Settling Into a New Forever Home

We know how exciting the process of arriving home with a new dog can be. But we also know how nerve-wracking it can be – especially if this is your new furry companion!

If you’ve just adopted a dog, or are deciding whether it’s for you, we’ve got you covered with this comprehensive and handy guide. To launch the series, we’re starting with the basics of how to get your home in order.

When getting ready for a new pup, it’s important to think of the different ways you might need to prepare. From dog-proofing the house to making sure the drive home goes perfectly, there’s a lot to keep in mind. Here’s a helpful guide to make sure you’ve got the basics covered!

How can I make my house safe for my new dog?

When dog-proofing your home, it’s important to make sure it’s safe not only for you and your belongings but also for your new pup. Remove or cover any hazards like toxic chemicals, batteries, or electrical cords, and check that they don’t have access to toxic foods or plants.

It is also important to check if there are any objects or decorations which could be knocked down and cause injury to your pup.

Lots of dogs (and especially puppies!) love to chew. Ensure they have safe chew toys (such as a Kong stuffed with part of their breakfast or dinner). Giving them an appropriate outlet for such a natural behavior will help keep them, and your household items, safe!

You should also be prepared with plenty of enrichment activities for your dog, especially if they are going to be left alone at times, in order to reduce the likelihood of stress and boredom. Make sure they have access to a toilet area, or ensure you’re able to get home and let them out every few hours.

Your dog should also have an adequate supply of fresh and clean drinking water at all times.

After getting everything safe and secure indoors, it’s time to move on to the backyard! If your dog has access to an outdoor area, it’s important to check that the space is completely enclosed, with no gaps for your pup to squeeze through.

Make sure that your backyard has sheltered areas to protect your new dog from the weather – especially rain, wind, extreme heat, and direct sun.

making the ride home comfortable

How do I safely bring my dog ​​home?

There are a few things you’ll need for a safe, successful drive home. Unsecured dogs drivers can, attempt to jump out of car windows, or (in the event of a disruptive collision) cause injury to drivers and passengers, along with themselves.

Vehicle restraints are available for dogs that connect their harness with existing seat belts, or with attachments to clip directly to the car’s seat belt buckle. Cargo barriers can keep dogs contained in the back of a station wagon and transport crates are also available.

If you choose a crate, make sure it is spacious enough to allow your dog to both stand up and lie down comfortably in a natural position. The crate should also be well secured within the car.

To prevent the driver from getting distracted by the new dog, it can help to have someone accompany you – this can also help your new pup feel more comfortable. Also consider fresh water, snacks and the logistics needed for any toilet breaks for longer trips.

Never leave your dog unattended in a car. Heat stress and heat stroke are very real risks over summer, but temperatures within a car can climb quickly, even in mild weather.

Some dog breeds and ages are more prone to heat as well (eg dogs with short noses, puppies and elderly dogs).

Where will my dog ​​sleep?

Giving your dog their own, safe space in their environment can really help them settle. They may choose their own favorite corner to rest in, or a quiet space away in another room away from everyone else to start with.

If possible, avoid their space being a thoroughfare. Rugs, blankets and cushions can be used for extra comfort and should be washed regularly.

It can be helpful to write out a checklist of what is required for your pup before they arrive. Important items to consider include food, bedding, dog toys, a collar and a harness for walking, and any equipment that a dog might need for grooming.

The first few days at home

How can I help my dog ​​feel at home?

Helping your dog learn to feel safe and comfortable in their new home is one of the most rewarding things! Moving house can be very stressful for anyone, and especially for rescue dogs, some of which may have experienced neglect and/or trauma. The most important thing is to be sure the first few days (to weeks, depending on the dog) in the home are quiet, calm and predictable.

The first few days are not the time for making new human or doggy friends, walking in busy places, visiting the dog park or having a welcome home party. In fact, it can take several days for any stress from a shelter environment to leave your dog’s system, and for them to start learning how this new life with you works.

Best to spend these as quiet days, allowing them to explore their yards and homes, being the giver of all good things – tasty treats, meals and toys – and helping them learn your routine. Predictability can help reduce excess stress and worry.

If you’ve brought home a puppy under 16 weeks, they will be in a critically sensitive socialisation period and it is important to take this time to maximise all positive experiences with the world.

It is essential to introduce young pups to all sorts of sights and smells at this stage (as long as it is safe), as good experiences during this period will help set them, and you, up for success for life. Socialisation is not about playing with other dogs, but rather being able to observe things in the environment and knowing you’re safe.

Good socialisation allows for carefully managed and supervised interactions (if the puppy wants) and prioritises new and unfamiliar experiences with people (of all ages), dogs, other animals, places and things.

Places like dog parks, school drop offs (being surrounded by groups of children) or uncontrolled exposure to something scary or overwhelming will have the opposite effect on your puppy’s confidence.

Booking your puppy into one of our RSPCA SA puppy training classes, or investing in a consultation with a qualified force-free trainer is an excellent way to be sure you’re on the right track! You can read more about socialisation here.

All dogs will require daily exercise, and walking your new companion is a great way to ensure this need is met. Start your walks in calm, quiet places with lots of opportunities to sniff. Playing with your dog every day is another way to ensure they have adequate physical and mental stimulation.

You may find that some behaviors crop up as your dog becomes more comfortable in the home. Investing in classes or consults with qualified force-free trainers are a great way to work through any unwanted behavior with the support and understanding of an experienced professional.

You should ensure your new pup is microchipped with up-to-date details so they are identifiable in case they accidentally get lost. All dogs adopted from the RSPCA are microchipped. If required, you can change previous microchip details through the SA Government registry – Dogs and Cats Online (DACO).

Your dog will need to be registered with your local council within 2 weeks of being adopted.

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