Preparing your home (and yourself) for a new dog

Whether you are adopting a dog from a shelter or buying from a reputable, registered breeder, the experience can be both exciting and daunting. You have done your homework, your home and garden are big enough to cater for a dog, your wallet can support the financial needs of having a pet and you are committed to spending enough time with the new family member. Getting a dog changes the dynamic of a home and is a joyous occasion provided it is done right, here are some tips.

Choose the right dog for your home and family

Find the right breed, size, and age of dog for your home. Consider the following:

  • What type of home do you have?
  • How big is your garden?
  • Where is your home?
  • Is your property fenced properly?
  • How much time do you have to spend with your dog every day?
  • Do you have small children?
  • Do you plan on being active with your dog?
  • What sort of lifestyle do you have that your dog could fit into?

There are various websites which help with this, we recommend you have a look at one of the following:

  2. Iams

Get the necessary supplies

Collar and Tag

Too often pets escape their yards and are found as strays with nowhere to go. Having a sturdy collar and an ID tag with the pet’s name and your contact number on it is essential.

Bed and a safe space to sleep

Like us, dogs enjoy a comfortable and safe place to sleep. Pet shops are stocked with all sorts of beds in different shapes, sizes, and materials. Get one suited to the adult size of your dog to avoid having to buy a bigger bed later. If you are concerned your puppy might chew the bed, get an affordable, small one for the time being and upgrade at a later stage.

Consider where your dog will sleep. In South Africa, dog poisoning by potential intruders happens far too often. For your safety as well as your dog’s, it is better for them to sleep indoors. This way they will alarm you if there are any unusual noises at night and are able to protect you in your home if need be. An intruder is less likely to enter a home with a dog in it.


Pets should be on a strict pet diet; human food is not advised. Your local vet or supermarket stock suitable foods whether they be kibbles, raw or frozen meals. Get some advice from your vet or an animal nutritionist as to what type of food will be best for your specific breed, size, age, and weight of dog. Note that changing a pet’s diet abruptly can cause an upset stomach resulting in nausea or diarrhoea, so ideally one should slowly phase into the new food from the food the breeder or shelter was feeding the dog beforehand.


Have two bowls: one for food and the other for water. We advise that these are kept in the same place all the time and easily accessible for your dog to be able to drink at any time. Ensure that the water bowl is cleaned every day, always topped up with fresh water and in a shady or cool spot to avoid getting hot, growing algae, or evaporating.


Safe dog toys help your pet ease into their new environment and bring a lot of fun! Avoid any toys that might be a choking hazard, it is best not to leave your puppy to play unattended. Toys also incite playfulness between two dogs, help with boredom and can be used to bond with your new dog.

Vet check

If you have rescued a dog, the chances that it is unvaccinated are quite high unless you have adopted from a reputable and registered organisation. If it is a younger dog, your vet may recommend a course of the 5in1 routine vaccinations which include Parvovirus, Distemper, Hepatitis and Parainfluenza. Vaccinating your dog against the rabies virus is also essential and in fact law in South Africa and should be done annually. It is also a good idea to introduce your new dog to your vet, do an overall health check and have them deworm your dog and check for potential ticks and fleas.

Microchip and tag

Microchipping your dog (or cat) is an essential part of responsible ownership. The chip itself is no bigger than a grain of rice and is easily injected into the scruff of the neck or between the shoulder blades by a vet or certified person while your pet is awake. It is usually done when receiving their first set of vaccinations. The chip provides permanent identification for your pet, containing all your contact details so that should they go missing, they have the best chance of reuniting with you. Any veterinary practice, SPCA and most other rescue organisations can scan the chip with a device to retrieve these details.

Scanning dog chip

Note: the chip is not a GPS device that can be used for tracking. This can be done through attaching a tracking device onto the collar of your dog.

Over and above a microchip, a name tag with a contact number attached to the collar allows for anyone who may pick up your lost dog to contact you immediately.

Spay or neuter

You may ask, why should I spay or neuter my dog? The answer: “Every year thousands of unwanted dogs and cats, including puppies and kittens are needlessly destroyed” in South Africa.4 You can make a difference. It is each pet owner’s responsibility to do their part in preventing the birth of unwanted puppies through sterilising their animals.

The benefits of sterilisation for your dog are long-term health and better quality of life. Animal specialists relate behavioural problems with the mating instinct. In female dogs, spaying also prevents issues such as urinary tract infections and cancer in the mammary (milk) glands. In male dogs, neutering can have a calming effect on the dog, lessening the chances of them wanting to escape to find a female on heat. It also reduces the risk of testicular cancer and infections.4

Contrary to belief, the idea that this surgery will make your dog fat is a myth. It also has no effect on the dog’s ability and desire to play, learn, work or hunt. Most vets recommend that dogs are sterilised between 5 and 6 months before the female has her first season.


If you have children, they are most probably beside themselves with excitement of the new puppy or dog. Teach them about boundaries and body language of the dog, how to handle the dog with care and where to stroke and not to touch. Respect for one another is key in avoiding any unhappy endings.

Introducing your new friend to your current pets also needs to be done right. This is a big adjustment so give them some time to settle. It’s best if they meet on mutual territory, meaning outside of your property in a safe space. Taking them on a walk together is a lovely idea. When bringing the new dog home, it is recommended that they are reintroduced through a crate, and then with a leash once they are calm. Do not rush this process. If anyone seems stressed, try again later. Try to spend time with both the new dog and resident pet to avoid any jealousy.

House rules and good behaviour

It is important to teach your dog good manners and the rules of the house the day they arrive. You can’t have them jumping on the bed one day and then decide they are not allowed to do so anymore the next day. ALWAYS reward good behaviour and new learnings, this doesn’t always need to be done with treats – praise and affection is a reward too.

Caring for your dog

Brushing teeth

Dental health is just as important in dog as it is in humans. Use a soft bristle child’s toothbrush or buy finger brushes from your nearest pet store. This needs to be done at least twice a week. Various dental chews also help, give these as a treat once a day after mealtime.

Ensure nails are kept short

While this may be a daunting task, it is necessary. If your dog exercises a lot, or runs on hard or rough surfaces, you might not need to trim or file their nails. However, lazy dogs or dogs that live on grass or indoors, may need some extra TLC. Long nails hurt! Always ensure you never cut too short into the quick (in humans this is called the nail bed. In dogs, the quick is the visible pink line you see in light colour nails which contains blood vessels and nerves). If you are nervous or if your dog doesn’t like having its paws handled, rather take them to a groomer or vet to be done professionally.

Grooming is important

Brushing dogs regularly helps increase blood flow and keeps the skin and fur healthy. Dogs with long hair may be more difficult and require professional grooming at a parlour. Grooming is particularly important during change of season to help ease into their winter/summer coats and helps avoid unwanted hair around the house. Try not to bath your dog too often as this may dry out or irritate their skin. Rather bath when they are smelly or dirty with a dog shampoo that is available from your local pet store and selected grocery stores.

Avoid human food

Some foods we consume are poisonous to dogs. High on this list is grapes, raisons, chocolate, macadamia nuts and xylitol which can be lethal in pets. Rather stick to food and treats made specifically for dogs.


Dogs need to burn energy. A bored dog is a “naughty” dog. Boredom leads to digging holes, chewing furniture, breaking plants, and excessive barking. Dogs need to go on at least one long walk per day – aim for a 30 minute to 1 hour walk every day either before or after work. Pets are a great excuse to get outside and get moving! It’s a win, win!

Parasite prevention

Dogs need to be dewormed at least twice a year. It may be ideal to deworm yourself at the same time, especially if you kiss your dogs. Keep a look out for ticks and fleas and treat these as per your vet’s instructions if you come across any.

What not to do

NEVER leave your dog chained outside. In South Africa, it is illegal to chain your dog. A chained animal is unable to protect themselves from bad weather or too much sun.

NEVER leave your dog in a car unattended. Pet theft is a serious issue, along with hijacking. Often cars get stolen with pets inside and are then dumped. The temperature inside the car skyrockets in a matter of minutes, even on a cloudy or cool day. Your dog can die of heat exhaustion.

NEVER leave your dog alone with a baby or toddler unsupervised. The child needs to know to respect the dog’s space to avoid any accidents.


Your dog thinks they are part of the family. They will lay down their life for you and even though they may not be your whole life, you are theirs. Shower them with love and affection and treat them with respect and kindness. Most of all, have fun together!

Young girl with dog


  1. Hill’s Pet Nutrition. 2021. 10 Things to Do after Adopting a Dog | Hill’s Pet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 2021].
  2. PETA Kids. 2021. Everything You Need to Think About If You Want to Get a Dog. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 2021].
  3. 2021. Sterilising. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 2021].
  4. 2021. The importance of microchipping your pet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 October 2021].