Have you ever moved into a new house? As an adult human, it’s one of the most stressful events we experience. So just imagine what a new puppy feels like when he’s adjusting to a big, unfamiliar home. Typically, it takes a dog 24 to 48 hours just to acquaint himself with the basics of his new surroundings. This varies widely, though, so have patience.
Remember that your number one goal when welcoming a new pet into your home is to make sure he feels calm and safe. If you combine patience with a little structure and follow a few key steps, your new puppy adjustment period should be smooth sailing.
Let him roam
Dogs experience the world by smelling, tasting, sniffing, licking, looking and listening. They must be able to get a sense of where they are in the most literal definition of the word. Sensory experiences are huge, so sit back and watch (making sure he’s safe, of course) as your pup roams through his new house.
Don’t invite everyone you know to greet your new puppy as soon as he trots through the front door. Too much stimuli can be jarring and anxiety-inducing. Keep it minimal. Similarly, let him sniff you out and initiate touch; it’s easy to hover around an adorable fluff ball, but dogs, especially ones from rescues and shelters, may need some space. For large families or households with children, this space factor is super important. Kids get eager—we get it!—so make sure they understand boundaries.
Introduce a safe space
Escort your pup to his new bedroom—i.e., a safe spot the dog can call his own. This might be a spare bedroom, gated area or comfy bed. A crate is an excellent option because it provides an enclosed area the dog can retreat to if he feels overwhelmed or scared. Tip: Make sure your new dog spends his first night at home in the spot where he should sleep from here on out.
Continue his current food (for now)
Yes, feeding your dog high-quality food is important, but drastically changing his diet right after he moves in is a one-way ticket to upset-stomach-ville. To avoid diarrhea and vomiting, find out what your puppy ate before being adopted and, if you’re planning to make a change, gradually introduce the new brand by mixing in a little at a time.
Structure, structure, structure
Adjusting to new conditions is easier and healthier when a dog knows the house rules and owner expectations. If you can, take a few days off (or finalize your adoption on a Friday heading into the weekend) so you can ingrain some basics right away with reward-based training. For instance, breakfast and dinner should be served at the same times every day and bedtime should be consistent each night. Time routine walks as best you can to give your dog a feel for how long he’ll have to hold it (and when to expect playtime).
Be liberal with treats
Reward-based training revolves around positive reinforcement of desired behavior. As you teach your dog commands such as “sit,” “stay” and “down,” have plenty of treats on hand to show him he’s getting the hang of it. Even when he does something wrong (there will be accidents), don’t lose your cool and yell. Instead, be sure to offer praise (and snacks) when he goes in the right place.