November 21, 2023

The 3 steps to help a new dog or cat settle in

The 3 steps to help a new dog or cat settle in
Dr. Chris Brown

The arrival home of a rescue or a new puppy is the epitome of excitement. But it also might become peak sleep deprivation…and stain generation if you’re not careful!

But knowing a simple rule can help you navigate any new arrival. And it’s all about the 3’s. So here’s how the first three nights, three weeks and three months after coming home with your new hairy bestie can change everything…


The first 3 nights: “The Decompress”

Wow. Everything just changed. And no matter whether they just left the shelter or the breeder, it’s a big shift.

For most rescues, they’ve just left chaos. A cacophony of barking, howling and constant changes. So simply catching up on sleep is a 3 day project they need to sign up for.

But they really need to reset and decompress. And understand they have a stable home.

So keep life simple and home based. The key is to not overwhelm them with social outings and introductions. Even your other pets can wait. It’s not that time yet…

But what about bedtime? Is controlled crying a thing?

Try to establish a bedtime routine. Here’s what always works well…

  1. 2 hours before bed: Dinner
  2. 30 minutes before bed: A small play session or a short walk. This gets the last of their nervous energy out and also allows for a proper toilet time.
  3. Bedtime: Place them in a room (or crate) with some separation from yours. A laundry or bathroom is perfect for the tiled floor. Accidents do happen.
  4. The night time crying: It will almost always happen. But it’s ok. Just remember, whatever you do in these first few nights will set the standard for how it will always be. So try to be strong. If they have a hot water bottle, toys to cuddle up to for company and even some low volume radio (or TV) for voices and all-important company, this cry for attention phase will only last 2-3 nights.


The next 3 weeks: “A whole new world”

(…maybe don’t sing it like I just did)

Now come the introductions. Armed with sleep and a sense of home and security, it’s time to meet the rest of the furry and human family.

But just know that with that nose of theirs, this is more about putting a face to the fragrance they’ve already detected! But take it slowly. Meeting at a distance with loads of positive pats will help. Just be ok with pulling back if there’s too much stress or over-excitement.

They’ll also broaden their horizons beyond their bedroom to the backyard, the footpath and the local park. Just make sure you get them there (with protection against parvovirus) before the end of their socialisation period at 13 weeks. Because it’s this time (and all those interactions) that sets them up to be that loveable legend of the park you know they can be…


The next 3 months: No secrets and no surprises

They now know you. Your friends. Your family. And what a loving home means. They’re probably now realising they scored…big time.

So these few months are all about them getting their head around your routine.

There’s the simple stuff like meal times, toilet time and when, reluctantly, bed time rolls around.

But then there’s the tough stuff that can lead to full blown pet panic of they’re not prepared. Like when are you going to work and how long are you going out for?  This is where building those skills to being independent are so important. It doesn’t mean you love them any less if you go to work. They just need to know how to self-soothe (link) and pass the time.

Plenty of exercise, play and positive reinforcement will set them up to ensure you’re both on the same page here. No secrets and no surprises and you’ll get there…

You’re on the brink of one of the best things you could ever do in your life. And bringing that little furry person into your family can be so special provided you appreciate what’s happening in that beautiful mind of theirs. Enjoy the ride!

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