How Should You Introduce A New Dog To Your House?

In this post:

  1. What is the adjustment period for a new dog?
  2. How can you help your dog adjust?
  3. Setting and enforcing rules
  4. Introducing dogs to each other

We always want to make sure that all adopters are prepared for introducing your new family member into your home. This can be something as simple as just planning where the dog is going to stay when you’re out for the day or as big as planning for crate training in your absence.

There are questions you need to ask like:

  • Have they ever been crate trained?
  • What type of environment is this animal familiar with?
  • Have they had any type of training?
  • Are they on a current meal schedule?
  • Are they potty trained?
  • Are they leash/harness trained?
  • Where have they been sleeping?

These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself prior to bringing home your new dog or puppy. By planning in advance, not only can you head off any potential problems in advance, but you can get into a patient mindset of accommodating and caring for your new best friend.

What Is The Adjustment Period For New Dog?

An adjustment period for a dog coming into a new home can take anywhere from a month to six months, or even up to a whole year. Generally, you need to give your dog at least a month or two to really settle in before their full “normal” personality is going to surface.

During this adjustment period, it’s common for dogs to either be shy and shut down, or outgoing and stubborn as they test boundaries and learn where you draw the line in their behavior. You can help that adjustment period by being very patient, offering a lot of treats and praise when your new dog exhibits positive behavior, and by trying to prevent the dog from exhibiting negative traits and behaviors.

Remember that patience is key here. Your dog is coming into a completely new environment, and depending on their background, they may have no idea what is expected of them. Show them love, build their trust, and have a training plan in place. This will make the adjustment period smoother and less stressful for both of you.

The 3-3-3 Rule: This rule is designed to help owners know what to expect when they first bring a pet home.

  • The first 3 days: Everything is new to your dog and they are overwhelmed. They might be timid, shy, and stressed.
  • The first 3 weeks: Your pet should be settling into their new home. This is where their true personality is going to come out as well as any naughty behaviors.
  • After 3 months: Your pet should be secure and comfortable in your home and you both have created a bond based on mutual love.
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It is important to not give up on your new pet in those early days and weeks. Give them a chance to come out of their shells and show you their wonderful selves.

How can you help your dog adjust?

Most likely your new dog is going to be nervous in your home. While you need to be patient and kind, remember the rules that you’ve decided upon in advance. If you don’t want your new dog sleeping in your bed or climbing on your furniture, then you need to enforce these rules (gently) from the get-go. Don’t let them snuggle in bed with you, no matter how big those puppy dog eyes get if you ultimately plan on forcing them to sleep in a dog bed. Give them attention, cuddles, and treats in their dog bed.

This lets them know your expectations and they won’t become confused with the rules change down the road.

Gentle and consistent training is vitally important to creating a safe, comfortable, and happy home for both of you!

In addition, avoid doing these things during the first few months:

  • DO NOT leave your new dog alone with full access to your home. They should be in a kennel or a safe small dog area with their toys and some yummies.
  • DO NOT leave your dog alone with kids. Things happen all the time and you want your new dog to only have positive experiences with your child.
  • Avoid large parties or loud events for the first couple of months to avoid stressing your new dog out.
  • Observe your dog very carefully during the first couple of weeks. You want to identify any unwanted behaviors right away and deal with them as soon as possible. Look for:
    • growling or barking at a particular family member
    • resource guarding behavior (food or toys)
    • hyperactivity
    • barking/destructive behavior when left alone
    • eliminating indoors
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You know we always want to assume that dogs are going to be potty trained. We love the idea of that, but we are not naïve to the fact that you’re probably going to have to start over from scratch or assume that this dog just doesn’t know the new environment and you’re going to have to potty train.

Setting and enforcing rules

When we recommend that you set up rules from day one, I mean that you should plan out your rules in advance and then begin implementing them as soon as you bring your new dog home. Think about the kinds of behaviors you want to encourage and discourage. Do you want your dog on the furniture? Do you want them jumping on people? Do you want them barking at your door or window? Do you want them beginning for food when you are eating? Take all of this into consideration as you form your rules. 
 
Consider wandering from room to room and thinking about the types of situations your new dog might come across.

Write down your thoughts and compile your list of rules. While your dog can’t read them (wouldn’t that be nice??), having a written list will help YOU keep these rules in mind from the second you bring your dog home and make it easier to enforce these rules.

I know a lot of new dog owners attempt to be home with their dog every single day for the first week or so, but that actually can be kind of detrimental to the dog. It sets them up with the expectation that this is how life is always going to be. Live your normal life, but be patient with your dog. This gives them an idea of what your normal routine looks like and will give them the best chance for successfully adapting to your home and lifestyle.

  • Consider these rules:

    • Will your dog be allowed on the furniture?
    • Will your dog sleep in bed with you?
    • Where will your dog eat?
    • Where will your dog sleep?
    • When will your dog go on walks?
    • What time will your dog eat?
    • How vocal will you allow your dog?
    • How much roughhousing will you let your dog do?
    • Where will he play?
    • How rough will he play?
    • Will your dog be allowed to wake you up?
    • Where will your dog stay when you are gone?
    • Who will care for your dog when you are gone?
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Introducing dogs to each other

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I don’t know if I can recommend this enough, work with a professional (positive reinforcement) trainer or behavioral consultant when you are introducing dogs. This is such an important moment in your new dog’s and your old dog’s life. You don’t want to miss any warning signs or completely mess everything up because you have rose-colored glasses on and are excited about the moment. A trainer is a non attached, a third-party outsider that can guide you through the process.

Preparing your new dog for the house may include doing a quick little intro of your resident dog outside before you bring him into the house. This creates a semi-neutral territory for the meeting instead of within your home where your current dog has already established its routine, favorite spot, etc. This is a really great way to really strengthen those relationships between the two dogs in the household.

Final thoughts:

I know that bringing home your new dog is incredibly exciting and it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and not think about rules, routines, and training. But it’s so important that you have these things in mind prior to bringing home your dog, not just for your sanity, but for the comfort of your new dog. Letting him or her know what your expectations are from day one allows them to adjust and not get confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated.

Consistency, patience, and compassion are the words you need to keep in mind as you work through this adjustment time period, ensuring that you have a long, successful, and loving relationship with your new best friend.

Special thanks to:

Wag

Seattle Humane: Saving Lives, Completing Families

Seattle Humane promotes the human-animal bond by saving and serving pets in need, regardless of age, ability, circumstance, or geography. Seattle Humane is Puget Sound’s leader in animal adoption, education, and welfare. Their top priority is to connect animals in need of rescue with the people who will love them. Through their outreach, advocacy, and services we strive to ensure that animal companionship is accessible to all.

Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB
Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB is one of the founders of Wag Enabled (originally Why Does My Dog). Aly has a certificate in applied animal behavior through the University of Washington and is a certified veterinary assistant and AKC Evaluator. She aims to provide an unbiased perspective on dog training by providing practical, intelligent, and caring advice for people to impart on their canine companions