When you bring home a newly-adopted dog, you can expect her to be confused and unsure of herself for the first few days. If she comes from a shelter, she might not have experienced the same type of lifestyle that she finds in your home and could be overwhelmed and nervous. Find out as much information as possible about her former life, her behavior and personality. Expect that it will take a few weeks or possibly months before she settles down and regains her confidence.
A Safe Space
Give the dog her own safe space by providing her with a bed in a corner of the house that is peaceful and quiet. Show her that it is hers by giving her a treat in the bed and spend time sitting there with her. Each time you take her to the bed, give her the command by saying the word “bed” and reward her when she gets into it. Prevent children and other pets from interfering with her when she is in the bed, so that she learns it is a refuge when she needs one.
Feed the dog the same food she has been eating, if possible. If you don’t know what she has been getting, start her off with good quality kibble in small quantities to avoid an upset stomach. If she is underweight, feed her four small meals a day instead of two large meals for the first month to help her digest the food and to prevent her from overeating. Provide plenty of fresh water at all times and watch her carefully for any signs of vomiting or diarrhea. Once she is eating the food without any side effects, you can gradually introduce treats and home-cooked dog food, if you prefer.
If your newly-adopted dog has lived most of her life outdoors or in a cage, she might not understand that she can’t soil where she sleeps. Anticipate her needs and take her outside immediately after she wakes up in the morning, directly after meals and last thing before bedtime. If she is a puppy or older than 7 years, she may need to go more often. Wait outside until she eliminates, then praise her enthusiastically every time. If she has an accident indoors, ignore it and clean it up with an enzymatic cleaner to remove the smell. Avoid punishing her, because she may not understand that she has done wrong and it will confuse her.
Your newly-adopted dog might bond with you so well that she becomes terrified of losing you. This could take the form of separation anxiety, which manifests in destructive behavior, excessive barking, soiling or even aggression towards family members and other animals. Begin leaving the dog alone for short periods of time soon after you bring her home, so she becomes accustomed to you leaving and returning.
Tracey Sandilands has written professionally since 1990, covering business, home ownership and pets. She holds a professional business management qualification, a bachelor's degree in communications and a diploma in public relations and journalism. Sandilands is the former editor of an international property news portal and an experienced dog breeder and trainer.