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February 2024

First Dog Checklist

Puppy CareCare

Adopting A Dog
So, you’re ready for a furry addition to your family? Adopting a dog in need of a loving home is a great first step, but have you considered what you might need to keep your canine companion feeling safe, stimulated, and comfortable in their new home?

We don’t want to see these dogs going back in and out of the shelter system, so it’s important everyone in the family is fully committed to caring for their new dog and understand that they will need a lot of patience, understanding, be prepared for hard work, and long-term commitment to putting the dog’s needs first in many instances.

If you’re still a little unsure of your next step, try our dog adoption checklist as a guide to help you prepare everything you’ll need before and after you bring your dog home.

Before You Get A Dog Checklist

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Like you should do with any pet, research the breed or breeds you are considering, determining if you can meet their specific needs. Some things to consider are the levels of daily exercise required, food and diet, common health issues, training, other pets in the home, even the amount of daily human contact and company that specific breeds tend to need to see if the breed would fit in with you, your family and lifestyle.

Shelter and housing
Make sure you have made our home dog-safe, inside and out. This includes putting away, or moving out of reach any exposed cables, chemicals, poisonous plants, or other potentially dangerous things they can chew indoors.

Outside you should check for any holes in or around fences, including pool fencing, and for things they could climb up, on and over to escape. A scared or anxious dog will go to any length to get away, and some breeds can scale a 6-foot fence! If you are in an apartment and have a balcony, please keep this in mind! Work out where your dog is going to sleep, this should be a safe space where they take themselves to if they are feeling a bit overwhelmed. Ideally this will be inside the home in an area that is warm.

Their sleeping area should be a positive place, not somewhere they are banished to for unwanted behaviour, or locked in at night with a door closed, as that might increase any pre-existing anxiety. If you do want to have your dog sleep in a room like the laundry, consider using a baby gate so they can still feel part of the family, rather than feeling completely isolated. Helping dogs with anxiety feel settled and safe can go a long way to making both your lives so much easier!

Feeding requirements
There are many varieties of food available to cater to your dog’s needs. From breed specific dog food, to raw diets, it’s important to do your research and select the diet that will be most beneficial for your dog’s needs, and your financial situation. However, before committing to any diet, it is important to consult your vet for more tailored advice.

For more tips on how to prepare your home for your new family member, click here.

After You Get A Dog Checklist

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Allow time for your dog to adjust to their surroundings
Ensure children keep calm and quiet while your dog adjusts to their new environment. Give them plenty of space, don’t force interactions, and allow your dog to interact in their own time. When interacting with your dog, it’s best to avoid coming over the top to pat them.

Children and people who are unfamiliar to your dog should always pat their leg to invite your dog to come over to them. Lara Shannon, certified dog behaviourist and trainer, advises against “putting your hand out to a dog or patting them from under the chin rather than over the top of their head as an anxious dog may see this as a threat and take nip”.

When introducing other dogs in the home, it should be done in a controlled environment with plenty of space between them. A neutral territory can be helpful for first encounters. Cats should be kept separate in another room for a few days. This will allow both pets to get used to each other’s smells and sounds from under a door. For the first month or so, keep interactions on a lead and ensure there is a space high up for the cat to escape to if it becomes too much for them.

“Use treats or other rewards to help create a positive association with the new home, family members, and other pets rewarding calm behaviour and good interactions. Never force animals to interact,” suggests Lara Shannon.

Worming and flea protection
It’s important to consider what type of worming and flea treatment will work best for your pet to keep them safe from any unwanted nasties which might impact their health and wellbeing. With many types of protection available, there are plenty of options to suit your lifestyle and your budget, including tablets, chews, spot-on treatments and collars.

Dogs are at risk of a number of serious diseases including parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis, among others. These diseases are debilitating, and, in some cases, can be fatal, so vaccinating against them is vital to the health of your pet.

Your dog should have been vaccinated as a puppy, so yearly boosters should be sufficient. However, if there are any doubts about your dog’s vaccination status, an immediate course of two injections, four weeks apart is required to be administered by your vet.

Obedience And Behavioural Training

In some instances, you mightn’t always have a clear history of your rescue dog, including their training or behavioural background. So, it’s important to be aware and prepared to go back to basics when beginning to integrate your new furry friend into your life, including their new training routine.

Some dogs may have existing behavioural challenges, including aggression and anxiety. For dogs that might be suffering anxiety, focus on Independence Training, which involves increasing increments of time away from the home. Many dogs, adopted or not, don’t cope well with being alone all day. So, it might be beneficial to consider hiring a dog walker, enrolling in doggy day care, or having a family member or close friend over to help.

Looking for more rescue dog training tips and advice? See our interview with dog trainer and behaviourist Lara Shannon here.

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