Tips for a New Dog

Bringing a new dog home is exciting, and the first few days can sometimes be overwhelming. It’s normal to feel regret or frustration sometimes. Be patient with yourself and your new pup—even the most confident dogs need a little support when confronted with change. 

Your new pup doesn’t know that they’ve just been upgraded to a great new life—everything is new, likely confusing and could feel scary. Just like humans, dogs are individuals who each tolerate stress differently. Some dogs quickly transition to new environments, while others need patience and support. 

These things can be stressful for a new dog:
  • Your pup may not have ever been in a car before
  • All the sights, smells and sounds in and around your home are new
  • Lots of unfamiliar people wanting to say hi
  • Not knowing where to relieve themselves
You may see these behaviors during your first few days with your new pup:
  • House training accidents 
  • Inability to settle down—pacing, panting or whining
  • Drinking a lot of water 
  • Eating very little or not at all
  • Barking at noises or movement outside your home
  • Lack of interest in interacting with people, other animals or toys
  • Jumping up on counters, beds or couches
  • Following you from room to room/not wanting to be left alone

Tips for a Successful Transition

Having the right set up in your home is key to a smooth transition from shelter to your home.

Here are some essential tips:
  • Try not to leave your new pup home alone for the first 48 hours.
  • Create a safe space by offering a covered crate with comfortable bedding in a quiet, low traffic area, such as a bedroom or quiet corner of the living room. This area will give your new dog a place that they can choose to retreat to and watch the action from afar, which can help them feel safe.  See more on crate training and introducing your dog to a crate.
  • Help your pup learn to eliminate outside by offering frequent opportunities and reward with a tasty treat when they get it right. See more on housetraining.
  • Use baby gates to close off areas of the home that you don’t want your pup to have access or to give your dog personal space if they are overwhelmed by visitors.
  • Pick up rugs or any items you don’t want your new pup chewing on or having an accident on.
  • Make sure to have plenty of healthy chews and puzzle toys—prepare some ahead of time and put them in the freezer so they are ready to go when you need to give your new dog something to do. Or make your own enrichment!
  • Put jars of treats in strategic areas of your home so you can reward good behaviors every time you see them. Treats can also be used to “trade” if your new dog grabs something they are not supposed to.

Tips for Building Trust

Dogs, especially shyer dogs, learn to trust their new human friends when they can predict how the person is going to behave. They will avoid new, “unpredictable” people. Predictability helps dogs to settle in whether it be building a routine or how we behave towards them.

Here are some tips for building a positive, trusting relationship with your new dog:
  • Start building a routine by offering meals, walks and play at similar times each day.
  • For walks, start out with walking routes that you plan on taking daily. Allow your new dog plenty of time to sniff on walks so they can get to know their new neighborhood.
  • Take plenty of tasty treats with you on every walk and reward your dog for desired behaviors such as checking in with you, eliminating outside or walking with a loose leash.
  • Wait to have family and friends meet the dog or visit your home until you have built a bond. Unfamiliar people wanting to say hello is often overwhelming for a newly adopted dog.
  • Pay close attention to your dog’s body language. The way we move and speak to our dogs can impact their stress levels. Familiarizing yourself with canine body language, especially signs of fear, anxiety, and stress, will allow you to support your dog.
  • Be your dog’s advocate when they are scared or nervous. For example, if you notice they seem hesitant or stressed when another dog walks past, try crossing the street the next time a dog is walking toward you and feed your pup yummy treats.
  • If your new dog gets overexcited when the leash comes out and can’t stop jumping on you, calmly scatter some tasty treats on the ground and leash them up while they are eating.
  • If you have another dog in your home already, keep the dogs separate during meal times and supervise when they have access to toys or chews. See more on introducing dogs.
  • Wait on nail clippings or baths, as these interactions may be unpleasant or frightening for your new dog.

For dogs that are barking and having a hard time settling down:

  • Try minimizing access to the things that are causing them stress. If it’s noises, play some relaxing music, turn on the TV, or use a white noise app on your phone.
  • If your pup is barking out the windows, place a shade, temporarily cover the window, or don’t allow the dog in that room.
  • Take a deep breath and wait it out. Sometimes time is the best remedy. These behaviors should dissipate after several days of routine.

Ask for Help!

If you need support, reach out to the ASPCA Adoption Center at [email protected]. We understand taking a pet home can come with unexpected challenges and we are here to support you. If you’re feeling like you need more in-depth guidance, we suggest seeking out the support of a certified professional.

Back to the ASPCA Adoption Center Resource Hub