Adopting a rescue dog is a wonderful experience and one that’s incredibly rewarding. We imagine you’re waiting, brimming with excitement, for the big day when you’ll finally get to bring your new furry friend home. But perhaps you’re feeling a bit nervous as well, and that’s completely normal.
You might be wondering how you can make the transition as smooth as possible for your new dog. Perhaps you’re unsure about the equipment you need and what you should do to ensure your house is ready. Or maybe you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to prepare other household members for the new arrival.
If you’re adopting a rescue dog, keep reading for all the information you need to help you and your pup get off to the best start in your new lives together.
Want to brush up on your responsibilities as a dog owner? Read our blog and get dog care right.
What to buy
There’s a lot of equipment you need to get before bringing a rescue dog home to ensure they are safe, comfortable and well-looked-after.
- Food – Do some research and find out which is the best type of food for your dog’s breed, size and age.
- Food and water bowls – Non-slip bowls are great as they help to prevent mess and are easy for your dog to eat from.
- Bedding – Your dog will need somewhere soft and cosy to snuggle up and sleep. Choose a comfy bed that’s big enough for them to stretch out in.
- Collar – Select a comfy collar for your dog and add their name and your contact details to an identity tag.
- Dog lead and poo bags – Soon enough, you’ll be heading out for walks with your new pup, and for this, you’ll need a sturdy lead and of course, poo bags! You may also want to consider buying a harness to make walking more comfortable for you both.
- Toys – Select a variety of toys that will keep your dog entertained and mentally stimulated. Think ahead and ask the rescue centre if your new pup has a favourite.
- Grooming equipment – Buy a brush for keeping your dog’s coat in tip-top condition. You should also get some special dog shampoo for those inevitable messy moments!
Preparing your home for a rescue dog
One of your responsibilities as a dog owner is to provide a suitable environment where your pup will feel safe and comfortable. You’ll probably have had somebody from the rescue centre visit your home to make sure it’s suitable for your new dog in the lead up to adoption, but there are still a few things you need to do to get your house rescue dog ready.
First of all, you should make sure your home and garden are hazard free and safe for your new dog. Dogs like to investigate and explore new surroundings, and most have a huge appetite for anything they can get their paws on – whether it’s dangerous or not! This is why you should take care not to leave harmful substances, plants or foods within reach. Ensure your property is secure too, to stop your pooch wandering off and reduce the risk of theft.
You need to provide a quiet area where your dog can rest and enjoy some peace and quiet. Place a cosy and soft dog bed somewhere in the house that is quiet and doesn’t get a lot of footfall. Make sure it’s warm and doesn’t get a draught.
Introducing your rescue dog to other members of your household
An important part of preparing your home for the arrival of your new rescue dog is getting your other pets ready to meet their new housemate.
A great way to familiarise everyone before the big day is swapping scents. Take some bedding or a blanket with all the scents of your household pets on it and leave it with your rescue dog at the shelter. Repeat this, but the other way around, so that your pets at home can get used to their new friend. Remember, you will need to ensure that there is enough equipment, like bedding and toys, to go around once your rescue dog arrives.
If you have children, you should prepare them ahead of the adoption too. This is all part of making your home safe and suitable for your new dog. Children behave differently to adults. They can be noisy, energetic and somewhat unpredictable. If they don’t know how to act around dogs, your new arrival might feel fearful and uneasy.
Here are some quick tips for helping your child to interact safely with your rescue dog:
- Teach your child to be respectful of your dog. Make it clear that climbing, pulling and prodding is off-limits.
- Show your child how to pet your dog safely. Demonstrate gentle strokes in the direction of the fur, and always watch out for signs that your pup is unhappy.
- If your dog is asleep, eating or playing with their favourite toy, teach children not to approach them.
- Remember, never leave children alone unsupervised with your rescue dog.
Making your rescue dog feel comfortable
So what do you do when you first bring a rescue dog home? It might be tempting to embrace them with lots of fuss, love and attention, but this will probably be overwhelming for a rescue dog. Try to give them some space to sniff around their new surroundings, and if they want to rest, show them their quiet space and let them settle down.
Even if your dog is house trained, you will still need to show them where to go to the toilet. It is quite common for there to be a few accidents in the first days and weeks, so remember not to get impatient. Show your dog where you would like them to go to the toilet and when they do so, give them lots of praise. Take your dog to this spot at set times throughout the day, which should help to establish their new toilet routine.
Keeping your rescue dog healthy
Rescue centres will only try to find a dog a new family once they’re healthy, fit and rehabilitated. But when you adopt a rescue dog, it becomes your responsibility to maintain their health and protect them from disease.
First thing’s first, you need to find a vet. Dogs need to receive regular check-ups and vaccinations to keep them in tip-top condition. They also need to be dewormed and deflead on a regular basis. You can buy treatments to administer at home; you won’t always need to buy products from the vet, but they can certainly advise you on the best treatments to use.
Of course there’s always a chance that your dog will become sick or injured, resulting in the need for treatment. Veterinary treatment tends to be extremely expensive, and many dog owners are unable to afford vet bills when they pile up. In fact, this is one of the top reasons why dogs are abandoned in the first place. We recommend you insure your pet, and at the very least, factor in healthcare costs before you adopt a rescue dog.
Thinking about dog training
Training can help to build a relationship between you and your dog, and can lay the foundations of a wonderful life together moving forward. It’s one of the most important aspects of adopting a rescue dog, because it helps them feel safe, happy, and crucially, understood. Training will help your new furry friend adapt to their adopted family and environment, and it will help both you and your pet to understand each other’s body language and cues.
Part of preparing for a rescue dog is realising that you will need to dedicate time to training. Consistency is key, and you need to make sure other members of your household are also on board. Give your rescue dog time to settle into their new home before embarking on any serious training activities, but be sure to set boundaries from the beginning.
If you’re adopting an older dog, they will likely have received some training before, but you will still need to refresh their memory and set out your own expectations. Some rescue dogs develop behavioural issues that have either been ignored by previous owners or triggered by past events, so you will need to work hard to address these.
Dog training can and should be great fun; it should never be stressful or frustrating. Reward good behaviour with treats, toys and lots of praise. Be sure to stay committed to training, and recognise problems when they occur. Never be afraid to ask for professional help if you and your dog are struggling.
Read a specialist dog trainer’s top tips to help avoid returning your dog to a dog rescue centre.
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