Congratulations on adopting your dog! You may find that it feels a little overwhelming at times but I guarantee it’s totally worth it! This article will help you help your dog settle in and decompress.

Decompression time is vital for your dog who is very likely feeling overwhelmed right now. This is all new to your dog and he/she is likely feeling a lot of different emotions like scared, unsure of where he/she is and what is happening. There are tons of new smells and sounds to process. Maybe even the food is different. Imagine if you moved to a foreign place where you knew no one and didn’t speak the language. That’s sort of how your new family member is feeling right now.

You may not see any of this because this first week is also a “honeymoon” phase. Your dog is on their best behavior because they don’t yet feel comfortable enough yet to show their true personality. That will come out in time but right now your dog is trying really hard not to put a paw wrong. Your dog may not seem hungry or thirsty and may just want to hide in a small corner.

The #1 thing to remember when you first bring home your adopted dog is to let him decompress and acclimate to the new environment.

Adopting a dog is exciting and you want your new pup to meet all your friends and see lots of fun places which are terrific goals – for later. This is a huge adjustment for both of you. From your dog’s perspective, getting adopted can be stressful and even frightening. He doesn’t really know you, your house is full of smells and sounds he doesn’t recognize and he is likely afraid that this is just another temporary stopover rather than his forever family home. Peace and quiet is your best friend in the first week or two. You will have your dog a long time so take time at the beginning to allow both of you to adjust.

Here are ways to support your dog to settle into her new home:

Create a safe place for your dog to rest and relax. This could be a crate if you are using one (if your dog is not familiar with using a crate, you will need to “crate train” him before expecting him to use it). I recommend creating a “sacred space” to my dog training clients. If you’re not using a crate, then a dog bed in a corner is good or even in another room that is blocked off from children and other pets by a baby gate.

What will make this a safe place for your dog is the knowledge that he won’t be bothered in this space. It’s a place he can go to decompress when feeling overwhelmed and you and other family members will give him time to rest and regroup. Let your dog know this is his spot by tossing a couple of treats there and putting his toys or a blanket with the bed. Make it a desirable place for him to hang out. Your dog will learn that he can retreat to this spot (or his crate) for quiet time.

The benefits of this space are twofold. It helps your new dog feel safe and secure in an unfamiliar place while he acclimates to the sounds and smells of his new home and it allows him to see what is going on with the human and other animal members of his new family without active interactions that could be overwhelming in the beginning. At first, your new dog may feel anxious about all the goings-on of his new family. Allow him to be with you without interacting directly with you until he is ready to happily join in.

Observe your dog closely so you can see this change in his demeanor take place. It’s exciting and rewarding to see your new dog relax and settle in when you allow him to do so at his own pace.

Block off areas of your house you don’t want your dog to go. This could be the kitchen or the kids’ rooms. The easiest way to do this is with a baby gate. If your dog sits at the gate and whines/cries, toss a blanket over it to obscure the view and distract him with a chew or other toy. There are gates made specifically for larger dogs if a baby gate won’t suffice. Closed doors work as well although check on your dog more often if you can’t see him. This will also help keep your dog safe from accidentally hurting himself by chewing on electrical cords, eating makeup/socks/etc.

Dogs love routine (and studies show routines are also good for human well-being). Get your new dog on a feeding and walking schedule as soon as you can. Try to feed your dog at the same time in the morning and evening and walk him at the same times as well (although you can vary your routes).

Speaking of walks, your dog requires daily exercise to be healthy and well-adjusted. Most dogs require somewhere between 30-minutes to 2-hours of physical activity per day. The exact amount depends on your dog’s age, size, breed and overall health. Talk to your vet about what’s best for your new dog but you can start with two thirty-minute daily walks until that happens. You will be able to tell if your dog is exhausted by the end of each walk or raring to keep going and you can adjust your walk time and frequency from there.

There are actually two types of dog walks. They are human-led walks and dog-led walks. Human-led walks tend to be purposeful goal-oriented walks, such as a short walk before bed so your dog can potty or taking your dog along on your morning jog. Dog-led walks are more meandering strolls where your dog simply follows his nose. Dog-led walks provide important mental enrichment for your dog and are as important as walks purely for exercise. Additionally, walking your dog helps the two of you bond and allows him to get used to the sounds and smells of his new neighborhood.

ALWAYS supervise your new dog around children, other pets and anyone he doesn’t know until you are 100% certain of how your dog reacts in these situations. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to hold off on introducing your dog to friends until after he gets comfortable in his new home. Always introduce him to other dogs on neutral territory.

NEVER try to pet your dog when he is eating until you are 100% certain of how he will react. And, really, there will likely never be a good reason to pet your dog during meal times.

You may have dreamed of sharing your bed or couch with your dog, hold off on this decision until you know your dog better (and he knows you better). There is plenty of time for couch snuggles down the road, for now, give your dog space. No matter what you decide later about allowing your dog in your bed, NEVER let dogs sleep with young children. Dogs have a well-developed startle response when they are sleeping and young children tend to be very active sleepers which is a recipe for disaster.

REMEMBER, Every dog is an individual and it can take a few weeks to a few months for a dog to fully settle into a new home environment. Whatever works for your dog is what’s right. Time and patience are your friends at this early stage.

While you are letting your dog settle in, you can entertain yourself by learning about dog body language which will help you tremendously to understand and work with your dog as his personality emerges and he becomes more integrated into your life. Download our full ebook on welcoming your adopted dog into your home for more in depth information and links to additional resources.