Help your Northern dog adjust to a new way of living

by | Northern projects |

You’ve just adopted a Northern dog through the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society. Congratulations! Now you can bring them home to play, walk, and get comfy with their new family.

We work alongside Northern communities to bring dogs in need of support to areas of the province where there are families waiting to adopt them. Throughout this process, we do our best to make their adjustment as stress-free as possible.

Many of these dogs have never lived in a home or had access to veterinary care. They are very much loved in the communities that they came from, but overpopulation due to a lack of resources like spay/neuter services simply means there are not enough homes for them. It’s important to ease your new furry friend into their new lifestyle to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible.

Introducing play

Community dogs may not have learned to play. They may not even know what a toy is or what to do with it! Start with a variety of different types of toys and play with them. It may take some time, but eventually they’ll let you know which ones they like best. A good selection might include things like frisbees, tug toys, balls or Kongs.

Understanding new sounds

Noises like the TV, microwave beeping or vacuum cleaner are things we don’t even notice because we hear them every day. Community dogs may have never heard these usual household noises. Be aware of the noises around your home that may startle your new friend. Be sure to have lots of treats and provide positive reinforcement when your dog hears these noises. It’s important to let your dog know that these sounds will not harm them.


You’re perfectly used to seeing your golf bag or your novelty doorstop, but they might seem like mysterious objects to your furry buddy. Try to introduce them to a few new items each day, and give lots of love, patience and space if they seem fearful or hesitant. Talk to them gently and pet them, and have lots of treats ready so they know that everything is okay. Always be patient and never make them do something they’re uncomfortable with. They will come around in their own time.

Practice patience

Not all of the community dogs have these challenges, many just bounce right into your home and lifestyle like nothing!  If your new pup does seem like they’re a bit hesitant, just remember this is all new to them and work slowly with them. Positive reinforcement and patience will lead to success and will help you to have a happy and well-adjusted furry friend in no time!

Sometimes dogs need a bit more help in adjusting to a new life, which is why the Ontario SPCA is building the Provincial Dog Rehabilitation Centre facility, a first of its kind in Canada, to assist dogs in need.  This facility will have state-of-the art amenities, including an exercise room with hydrotherapy equipment, and one-on-one training with behavioural specialists.

For special animals like our Northern friends, it will also have a real family living room to help them get used to life inside a home. The room will include furniture, functioning TV sets and other features of a typical family home to help these dogs transition more easily into forever homes. The living room has been made possible thanks to the generosity of La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, and the living room will bear the name of Emmanuelle’s beloved pet Arlo Gattuso-Slaight.

To learn more about the Provincial Dog Rehabilitation Centre and how you can help, visit

For more tools and tips on training and behaviour, socialization and stress reduction, visit

Robin Elliott is the Community Development Coordinator with the Ontario SPCA Midland & District Animal Centre. She helped her own Northern dog, Izzy, settle into her new home.