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You have decided to adopt one of the millions of dogs waiting for a home. The big concern now is how to get ready for your new arrival. Here are some tips to make the transition more enjoyable.
1. Get Your Home Ready. Dog-proofing your home is important and can be life-saving. This includes making sure that there are no toxins such as rat poison, slug bait or antifreeze accessible to your new dog. Make sure trash is secure. Pick up clothing and small toys or other objects that may be accidentally ingested by the new dog. Hide exposed electrical wires to prevent injury commonly caused by chewing on the cords. Ensure other dangers are stowed way such as medications, poisonous plants and ashtrays. Check your fencing – is it secure? Are there any places your new dog could get through?
2. Get Your Supplies. Make a list of things you need for your new dog. Bedding, food and water dishes, food (check what he has been eating to start with), treats, crate, safe toys, toothbrush and paste, leash, collar, grooming supplies, and any pet-specific cleaners.
3. Plan for the “What If”. Prepare your medicine cabinet for an emergency. Make a first aid kit. You never know when an emergency may happen. Items should include emergency veterinary phone numbers, tweezers, gloves, gauze, tape, thermometer, hydrogen peroxide, sterile eye wash, antiseptic and antibiotic ointment. Mediations that are beneficial to have on hand include diphenyhydramine (Benadryl®), hydrogen peroxide and aspirin. Only use medication as recommended by a veterinarian. Keep this emergency kit with your other emergency items.
4. Plan the Right Time. Make sure you have time to spend with your dog when he first arrives at your home. Friday is often a good day to bring your pet home – the two of you have the entire weekend to get to know each other.
5. Have a Family Discussion. Discuss how the dog will be cared for, trained and develop general “House Rules.” Care includes feeding, grooming, exercising and walking. When will this be done? Who will do it? Training is a very important issue to discuss as a family. The MOST important aspect of training is consistency. What are the house rules for your dog? It is best to decide as a group upfront. Consider discussing the following questions: What and when is the dog fed? Where does he sleep? Does he get treats – if so what? Will you go to dog school or training class with your dog?
6. Get His History. When you pick your new dog, obtain as much history as you can. This will come in use later if problems arise and to know what he needs. Ask questions that include:
- How long the dog has been at the shelter?
- Where did she/he come from?
- Birthdate if known or approximate age.
- How big were the parents and is anything known about them?
- Has he had any vaccinations?
- When is the next set of vaccines due?
- Has he had any medical problems?
- Is he on any medications?
- Has he been tested for worms?
- Has he been treated for worms?
- Will another dose be needed?
- Has he been tested for heartworms?
- Is he on heartworm preventative?
- Has he been microchipped? If so, get the paperwork so you can register him.
- Has your dog had fleas or been treated for fleas?
- What is the guarantee? Many agencies provide a 1 to 2 week guarantee against illness or problems.
- Is there a mandatory vet check up within a certain time frame?
- What has she/he been eating? You may want to ask for a sample or buy a bag of that food. Many dogs get diarrhea from an abrupt change. There is enough changing in this dogs environment that it is worth avoiding a food change as well. Gradually mix in you diet of choice and “wean” the dog over to the new food after being adjusted to your home in a couple days.7. Home. Spend quality time with him. Make sure you place a leash and collar on him. Leash walks only for a couple days. Don’t let your dog run unrestricted. Notice appetite, urinations, and bowel movement for abnormalities. Call your veterinarian if you have concerns.8. Dog Introductions. Slowly and carefully introduce him to your other dogs. Let them smell each other under the door. Gradually, let them see each other from the door crack and eventually let them meet. Do this supervised.9. See Your Veterinarian. Follow-up within the next week for a checkup and anything else your dog needs. Depending on the area of the country in which you live, heartworm prevention is generally recommended year round. Ensure your dog is tested and place him on this monthly preventative. Some new monthly heartworm mediations are combined with preventive flea medications. Follow-up with any needed vaccines and deworming. Strongly consider microchipping if your dog is not already chipped.
10. Train, Train, Train. Dogs especially like to learn and understand what is expecting of them. You may not want a dog that can do tricks but at the minimum training to “come,” “leave it,” “stay” has saved many lives. Sign up for classes at your local shelter or veterinary hospital.