SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Bringing your new dog or puppy home

Taking your new dog or puppy home is exciting, but there are a few things to consider for the best start.

Download our full Dog and Puppy Care Brochure (PDF)

The journey home

Taking your new dog/puppy home is exciting, but a car journey might be a completely new experience for him/her. Dogs/puppies should be restrained by a safety harness or travel in a crate, regardless of their size. If the dog/puppy is young or small they may sit on a passenger’s lap in the back seat but should still be restrained by a harness. Make sure you have an old towel or blanket in case the dog is nervous, as this may cause him/her to urinate or vomit. Using a towel or old jumper with your scent on it can help your dog to bond with you.

Essential information on arriving home

  1. Set up your dog’s space
    • Set up a space with a bed, crate or blankets.
    • Provide water, toys and a feeding area.
    • Keep puppies in one room for the first day or two (a tiled bathroom or laundry is ideal but make sure the puppy has plenty of warm comfy bedding and that the room is not cold).
    • Ensure the room is quiet, secure, a comfortable warm temperature and well-ventilated.
  2. Dog-proof your house
    • Remove hanging wires, cords or electrical cables that your dog or puppy could chew or get tangled in.
    • If you do not want something chewed, put it away!
    • Remove breakable items.
    • Keep all toilet lids closed to prevent the dog/puppy from drinking from the toilets or falling in.
  3. Let your dog explore the house slowly
    • A small house can seem big to a new dog, especially a puppy.
    • Do not allow your dog/puppy to have free roam of all areas in the house straight away.
    • Allow your dog/puppy to explore the house slowly, initially using a lead. Do this room by room to avoid overwhelming him or her.
  4. Taking your dog outside
    • Take your dog to the garden on a lead for short regular visits.
    • Supervise your dog outside for the first week or two.
    • Watch your dog in the garden to identify hazards that may be present.
    • Dog-proof your fencing; you need to make sure that your dog or puppy cannot get under or over the fence. Make sure that you also remove climbable objects near the fence, as these can provide an escape route!
    • Praise and reward your dog or puppy when he/she toilets outside.
  5. Introducing your dog to the family
    • A new environment and new people can be overwhelming for a dog or puppy.
    • Ask family and friends to keep the house calm and quiet.
    • Never force attention on your dog; let the dog decide when he or she is ready and wants to interact with you.
    • Avoid everyone cuddling or playing with your dog at once, this will be overwhelming and scary.

Always supervise children with your dog

  • Always supervise young children with your dog.
  • Teach children to be gentle and respectful towards the dog.
  • Show the children how to handle and pet the dog properly so that neither the child or the dog gets hurt or scared. Visit dogsafety.govt.nz for information on safely interacting with dogs.
  • Do not let children play tug-of-war games with your dog.
  • Encourage children to have appropriate interactions with your dog such as helping to train the dog, playing hide and seek, or taking the dog for walks.
  • Keep children away from the dog when he/she is eating, sleeping or in a crate.

Changing your dog’s name

If your dog already has a name when you get him/her but you want to change it, you can! Just make sure the dog is familiar with the new name before you let him/her off lead. Teach the dog his/her new name by associating the name with a reward, like a food treat or praise.

Taking your new dog/puppy for walks

Once your dog/puppy is fully vaccinated, you can go for walks together. Practice walking on the lead in the back yard first. Do not let your dog off lead until you know he/she will come when you call. Only let your dog off lead in areas where this is permitted.

Introducing your new dog to your other animals

  • Keep other animals away from your dog for the first day or two.
  • Read the essential advice below on introducing other animals to your dog.

Introducing a new dog to resident dogs

If you already have a dog, you will have brought him/her to the SPCA to meet the new dog. They will be a little familiar and will have started to work out how they will interact.

Here are some guidelines to help at home:

  1. Set up a separate area or crate for your new dog with water and a bed, where your existing dog will not be able to get to the new dog. This will prevent negative interactions at night or when unsupervised.
  2. Let your new dog explore the house and garden on a lead with you there to supervise the dog’s behaviour and let the dog become familiar with the area without being frightened.
  3. Introduce your dogs with both on a light, loose lead at first in a safe, neutral area with enough space for the dogs to move away from each other (such as an enclosed outside area) and let them sniff and interact. Stay relaxed, as your behaviour will influence how the dogs react.
  4. Release both dogs once they appear relaxed but leave their leads attached as this can allow you to intervene if required. Monitor but do not interfere as they get to know each other, unless the dogs are displaying aggressive behaviour.
  5. If there is any aggression, such as excessive snapping or snarling, intervention from you may be necessary. Discuss with us or your veterinarian the best way to handle this and proceed with great caution. Separate the dogs carefully and give them time to settle before introducing them again.
  6. Only introduce toys once your dogs are getting along well, and only when you can supervise them.
  7. Keep feeding bowls apart, or in separate areas, to begin with and always supervise feeding. You could start by feeding the dogs on a lead, so you have control if one dog finishes first. Always use separate bowls.
  8. Your existing dog’s life has been disrupted by the newcomer’s arrival, and he/she may find this upsetting and difficult to accept. Give your existing dog all the attention he/she has received in the past and make sure he/she still feels loved! It also helps to keep the dog’s existing routine the same.

If introductions do not go well, seek professional advice immediately. The longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Most conflicts can be resolved with professional guidance, and the earlier you seek advice the better.

Introducing a new dog to resident cats and kittens

It takes time and care to introduce a new dog to your existing cats and/or kittens. A dog can seriously injure or kill a cat, even if they are only playing. Some dogs have such a high prey drive that they should never be left alone with a cat. Dogs often want to chase and play with cats, and cats often become afraid and defensive; if they run away this can make the situation even more dangerous for the cat.

Do not introduce your cat and dog face-to-face immediately. Instead, let them sniff each other’s bedding and toys to get used to each other while feeling safe. Feed the dog and cats on opposite sides of a closed door, so they associate something enjoyable with each other’s smells. Gradually move the dishes closer until the dog and cats eat calmly on either side of the door. Then, if everyone seems comfortable and calm, try a face-to-face introduction.

Hold a controlled face-to-face meeting

  1. Put your dog’s leash on and have the dog either sit or lie down and stay.
  2. Have a second person offer your cat/kitten some special pieces of food/treats.
  3. At first, the cat and the dog should be on opposite sides of the room.
  4. Allow your cat/kitten some freedom to explore your dog if he/she wants to, always keeping the dog on leash and under control. Keep giving your dog treats and praise for calm behaviour. If your cat runs away or becomes aggressive, you are moving too fast. Go back to the previous steps.
  5. Never do introductions with your cat/kitten in a cage.
  6. Lots of short visits are better than a few long visits. Repeat this process several times until both pets are tolerating each other’s presence without fear or aggression.
  7. Muzzle your dog if you have concerns about initial aggression towards your cat.

Teach your dog that chasing the cat or rough play is unacceptable. Also teach and reward your dog for good behaviour, such as sitting, coming when called, or lying down. If your dog is always punished and never has good things happen in the cat’s presence, he/she may associate bad things with the cat, become upset and become aggressive towards the cat. Never allow the dog to chase the cat, as once this starts it changes the situation from play to hunting for the dog and becomes very dangerous.

Always keep your dog at your side and on a leash during the introduction process.

Ensure your cat/kitten always has an escape route and a place to hide. Cats like to be able to climb higher than dogs, this makes them feel safer and gives them an escape route if needed. Until you are certain your cat will be safe, be sure to keep the dog and cat separated when you are not home. Even once you feel comfortable leaving them together, you should always make sure the cat can get away from the dog (e.g. has high places to escape, places to hide that the dog cannot reach, and exits to areas where the dog cannot go).

Kittens are in more danger of being injured or killed by a dog than adult cats. Therefore, they will need to be kept separate from dogs until they are fully grown, except for periods of carefully supervised interaction to enable the animals to get to know each other.

When introductions do not go well, seek professional advice immediately. Consult a veterinarian or animal behaviour specialist. Animals can be severely injured in fights. The longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Punishment will NOT work and could make things worse. Most conflicts can be resolved with professional guidance, and the earlier you seek advice the better.

Always try to finish meetings between the cat and dog on a good note so that both animals remember it as a positive, not a negative, experience.

Before you decide to bring a new dog into a home with cats it is important that you know as much as possible about how the dog acts around cats. If the dog shows very predatory or aggressive behaviour towards cats, you need to be extremely careful when bringing home the dog if you have cats. In fact, if the dog is extremely predatory or aggressive towards cats, you may even need to reconsider if bringing the dog into your home is a good idea and will be safe for your cat(s).

Microchip and registration

All SPCA dogs and puppies are microchipped and registered. It is ESSENTIAL to keep these details up-to-date if you move house or your contact numbers change. At the SPCA we receive many lost dogs that we cannot reunite with their owners because their microchip and registration details are not updated.

Update your microchip details at www.animalregister.co.nz and your registration details with your local council.

Your dog must also be registered every year with your local council. Contact your local council or look on the council website for more details.

Lost dogs

If your dog is missing, please follow the advice on our 'What to do if your pet goes missing' page.

Dogs in cars

Many dogs love riding in cars, but on a warm day the temperature in a parked car can reach a dangerous level of heat in just a matter of minutes, even with partially opened windows. Dogs left in hot cars can quickly suffer severe heat stress, hyperthermia, brain damage and can die. On warm days, leave your dog at home in a cool place, never in the car.

If a dog is overcome by heat exhaustion, give immediate first aid by cooling with water or other liquids (room temperature liquids are preferable, as ice cold liquids can bring on shock or hypothermia). Wet the skin thoroughly, not just the coat. Focus on the belly and inside of the legs. Spray or sponge the dog and fan the animal until the body temperature is lowered. When the dog is cooling down and responding, gently dry the body. If the dog is conscious give him/her small amounts of water. Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible, this is an emergency.

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