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Congratulations! You’ve adopted a dog! Your life is about to be enriched in ways you’ve never dreamed possible. So… now what? Bringing your new dog home is such an exciting experience, but it can be a bit daunting as well, especially if you’ve never shared your home with a furry companion. Here are some tips to get your relationship off on the right foot or paw.

1. Be prepared: Before you adopt your dog, know which training method you’re going to use  and read up on it so you can enforce the method from day one. Decide whether you plan to kennel train your dog. Many adopted dogs are already kennel trained. Research nutrition in advance and decide which food you’ll feed your dog and how many times a day he’ll eat (usually once or twice).

2. Be flexible: While it’s good to be prepared, remember that your new dog is a living being with a mind of his own, and he may well express preferences that may foil your plants. If the sleeping arrangements you’ve laid out just don’t work for him, you may have to shuffle things around a bit. Maintain a good sense of humor and try not to get exasperated. The transition period won’t last forever. Take it slow: get your routine set that works for both of you, introduce new people, pets and places after you’ve had a chance to bond with your pet over the first week or two. Soon you will have a well-established routine.

3. Shop for the basics: You’ll need a leash, collar, a bed or kennel, food and water dishes and, of course, food! It’s a good idea to have these items in place even before you bring your new dog home. One other thing to buy right away: an ID tag! Put the tag on your dog immediately—we can’t stress that enough. If you plan on crate-training, it’s best to take your dog with you when you shop for the crate so you can find the correct size.

4. Make sure all family members are on board: Set some ground rules and make sure everyone in the family agrees to follow and enforce them. Also, if caring for your dog will be a family effort, be certain everyone understands and agrees to their particular roles and responsibilities.

5. Help your new pal adjust: Over the first few days to few weeks, your new dog will be going through an adjustment period. You may notice some symptoms of anxiety. Your dog may even hide under or behind furniture or stay in one particular room for a few days. Don’t be alarmed—this is absolutely normal behavior. By showing your new friend patience and understanding, you’ll be helping him through a tough, scary time and showing him how wonderful his new home really is!

6. Establish a schedule of feeding and walking and be consistent: Try to walk him and feed him at the same times each day. A reliable routine is an important tool in successfully integrating your new dog into your family and helping him feel secure.

7. Set aside time to bond: Spend some quiet time with your dog each day, petting him gently and speaking in a soothing voice. Touch is an incredibly powerful method of communication, one that is almost impossible to misunderstand. Show your dog he’s safe and loved, and your relationship will get off to a great start.

8. Everyone needs time alone: Your dog is no exception! Give him time every day to be alone and to explore his new surroundings. Observe from a distance to make sure he’s safe, but not close enough to intrude on his “me” time.

9. Vet Care: Schedule a first visit to your dog’s new veterinarian during the first week (or immediately upon adoption if you have other pets at home or suspect your new pup might be ill). Bring any and all medical and vaccine records supplied by the shelter or rescue from which you adopted your dog. Many veterinarians will even provide a free first checkup to folks who adopt a pet! Also, have your dog microchipped right away (if he’s not already), so you can be reunited if (gasp!) you ever get separated. True love is hard to replace!

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