Dogs Trust

How to Introduce an Adult Dog into your Home

Congratulations, you’ve taken the big step of adopting a four-legged friend into your family. It is incredibly rewarding to give an adult dog a loving home.

The next step will be introducing your new family member to their new home. Each dog is an individual with varying experiences. Some may have spent time in a family home, some may have lived outdoors in a previous home, while others may have spent time in a rescue centre. These steps should be taken with this in mind as some dogs may need a little extra time to settle in.

Before your dog arrives home:

There are a few things you can do to get prepared before your dog arrives home. Your dog may feel anxious as they are in a new environment and out of their usual routine. Here are some essential items to buy:

  • Bed and blankets
  • Food bowl, water bowl, and food
  • Collar
  • A tag with your dog’s name and your contact information
  • Lead and harness
  • Some toys for enrichment and play

Some things that may be helpful to do before you introduce your dog to their new home are:

  • Check your home for any potential dangers that your dog could get into. This can include anything such as wires, toxic plants, chemicals, or medicines. Be sure to supervise your dog as they make their way through the home in case of any unexpected hazards.
  • Plan where your dog can have a quiet, safe space that they can retreat to if they would like some time to relax by themselves.
  • Figure out where your dog will be sleeping, eating etc., and make sure you have moved anything you don’t want them getting their paws on so that it is out of reach!

Now you have the essentials and have your dog’s space mapped out, the time has come to bring your furry friend home! As exciting a time as it is, you must keep in mind that those first few days can be the hardest. There may be many household items and noises that they’re unfamiliar with, such as washing machines, televisions, doorbells etc. It will take time for them to become comfortable if they have no previous experience with living in a home or haven’t lived in a home for some time.

Don’t worry, here are some tips and tricks to help your dog with the settling in process. Always keep in mind that each dog will become more comfortable at their own pace, it’s perfectly normal if it’s taking longer than you thought!

Let your dog settle in their own time

Don’t rush them into anything and let them take in new experiences at their own pace. For the first little while, as your dog is becoming more familiar with their new surroundings, try not to have visitors in the home as this can make things more stressful for your new pal. Let your dog come to you when they feel relaxed enough to do so and always allow them to have their own time in the quiet area you created for them where they can be safe in the knowledge that they won’t be disturbed.

Don’t force interaction on them

If you see your new dog showing anxious or uncomfortable behaviours , you may want to make a fuss of them in an attempt to reassure them. However, you should always allow your dog the time and space to approach you if they would like interaction. You can gently introduce this by waiting for your dog to approach you and keep your hands at your side. If they lean in, stroke them on their chest or shoulders for three to four seconds. Then wait to see if they initiate further interactions. This gives your dog a chance to respond to the interaction. Watch their body language to see if they initiate more interactions. If not, or they walk away after you have stopped, then give them space. Using this method allows your dog to become more relaxed in your interactions as time goes on.

Settling your new dog at night

The first night can be tough for your new dog, so we have some tips that may be helpful in making the first night, or nights, as calm and stress-free as possible:

  • Make sure you have a bed set up for them that is enticing and as comfortable as possible. This bed should be big enough that your dog can comfortably stretch out and have enough space.
  • Decide where you want this bed to be in your house as placement may impact your dog’s comfort. It should be easy for them to get to and ideally somewhere quiet.
  • Their bed should be away from all potential hazards such as any wires that may be in the house.
  • Try to introduce your dog to their bed during the day so they become familiar with it and know where it is. This can help them to settle in and become more comfortable going there when it’s bedtime.

Don’t underestimate the importance of alone time

As mentioned, having somewhere quiet for your dog to retreat to, where they feel they can rest from all the excitement of this new adventure you’ve begun together is vital. In this area, your dog shouldn’t ever be disturbed. Let them go to this special den as often as they need to, and you can include enjoyable things for them there like enrichment toys and treats if they are appropriate for your dog. Doing so will help them learn that this place is theirs and is a positive place where they can relax.

Don’t delay in creating a routine

Creating a routine for your new dog and sticking to it as much as possible will help your dog grow comfortable with their day to day in their new home. This will help the settling in process as they begin to learn when they get fed, when they go out for walks and when it's bedtime, etc.

Using food enrichment

Using food enrichment toys, or making homemade versions, is a great way to help your dog to explore their new home. Food enrichment toys that are suitable for your individual dog can be enjoyed without having constant interaction with you. This can help them build confidence and may be useful when you are getting to know each other.

Bringing your new dog on walks

While it may be tempting to bring your dog out on lots of long walks as soon as they arrive at your home, it’s best to start with smaller walks. Shorter strolls in the same area will help you and your dog in creating that important routine. It will also help your dog gain a sense of familiarity with the location.

Keeping track of your dog’s behaviour

Something that may prove helpful for the first few months, or however long you choose to do it for, is keeping some kind of record of your dog’s behaviour. As they become more comfortable and settle in, you will naturally get to know them more and what they like and dislike. You could make note of anything from their eating habits to behaviours you’ve noticed from them. You could track any changes over time so you can gauge what is normal for your dog. One of the best ways you can help your dog as they settle in and throughout their life is knowing them as well as you can and paying attention to their quirks and behaviours.

Give them patience

Possibly one of the most important things you could do for your new rescue dog is to give them plenty of time and have patience with them. You may have no information on their background, or you may have a clear idea of their life before coming to your home. Either way, it is important that you give your dog as much time as they need grow comfortable with their new surroundings, routine, and family.

Seek support

Another option to keep in mind if your dog is finding it tougher than expected to settle in is getting behavioural support. If your dog is showing some unexpected or tricky behaviours, there are dog behaviourists and training experts who are available to help. If you adopt your dog from us, you are more than welcome to get in touch with our team at any stage for advice and support. We also offer Dog School dog training classes which are available online!

With all the excitement of having a new member of the family, don’t forget to carry out important tasks like updating microchip details, getting pet insurance, and registering with your local vet.

Following these tips and advice will give your new furry friend the best chance at settling in smoothly. A lot of love and patience will go a long way towards building that bond and before you know it, you’ll start to see your dog’s personality really shine!