This year, National Dog Day falls at the beginning of the 2021 Clear the Shelters initiative, making it the perfect time to adopt a canine companion. On August 26, National Dog Day celebrates all dogs and raises awareness about adoption and rescue. In addition, Clear the Shelters is a nationwide animal adoption extravaganza that has helped more than 551,000 pets find their forever homes just since 2015. This year, the Clear the Shelters initiative runs from August 23 through September 19. In honor of both of these occasions, we’ve pulled together some tips from the experts at Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC) — and from puppy Earl himself — to help you introduce a new pup into your home.
Pup-Proof Your Space
Whether you’re adopting a puppy or an older dog, you’ll need to take a look at your space and make sure it’s safe for them to explore. Make sure things like cleaning supplies are secure and out of reach, put away anything that a teething or mischievous pup would be tempted to chew on, and store food out of reach. Consider having puzzle feeders, durable chews, or Kong-type toys on hand to engage them!
“Dogs are natural scavengers and chewers — shredders and rippers! When bringing a new dog or puppy home, one of the best ways to prepare is to ensure that you have appropriate outlets for them to perform their natural behavior, expend energy, and provide for their mental and physical wellbeing while in the home.” — ACC
Give Them Time
Once your space is set, know that your pup may need time to decompress and get used to their new surroundings. Whether they were in a foster home, living on the streets, or residing in a shelter, your home is going to be a very different experience from their previous residence. Give them time to get acclimated, and know that behaviors they may be displaying during this adjustment period may not be representative of their personality. Once they get to know you and their new space, they’ll begin to be their truest selves.
“When you bring a new pet into your home, regardless of their behavior or personality, they will need some period of decompression before they are fully comfortable. During this time they may be particularly fearful, anxious, or may have accidents in your home. The most important thing to remember is that this is normal! Think about arriving into somebody’s home to stay with them; you don’t know where anything is, you might be uncomfortable, anxious, and depending on the type of person you are, perhaps want to be left alone. This is exactly how your new pet will be feeling, but they are not able to say it to you.” — ACC
Set Boundaries Immediately
While it may seem too early to begin training, setting boundaries and teaching your dog the “house rules” as soon as possible will set them up for success. It may be tempting to feed them pet-safe food from your plate or let them jump up when greeting you, but this will only reinforce behaviors that you may not want them to engage in long-term.
Think about what boundaries you’d like to set — Is jumping acceptable in greetings? Will they sleep in a crate, doggy bed, or with you? Will you allow them to eat pet-safe human food? — and begin setting those boundaries immediately by gently redirected unwanted behaviors and rewarding positive ones. This ensures you won’t send mixed messages to them and sets them up to be the best-mannered pup you could ask for.
“The main thing to remember is not to punish your dog for unwanted behavior! This can create negative associations for your dog and cause additional behavioral problems. Instead, ignore unwanted behaviors (jumping, barking, etc.) and reward desirable behaviors (calm behavior, eye contact, etc.). This way, if you get the timing wrong, all that happens is your dog gets a few extra treats, and any one-on-one sessions will cultivate a stronger bond between you and your dog.” — ACC
Take the Next Step
Ready to take the plunge and find a forever friend? Contact your local shelter, reach out to rescue groups in your area, or visit Adopt-a-Pet or Petfinder to find your new loyal companion. Can’t commit to a new dog in your life right now? You can still support the Clear the Shelters initiative by donating to the 2021 Clear the Shelters Fund!
Looking for more tips to best care for your new canine companion? Check out all of ACC’s dog behavior resources!