Pro Dog Handler Advice When Bringing an Adult Dog Into a Home

It's essential that the dog bonds with the whole family.
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Getting an adult dog has its own specific challenges and rewards. On one hand, the dog already may be trained, but on the other hand he also may have developed his own set of hard-to-break bad habits. The time when you bring the dog home is crucial, as it sets the tone for the whole relationship going forward. Professional dog handlers, such as those who work on TV or advise welfare organisations, have made available some salient advice for bringing home your new dog. Each handler has a different approach, so it’s smart to cherry-pick the advice that best suits your situation.

Visit the Dog with Family

Before bringing the dog home, let him meet the family. This way, he’s not overwhelmed on the big day when he joins your household. TV dog handler and trainer Cesar Millan recommends taking the whole family along to meet the new adult dog and if possible, to walk him to see how he behaves.

Assert Yourself as Pack Leader

Once home, Cesar believes in adopting the role of pack leader. In the wild, dogs live in a pack with a structured hierarchy. Cesar recommends emulating that hierarchy to help your dog understand his place within the family and also, to give him a point of authority to look up to.


Allow each member of the family time with the dog, so the dog can get used to each person individually. Cesar believes that it’s important for each person in a household to get the chance to bond with the dog to help him integrate. This is true especially if you’re bringing home a shelter dog.

Observe Body Language

Take note of your dog’s postures and movements to determine how he is feeling. A dog that is cowering, avoiding eye contact or holding his tail between his legs may be feeling anxious and nervous. A dog that is showing his teeth or raising his hackles may be feeling aggressive.

Bringing an Adult Dog into a Home with an Existing Dog

TV dog handler and trainer Victoria Stilwell recommends taking specific precautions to reduce friction if you’re bringing home an adult dog into a household with an existing dog. Feed the dogs separately, introduce the new adult dog gradually by bringing him round for brief “get-to-know-you” sessions and don’t give too much attention to the new dog. The Humane Society of the United States recommends the advice of the behaviorists and handlers at the Dumb Friends League, Denver, Colorado; make the introductions in neutral territory so the resident dog doesn’t feel the need to defend his turf.