Everything You Should Know Before You Bring a Dog Home for the First Time


Owning a dog is so full of challenges that bringing one home might seem like the easy part. But there’s a lot more to it than buying food, toys, and a leash. Here’s what you need to know to make your dog’s homecoming as happy as possible.

Dogs need time and space to adjust to new surroundings, so your very first task is to give your new buddy a safe, cozy spot of their own. The Oregon Humane Society (OHS) recommends making an entire room available to your pup while they adjust. If you can’t swing that, a covered crate or pen in a quiet corner works, too. Keep other pets and kids out of the dog zone, and remove or secure any item that might seem even slightly edible to a stressed-out dog—cat litter, electrical cords, house plants, kids’ toys, shoes, clothing, and food of any kind.

The drive home is where things get real. Some dogs love riding in cars, but some get really stressed out by it. According to Petfinder’s guide to the first 30 days of dog adoption and the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) guidelines for pet travel, putting your dog in a crate in your car is the best way to keep them secure on the ride home. (A little dog-proofing can’t hurt, either.) If they feel safe, it’ll minimize stress for everyone involved. Don’t make other stops or leave the dog alone in the car; drive straight home.

Once you’ve made it home, it’s time show your dog their new digs—like, literally show them. Petfinder, HSUS, and OHS all make it very clear that the first stop after leaving the car should be the spot you want your dog to pee. Before you step foot inside, lead your dog to that spot, let them do their business, and reward them with treats and praise when they do. Once you’re inside, lead them to their food area, then their room or crate area, giving them time to really acquaint themselves with each area before moving on.

With these tips and a little luck, you and your dog should emerge from the first 24 hours of dog ownership with your nerves intact. Take a deep breath and get ready—the real work has just begun.

This story was originally published in September 2016. It was updated on March 9, 2021 to include new information and to reflect Lifehacker’s current style guidelines.