A New Dog in the Family: Getting Ready

by Mary Jane Checchi

You've done it, or you're getting read to. You've decided to adopt a dog. Maybe you've already found the right one for you, and are making plans to bring him or her home.

Bringing a new dog into the family is stressful for all concerned - adopters and adoptees alike. Here are some tips to ease those stressful first few days, and to start you on your way to a long and beautiful friendship.

Before you bring your newest addition home:

  1. Decide where your pet will sleep, and arrange some bedding - an old blanket or scrap of carpet will be fine.

  2. If your dog will have use of a yard, make certain that it is securely fenced.

  3. Select a vet. You can find a local veterinary hospital accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association by calling 1-800-252-2242 or by visiting www.healthypet.com. It's also helpful to ask for recommendations from animal shelter employees, rescue league volunteers, trainers or other dog owners.

    Take time to meet the veterinarian and tour the facility, to determine whether you feel comfortable with both. Is the veterinarian willing to answer questions? Is the facility clean? Check the clinic's fees, payment policies and office hours; weekend and evening office hours can be a great convenience. Location can also be a factor: a long drive or a frustrating hunt for a parking space is no fun when you have a sick or injured dog with you.

  4. Discuss and assign chores within the family: who is going to walk the dog, groom and feed him, keep the water bowl full? Write the schedule down, and post it on the refrigerator door.

    If you are single, take a few moments to plan how you will handle dog walking and other care.

  5. Buy and read a comprehensive book about dog care that will help you to understand canine needs and behavior, and that provides clear advice about dealing with emergencies and problems. Even if you have owned dogs before, you will probably find one of the new books helpful and interesting: it's amazing how much has been learned about canine behavior, and how many major advances in veterinary care have been made in the last decade alone.

    Two of my favorites:

    Lane, Marion S. and Staff of the Humane Society of the United States. Complete Guide to Dog Care. New York: Little, Brown, 1998.

    Kilcommons, Brian with Sarah Wilson. Good Owners, Great Dogs: A Training Manual for Humans and Their Canine Companions. New York: Warner Books, 1992.

  6. Buy a supply of dog food. I suggest that you get a recommendation from your vet, or from those who have been keeping the dog. Either maintain the diet, or gradually change it if change is recommended.

  7. Purchase equipment:
    • unbreakable food and water bowls
    • leash
    • collar
    • identification tag
    • poop scoop (or a supply of plastic bags)
    • comb or brush, nail clippers
    • toothbrush, toothpaste
    • toys (optional)
    • crate (optional)
    • dog bed (optional)
  8. If possible, bring your new friend home at a quiet time, such as at the beginning of a long weekend or at-home vacation.

Try not to bring him home during times of change, such as just after the birth or adoption of a child, at the beginning of the school year, or during the holidays. Your life will be anything but calm at such times, and it will be more difficult to establish and maintain a consistent pet care routine.