Bringing Home a New Rescue Dog or Cat
At Aska’s Animals, we provide a safe and calming environment where animals can relax and play while we work to find them their family. Once the animal’s new owner comes along, we value setting the owner and the animal up for success in the period of time it takes for the animal to adjust to its new home. For some pets, the adjustment period is short (a few days) and for some pets, the adjustment period is long (up to a year). There is no way to predict the length of the adjustment period so we want to provide you with as much information as we can to foster the relationship between the new owner, the new pet and the home’s current animals to ensure everyone in the home is happy.
Below is some general information to integrate a dog or cat into your home (with or without other pets). If you have questions before adoption, please ask!
This process starts before you visit the animal shelter or rescue for a meet & greet. Begin by evaluating your household. Ask yourself these two questions.
- What lifestyle will you provide an animal? Relaxing? Active? Indoor? Outdoor? There’s no wrong answer here. Arrive at the shelter knowing what lifestyle you can provide your new pet so you make sure to pick an animal that will thrive in that environment.
- What personality type will fit best with your current pets? Lazy? Playful? Introverted? Outgoing? Make sure your current pets’ needs are met when introducing a new friend. The animal shelter’s staff should be able to provide information about the ‘adoptable animals’ personality traits and individual needs.
Here’s what you’ll need on hand when you bring your new dog home.
- Create a safe space for your dog to settle in. Because the transition from shelter to home is stressful, dogs often forget the skills they’ve learned such as potty training. And there’s a chance, your new puppy isn’t housebroken. We suggest the kitchen, a spare bathroom, or a laundry room – somewhere with tile floor for easy clean up.
- Have a crate or confinement tools ready. Make it cozy for them. Food, water, a soft blanket and a few toys will help them feel at home. Check out our blog post about Confinement Training and Why It’s Important.
- Dog-proof your home for the first few months. Again, your new dog will be nervous while adjusting to their new environment and nerves can lead to naughty behavior so set him/her up for success by removing anything you don’t want ruined or that could be chewable. Tuck away electrical cords, put away shoes, store breakables up high, ensure chemical cleaning products are out of reach, close toilet lids, and install baby gates if needed, etc.
- Bring a collar and an ID tag with you to adopt your dog. You don’t have to know the dog’s name yet to have an ID tag made at the local pet store! With your name and phone number on the tag, if your new dogs gets spooked and runs away before you’ve established where home is, you’ll have a better chance of getting him/her back. Remember, your new dog probably doesn’t know its name or homebase yet!
- Food and fresh water.Ask the shelter what type of food the dog has been eating and at what times of day. You can continue to feed the dog that type of food or if you choose to change foods, to prevent causing an upset stomach, you’ll need to mix the two foods together for at least three days. Typically, dogs eat one cup of food per day.
- Toys and enrichment activities. Check out our blog post about Indoor Enrichment to keep your dog happy and healthy.
Helping your new dog settle into your home:
- Step 1: On the drive home from the shelter, make sure your dog is safely secured in a crate or someone in the vehicle is holding the leash. Some dogs get stressed in the car and we don’t want your new dog to run away or cause damage to your vehicle, your passengers or themselves.
- It’s important to note that you should utilize a leash for several weeks after adoption. This ensures your dog is physically safe and emotionally supported as they learn their new home and owner.
- Step 2: Immediately upon arriving home, show your dog where it’s safe to go to the bathroom. Spend time together in this space several times a day so the dog has a chance to establish his/her scent and you can provide high reward treats whenever he/she uses the bathroom there. Be gentle with your dog if they have an accident…a new home with new people and new animal friends can throw off the most well-behaved dogs.
- Step 3: Don’t introduce new people or pets right away. To avoid overwhelming your new dog, only introduce him/her to your closest human family or humans living in the home. Imagine living in a loud, crowded shelter for weeks on end…you would want time to decompress too! We suggest keeping your other pets away from your new pet for at least an hour upon arriving home. (More on pet introductions later…)
- Step 4: Show your new dog his/her safe space. Give your new dog some down time to decompress in this safe space with food, water, toys, or enrichment activities – maybe twenty to thirty minutes. This allows the dog to establish their quiet space, away from noise, kids, and other pets and to regulate their stress hormones. Read about Cortisol and Your Dog’s Brain here.
- Step 5: If you have other pets, do slow introductions. To avoid stressing out your new dog, only allow the old and new animals to sniff each other in the crack underneath a door. If your new dog shows friendly curiosity about the other animal, you can crack the door and allow the two dogs to sniff each other. If one of the dogs shows signs of aggression, close the door, and try again later. Remember to take it slow…there will be some territory negotiations going on. If your old and new pets aren’t getting along after the first couple of days, call the shelter or a dog trainer for support.
- Step 6: Establish a schedule. Your new dog will benefit from predictability and calm. Avoid dog parks or excitable neighborhood children. Feed your dog at regular times. Take them out to the bathroom and for walks at regular times. Keep calm and quiet around your new dog as they settle in.
- Step 7: Schedule a vet appointment. Bring your new dog to the vet to meet their medical team in case of emergency and to discuss any pre-existing or future medical conditions. It’s important for you to know who to call should something come up!
- Step 8: Schedule a training session with Krissi Goetz of JH Positive Training. Set you and your new dog up for success with a one-hour training session with Krissi. Adopted dogs begin to show their true personality after a few weeks of getting to know you. At this point, a dog trainer will help you meet your unique dog’s individual needs to ensure everyone in the house is happy.
- If you need animal behavior support, we provide free or subsidized one-on-one training with Krissi.
- To apply, please fill out this form (https://form.jotform.com/212326556617154).
- If you’re able to afford dog training services, please be in direct contact with the talented dog trainers at JH Positive Training (http://jhpositivetraining.com). Your veterinarian will have great information and resources too! Also, Krissi has a column in the Jackson Hole News and Guide called ‘Good Dog.’ Check it out!
Here’s what you’ll need to have on hand when you bring your new cat home.
- Create a safe space for your cat to settle in. Somewhere quiet, with hiding places and natural light. A spare bedroom, guest bathroom or laundry room is a great place for your new cat to get comfortable in your house. It will become a place they can rely on for a comfortable bed, a litter box, food, and water. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be the place they spend the rest of their lives. We encourage you to spend at least one hour a day in this space with your new cat to create a bond and observe your cat for signs of stress such as excessive meowing, decreased appetite or diarrhea. If your new cat appears stressed, please consult your veterinarian, and consider adding pheromones to the space.
- A litter box and litter. At first, we suggest using the same litter the shelter used. This will prevent accidents! If you decide to change litters, mix the two litters together for at least three days before making the full transition to the litter of your choice.
- Food and fresh water. Ask the shelter what type of food the cat has been eating. You can continue to feed the cat that type of food or if you choose to change foods, to prevent upsetting their stomach, you’ll need to mix the two foods together for at least three days. Typically, cats eat a half cup of food per day.
- A scratching post. Scratching posts allow your new cat to stretch his/her body and tend to his/her nails. Also, providing a scratching post will prevent your new cat from scratching your furniture! To encourage good behavior, we recommend you give your cat praise and treats when you see him/her use the scratching post.
- Toys! Toy mice, balls, feather wands, cat nip, pet-safe lasers. Most cats love to play with toys. Cat playtime is considered enrichment because it encourages overall health and well-being. Playing provides a safe outlet for your cat’s predatory instincts and encourages exercise. Playing relieves him/her of boredom which will prevent naughty behavior. Thirty minutes of playtime a day should do the trick.
- Brush! Brushing your cat is a great way to spend time together and encourage them to groom themselves. Brushing prevents shedding, dandruff, furballs, mattes and dreadlocks. Many cats love to be brushed and will start purring immediately, but if your cat doesn’t love to be brushed, that’s okay! If that’s the case, we recommend using Cat Grooming Gloves, which allows you to brush while petting.
Helping your new cat settle into your home.
- If you don’t have any other pets in your home:
After 3 or 4 days in the safe space, at a quiet time of day, open the door and allow your cat to explore a little more of your house. Make sure your new cat has access to his/her safe space (leave the door open or the room accessible). It is important that a cat always has an exit strategy if someone new walks into your home or you accidentally drop something and make a loud noise.
- If you have other cats:
Step 1: Keep the door to your new cat’s safe space closed for 3 or 4 days. Encourage your other cats to smell one another through the gap of space under the door.
- Step 2: After 3 or 4 days, you can open the door 2 inches and allow the cats to greet one another. One or both cats might be shy so please don’t rush this step. If there are obvious signs of aggression, close the door and only allow the cats to smell one another thought the gap of space under the door for a couple more days. If the cats appear comfortable or unbothered with the door open just 2 inches, you may open the door to allow the cats to have a full interaction. After a few minutes of smelling and greeting, separate the cats again so the new cat still has his/her safe space. Repeat Step 2 twice a day for 2 days (this will vary per household). Keep a close eye on the first few interactions like this. If the cats begin to show aggression such as hissing, claws out swatting or chasing, separate the cats and go back to step 1 for a few days. Remember, the cats most likely won’t be best friends immediately. If the cats don’t appear to care about one another at all, that’s okay too.
- Step 3 if the meet & greets are going smoothly: You can allow the cats to interact freely. Continue to honor your new cat’s safe space for at least one week before you move his/her litter box, food and water. We encourage you to move it slowly, about 10 feet at a time, closer to the place it will be long term.
- Step 3 if the meet and greets are NOT going smoothly: If the cats are not having peaceful interactions, it is time to incorporate store bought pheromones. Pheromones are a chemical substance naturally created in a cat’s cheek glands that alleviate anxiety and share information about the cat’s personality. It’s helpful to provide artificial pheromones to alleviate anxiety at this stage of integrating a new cat into your home. You can do this several ways. First, we recommend the ‘Sentry Calm Collar.’ It’s exactly what it sounds like, a collar with pheromones on it that calms the cat down. Put a calm collar on both or all the cats (they usually come in a set of 3). Within a few hours, the stress of a change to the environment will be alleviated. Second, we recommend a ‘Feliway Classic Calming Diffuser.’ By diffusing the air with cat pheromones, you create a sense of security and familiarity that allows cats to relax. Calm Collars and Calming Diffusers can be purchased at most pet stores.
*It can take months for cats to become friends. Like dogs, some cats will become friends immediately and some cats need time to learn to share space. Be patient and don’t feel discouraged! Repeat Step 1 and Step 2 for as long as necessary.
If you have dogs:
- between Step 2 and Step 3, put a gate in the doorway of the cat’s safe space for a week or more so the cat can continue to venture into the house and still escape into its safe space. The dog and cat will naturally want to interact through the gate and it’s up to you to encourage good behavior here with high reward treats and praise for both animals.
Congratulations on your new furry friend! Your new pet can’t wait to share love with you. A general rule of thumb is called ‘the rescue pet honeymoon period’ or the ‘3-3-3 rule.’ In the first 3 days, your new pet might be shut down and scared, or naughty like a teenager trying to test their parents’ limits. After 3 weeks, the pet will start to feel more comfortable in their new home, understand the daily routine, and start to show their true personality. After 3 months, your pet will hopefully enjoy their routine and trust you.
Thank you for providing a home for an animal in need. You are saving a life by choosing to rescue.