Bringing Home a New Adult Dog

By: Di Ellis

There are particular challenges in bringing home a new adult dog (compared to bringing home a new puppy). Whether you have adopted your new friend from the pound or a rescue organisation, taken him from a friend of a friend, or rescued him from life on the streets, it's a little more difficult bringing a new adult dog into your environment.

Take our new dog, for example. We are his fourth owner in 3 years. He was originally picked up by a rescue organisation after he was found living wild in a cemetery. He was bought as a gift for an elderly lady, but soon proved a little too wild for her to handle. He then went to a family living on a farm, but was banished for chasing the chickens. Then a third owner, before finally finding a home with us.

Now, our little fellow isn’t a bad dog, but he had very little training, and was used to living off his wits. Our first challenge was to get him both to trust us, and look up to us as his pack leaders.

Toilet Training an Older Dog

As we live in an area zoned "conservation", all of our animals are kept inside from dusk to dawn (so they don't attack the local wildlife). This meant that the dog would be sleeping inside. What we quickly realised was that the dog had never been house trained. Our previous dogs had been trained to go to the back door and bark to be let out if they needed the toilet. This little fellow, though, would hang on for as long as he could before sneaking off to a dark corner and relieving himself.

We quickly got him out of that habit by taking him outside after dinner every evening (going so far as to walk out with him in all weathers), and not letting him in until he went to the toilet. Whenever he went, we would praise him and make a fuss, and then we would go back inside.

It only took about 2 weeks to get the dog trained, and we haven't had a single mishap since then. And he can go by himself now too!

Part of the Family

Another challenge we faced was that we had two cats, one very laid back (we weren't worried about her), but one not so friendly (her name is Missy because it rhymes with hissy).

The key thing we had to do was to let the dog know that he was bottom of this pack – after the cats. So the cats got a lot of fussing over, and they were fed before him morning and night. And if you've ever had cats, you'll know that sometimes they can go a little crazy, tearing around the house and darting under chairs and tables, then leaping back out.

To a dog – this says "Chase!!". We started off rebuking him when he started to chase the cat, but we soon realised the cat could look after herself, and that she was having just as much fun as the dog. Now that we all know the pack order, we just leave them to it. Sometimes he ends up with a scratch on his nose, but most times they get along fine!


Usually, a puppy is discouraged from biting too hard by his litter mates or mother, and when they are adopted out, they are then trained by their owner. But our guy had been on his own too long, and sometimes his playful bites became a bit too hard! We are big fans of Cesar Millan, so we used his technique of making a quiet, but sharp "Ssshh" noise to the dog whenever he tried to play bite, and it worked a treat. We now have very few accidents.

Regular Meal Times

Another legacy of his time living wild was that he tended to eat at odd hours. As we have more than one animal, they all get fed at the same time, morning and night. However, we soon found that the dog wasn't eating his straight away. Then, over the course of the day, the cats would wander by and steal his food. By the time he was hungry, there was very little left! Apart from the fact that dog food isn't good for cats, the dog wasn't getting enough nutrition.

I have to say this has been our toughest challenge, trying to get the dog to eat regularly. However, we are getting there.

What we do is place his food down at the allotted meal time. If he hasn't eaten it within an hour, it gets thrown out. He is coming to realise that if he wants some food, he has a certain window of time within which to get it, and has started to eat at the same time as the cats. I'd say we are about 50% of the way there (and this has taken 5 months).

We also bought him one of those treat balls and part fill it with dog biscuits, so if he's hungry he just rolls it around the floor and dog biscuits fall out whenever he needs them.


Don't believe that old saying that you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Bringing home an adult dog can be very satisfying and rewarding, but can sometimes just take a bit more effort than with a puppy. And you miss out on all that chewing stage!!

About The Author

Di Ellis is one of the owners of BestDoggieTips

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