Congratulations on your decision to adopt a shelter dog. We wish you and your new “furbaby” many happy years together. All shelter pets need a period of adjustment, but if you have any challenges or need help with anything, don’t wait. If it is a medical concern, contact your vet. If is behavioral, do yourself and your dog a favor and contact a trainer.

During the first few weeks, the most important thing to remember is that whether your pup had been at the shelter a day, a week, or a month or more, being in a shelter is extremely stressful for an animal. Your pup will need time to adjust to his new surroundings, new routines, and new people. You’ll want to start establishing those new routines….but don’t rush it. It may take a week or so just to acclimate…maybe more. Give him time and space.

Before you bring your dog home, have a family meeting to decide important issues….is the dog going to be allowed on the furniture? Who’s job is it to walk him, feed him, make sure he always has fresh water? Who will be his vet? Will you be crate training the dog? These are family decisions that are better made ahead of time so the dogs doesn’t get mixed signals.

Bringing your dog home for the first time

The best time to bring a new dog home is when you know you’ll be there to spend time with him for a few days while he adjusts. The day you bring him home for the first time, take him for a calming walk, on a leash. This will give him a chance to relax, burn off some energy, sniff out things, and get to know his new surroundings. After a nice walk, bring him inside. Keeping him on the leash, continue your walk by showing him his new house.  Some experts suggest this is a good time to establish yourself as pack leader by making sure you go through each door way first, and your dog follows. After a brief tour, but still on the leash, bring your dog to their feeding area and allow him some water and a few bites of food. You’ll want to establish regular feeding times, so for now, this a welcome home reward, not a full meal.

Next, it’s time to show him his new sleeping quarters. Whether it’s a bed in the corner of your living room, or a crate, let him know this is his space and if he shows you that he’s ready for a nap, let him rest. Dogs instinctively like to “den up” and a roomy crate with a cushy bed can become a dog’s favorite spot. It’s also useful while you work though any house training.

Many dogs consider a crate “their space”, others may resist the confinement. If your new dog resists being in a crate, it may time time and training. In the meantime, consider another space where you can safely leave your dog when you are not home until you can determine if it is seperation anxiety or just a resistance to be confined in a crate. If he is not in a crate, make sure he has a bed and a water bowl and nothing for him to get into that could be unsafe or damaged.

Introducing your dog to other house pets

Assuming the initial meet and greet went well, remember they were on neutral territory. Now you are bringing that dog into “their” turf. Do not force them together or assume they will instantly be best friends. Monitor everyone’s behavior whenever they are together and look for neutral activities they can enjoy together like going for a walk. For now, do not leave your new pet alone with other dogs until you know more.

Dogs, even the sweetest most loveable ones, can have issues when it comes to food. If you have other dogs do not feed your new dog in the same area where your existing dogs eat. Give your new dog his own dining area apart from the others and keep an eye on everyone. When dinner is over, pick up all the bowls.


To avoid stomach upset and other issues, it’s advisable to start your dog on the same food he was eating at the shelter, usually Purina Dog Chow. If you want to switch to another brand, introduce it gradually by mixing with what he already eats. There have been many recalls of commercial dog food and there is a lot of research about the healthiest food. If want to learn more about quality dog food options, in Brevard, contact Pure Pets at 884-7333 or Grateful Dog 883-4383.

Kids and Company

If you have young children, they will naturally want to play and love on the pup and of course the neighbors will want to come see your new addition. Now is not the time. The dog is coming out of a stressful environment and may feel uncertain about his new surroundings. Tell your children and your friends that your new pup needs some time to relax and rest. Do not allow any child to chase after the dog or get up in the dog’s face. Never leave a toddler unsupervised with any dog. Instead encourage them to sit quietly and reward them (and the dog) if the dog initiates equally calm contact.

House Training

The majority of shelter pets come in as strays. We have no way of knowing if your new pup is house trained or not. Assume that he is not. It will be up to you to teach him what is expected of him. If your yard is fenced, the first few days take him out on a leash a show him where he can potty. If you don’t have a fenced yard, you’ll need to walk him on a leash. Dogs love routine and they do best when they know what is expected of them so now is the time to establish his potty routine. There is plenty of online information about techniques that are appropriate for puppies which are different than adult dogs and you will want to be familiar with those suggestions BEFORE you bring your dog home. Whatever method you chose, understand that it’s entirely possible that your dog will have accidents. Be observant. Learn his cues that he needs to go out. Most of all, be patient.

The First Week

  • Shelter pets typically come fully vaccinated but you’ll want your pet to see your vet for a full examination.
  • Get a collar and ID tag. Engraved ID tags are available at many vets and pet supply stores and can be attached to the collar or secured with rivets. Pure Pets in Brevard will do free engraving for any dog adopted from the shelter. The tag should have your pet’s name and at least one phone number. Make sure your new pet always wears his collar and ID.
  • If your pet was not microchipped at the shelter your vet can do that for you. Every year dogs go missing. Making sure your dog has an ID tag and/or a microchip will greatly increase your chances of being reunited if he gets separated from you.

For more helpful information check out resources like ASPCA, Adopt-A-Pet, and the Humane Society of the United States.