Education Center

When You Take A Dog Home: caring for your new dog or puppy

Learn how to care for your dog by finding out about:

• Choosing appropriate supplies and toys

• Feeding, veterinary, and grooming needs

• Making a smooth adjustment

Welcome to parenthood! You’ve added an important new member to your household. To make the adjustment as smooth as possible for you both, please take a few minutes to review these “dog care basics” which will help you in the next few weeks.

First you’ll need to have a few supplies on hand as you introduce your dog into your home:

  • sturdy, tip-proof food and water bowls (for each pet in your family)
  • high-quality dry dog food
  • at least two safe toys: one soft toy to tug and wrestle with and one hard rubber toy to chew
  • a brush or comb appropriate for your dog’s coat
  • a lightweight nylon collar and leash

I want my dog to feel at home.

The first few days in a new home can be very stressful for a dog. Don’t push. Help your dog feel at home keeping Lucky’s needs in mind.

Don’t overwhelm Lucky with too many new people in a new home. Ask most visitors to wait a day or so before meeting your new family member, and isolate Lucky in a quiet room if you do have people over.

Petting and playing are important, but don’t wear the dog out. Respect the need for rest and privacy. This is especially hard to enforce with young children around. However, it’s a nice idea to have “quiet time” together in the same room; the dog will have a chance to soak up your home’s sounds and smells in a calm atmosphere.

To boost your dog’s self-confidence, specify a comfortable, private place that is just for Lucky. A nest made of a soft towel or blanket will help Lucky relax and feel good about your home. When things get hectic or stressful, add a worn shirt or pillow case from the dirty laundry hamper so that your familiar smell will help your dog feel safe. You can also use that place as a “time-out” zone when Lucky is underfoot or overly excited.

Routine is important to dogs; they need to know what to expect. Decide on a schedule for Lucky’s needs and who will be responsible for feeding, bathroom duty, exercise, and grooming. Make sure every task is done on schedule.

I want my dog to have good manners.

Your dog naturally seeks a loving leader who will provide the same guidance and lessons as a mother dog. Now you’re the mom and the “pack leader”! You can begin teaching Lucky some basic manners, remembering these important guidelines:

  • Be positive.
  • Be patient
  • Be consistent
  • Be a leader; stick to the rules you make.


Be attentive. Keep Lucky’s mind and body interested and occupied. A bored dog is much more likely to be a problem child, destructive and antisocial.

Keep playtime in control. If Lucky becomes overly excited and jumps or bites, you should freeze and firmly say “NO!” Slowly and gently remove yourself from the situation. Ignore the dog for at least five minutes to allow Lucky to calm down.

If Lucky continues to nip (or growl, which is worse), be even more firm and increase the length of time-out to 15 to 20 minutes.

Don’t shout. It isn’t necessary and it’s frightening. Eye contact and a firm, deep voice are much more effective. This is dog-mom language!

Give your dog plenty of opportunities for wrestling and tugging with Lucky’s own soft toy. Don’t allow rough play with any other object. But if you play tug-of-war with those toys, make sure that you win the game in the end! Otherwise you may encourage aggressive behavior.

Teach Lucky from the very beginning what should and should not be picked up. Whenever anything inappropriate is in Lucky’s mouth, remove it with a firm “Drop it!” Immediately, and with great enthusiasm, offer Lucky a toy that is allowed in dog mouths!

Don’t confuse your dog by offering old shoes or socks as toys. How can Lucky tell a good shoe from one that is worn out and ready for a dog? Take responsibility for all of your belongings – if you don’t want it in Lucky’s mouth, don’t leave it on the floor!

Discourage Lucky from jumping up on people by insisting that all members of the household follow the same important rule: don’t pay any attention to Lucky unless all four feet are on the ground.

Spend time with Lucky to help your dog learn about manners in the people-world. The more time dogs spend alone, especially outside, the harder it is for them to understand and remember the rules. Dogs want to be with their leader – that’s you!

Enroll in an obedience class. The social experience with strangers and with other dogs is as important as the vital training you will both receive.

I want my dog to be housetrained.

Routine is the key to successfully housetraining a dog. By carefully following a schedule of feeding, exercise, and “bathroom” opportunities, you can help Lucky learn the correct time and place for elimination.

An adopted adult dog may have had some previous housetraining, but he will need an “refresher course” in his new home. Help him succeed!

Punishment is not effective for housetraining a dog. Don’t rub Lucky’s nose in it, and certainly don’t hit! Show your dog where to go and always praise your dog for eliminating in the right place. Until Lucky gets the idea, you may want to confine your dog between outings in a “safe zone” (a restricted area) when you can’t supervise.

When you walk Lucky to the designated “bathroom” area outside, use your chosen “bathroom” word (“hurry up”, “go potty”, etc.) so your dog knows why you’re outside: this is not playtime.

Be sure to praise immediately when Lucky eliminates so that the dog makes the connection between praise, place, and action.

Take your dog outside for elimination in the morning, 20-30 minutes after a meal, after heavy play, and just before bedtime. It won’t take long for a dog or older puppy to learn the schedule.(See pamphlets on puppy training and crate training for more details.)

I don’t want to live with a dirty dog.

Dogs don’t have to be dirty. Grooming is part of your responsibility to your pet. After all, you’re the one with fingers. But it doesn’t have to be a nasty job; it’s a great opportunity for regular hands-on loving.

Groom Lucky regularly. Long or wiry coats may need daily attention to avoid painful mats, and even short-haired dogs need a weekly brushing or combing. Include a quick inspection of ears and mouth, and nail care. Your dog needs to become accustomed to being handled. Help Lucky think of grooming as an excuse for extra attention and those sessions will be relaxing quality time for you both. A grooming session doesn’t have to be a wrestling match!

Most dogs only need bathing once a month. Ask your veterinarian or groomer about your dog’s skin and hair type; this can make a big difference in how often Lucky should be bathed and what special needs you may need to consider. You may decide that a professional groomer can handle your situation more easily and safely.

Keeping some long-haired dogs coats cut short can help the dog stay cleaner (or at least easier to bathe if it does get dirty). Ask a groomer if this could be right for your dog.

Fleas and ticks are part of living with pets, but they don’t have to be a threat to you or to Lucky if you take the proper precautions. Parasites can make your dog very ill: they irritate the skin, spread disease and tapeworms, and can lower Lucky’s resistance to disease.

Part your dog’s hair with your fingers and look for signs of fleas: tiny, comma-shaped black droppings. You may even see moving fleas. If you find any of these signals, you need to take action to protect your pet.

So treat your home with sprays, powders, or foggers – ask you veterinarian before using any product on or around your pet. Vacuum your floors and upholstery often and thoroughly. Treat the yard with products designed for outdoor use. Use a flea comb as part of your grooming sessions, and protect Lucky with safe, high-quality products. Be a label-reader – they will tell you how to use the products safely and what products can be used together.

I want my dog to be safe and healthy.

Lucky can live a long, safe life if you use common sense. Pay attention to your dog’s everyday needs and see your veterinarian regularly.

Lucky should visit the veterinarian annually for a check-up and vaccinations. An unvaccinated dog is vulnerable to viruses which attack the immune system and leave the dog weakened and sick. Many of these viruses can be fatal. All of these vaccinations must be repeated every year.

Protect Lucky against distemper, parvovirus, and respiratory disease with the DHLP/P vaccination.

  • By state law, your dog must vaccinated against rabies by a licensed veterinarian.
  • You should ask your veterinarian about testing and preventative medication for heartworms.

Your veterinarian will also check your dog for any internal parasites – tapeworms, roundworms, etc. – and treat Lucky for any problems found during the exam (see SmartHeartsm pamphlet on dog health).

Don’t feed your dog table scraps, raw meat, bones, sweets, or cat food. Feed Lucky dry dog food containing a balanced diet. Don’t overfeed! Many adult dogs may only need one meal a day; ask your veterinarian how much food Lucky needs. Scheduled meals help you know that the food is always fresh and will also help with housetraining.

Keep fresh water available at all times. Make a habit of emptying, rinsing, and refilling Lucky’s water bowl(s) daily. During warmer weather, you may want to add an extra bowl for a larger dog or in a home with more than one pet.

If Lucky spends any time outside without you (in a fenced area, of course), your dog needs access to shelter from wind, rain, sun, cold, and extreme heat. Remember: the sun moves during the day, so a spot that is shady in the morning may give no protection by afternoon.

Have Lucky spayed or neutered as soon as your veterinarian will perform the surgery, usually when the dog is between 6 and 8 months old. A spayed or neutered dog will be healthier, better behaved, and will live longer.

Help Lucky get plenty of supervised exercise. Many dogs need much more activity than the usual “bathroom walks”; breeds vary in their exercise needs.. Don’t overdo it! Your dog is not built for long-range running. Ask your veterinarian how much exercise is appropriate for your dog.

An important note for the family who wants a happy, healthy dog:
While a pet in the family offers children a wonderful opportunity to learn about responsibility and caring, regular pet-care duties must be carefully supervised by an adult.

Children forget. The ultimate responsibility for Lucky’s care and safety is that of the adults in the household. Your dog is not a toy or a privilege to be used as a bargaining chip between parent and child.

The relationship between your dog and your child will be strengthened by your respect for Lucky’s needs and feelings. Teach by example that Lucky is an important family member, not a toy to be neglected and tossed away when no longer new. What better way to teach responsibility?

We hope that your dog will be a member of your family for many years. Good luck to you both!

This information is part of the Atlanta Humane Society’s SmartHeart Educational Series.

The AHS depends on friends to provide funding for our services and programs of animal aid, support for individuals with animal related problems, and community animal issues.

The Atlanta Humane Society and Society For Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals, Inc. is a private nonprofit organization for the purpose of preventing cruelty, relieving suffering, and providing humane treatment of animals. The Society’s mission is to eliminate causes of animal suffering with an emphasis on education and the human/animal bond.