How to Be the Best Pet Parent Possible to a Newly Adopted Dog

Son shaking hands with his dog while dad watches

Adopting a dog can be overwhelming but bringing home a new furry friend is also fun, rewarding and exciting! Being a good pet parent starts from the moment you think about adopting a dog all the way through their life. To ensure you enrich your dog’s life as much as they do for you, below are tips on how to make a newly adopted dog feel at home:

  1. Maintain a Safe Environment. See your home from a dog’s perspective and put away anything that could cause harm or get them into trouble. You want to stow away items such as electoral cords, medications, harmful chemicals, plants and food, as well as keeping the garbage in a safe spot where a dog can’t get into it. By maintaining a clean space, especially the floor, you can help to keep your pup safe and comfortable.
  1. Learn to decode your dog’s language. You want to be able to recognize the difference between aggression and over-stimulation. If a dog feels threatened, they will often try to flee the situation first, but if they can’t get away, they may growl, bare their teeth, bark, and standing up on their toes with their ears and tail raised to make themselves look bigger. Dilated pupils don’t necessarily mean “aggression;” they can also mean over-stimulation, which is common in puppies and often seen before they pounce, even in play. Over-stimulation, in the form of fear, anxiety, excitement, surprise or arousal, can also cause puppies to experience piloerection (the raising of the hair over their back and down to their tail – also known as hackles).
  1. Give your dog lots of love and attention. Dogs love their humans and crave your quality time/attention. Leaving a dog in the back yard or alone for extended periods of time is not healthy for them. If you work long hours, hire a dog walker to get your newly adopted dog out during the day for some exercise and companionship.
  1. Exercise your pup. Dogs that don’t receive enough exercise can resort to bad behaviors like chewing, digging and barking. Make sure your dog gets a brisk 30-minute walk a day to get their energy out and keep them healthy. Plus, a walk gives you another way to bond with your pup.
  1. Sign your dog up for a training class. By teaching your dog commands, it will help you learn how to tell your dog what you want and don’t want them to do in your household. It is important to create a bond with you and your dog, as well as learn how to communicate with your dog. Camp Bow Wow understands the benefits of social interaction and exercise, and offers private training classes in the comfort of your home through its Behavior Buddies program for pets.
  1. Socialize your dog. Socializing your dog can have a tremendous effect on their development and interactions at home. Newly socialized dogs become calmer, friendly, affectionate, and can adapt better to a new environment. Camp Bow Wow also offers training classes using rewards based methods. Training classes are held at Camp Bow Wow locations nationwide.
  1. Research local veterinarians and schedule an appointment. Find a veterinarian and get your pup a check-up every six months. Preventative care will keep your dog happier, healthier and will help keep medical costs down. Check out our top tips on choosing the right vet here.
  1. Educate children on how to interact with your dog properly. If you have children, teach them the proper way to interact with your dog. Most bites occur with kids under 12 years old, but education is the best form of prevention. Educating yourself, as well as your kids, on the best ways to approach their four-legged family member is a must. You’ll ensure you’re the best parent and pet parent around.

There are many things that we, as humans, do to dogs that they don’t enjoy, and this puts our dogs and us at risk for stress and injury.

  • Hugging: While we may think it’s sweet and comforting, pets often feel trapped and scared during hugs, particularly when humans pull pets into their faces.
  • Waking them up: Who likes being jolted out of sleep? As dogs age, they can sleep more heavily, and can be startled and react poorly if woken up abruptly.
  • Changing their routine: Dogs appreciate routine, and it’s difficult for them to have abrupt schedule changes like weekday vs. weekend schedule differences. Changes can cause them to stress and lead to behavior problems like chewing, barking, digging, or other destructive behaviors. Try to keep their schedules consistent: waking up at the same time to take them out, feeding them at the same times with the same diet, and keeping their exercise routine consistent. Routine helps humans out too!
  • Inconsistent signals: Often humans don’t realize they are giving dogs mixed signals about appropriate behavior, and this confuses dogs. If you don’t want your dog to jump up on you, then you should never pet them when they jump up. Humans forget this and greet their dogs and pet them for jumping up when they get home from work, while they get mad and reprimand the dog at other times.
  • Bringing new people or pets into the house and expecting them to love the newcomers right away: It can be scary to a dog to have strangers enter their household (their safe zone), so introductions should be done outside the house in neutral territory. Slow, calm introductions will help facilitate positive meet and greets! Follow the dog’s comfort level and don’t force any interactions.

Most Common Mistakes Pet Owners Make – And How to Avoid Them:

  • Reinforcing bad behaviors: Many pet parents don’t understand that giving a dog attention when they are doing something inappropriate will encourage them to continue that behavior. Ignoring the dog when it performs bad behaviors and rewarding the dog when it offers good behaviors will lead to a better behaved dog.
  • Not taking your dog to a training class: When people don’t train their dogs, they feel like they doesn’t listen to them when, in reality, the dog doesn’t understand what it is being asked to do. Parents need to take the time to learn from a professional on how to help their dog be a good dog. If the dog is a rescue, going to training will help build a bond with the dog. It is so important to get dogs of any age into a training class to ensure that you know how to communicate with your pet in a way that they understand and to have an expert help you with any issues that could arise.
  • Not socializing your dog in a critical period: Puppies need to be socialized, and there is a very short window to accomplish this so it is comfortable with new things and people in their lives. Not socializing a puppy can lead to skittish or aggressive behavior later on. It’s important to expose your dog to as many new situations (ie. dogs, people, textures and objects) as possible before they are 16 weeks old.
  • Not researching the breed: Many people choose a dog because it is cute or as an impulse. Not understanding the breed you are adopting can lead to problems. If you adopt an active dog and don’t have an active lifestyle, the dog isn’t going to get the proper exercise or stimulation it needs and this can lead to bad behavior. Some dogs have innate behaviors that are undesirable for a family setting, like protective herding or aggressive tendencies. If you are considering getting a dog, take time to research various breeds that will work for your family and set out to find a dog that meets those criteria.
  • Not watching your child around your dog: Many people are very trusting of their family pet, but 50% of dog bites happen to children 12 years old and under, and many of those are by the family pet. Children do not understand how to properly read signals a dog gives when they are uncomfortable, and this can lead to a bite. If you have a young child, you should always supervise them while they are with your pet. Although they are an important family member, remember that dogs are still dogs. Teach your child how to properly interact with the dog by not pulling their tails, ears or fur, sitting on them, running at them, etc.