Your adopted dog is the newest member of your family. However, the key to a happy transition-for you, your family and your new dog-is preparation.
Before he makes his grand entrance, buy all the toys and equipment you'll need (such as collar and leash, bowls, brush and comb, and crate) and choose a nutritionally complete, age-appropriate dog food. You'll also need some no-odour spray for quick clean-ups.
If you're prepared, you can focus all your attention on easing his transition. Bear in mind that for your new dog, this change in his life - however exciting - will be somewhat stressful. Here are some early steps you can take to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Dog proof your home and immediately get him a license, identification tag, and have him micro-chipped. It's also a good idea to take a photo of him. The photo may come in handy in case you need to make a "dog missing" poster - and this can happen to even the most conscientious owner.
If you have children, they'll naturally want to play and pet their new dog. Be careful about this at first. Give your dog a place of his own - a crate for example - where no one will bother him; a place where he can relax and have time on his own. As he gets used to his surroundings, he'll begin to actively seek out contact with you and other members of your household.
Make sure everyone in the household knows what the house rules will be now that you've brought your dog home. For example, decide whether he'll be allowed on the couch, and stick to your rules at all times.
Your new adult dog will be happy for the chance to become part of your household, and giving him clear behaviour guidelines from the beginning helps him understand what's expected of him so he can settle more easily into your home. Most dogs take about a month or so to feel comfortable in a new home - establishing and following a routine are the best ways to make this happen.
A den of one's own
Find a warm place, and make it just for him. If you want to use a crate, set his bed up in it and leave the door open. You may want to buy a special, hard-vinyl dog bed. Baskets made from any material can be used for older dogs that have no chewing issues. Some dogs love crates, some don't. Some will even search around and "choose" where they want their den, like in the bathroom or a nook in the kitchen.
When he first comes home, he may run around exploring and sniffing, he may cry and paw at things, or he may even flop down and settle in for a good long nap. Whatever he does, have things ready for him so that he begins to get the idea that your home is his new home, and along with the deal comes some great stuff - and it's just for him!
Show him his food and water bowl, his toys, his bed, his crate, and anything else you've prepared for him. Find out what he was fed in the shelter. It's best to maintain the same diet for a few days at least, before gradually transitioning him to the diet you've chosen.
If he's having a hard time and feels disoriented, things like toys and his own den may soothe him. If possible, bring something of his from the shelter. Something with a familiar scent will comfort him during his first night.
If you live outside the city, a doghouse may be a good idea. The house should be about double the width of the adult, fully-grown dog. As far as doghouses go, bigger is not better. To keep him warm, the house needs to be small enough to trap his body heat. It should be large enough for him to comfortably stand up, lie down, and turn around.
It's very important that it's dry and raised from the ground. Ideally the roof or one of the sides should be hinged to allow easy cleaning. And the house should also be sheltered from the wind. Try placing a heavy flap over the entrance; it'll keep him even warmer.
Put down some clean, fresh-smelling hay or straw as his bedding (about five inches thick) and replace it when it starts to smell musty. Don't line a dog's house with blankets and quilts as they trap moisture and can give your dog a chill. Check to see if your area has laws in effect that regulate the dimensions of a doghouse.
As time goes on
When he first comes home, don't worry if you don't have everything and the kitchen sink set up for him. As he gets used to things, as you begin to know him, and as you gain more knowledge about dogs, you'll know what you still need to purchase to keep him healthy and happy. Much observation and trial-and-error are in order.
Soon you'll know what kind of toys he prefers (both for inside and outside play), what treats he adores, if he'll sleep in his carefully purchased bed or beside it; if he has the occasional accident.
You may find that even though he seems to have a lush coat, he still shivers and needs to wear a dog sweater. Or that he refuses to wear doggie boots and needs a special pad cream to protect his tender tootsies from the ice and salt in the winter months. Every day, you'll enjoy the discoveries you'll make together.
Welcoming an adult dog into your home takes some time and patience, but it's well worth it. If you're careful about choosing your dog, he'll make a great addition to your family for many happy years to come.