Dr. Zustiak Says. . .

So, you’ve adopted a dog… An OPHS dog!

Tips and suggestions for integrating your new rescue dog into your life!

Be Patient

Give your new dog at least a week or two to acclimate to you, your home, and your new routine before taking them out and about to meet family, friends, or neighbors. Your new rescue dog has experienced increased levels of stress recently; by giving them some time to decompress and relax in their new home, as well as learn to trust you as their new owner, you will increase the likelihood of successful introductions to new people!


Be consistent with a new routine. Dogs do well with some structure to their day. Having meal-time and outside-time at about the same time every day will provide your dog with a sense of comfort and feeling of being at home.


While at the shelter, the dogs are fed twice a day (morning and night), and most of the dogs are fed a variety and mixture of the foods we get donated. Unless a dog is on a special food, it should be OK to begin feeding the kind/brand of food that you will choose to feed your dog once you get home. But, keep in mind, any change (in diet or environment) can cause appetite disturbances and/or stomach upset!

Veterinary Care

With your OPHS adoption, you get one free health check with a participating local veterinarian. Even if your new dog is completely healthy, this visit is your chance to establish a relationship with your new vet and ask any questions you might have. Through your veterinary clinic, you can get reminders for future vaccinations, food/diet recommendations, contact information in case of emergency, and a health plan for the future of your dog.


Some dogs really enjoy having a crate or kennel available to hang out in at their leisure. Having a “den” of their own in a new place can help make them feel safe and secure. Additionally, having a dog that is crate trained comes in very handy in an emergency or other scenarios where your dog might need to be kenneled!

Introductions to People

It may sound strange to some people, but to a dog, it is considered polite and respectful for new visitors to keep their distance and not approach right away. This is especially true if your new dog is fearful or timid! To keep your dog feeling comfortable with introductions, it is advised to ask friends/family to ignore the dog until the dog approaches them for attention. Of course, some dogs may jump right into your mom’s lap in the first minute! But, some dogs will need several meetings with new people before being able to feel comfortable – don’t push them too fast!

Other Dogs

Unfortunately, many rescue dogs will not like being around other dogs… It’s important to do dog introductions slowly and calmly so you can get a good read on the situation. It’s also best to avoid any Dog Park situations until you have an idea of how your new dog reacts to other dogs. The OPHS staff should be able to give you an idea if your new dog may be OK meeting other dogs.


Introducing a new dog to an existing cat should be done safely and slowly. It’s best to keep the animals separated until they can get used to each other’s smell and accept each other’s existence. It’s also important that the cat has a safe place to escape to if the new dog does try to chase the cat! The OPHS staff should be able to give you an idea if your new dog may be OK with meeting/living with cats.

Walks and Exercise

Going on walks or actively playing in the yard is a wonderful way to bond with your dog! It’s also an effective way to exercise their body and mind to keep them happy and healthy. However, there is a right and wrong way to walk a dog, and you need to be the one in control. If you need help training your dog to walk on a leash, you can contact a local trainer for help!

Obedience Training

Establishing your role as the leader is important when adding a dog to your life. There are many local trainers available to help you with establishing this role while working on basic obedience or other behavior problems. OPHS will keep a list of local trainers and their contact information so you can seek help if you should need it.

House Training

Many dogs may have accidents in a new home even if they are fully house trained. Developing a routine and learning to predict when your new dog may have to go outside will help prevent accidents and help teach the dog where to conduct their “business” – timing, consistency, and praise for a job well done is very important.

Every Dog is Different

You can’t expect your new dog to suddenly be perfect like your old dog might have been. Sometimes people forget how much time and work they put into their former dog to make them great. Just remember that all the hard work is worth it and it’s up to you to set them up for success.