Bringing Home a New Dog

Puppy pose
Photo Credit: -meryl- (CC)

By Dr. Angela Gaeto, DVM, of the Helen Woodward Animal Center community in San Diego County.

Welcoming a new puppy or dog into the family is an exciting time! When you bring your new friend home, you want to make sure she adjusts well to her new surroundings and gets the best start she can.

Important Feeding Tips

One way to ensure a smooth transition is continuing to feed the diet your dog is used to. Changing diets suddenly can set most dogs up for gastro-intestinal upset, with resulting diarrhea and vomiting. It's fine to change to a different food that you prefer, but do it slowly by mixing the old diet with the new gradually over the course of seven to 10 days. Limit wet food or other treats until your new friend adjusts to the new environment. Lots of canned food or treats they're not used to can loosen the stools; stress has the same effect.

Rest Time

Remember that new family members need their rest. I've seen this happen again and again: a puppy who's fine at the center goes home; the owners call the next day because the pup is lethargic, vomiting or having diarrhea. Of course they're concerned they adopted a sick puppy, but the real culprit is usually too much excitement and stimulation during the first few days home in a new environment. (After all, you wouldn't take the new baby you just brought home from the hospital to the mall, the zoo, the fair, and the beach all in the same day.)

Puppies, just like small children, need love and food, but also time to rest and relax. Even though they're in a loving home, they're still away from their littermates and their familiar surroundings. This can add to their stress, whether or not they show it outwardly. Additionally, even though they seem ready to go at all times, they can be overly stimulated, either by too many new situations at once or by too much playing and attention. Overstimulation is a form of stress, which lowers the immune response, leaves them more prone to secondary infections or the effects of intestinal parasites, and again presents as diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, not eating, and coughing.

The younger the dog, the more rest time they need. As human children get older, they play longer and harder and need less rest; this is a good rule of thumb for our furry children as well.


No matter the age of your new dog or puppy, whether she is housebroken or not, don't assume that in your house she'll get it right without any help from you.

Take your new friend out the door you want her to use and into the preferred area of the yard. Praise her while she's in the act of eliminating where you want her to, so she knows she's doing what you like. If you live in a condo or apartment, make sure you take her out for frequent walks until you get to know her habits and the frequency of her need to eliminate.

Puppies can seem to be housebroken but, just like young children, they may not always give themselves time to get to the door. Accidents can occur. Getting upset or aggravated with them can often make things worse. Remember, a dog may not be 100 percent reliable until as much as 6 months of age.


It's important to make sure new pets get the full initial series of vaccines they need as they grow. The person or place from which you adopted your new pet should provide their vaccination history, but I would recommend contacting your family veterinarian to discuss additional vaccine requirements, as well as your vet's recommendations for things like heartworm testing, fecal checks, deworming and spaying/neutering.

Photo Credit: -meryl- (CC)

Posted on: June 29, 2022

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