Preparing for the arrival of your new dog or puppy 

At Guide Dogs, we know how exciting it is to welcome a new dog or puppy into your life. However, before they arrive, you'll need to get your home, garden and lifestyle 'dog ready'.

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The four Guide Dogs principles

We use four key principles at Guide Dogs to help guide our interactions with our dogs, and they inform how we approach their care and welfare. These principles are used by guide dog owners, volunteers, and people who rehome dogs from us - and pet dog owners can apply them too.

The principles are: knowing, managing, training (also referred to as ‘teaching’), and partnering. Using these principles, we cover everything from home safety to lifestyle adjustments to ensure a smooth transition and a happy start to your relationship.

1. Knowing your dog

The first Guide Dogs principle is knowing your dog, but before your new dog arrives, it’s important to learn about dogs as a species. Use good quality, evidence-based material to understand the basics of dog behaviour and how they learn and interpret the world. It may be useful to research breed specific behaviours, but remember every dog is unique and must be treated as an individual. However, some breeds are known for typical behaviours, so knowing these can help you to prepare and know what to expect.

Speak with your dog’s previous owner

If you’re adopting a puppy or dog, you must ask the shelter, breeder or previous owner about their usual routine, dietary preferences, and any personality traits to help you understand and accommodate their needs. It’s also useful to ask for items they’ve previously used, like a favourite blanket or toy, to bring home with you as the familiar scents will comfort your dog in a new setting. This can make a big difference in helping your dog to settle in their new home.

2. Managing your home

The second Guide Dogs principle focuses on management. This applies to managing your home environment, managing the interactions between other people and your dog, and managing new experiences.

In your home, set up safe spaces. For example, having a play pen, crate, or area of a room specifically for your dog will give them somewhere to retreat to when they need space. We recommend that you limit their access to a few rooms in your home for the first three days at least, or longer if you have a puppy.  

Think through new experiences, such as visiting a friend’s house, travelling in the car, and visiting the vet. Ask yourself how you can set your dog up for success in these situations.  

Safety at home 

Your new dog is likely to be curious, so making your home safe is essential. Before they arrive, check each room for potential dangers, such as small objects that could be swallowed or possible choking threats. Move bins out of your pet's reach and make sure all electrical cables and wires are tucked away or covered.  

Many people aren't aware how many household items, plants, and foods are toxic to dogs, so it’s important to do your research before your dog arrives.

Outdoor precautions

Your dog or puppy will enjoy spending time outside, so transform your garden into a secure play area by checking for potential escape routes and hazards. Repair any broken fences, remove dangerous items like garden tools or sharp objects, and ensure your borders or flower beds are free from toxic plants.

If you live near a busy road, consider adding signs to remind people to close the gate behind them to prevent your dog wandering off. You may wish to install a spring on the gate hinge so that it closes automatically.

Only let your dog off a lead when you are confident that you have developed a strong, trusting relationship and have taught reliable recall.

3. Training your dog

Our third principle, training, relates closely to teaching and putting in place routines. Teaching your dog to reliably respond to cues such as ‘come’, ‘sit’ and ‘down’ are useful, and helps provide a way for you to call them away from a hazardous situation, like a busy road.

Plan your approach to training

Before you start training your dog, think about how you’ll reward good behaviour. Using positive reinforcement with food and toys will keep your dog motivated and eager to please you.  

You’ll also need to decide which word to associate with a specific action. For example, ‘stay’ and ‘wait’ are both logical words to use when asking your dog to remain still, but you’ll need to choose one and stick to it – consistency is key! Additionally, think about if you want to use a clicker or a whistle to help with training - for example, clicker training is often a good way to teach essential behaviours.

If you have a puppy, research which puppy training classes are local to you. Or, if you have a dog with breed-specific needs, such as a gun-dog breed, check if there’s any dedicated training classes nearby. You should research the type of training approach and always go for a trainer who is committed to reward-based training.

4. Partnering with your dog

Partnering is the final Guide Dog principle, and this means having a relationship with your dog that’s founded on mutual love and respect. A new dog is a new member of your family, and should be treated as such.

Arrange to spend time with your new dog

Adapting your work schedule and daily activities to include your new dog is a key responsibility of owning a dog. Consider taking some time off during the first few weeks after your new dog's arrival, to establish a routine and bond with them. If your job requires long hours away from home, investigate solutions like dog day-care, a reliable pet sitter, or a neighbour who can let your dog out and supervise them during the day.

Be aware that it'll usually take at least three weeks for your dog to start to feel at home, and three months for them to have experienced most elements of your life and routine.

Checklist of essential equipment 

Before your new dog or puppy arrives, you'll want everything ready to help them feel at home from the very first day. Here's a detailed checklist of what you'll need: