Adopting a new dog from anywhere is a big undertaking. However, when you adopt from a shelter, it actually makes things quite a bit easier. After all, you’re not only saving money—there’s also a good chance that one adorable dog who catches your eye will already be trained, housebroken, spayed/neutered and so on. Still, there are some things to keep in mind when adopting a dog from a shelter. To be as prepared as you can be before, during, and after the pet adoption process, check out these tips:
Prepare for a few accidents early on. Moving to a new home is stressful for dogs, particularly in the initial days or weeks. As such, accidents may occur, even with housebroken pets. If your dog has already been housetrained, just keep in mind that these accidents may pass in time. Just be prepared to clean up until that time. Kitchens are usually an easily cleanable area for your new dog to hang out in until it becomes more comfortable with its new living situation in general.
Pet-proof your house. Even the most well-behaved dog can get rambunctious during its first few days in a new home. There are several things you can do to prevent accidents or injury. Considering trying some of the following...
- Taping up all loose electrical cords so they don’t get chewed up.
- Keeping all dangerous chemicals out of reach so they don’t get swallowed.
- Moving harmful plants out of the area (some plants are poisonous to dogs).
- Removing breakable objects so they don’t get broken.
- Installing baby gates to set boundaries as your dog adjusts.
Stock up on toys. This one’s obvious! After all, what better way is there to make your new friend feel right at home?
Bring a crate to the shelter. When you go to pick up your new dog, it’s always a good idea to bring a crate with you. And if you don’t know what sort of dog you’ll be getting, the bigger the better! A crate will keep your dog secure and a little bit calmer on the ride back.
Consider 'Less Adoptable Pets.' Some pets may be overlooked at adoption centers and animal shelters. These pets may include older pets, or pets with existing health or behavior concerns. Consider branching out and meeting a less adoptable pet.
If you find a dog you like, take it for a walk. This can be a great way to learn about a dog’s personality and energy in a brief amount of time, so don’t hesitate to ask if a quick walk is okay. If anything, the folks at the shelter will be glad you’re so invested in finding just the right pup for you.
Ask questions! The people working at the shelter are there to help you make an informed decision so that you can get the match for you (and the dog, in turn, gets the best match for it.). So, ask away! Here are some particularly important questions to consider, each intended to help you make a more informed decision:
- When was the dog last fed? Ask this so you know how to accommodate the schedule your dog’s already used to. If you need to change that schedule for any reason, do it slowly over a few days, but not in one giant transition.
- What dog food does he/she eat? For similar reasons. If you want to transition your dog to a new brand or type of food, that’s perfectly fine! But do so slowly so your dog doesn’t have any stomach problems. Similarly to how you would change your dog’s eating schedule, try adding just a bit of the new dog food to the old dog food day-by-day until a full transition is made.
- Other questions to consider: Does the dog have any behavioral problems? Is the dog on any medications? If you choose to adopt the dog, what adoption fees will there be? Do you know what you want to name your new pet?
Remember: Moving can be disorienting and frightening! If you’ve ever moved, you know this is true. And you most likely had weeks of planning ahead, too! So keep this in mind during your dog’s initial days at its new house. Keep strangers (and children, especially!) away until your dog has time to adjust to its new digs. You’ll see it start to relax more and more as the days pass, so no need to rush!
Introduce your dog to its new bathroom area. This one’s really important! Depending on whether or not your shelter dog is already housebroken, this might be easy or it might be difficult. Either way, the sooner your dog knows where to go to relieve itself in its new living quarters, the better!
Be mindful and patient. Remember, this is a shelter dog. That could mean its previous owners were much less caring and gentle than you are. Be mindful of that. For example, remember that even unassuming objects or gestures might frighten or unsettle your new friend. Be very gentle the first few days you spend with your new friend to get a feel for how it reacts to different things.
Establish a consistent schedule of feeding and walking. Adoptapet.com recommends walking and feeding your pet every day at the same time and staying consistent with the schedule. They also recommend using the same, familiar keywords and phrases. For instance “dinner time” or “outside”, if repeated and used consistently, might become easily recognizable and understood by your dog.
These are just a few tips to keep in mind if you’ve been considering adopting a dog from a shelter. There will always be lots of needy dogs out there that could use a loving caregiver and a welcoming home. Adopting from a shelter is always the way to go!
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