Back in April, I got my dog Cleo. She's an adorable miniature pinscher and papillon mix with a feisty personality and a love of socks. I adopted her when she was four months old, when she appeared in my office. One of the executives at our company had adopted her, but planned to return her, because she didn't get along with his children. I immediately fell in love, and at the end of the week, I adopted her even though I pretty much had nothing ready to welcome a new dog into my home.
Now, just to be clear, I had been really starting to seriously think of adopting a dog. But when I met Cleo, I hadn't done any of the preparations. But sometimes, when you meet the dog of your dreams, you've just got to go for it. However, it is much, MUCH easier to welcome a new dog into your home if you do a little bit of preparing.
1. Puppy-proof your home.
This is the big one I wish I had done before Cleo came home. Because once you've got a small dog finding all the nooks and crannies of your house that are filled with trash and treasures they immediately want to eat, keeping them away from it is difficult. Consider the size of your dog as you prepare your home. Small dogs can get into and under some of the furniture (including the bed). Larger dogs can reach the tops of tables, nightstands, and other places where you might've left something. Even if your dog isn't a puppy, being in a new place might cause them to get into stuff they shouldn't, so for the first month at least, try to keep your house even cleaner and more organized that you typically would.
Also, pay special attention to the kitchen and any cleaning supplies. Lots of foods that humans love — chocolate, onions, grapes — are NOT good for dogs. But dogs love sniffing and licking the kitchen floors for scraps. Do your best to keep this area as clean and spotless as possible. Also, make sure any chemicals and cleaning supplies are inaccessible to your dog. These things can sometimes smell good to a dog, so you wouldn't want them getting into that.
2. Invest in a crate.
If you are bringing home a new puppy, make everyone's life easier by investing in a crate for your new little ball of fur. Crates help create a comforting, den-like space for your dog. They also keep your dog confined when you're not able to supervise them. And probably most importantly, they can help enormously with potty training. For more information on crate training your pup, check out our guide here.
3. Prepare for potty training.
A new dog in your house almost always equals a mess at some point, so don't be surprised. Consider the area that your new dog will inhabit, because there will likely be an accident on the floor as your new dog adjusts. Stock up on cleaning supplies, and you might want to consider formulas specially made for pet messes, because they can help eliminate the smells that might make your pet want to go in the same spot.
Obviously, if you just got a new puppy, you'll need to potty train the sweet little thing. However, even an older dog in a new space might have some accidents while they try to get used to "going" where they're supposed to. During this early time, make sure to keep a consistent schedule with plenty of potty breaks, so your pup gets used to doing their business outside. Other supplies that might come in handy include puppy pads and a baby gate to limit the rooms your new pup has access to.
4. Stock up on dog food.
Obviously, your new furry friend will need to eat. We recommend talking to the people where you got your dog, because you'll probably want to start them off on the same food that they're used to. No need to change too many things at once. After that, if you want to change up their diet, do so slowly. Add a small amount of new food to their old food, then gradually transition the amounts until they're only eating their new food.
5. Find a vet.
With my new puppy, she almost immediately got sick. We relied on the shelter where we got her, and they pointed us to their vet. However, that vet is a little far from us and if we had done more research ahead of time, we might've made a different choice. Ask your friends who have pets and check online for recommendations, so the first time your pup needs a shot or gets sick, you're ready.
6. Go shopping.
Yep, the fun part! Obviously, your new pup will need some stuff. Make sure to pick up a bed, some toys, a leash, a harness, a collar, etc. Now, I know this may fall on dead ears and that's okay, but at first, try to limit yourself and not go too big too fast. Your dog may not like the first bed you pick out. It may take time to figure out what kinds of toys your dog prefers. It may work better to start with the essentials, because that will help teach you how to best spoil your dog. But we know that pet stores are SO fun, and we wouldn't blame you if you went a little nuts at the store.
7. Think about training.
Along with finding your pet the right food, you'll need to get plenty of treats. You'll want to reward your pup for all the good behaviors they show. Also, you may want to take a few training classes. Whether you've got a new puppy or an older dog, training classes can help establish your dominance and create a happy rapport with your new pup.
8. Have patience.
Possibly the most important preparation, just remember that welcoming a new family member always requires some adjustment. Don't get upset when it doesn't go perfectly at first. But if you stay consistent and positive, you and your new pup will probably live happily ever after!