When the New Dog Comes Home

by Pat Schaap, Shenanigan Shetlands
posted here with author's permission (Thanks Pat, for sharing!)

Expect any puppy or dog coming into a new home to need a period of adjustment, especially if that dog is over the age of five months. An eight week old puppy is usually quite at home after waking up from its first nap and a five month old puppy will probably adjust in a few days to a week. But a dog that is any older will take longer - perhaps as much as several months for a 3 year old.

Here are some important rules to follow with your new dog whatever his age in order to keep him safe:

Never assume that because the dog has been behaving and is happy to see you that it is completely comfortable and trustworthy.

Being Careful

Below are some situations where you need to be particularly careful during the first month or two with an older dog. Any of these scenarios happen quicker than you can blink an eye.

In all of these situations, you will probably call the dog to come and it ignores you. It has no reason to "come" when you call it or to "stay" when you tell it to. There is still no lasting relationship and therefore no loyalty yet.


The term "bonding" is often used when describing the relationship that is built between two individuals. An eight week old puppy will bond with a new owner in a matter of hours or days. A dog that has matured and become more of an independent spirit (one that is over five months old) takes much longer to "bond" with a new owner. It will continue to see itself as a "temporary visitor" (like at the vets office or a kennel) and believe that its owner will be back to pick it up shortly. It is usually on its best behavior and will appear to have "bonded" because it will follow the new owner around and greet him when he comes into the room. Don't misread these actions as "bonding". The new owner is the only familiar person in the room and because dogs are very social, they will want to be close to a FAMILIAR person. It is still confused and worried and though happy to see its new "friend", has not bonded and feels no loyalty.

There are some horror stories about older dogs "escaping" from a new home because the new owner thought they had "bonded" and relaxed their care about doors being closed or leashes being attached. Feeling abandonded, the dog sees the chance to "get back home" and takes it - in a flash.

The more you keep your new dog with you the better. When you are at home with him, attach a leash to the collar and take the dog with you where ever you go - even to the bathroom! When you are not at home - confine him. He will be more secure confined and less likely to break some rule you have made that he doesn't understand.

Smile a lot and try not to be concerned if the dog is "sad" looking or gets sulky. Continue to tell it how much you love it and how great things are going to be. If you worry too much, your new dog will read this as clearly as if you put out a sign. Older dogs are successfully adopted every day (from breeders and shelters). Eventually, this short period of adjustment will be forgotten and you will have a wonderfully happy, well adjusted dog.


It is easy to worry if your new dog doesn't eat at first. Try feeding it in its crate. Many dogs have been either crated at their original home or have eaten in a crate or cage at the shelter. They feel very comfortable eating while confined - safe, in fact. Leave the food down for about 20 minutes and then take it up. Offer it twice a day, perhaps adding a bit of canned food to tempt the picky eater after a day or two.

If you know the brand of food your dog was eating before coming to your house make every effort to feed the same food for at least two weeks before slowly (over a period of a week) changing to a new food if you need to. Unlike people, dogs like consistency in their diets and don't like changes or variety.


Assume that the puppy has not been housetrained and discuss this training with your breeder. The older dog probably does understand that is supposed to "go outside" to relieve itself, but it will not know where and when.

You can begin by taking your dog (on leash of course) to the place you want it to use as its "bathroom area" as soon as you get home. Take it there several times (still on leash) until it does void. Lots of praise and maybe a treat follow. You can help your dog to understand the "when" by asking it, "do you want to go out?" at the door in an excited voice and put on the leash for the trip to the "place".

Obedience Training is a must for the older dog. Even if your dog has already had classes, it is a good place for you and this new critter to form a working relationship. Group or private classes are available in almost every community. Talk to your friends who have dogs - or better yet, go to the park and ask the people who have well trained dogs where they went for their training. Call, visit and evaluate the facility and the trainers before you "put your money down".


During the first few weeks, your dog will most likely be quiet and stay in the background. Should your dog begin to bark at people coming in the house or at the door when someone knocks, tell it to be quiet and discourage continued noise (but at the same time celebrate, because barking at the door is one of the first signs that a dog is starting to "feel at home".) BUT this is not a signal that you can lower your guard! No matter how comfortable you think the dog is, continue to be vigilant for at least 2 - 3 months after the older dog comes home.


Love makes up for the loneliness the dog has felt. You have lots of room in your heart for the love this dog has to offer and the dog will reward you with love of its own. When you start to feel sorry for the dog that hasn't had "enough freedom" because of the confinement necessary to keep it safe - step back and remember the key word safe. You want this dog to be a major part of you life for the rest of its life. Keep alert - protect this dog - follow the suggestions above and you and your dog will share years of love and companionship.

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