Now that you have a new canine companion … what next?

Originally published in the Rolesville Buzz
November 2012

Bringing home a new puppy is truly one of life’s joys. Thoughtful pre-puppy preparations and a wellplanned first 24 hours can give your fuzzy bundle of joy a head start and make your dreams of the perfect family dog come true.

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 shelter or foster home to your house), he may forget any housebreaking (if any) he’s learned. Often a kitchen will work best for easy cleanup. If you plan on cratetraining your dog, be sure to have a crate set up and ready to go when you bring your new dog home.

Establish who in the family will be in charge of taking the pup out to potty, who will be in charge of feeding and the number of feedings per day, and who will make the veterinary appointments for vaccinations and de-worming.

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. If Mom says “down” to get Fifi off of the sofa and Dad uses “off,” it can become confusing and Fifi won’t know what to do when told.

Dog-proofing the area where your pooch will spend most of his time during the first few months is extremely important. 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.

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. If he is micro-chipped, be sure to register your contact information with the chip’s company, if the rescue group or shelter did not already do so.

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.

On the way home, your dog should be safely secured, preferably in a 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.

If you are crate-training your dog, leave the crate open so that he can go in whenever he feels like it in case he gets overwhelmed.

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 while left alone, such as chewing on a toy or resting quietly

For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your dog, and limit 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 and dislikes.

Take caution when making sudden movements around your new pet. If he was a rescue dog, you don’t know how he may have been treated. Loud noises, sudden movements and even brooms or other objects may have been used to abuse them. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may bring forth a reaction other than the one you expect.

Proper training and patience will encourage the proper response from your furry friend. Take caution, and your new family member will learn to trust you.