Taking your shelter dog home

In the beginning

1. Bring a leash and correctly sized collar to take the new dog home.
2. Let the dog outside at regular intervals for a widdle or a poop. They may not know that they must go outside, as they have spent a long time in a confined kennel or shelter-run.
3. Give the dog space to explore your home without interference from family members (children), and other pets.
4. Show the dog where the water bowl is, and get him/her into a regular eating routine – 2 meals a day – morning and evening. A new dog may be so overwhelmed by all the excitement and unfamiliar surroundings that it may not eat for the first few days. Monitor that this does change and the dog settles.
5. Most shelters will ensure that meet and greets happen i.e. between your existing dogs (if relevant) and the dog being adopted. This may have happened at the site, or at the home when the dog is delivered. Remember that any integration between dogs will take time, patience and space; expect 3-4 weeks for dogs to feel fully comfortable.
6. Make sure the new dog has its own bowls and sleeping space (bed and blankets). This shows that it is very special and loved.
7. Male dogs may mark their new territory. However, no human will want this to continue for an extended time. Usually it will settle after a few days. Keep letting the dog out to urinate at regular intervals, and particularly, before going to bed at night. Praise them when they follow through so that they associate the act with reward and affirmation.
8. Take the dog to the vet for a full medical check. Shelter dogs may have diarrhea in the beginning (either from excitement and nerves, or from hookworm, which is common to shelter sites where communal living takes place). This can easily be sorted out with medication. Puppies will need more regular vaccinations and boosters (as per schedule).

Settling in

1.The primary family must spend time and bond with the new dog to help it feel comfortable and secure at home. Wait a while to introduce new people or situations like the dog parlour.
2. The dog may bond with one specific family member for starters. Try to encourage all family members to interact with the new dog regularly, like playing ball with it.
3. Set house rules from the beginning, and remain consistent. These rules may include not chewing furniture or jumping on the couches. Try not to raise your voice – be calm but firm. Dog training lessons are a good option.
4. Look out for triggers that cause anxiety in your pet, such as vacuum cleaners, raised voices, loud music, sticks, vehicles etc. The new dog may also be more comfortable around women, than men. This is common, and is associated with their past experiences. Be mindful of these initial sensitivities as you work to build trust and confidence. Your reaction is important and you need to show the dog that they are safe.
5. Some dogs may not be used to a home environment. Simple things like walking on different floor surfaces or up the stairs may need to be shown to the dog.
6. In the first few weeks, do NOT to take them off-leash at any public parks. Shelter dogs are particularly prone to running if they see an open gate or door. This is related to their time in confinement. Keeping them on-lead whilst out and about helps build trust and a bond with the new dog.
7. It will take time for the dog to settle. The exact duration is dependent on the dog as well as your support in encouraging trust and confidence in the new environment.
8. Be prepared for a follow up visit from the shelter staff to ensure that the dog has settled in well. Contact the shelter team and/or vet if you have any queries or concerns.

Safety tips

1. Keep a collar and identification tag on at all times! Even though the dog is usually chipped before exiting a shelter, most people will not stop to take a lost/stray dog to a nearby vet to be scanned. If they see a clear ID tag, they will be more inclined to stop and call you.
2. All dogs should ideally be kept in the back-yard, and away from line of sight of the road. Sadly, dogs are being stolen at an alarming rate and used for re-sale and/or for dog fighting. This applies to power and smaller dogs breeds, as well as cats.
3. Keep animals SAFE by letting them sleep indoors at night. Poisoning is also rife in suburbs and rural areas.

Well done for choosing to ADOPT and for blessing a precious life!

Thank you to Chantelle Murray from Paws R US animal shelter for assisting in putting this checklist together.


Wendy Roux

Wendy Roux

Wendy Roux is a mother of a teen and a 12 year old. She has worked in teaching, the corporate environs and publishing. She is also the author of Checklist Parenting, aimed at parents of young school going children. The handbook offers parenting checklists, covering a range of topics, in a well laid out, easy to read format

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