Adopting A Dog? Here Are Some Helpful Tips.

So, you’ve made the decision to adopt a dog from a shelter, which is amazing because not only are you going to be each other’s companion for a long time, you’ve just saved that dog’s life and also, freed up room in a shelter for another dog to be rescued.

However, bringing a dog home can be challenging for both your family and your new buddy. Dogs might be confused with the sudden change in environment and overwhelmed by new experiences.

Especially now with more of us working from home due to arrangements arising from COVID-19, many more are given the opportunity to foster or adopt dogs.

This trend is not only apparent in Singapore, but overseas as well. In Florida, the Palm Beach County animal shelter had always been packed with stray and abandoned dogs. However, in recent times – all of the animals have found new homes1. In Singapore, when COVID-19 first started to peak, there were reports on pet shelters being full as adoptions were dropped and adoption drives activities were put on hold indefinitely2. However, as time passed, the SPCA has seen a 10-fold increase in fostering requests ever since3.

Tips for bringing home an adopted dog

Two key factors that help your newly adopted dog make a successful adjustment to his or her new surroundings is preparation and a whole lot of patience.


Dog-proof your home beforehand 4

Determine the area where your dog would be spending most of its time at. Ensure to set up an area where your new best friend could be comfortable at5.

Dog proofing includes things such as taping loose electrical cords, storing household chemicals on high shelves6. Also, your dog should have access to its bed, food, water bowls and toys7.


Allow interactions to be gradual

Moving is stressful, and this is true for your dog as well. Interactions should be slow and gradual. First, allow some time for your new best friend to get used to the new environment. Your dog should be allowed to sniff around the areas that you have already dog-proofed beforehand. Though family members can understandably be excited with the new addition, try to avoid picking up or hugging your dog. The key is to avoid overwhelming your dog8. Instead, sit back and observe your new best friend to see how they react to noises and sights, you’ll be surprised how quickly you can pick up on certain triggers that could set your dog off. Allow your dog to come to you instead of approaching her all the time9.


Lead your dog on a home tour

The key is to set boundaries and limitations and the moment your new best friend enters your home for the first time is critical as it immediately establishes the ground rules in their minds10.  Areas to introduce includes your dog’s resting, feeding and toileting areas.

Small things to keep in mind includes not letting your dog enter the house before you. Instead, get your dog to sit or lie down as you open the door. Also, when touring the house, use a leash to keep your dog by your side. Spend a few minutes in each area before moving onto the next and ensuring that you go first before your dog do. Avoid granting your dog full access to your home to keep unwanted behaviours at bay.

Your dog might also be overwhelmed at this point of time hence, it would be good to limit interaction to body language or simple sounds like a finger snap to communicate or correct. The lesser stimulation, the better.


Establish a routine

This includes house training such as basic commands and loose-leash-walking. Other activities such as daily walks could be slowly added throughout the first week.

Creating a routine would then involve preparing a schedule for your dog11. For instance, walks soon after your dog wakes up and before mealtimes, or feeding their meals at set timings. During this period, it is also crucial to lay down the rules such as not allowing your dog on the couch or to beg at the kitchen table.


Schedule a vet visit that does not involve a procedure

The idea is to establish a positive mental association for your dog. It is quite common that a dog’s first visit to the vet usually involves a procedure such as getting its vaccine shots or getting its teeth scaled. It is no wonder that dogs get scared when they go to the vet. Instead, for your adopted dog’s first visit, schedule a trip down to the vet for an overall body check that does not involve a procedure12. Bring along some tasty treats or your dog’s favourite toy to create a pleasant and positive experience. If you’re travelling by car to the vet, you can also play some calming classical music during your journey to the vet.


Some additional tips would include being patient and understanding when easing your newly adopted dog into its new surroundings. When bringing your dog on walks, do take note of its body language to ensure that your dog is enjoying itself and not being afraid. Be patient, positive and reassuring when introducing and exposing your dog to new experiences. If there are any special items from its shelter, you can also bring it home to make this new environment more familiar for your dog.

At this point, dog shelters might have stopped processing such requests because of a manpower crunch13.  Adoption drives have also been cancelled to prevent gatherings14. However, there are some shelters such as Causes for Animals, Exclusively Mongrels and Friends of Seven who are holding online adoption drives via live stream on Facebook15.

Most importantly, remember that a pet is a lifetime commitment. Before deciding on whether to adopt or to get a new companion home, ensure that the decision is weighed carefully before proceeding.