What to Expect When Adopting a Dog/Puppy

What an exciting time! Adopting a new friend can be a big responsibility and we want to make sure each
animal is set up for success in their new home. We encourage you to keep the following tips in mind when you bring home your new dog or puppy.

  1. Set up a well-ventilated crate or a separate doggie-proofed room for your new dog or puppy. It’s one of the easiest ways to help them successfully transition into your home. Make this a positive space, not a form of punishment. The goal is to provide a quiet retreat and/or to help with housetraining. Remember, the dog must be allowed appropriate breaks (every few hours) for feeding and potty breaks, as well as lots of time spent out of the crate or room for walks, training and playtime.
  2. Don’t give them unsupervised free run of house until you are certain they are reliably housetrained and not destructive. Take them out for a potty break at regular intervals and offer lots of praise. More details on housetraining can be found here.
  3. highly recommend a fenced yard to keep your dog safe, but if that’s not possible, a tether or zip line can work as well. It is important for the safety of the dog that it isn’t left unsupervised while out on these devices.
  4. Be positive and consistent in your training. Dogs thrive on routine, which can help reduce anxiety.
Disease Testing

Heartworm & Tick-Borne Illness:

Mosquitoes and ticks can transmit diseases to dogs. There is a blood test to screen for exposure to heartworm and tick-borne illness. This is not something your dog has received yet and, based on lifestyle and age, may be recommended by your veterinarian. Heartworm disease can have devasting effects and heartworm testing and prevention is recommended for dogs between June 1 to November 1 in Ontario. It is recommended that you follow up with your family veterinarian about testing and preventatives for your new furry friend moving forward. For more information on heartworm, please visit canadianveterinarians.net

For more information on ticks and how they can affect your new furry friend, please visit: ticktalkcanada.com

Internal and External Parasites

Your new furry friend has received routine deworming and external parasite prevention prior to adoption, but further doses may be required. Fecal (poop sample) testing is recommended since some parasites can be zoonotic, which means humans can be infected. Please follow up with your family veterinarian for testing and treatment moving forward. We also recommend that other family pets be tested and treated for internal and external parasites prior to bringing your new furry friend home. For more information please visit canadianveterinarians.net and avma.org

Veterinary Visits After Adoption

A check-in with your family vet within the first week after adoption is critical to ensure continuity of care for your new friend, and to create a preventative health care plan tailored to their specific needs and to your lifestyle. The goal is to prevent future disease and illness, which will ideally also help reduce future costs of care.

Preventative care includes important measures, such as a physical exam, oral health care, dietary recommendations, behavioural support, vaccinations and parasite prevention. Any known medical or behavioural concerns will be disclosed prior to adoption, but there can be no guarantees of health. Therefore, this vet check will also be important to address any ongoing needs or pre-existing concerns to ensure your new furry family member has the specific support required to thrive. A copy of your new furry friend’s medical history can be shared with your family vet.


Vaccines play a vital role in protecting your new dog or puppy from diseases that can be devastating to their health, as well as keeping other furry and human family members safe.

  • Core vaccines for dogs include DA2PP (distemper, adenovirus (hepatitis), parainfluenza, parvovirus) and rabies. Rabies vaccination is a legal requirement. All dogs adopted from the Ontario SPCA have received their rabies vaccination, provided they are old enough to receive it at the time of adoption. If they are too young to receive their rabies vaccination while in our care, this will need to be done through your family veterinarian. Your vet may recommend additional vaccines based on your dog or puppy’s lifestyle.
  • Puppies are very susceptible and require more frequent booster vaccinations until they are approximately 18 weeks old. Vaccines must be boostered over the course of your dog’s life (not just during puppyhood) to ensure adequate protection.
  • Other family pets should be up to date on their vaccinations prior to bringing a new furry friend home.
  • A vaccine schedule has been started for your new dog or puppy. Note that it may not be complete by the time of adoption and follow-up with your family veterinarian is required to ensure adequate protection is achieved. For more information, visit canadianveterinarians.net
Healing After Surgery

Your new furry friend may have just had surgery prior to adoption. In addition to following any specific post-op instructions given to you, it will be important to note the following:

  • Give any post-op medication as prescribed.
  • Utilize an e-collar (cone) or a onesie to help protect their incision site, as prescribed.
  • Monitor the incision site daily for swelling, discharge and/or holes in the incision line.
  • Keep your dog or puppy calm, and restrict their exercise (i.e., leash walks, no jumping, or climbing stairs).
  • Watch them closely to ensure they are comfortable, eating and drinking well and urinating/defecating without issue.

If your dog or puppy is not eating well, is quiet or lethargic, not urinating/defecating, and/or if you see any concerns with their incision site, please contact your family veterinarian for support. Click here for more information.

Dog-to-Dog Introductions

Dogs can safely be introduced to one another with some positive encouragement and body language awareness.

  • Recruit a second person, one to handle each dog, and have lots of high value treats available to reward good behaviour!
  • Take the dogs on a walk together in a neutral setting (for example, a park or open field), keeping a safe distance between the two, and on loose leashes.
  • If there is no distress noted in either dog the distance between them can be gradually decreased.
  • Once at home, allow the new dog to enter first to explore and then keep dog-to-dog interactions short, pleasant and supervised until you are confident they are at ease with one another. Click here for more detailed information.
Cat-to-Dog Introductions

With time, many cats and dogs can learn to coexist peacefully and may even become friends!

  • Have two people on hand; one to handle the dog and the other to monitor the cat’s behaviour.
  • Ensure your dog is on leash in the cat’s presence and that the cat has a safe place to retreat, if needed.
  • Take the dog outside for a walk or play prior to greeting to reduce energy levels.
  • Have high value treats for both the dog and cat to reward good behaviour.
  • Monitor both the cat and dog for emotional distress at all times. Watch your dog for signs of an elevated prey drive (hunting-related behaviours) to ensure the safety of your new cat. Click here for more detailed information.

We are here to support you! For any pre-adoption questions or concerns, contact our adoption staff at your local SPCA here.