Before you bring your new best friend home, you’ll need to make sure your home is ready for them. Follow these tips to ensure a smooth transition.
Give Your New Pet Some Space
You wouldn’t give a 2-year-old baby unsupervised access to your whole house, right? The same rules apply to new puppies.
Pet parents can create that area using bay or pet gates, exercise pens, crates or other barriers. And get creative when you need to, she says: “The flip side [of using exercise pens] is to put, for example, the couch inside an exercise pen so the puppy can’t get to it.”
In addition to things like furniture and cabinets that can be expensive for puppies to chew on, pet parents must also ensure any items that are unsafe for a puppy are out of reach of their newest family member. “Move fragile, tippable or potentially dangerous items like cleaning supplies, food and medications to inaccessible locations,” says Jennifer Coates, DVM, from Fort Collins, Colorado. “Tuck electrical cords under carpeting and keep cords for blinds out of reach.”
Pet parents should allow their new puppy to be unsupervised only in their designated small space, accompanied by appropriate chew toys, until they’re around 12-16 weeks old, “when you’re seeing he’s begun to understand his toys and what not to chew on,” Bloom says. “Then, experimentally, give him another 100 square feet of space.”
If your puppy behaves in their newly expanded quarters, expand it again. If your dog continues to behave, expand it again and again until they’re well behaved throughout your home.
“Moving into your home is stressful for your new rescue dog. Even if the dog’s previous living environment was unpleasant, it was at least familiar,” Bloom says, adding that stressed dogs tend to act out. “Your dog has just moved to a strange new place, and it can take time for dogs to adjust.”
Here are common signs of a stressed dog that you can look out for:
- Panting a lot, even when it’s not hot
- Barking at every little noise
- Licking, yawning or drooling
- Refusing treats
Because you never know how a dog will react to new environs at first, “assume adult dogs are not housetrained and will chew on everything,” she says. That means pet parents should treat their new adult dog as if they’re a puppy, by giving them a small space as described above—at least at first. Because adult dogs have stronger bladder muscles and more fully formed brains, you can allow them to more easily win your trust.
“I will tend to be a lot faster giving the dog access [to the rest of the house] as long as they prove reliable when they get their first set of access,” Bloom says. If they get it wrong, she adds, don’t get upset—simply adjust their access to your home accordingly.
Puppy-level safety rules also still apply to adult dogs, Dr. Coates says. “You can’t be completely confident in what they’ve learned in their previous homes,” she says. “For dogs who aren’t used to crates, try giving them a chew or a toy filled with peanut butter when you have to step away. Most older dogs will adapt very quickly to new house rules when they’re implemented consistently and kindly.”
Preparing your home for a senior pet means anticipating the aches and pains that can come with age, Bloom says. For example, if you have hardwood floors or tile floors, you may need to cover them with something that gives your new pet a bit more traction.
“As they age, their muscle mass will deteriorate, and they have a little less balance and a little bit less control as they walk, so they tend to slide around and it can be painful for them,” she says. “So it’s a good idea to have runners or rugs, something so that your dog can get around on the tile or hardwood without being in pain.”
Confining your senior pet to a small area may also be a good idea, Bloom says, especially if they exhibit bladder control issues or symptoms of canine cognitive dysfunction, aka dog dementia. “Make sure they have something fun to do [in their area],” Bloom says, pointing out that games, training and activities help keep dogs’ minds sharp as they age.
Understand Accidents Will Happen
No matter how cute and perfect your new pet appears to be, chances are there will be some hiccups as they adjust to their new space. “Your dog has just moved to a strange new place, and it can take time for dogs to adjust. Expect to see changes in your dog’s behavior as he relaxes into your home over the course of 3-6 months,” Bloom says.
That’s especially true for puppies, she says. After all, they have been taken away from Mom and siblings, as well as the place they once called home. “They tend to be more flexible brain-wise, given their young age, so they adjust faster, but it’s still a stress,” Bloom says. “And obviously, puppies are going through a lot of different changes as they become adults, so their behavior will change more or less constantly for at least a year in most cases.”
The short version: “[Dogs] will get into trouble in their little area, whatever it is,” Bloom says—and when they get it wrong, it’s up to pet parents to guide them toward more appropriate behavior using appropriate toys, treats and plenty of compassion.
Identify a Vet
Your veterinarian will be a crucial ally in supporting and maintaining your new dog’s health—so it’s important to choose the right one.
Ask people you trust about what veterinarian they’d recommend
Check Your Calendar
Do you have any vacations coming up? What about long nights at the office? With a new pet in your life, your schedule isn’t as flexible as it once was. That doesn’t mean you have to give up your social life or that trip to Bermuda—it just means you have to do a little extra planning. Research pet sitters, pet boarding centers and pet hotels in advance of any travel you have planned (or find out how to travel with your dog). And if your day-to-day schedule can be unpredictable or keeps you away from home for long periods, consider hiring a dog walker or dropping your new dog off at doggy daycare.