food and water bowl like the YETI Boomer to prevent spillage.
If you are getting a puppy, a nylon collar is a good option to start with. However, you should get something bigger and durable for when they hit adolescence – preferably one that comes with a name tag.
When you are buying food for your new dog, look for a brand that lists meat and proteins as ingredients, followed by whole grains such as barley or oats and vegetables such as broccoli or potatoes.
You need to pay extra attention to the first five or six ingredients on the list, as they make up most of the food. Avoid sweeteners, chemicals, and corn products and byproducts.
This should be a food brand that you vet okayed. However, you are not going to feed your new dog this dog food immediately. You will know why later on.
And, while you’re at it get an airtight dog food container to store your dog’s meals
A good quality bed is of utmost importance to a dog since they spend a lot of time there. You don’t have to go for something expensive, but always opt for a comfortable memory foam bed – one that matches your décor – like the Furhaven Pet Dog Bed
If you are getting a new puppy, you don’t need anything fancy yet. A basic six-foot leash that is made of strong nylon material or climbing rope like the BAAPET Dog Leash will do just fine. Avoid retractable leashes – at least until your dog has learned not to pull on the leash.
Though most owners view a dog crate as some sort of prison, it is far from that. A good dog crate provides a ‘den’ that your dog can hide in when he wants time off from the world. It can help keep your dog calm as well as prevent destructive behaviors while you are away.
Since you can’t spend all day playing with your new dog, you’ll need to provide a means of relieving boredom. A good toy or two should get you started, but I recommend getting more than 4 toys. You’ll want to avoid these common mistakes dog owners make that ruin dog toys so you don’t buy toys every fortnight.
Baby Gates or Ex-Pen
If you work from home or want to restrict your dog from accessing some part of the house, you’ll need an ex-pen or a baby gate. This is really helpful for dogs that like to explore, especially in the early days when they’re yet to understand basic “leave it” and “come” commands.
While shopping for food grab a bag of treats for your new dog. The treats should be given out during training and as a reward for good behavior. As with the dog food, ensure to go over the ingredients of the dog treat too.
When choosing supplies such as collars, dog bed, leash, or crate, pick for the adult version of your new dog and not the puppy version. I say this because dogs grow pretty fast, soon the puppy bed or crate will be small and uncomfortable for the adult dog.
4. Prepare Your Home.
Prepare your home to receive a pet before bringing in a new puppy. Walk around your house and remove all items that might hurt a dog. Go a step further – or lower – to puppy-eye level and remove all items you don’t want them to damage e.g. USBs, power cables, shoes, socks, etc.
5. Assign a Safe Space for Him
Even if you have an aversion to dog crates and you’ve decided not to get one, your dog still needs a ‘den.’ I recommend private space for our dog with plywood or cardboard until he starts treating the space as his spot. Visit and feed him there to make the process faster, however, make sure the kids and other pets are denied entry.
6. Set Aside Emergency Funds for Your New Dog.
Bringing home an animal is more than just paying up the initial adoption fee. It’s your obligation to care for your furriend when they’re sick or healthy.
An emergency visit, usually in the range of $700 to $1,500 often forces pet owners to make difficult and devastating decisions about their pets. Do not forget that dogs need to be grooming, food, worming medications, and they also need to be treated for fleas.
So, make sure you set aside some money for caring for your pet. Make sure it is separate from your other expenses.
7. Think Long-term.
You won’t always be at home or have free time to spend with your dog, so make sure the decision to get a dog is not a spur of the moment or out of boredom.
Train your dog to enjoy spending time alone so when both of you are away from each other, he won’t misbehave. Still on thinking long-term, when your dog displays a new behavior that you don’t like, ensure that you correct him immediately.
These little things make looking after a dog less-stressful.
When Bringing an Adopted Dog to A New Home.
1. Plan the arrival.
The day of adoption is the beginning of a new chapter and is usually the most exciting day for both humans and the new dog.
If you can, take some days off work or pick your dog on the weekend so you have time to get him settled in. Avoid adopting a dog at the start of a long vacation. That’s because the dog will get used to seeing you at home and might develop separation anxiety when you have to go away.
Your new dog is a broth of fear, anxiety, and other emotions. He will need someone beside him to comfort and assure him that everything will be okay, so have someone drive you to pick him up or comfort him while you drive.
Remember to take his collar and leash with you, and avoid making any distracting stops on the way home.
2. Remain calm.
I know it is tempting to welcome the new addition with excitement, however, you must remain calm when picking up the dog. You can think what you like of the shelter, but your dog was familiar with that place. You are now moving the dog to a new and unfamiliar place. So feel the excitement, breath, and be cool as a breeze.
3. Become Invested in Training.
I recommend signing up for obedience training classes within two weeks of ownership, even if your dog is pre-trained. These classes, usually $100 or less are useful for both the owner and dog as they help establish who the boss is.
Another alternative is to search YouTube for dog training videos. However, results are not guaranteed and there’s no one to point out the little details that need to be worked on.
4. Establish A Routine.
Dogs, and humans alike, thrive where there is routine. Before your dog arrives, discuss with your family member who will be in charge of a certain dog-care regimen. Who will feed the dog at night? Who will walk the dog in the morning and evening? What areas are off-limits to the dog? Who is responsible for grooming the dog? Etc.
These are still necessary even if you are a solo dog owner. You need to have the contact of a groomer and a dog walker in case you need help with caring for your dog.
When Your New Dog Gets Home.
As soon as your dog gets to his new home, you have to make him feel comfortable, safe, and familiar with his surroundings. Here’s how you can pull that off:
1. Get Your New Dog Settled at Home.
Once you have completed the adoption and your dog comes home with you, be prepared to witness a lot of excitement, especially when the dog gets comfortable.
Dogs are curious about their environment, so expect to see him run around and sniff everything that smells new to him.
However, your dog’s energy will dip once this phase is over. There’s absolutely nothing to worry about. The dip in energy is just your dog’s system letting go of all the stress from his time at the shelter, the ride home, and stimulation from all the new sights and smell.
Who wouldn’t sleep after going through all of that?
The more comfortable he gets, the brighter his personality will shine through. So, let him be.
2. Tour the house and its inhabitants.
Feel free to take a tour around the house – on a leash though. This is recommended to help your dog understand and familiarize himself with his new home. Only do this when your dog’s energy level has returned to normal.
This is also the right time to introduce your new dog to the family or roommates.
3. Less Touch is better.
Try to do less speaking and touching during this early stage. Your dog doesn’t know what it is like to be around you, so don’t speak or touch him when you don’t have to. He will likely think that’s a command or something.
You are better off snapping your finger, making a “tshh” sound, or offering treats to communicate approval or disapproval.
This will help him focus on you and try to read your body language all the time.
4. Remain calm and assertive.
Your dog is going to make silly blunders at times, keep your cool at all times. He is still learning his place in the new pack, how the rules work here, as well as getting used to the new house. And to learn that, he is looking up to you – and your family member – for directions on when to be playful, quiet, or sleep.
5. Start House Training Immediately.
Always work with the assumption that your new dog is not house trained – even if you got an adult dog. Check out this dog house training video and train your dog accordingly.
It will be tough and your dog will soil the house a few times, but what matters is consistency and a routine specifically tuned for him. If your dog keeps soiling the house even after completing his house training, then you should go through this article to quickly find and fix the cause of house training issues.
6. Head Over to The Vet.
For most pet adoption organizations, the process of adopting a new dog is not complete until you’ve taken the animal to a vet to confirm its health status.
We recommend doing so within the first few weeks of adoption. This visit determines whether there are underlying health issues or if their system needs to be boosted with vaccines and vitamins.
And, most importantly it is when you get to ask as many questions as possible and establish a plan for ongoing care.
If your dog has not been spayed or neutered, now is the time to make that appointment or find out when you should.
Oh, and remember to get your pet microchipped.
7. Slowly Switch Your Dog’s Food.
Your dog is used to eating a particular type of food, it is not proper to rush the switch to the new dog food you bought while getting supplies. The way to do this without risking gastric upset is by slowly adding the new dog food to the old one while deducting the old one.
For instance, let’s say you feed your dog 5 ounces of dog food each mealtime, you can slowly introduce an ounce of the new food and 4 of the old food.
Now move to 2 parts new food, 3 parts old – only when he shows no loss in appetite or gastric problems. Keep going until you’ve completely removed the old food from his diet or you run out of old food – recommended, to avoid wastage.
Remain conscious of what’s going on in your head.
This is where most new dog owners fail.
They direct so much of their focus outward on the new dog, that they forget to monitor what’s going on in their head. Then one day when they get overwhelmed, they lose it and feel like they made a mistake adopting the dog.
That’s to be expected.
And the truth is, when you expect to feel like s#!+ on some days, you won’t see it as a big deal when you finally do.
Understand this. Bringing a new dog into your life is a life-changing decision, but it won’t always be this way. One day you’re going to wake up and think “huh, it wasn’t so bad after all.”
And the way you get to this point is by monitoring your thoughts and emotions.
Notice when you are frustrated and reel yourself back in so you can see the bigger picture.
When you feel exhausted, relax.
Some of the best dog owners I know of often miss a vet appointment and they reschedule another. They forget to walk their dog in the morning and they make up for it in the evening.
One day your dog will be tightly knitted into your routine so much that you won’t even break a sweat to do these things.
…and share this post.