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Advice for new dog carers

Just adopted a dog? Here is some useful information about:

 Your dog's first days at home

Your new dog has just arrived home, what do you do now? It will take time for your new arrival to settle in to his or her new home with a new family. There are basic things you can do and be aware of to help make this transition as smooth as possible.

On arrival at home

Some dogs have undergone surgery the day of arrival and are still recovering from the anaesthetic. Please follow the directions given to you by the discharging nurse. Other dogs that have already been de-sexed prior to admission to the shelter should be confined for a few hours of quiet time in a dog proofed room with food and water. They should be given ample time there to settle down before introduction to the new house.

The first few days

Giving your dog too much attention during the first few days may lead him/her to expect that level of attention all the time. This can lead to the dog getting separation anxiety when he/she is left alone in the house for the first time. Separation anxiety can lead to unwanted behaviours such as excessive barking, chewing and soiling the house. An in depth information sheet regarding separation anxiety is available from our staff.

Assume your arrival has not been house trained and start from there. Please ask the staff about house training procedures.

Dogs re-homed from shelters can sometimes pick up viruses from other dogs in the shelter or be incubating them while with us. All dogs are examined, vaccinated and monitored during their stay however, some viral or disease symptoms may not appear until after the dog is brought home. Monitor your dog carefully and if you have any concerns please contact us. All adoptions have a 14 day free health care for viral/disease related illnesses.

If you have existing pets at your home, introduce your new arrival carefully to avoid any unpredictably accidents.

Basic training for your dog can be started from day one. We highly recommend that you take your new dog to a professionally run dog training service, or puppy preschool. What you learn in dog training should be reinforced at home everyday.

Playtime! Dogs love to play and exercise, so take the time to play with your dog everyday and take him / her for walks.

Your family is your dog’s new pack and he/she needs to learn from day one that all the family is above him or her in the pack hierarchy. Please ask our staff how this can be achieved. 

 General health care for dogs


  • Daily walk (or twice daily for some breeds are needed)
  • Amount of walking depends upon breed, health and age of the dog
  • Providing exercise improves your dog’s health and prevents house hold destruction
  • Play games like fetch if you are unable to take you dog for a long walk


  • Some breeds need regular grooming- especially long haired dogs
  • Grooming long haired dogs 2-3 times per week
  • Start grooming when a puppy
  • Clipping may be required for dogs that do not shed their coat
  • Use a professional dog groomer


  • An untrained dog can cause nothing but trouble and often leads to dogs being brought into a shelter
  • Teach your dog basic commands such as “sit”, “stay” and “down”
  • Begin early if you have a puppy
  • Use food rewards
  • Enrol your puppy into puppy school once fully vaccinated
  • Enrol your dog in obedience training

 Dental health

  • Dogs are born without teeth and get all twenty eight teeth by eight weeks of age
  • At three months they begin to lose those baby teeth and start to gain adult teeth
  • Adult dogs have forty two teeth – twenty two on the lower jaw and twenty on the upper jaw
  • To keep your dogs teeth clean use a raw marrow bone, dental rusks, dental foods or a specially formulated toothpaste and brush
  • The amount you need to give your dog depends upon the size of the dog and the condition of the teeth


  • There are a vast variety of dog foods available
  • Provide your dog with one that is completely balanced and contains all the right amounts of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals required
  • Use the recommendations on the product label as a guideline
  • The amount you feed may vary from the guidelines due to the health, weight, activity level and age of the dog
  • Puppies less than three months need three to four meals daily
  • Senior dogs may need their multiple small daily feeds
  • Lactating dogs may also require more feeds
  • Some dogs are prone to obesity and care should be taken with their food intake and diet
  • Dry or canned food can both be fed provided they are nutritionally balanced
  • It is recommended that dogs be fed both dry and can food
  • When choosing a dog food, look at the ingredients listing. A premium dog food although more expensive offers the benefits of a fixed ingredient profile and generally lasts longer that a cheaper brand
  • Always provide fresh water, milk is not essential
  • Never offer cooked bones, only RAW. Avoid sharp bones that can be dangerous
  • Avoid table scraps as they can be high in fat and cause obesity or pancreatitis
  • Other food items to avoid are chocolate, onions, nuts and raw poultry, fish etc (as they may contain bacteria and toxins)


  • All Lort Smith Animals will have been vaccinated with a C5 vaccine and covers four viruses and one bacterium.
  • A C5 vaccine covers Canine Hepatitis, Distemper, Parainfluenza, Parvovirus and Bordetella bronchoseptica.
  • Yearly boosters are required to maintain immunity.
  • Overdue vaccinations require complete revaccination especially if vaccination history is unknown. 


  • A parasite that lives in the heart that is transferred from dog to dog by mosquito’s
  • Heartworm can be fatal
  • All dogs should have a heartworm test every spring especially if not on preventative medication
  • All animals over six months are tested for heartworm before leaving the shelter

For further information on any of these problems or recommendations please speak with our staff.

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 Digging and escaping

One of the reasons dogs get surrendered to shelters is because they are constantly digging and escaping from their yards. Digging is a normal behaviour and one can often see them digging to bury bones or digging to get at items buried. 

There are many reasons as to why dogs dig and these can be to get attention, comfort, escape and protection. The first approach is to find out why the dog is digging in order to train the dog not to dig out of the premises or dig up all your plants.

Reasons for digging

  • Self play
  • The dog is left in a relatively barren yard with no toys or play mates
  • The dog is left alone for long periods of time without interaction
  • No other outlets for energy particularly if a puppy
  • Some breeds have been specially used and bred for digging (e.g. terriers)
  • The dog is an active dog that needs an active job to do
  • The dog has seen you play in the dirt (gardening etc)
  • Trying to pursue small insects or prey
  • Trying to keep cool or for shelter by sitting in a hole
  • Attention seeking
  • Escape

Recommendations to stop your dog digging - training and modification

  • Walk your dog twice a day
  • Teach your dog to play ball or Frisbee
  • Teach your dog a few commands or tricks to stimulate the dogs mind and keep him/her active and vigilant
  • Take your dog to dog training
  • Keep interesting toys in the backyard and rotate these around.
  • Give your dog a view of the world (let them see what is on the other side of the fence so they don't feel like they need to go there
  • Provide an acceptable digging area. Choose a spot where it is okay for him/her to dig and cover the area with loose soil or dirt
  • If you catch your dog digging in an unsuitable area interrupt the behaviour with a loud noise and say “No dig”. Take the dog to the acceptable area and reward your dog when he/she digs in that spot
  • Make other areas unattractive to dig in
  • Look for signs of pests if your dog is digging at roots or has a specific path
  • Provide sheltered areas and cool placed to sit (in hot weather)
  • Do not give attention to the dog while he/she is digging
  • Place chicken wire or rocks buried at the fence line
  • Do not punish after the incident


Reasons for escaping are similar to those of digging in addition to reasons such as separation anxiety, fears, phobias and frustration.

Some dogs escape by digging but others by fence jumping or climbing and by pushing open gates that are not secure. Knowing how your dog gets out will help you modify your yard, but like digging it is important to discover why.

Sexual roaming

Dogs become sexually active at six months of age. Male dogs have a strong urge to seek out females and it can be difficult to prevent them from escaping.

  • Have your dog de-sexed. Studies show that neutering decreases sexual roaming in 90% of cases.

Fears and phobias

Your dog may be trying to escape from fear, especially from load noises like thunderstorms or fire crackers.

  • Identify what causes the dogs fear and desensitise him/her to that noise. You may need to seek veterinary advice about the possibility of medication while working with a trainer on this problem
  • Keep your dog indoors if there’s a chance for your dog to encounter the triggers that set off his/her fears
  • Provide a safe place for your dog by observing where he/she likes to go when anxious
  • Do not comfort your dog when he/ she is afraid as you will only reward that behaviour


  • Add an extension to your fence if your dog is a fence climber that angles 45° inwards
  • For digging dogs (see above)
  • Never correct after the dog has been returned to you after getting out as dogs associate punishment with what they are doing at the time
  • Do not punish your dog if escaping is due to fears or phobias as this will make your dog more afraid

For further information on any of these problems or recommendations please speak with our staff.

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 Separation anxiety

Dogs with separation anxiety hate to be left alone without their carers. They usually exhibit problems within a short space of time of their carers leaving and have a dramatic anxiety response. The most common signs of separation anxiety include:

  • Digging
  • Chewing
  • Scratching at doors or windows
  • Howling
  • Barking and crying
  • Urination and defecation (even house trained dogs)

Why do dogs suffer separation anxiety?

The reasons for separation anxiety are not fully known. Some dogs suffer this condition while others do not. It is important to realise that the dog has a behavioural condition and is not punishing the carer for leaving. Destructive behaviour and soiling the house are a response to panic and many dogs that are brought into shelters suffer this condition.

Separation anxiety occurs when:

  • When a dog is accustomed to constant human contact and companionship is suddenly left at home alone for the first time
  • Following a long interval, such as a vacation where the carer and dog where constantly together
  • After a period spent in a shelter
  • After a change in the family’s routine or new house/environment
  • A new pet or person in the household

How do I know if my dog has separation anxiety?

  • The behaviour occurs primarily when the dog is left alone
  • The dog follows you from room to room whenever you’re at home
  • He/ she displays frantic greeting behaviours
  • The behaviour always occurs when he/she is left alone no matter for how long or short the carer is gone for
  • The dog reacts with excitement, depression or anxiety to your preparations to leave the house
  • He/she dislikes spending time outside alone

Training your dog to become independent

  • Keep arrivals and departures low key. Ignore your dog for the first ten minutes before greeting calmly
  • Leave your dog with an article of your clothing that smells like you
  • Have other people walk, feed and spend time with your dog

Severe cases of separation anxiety

  • Use a systematic approach and practice the carers leaving and returning
  • Begin by leaving as normal (getting car keys, grabbing your bag or coat etc) then sit back down. Repeat this step until your dog does not show signs of distress
  • Next leave the house by stepping outside leaving the door open then return
  • Finally step outside and close the door, then return immediately
  • Proceed gradually step by step until your dog is not distressed by these steps. If anxiety occurs return to the previous step
  • When your dog can tolerate you being on the other side of the door for several seconds begin with short term absences and return
  • Make your leaving and returning low key
  • If your dog shows no sign of distress gradually increase the length of time you are gone
  • Practise as much as possible and scatter them throughout the day
  • When your dog can handle short absences (30-90 min) he/she should be able to handle longer intervals

Other methods and short term solutions

  • Teaching the dog to sit and stay using positive reinforcement will teach your dog that he/she can stay in one place while you go into the next room. When you return praise him/her quietly
  • For interim solutions consult your veterinarian about medication that may be helpful
  • Take your dog to dog day care
  • Leave your dog with a friend or neighbour that they know
  • Let your neighbours know you are working on the condition if they have complained to you about it

What not to do

  • Do not punish your dog. This may lead to an increase in anxiety as he/she is getting the attention he/she wants
  • Get another pet as a companion. Your dog is anxious because of the separation from you not because of being alone
  • Locking your dog up. Your dog will still have an anxiety response and may injure itself trying to get out

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