You’re driving along the highway, or you’re out on a walk—and you see him. A beautiful dog wandering along on his own, without a leash or collar or a master to look after him. Maybe he was recently abandoned, and still fairly healthy, or perhaps he’s emaciated, mangy, and clearly in need of immediate aid. Either way, you fall in love with him, and suddenly you realize you can’t leave him to wander on his own any longer.
Bringing a stray dog into your household can be a messy, complicated affair, because unlike adoptions at your local rescue, this isn’t something anybody plans. One day you don’t have a dog, and the next day, you do. If you have owned a pet before, you have some idea where to begin, but you still may not be used to dealing with strays. If you have never had a dog, it can be even more challenging to bring the stray into your household. Here are 5 steps to take right away, but before you start, check with your local shelters first to ensure this pup doesn't have a worried owner searching for it.
1. Take the dog to the vet immediately.
The very first thing you should do is go straight to the vet. Your new friend may be in immediate need of medical attention, even if he looks just fine. And the last thing you want to do is bring illness back to your household. Take him in for a checkup and take care of vaccinations.
2. Get your house ready.
If you already have a pet, your household should be ready for the most part. Otherwise, you will need to make sure that your home is pet-safe. This means getting hazards out of the way (electrical cords, detergents, etc.) and getting a pet fence if necessary. If you have another pet in your house, you definitely will want a special area for your new pet. The stray is likely to have psychological trauma and will need to go through an extended adjustment phase. Introducing the stray to other animals and people in your household gradually is wise.
3. Buy supplies.
You will need to go out and buy at least the minimum in new pet supplies. Stock up on dog food, and get your new dog an appropriate dog bed, purchase hygiene supplies, and get some durable fun dog toys for your new friend. You may also need a dog crate or carrier. Purchase a dog collar and a leash, and any grooming supplies you will need.
4. Take it slow.
Your new stray may not be used to contact with humans or other animals, and may even have negative associations with either or both. For that reason, you will need to take things slowly, and give your new friend the space he needs to adapt. You may need to start out by simply feeding your new pet and giving him water, and then approach him with a toy. If the dog shies away from you, do not try to force physical contact. Wait until he is ready to approach you before you pet him. Remember that your new dog may have a history of abuse to overcome, and even though you love him, he may take some time to see it.
As your new dog gets acclimatized to your presence and starts to show an interest in the rest of your house, you can introduce him to one room at a time. It is a good idea to get him used to the house without other pets or people present first, unless they have also been getting to know him in his own space. Do not try to introduce him to too many places and people or pets at a time.
5. Begin training.
Technically, you started training your dog when you brought him into your household and started feeding him and bringing him water. Right from that point, he started to learn about you and build a relationship with you. If you do not already know how to train a dog, it is time to buy a book and start learning. Dog toys for training can really help you out.
Unless you have been interacting with a stray dog for some time before bringing him into your household, choosing to adopt a stray is generally a snap decision. It will bring many challenges with it, and you’ll need to act fast to get your household ready—but also take your time introducing your new friend to your home and family members. When you choose to adopt a stray and take care of him, you are doing a wonderful thing. So congratulations on your decision to give a lost or abandoned dog a forever-home!