Decompression and Integration

Updated: Oct 7, 2020

Part of ensuring that your new pup is a perfect match for your family is closely following this decompression guide and giving your dog plenty of time and patience to adjust to his/her new life. We understand how exciting it is to adopt a new family member and know you can't wait to do all the fun activities you've been longing to do with a canine companion. However, taking it slow for the first few months will solidify your relationship and give you the best path to happiness and success. Prior to bringing home your new dog it is important that you mentally prepare for the first few weeks of transition and physically prepare your home to nurture your dog's mental and physical well-being.

Prepare your home for your new addition

Make sure all electrical cords are safely tucked away and that there are no magazines, books, or small tempting knickknacks and/or children's toys that are easily accessible to a curious canine.

Set up a quiet area/room with a cozy crate for the new pup to decompress in that isn't accessible to other pets or children. A bathroom, a mud room, a spare bedroom, or even a cozy corner in an adult's bedroom, can all make for a fabulous decompression area. Separation techniques from other pets/children can include closed doors, baby gates, or x-pens depending on your space/needs.

If you do have a fenced yard check it over again with fresh eyes. Is there anything a dog can jump on top of and boost themselves over the fence? Any holes a pooch could slip under or between? Any weak spots that could be exploited? Make sure you carefully and actively supervise all pets in any fenced yard until you are absolutely positive they can not escape.

If you are unsure how your new dog will do in a fenced yard or if you don't have a fence at all, we strongly advise you purchase a long line so that your dog is able to explore and run while still safely under control. This is also an excellent tool for teaching recall!

Your Dog's Pantry

Stock up on enrichment items such as

  • Kongs

  • Busy Buddy Squirrel Dudes

  • Tricky Treat Balls

  • Kong Wobblers

  • Bobs-A-Lot

  • Raw Bones

  • Bully Sticks

  • Puzzle Toys

  • Snuffle mats

  • Lick mats

Kong stuffers such as

Purchase some good quality dog food -

Grab some durable chew toys such as

Gear Recommendations

Get an appropriately sized crate for your new pal, ask your adoption coordinator if you aren't sure which size to get and check out this link about how to use, where to place, what to put inside, etc your dog's crate -

Purchase an ID tag with your home address and phone number on it as well as a properly fitted nylon martingale collar for your new pup.

We love Max and Neo as well as Caninus Collars depending on the size of your pooch.

Purchase a 4ft or 6ft nylon or cotton leash for walks. Doggedly does not advise our adopters use retractable leashes anywhere but on their own property for quick potty walks etc.

You should also consider a jogging leash to keep your new pup tethered to you, hands free, for the first few days until they get their routine, boundaries, and potty schedule down. You may also consider a harness - we love Balance Harnesses, Perfect Fit Harnesses, and Ruffwear Harnesses.

Create a management plan

During the first 3 days at home it is imperative to keep your new dog's world small and safe, while simultaneously allowing your current pets time to get used to smelling and hearing a new furry family member in their territory. For these reasons we do not advise allowing your new pup to meet your current pets inside the home for 3 full days. We understand this seems counter intuitive as you want to make sure your new dog is a perfect fit for your home, however allowing everyone to decompress and acclimate to one another will set you up for long term success. With this being said it's important to create a plan ahead of time so that you can keep your current pets separated from your new pet. Set up potty, walk, play, and sleep schedules for your current pets (keeping their routine as normal as possible), as well as a schedule for your new dog. We like the crate and rotate method where when your new dog is out, your current pets are safely secured in another room or behind a gate in a crate and visa versa but feel free to get creative. Ideally your new dog should not see your current pets until you are ready to properly expose them in order to avoid reactivity or frustration.

When you arrive home from picking up your pup

For the first three days you want your new dog's world to be safe, calm, and predictable.

  • Leave them at home unless absolutely necessary.

  • Do not take car rides unless absolutely necessary.

  • Do not take them to crowded places or gatherings.

  • Do not take them to dog parks.

  • Do not introduce them to strangers or anyone who doesn't live in the household.

  • Do not hug, hold, or even pet them unless they are asking you to do so.

Check out this video on how to tell if a dog wants to be pet

Instead, take them for a walk in your yard or around your yard, apartment building or neighborhood by themselves. Ensure they are safely secured by either a well fitting harness, martingale collar or slip lead to prevent escapes. Allow them to sniff and take them to their potty spot to eliminate prior to bringing them inside.

Once they have gone potty and done a lot of sniffing, bring them inside and place them in their cozy area within the crate with fresh water and an enrichment item or their food depending on the time of day. You are free to sit in this area with them, feed them treats, read them a book, etc just keep things calm.

Other things you can do to encourage calm is play an audio book or calming music such as classical, soft rock, reggae, relaxmydog or Through A Dog's Ear.

Use an Adaptil collar or diffuser

Leave a fan running for white noise

If you leave your pup alone while they are crated ALWAYS remove their collar. Most likely they will be ready to take a long nap.

After about 2 hours (for a puppy under 6 months) or 4-6 hours (for adult dogs that are already crate trained) take your dog out for another potty break. Make sure to take them to your designated potty area, let them relieve themselves, reward them for doing so and then allow them to walk around and sniff outside.

Do not just let your dog into the backyard unsupervised - they may escape and run away or they may get distracted and not fully potty which can result in accidents in the home or crate. You can then bring your dog in to the home with you, on leash, and allow them to sniff around in a room or two and begin to get used to their new environment. For the first few days they should be sequestered into one room, or on leash with you at all times. The easiest way to teach your new dog not to potty in your home is to never allow it to happen in the first place. Similarly, the easiest way to teach your new dog not to chew on your furniture, chew up your pillows, or have zoomies on your sofa is to never allow it to happen. These first few days paint the picture for your dog as to how you expect them to live under your roof, with your rules. Management is imperative! Set them up for success by providing appropriate things to chew on and rewarding calm indoor behaviors. Don't allow them to explore the house without supervision. Be clear and consistent about your rules and make the consequences predictable. Never physically punish your dog by hitting, spanking, choking, or "bonking" them.

During these out-of-crate play sessions you can also work on basic cues such as The Name Game (with one dog only), Eye Contact, Capturing Calmness, Hand Targeting, Place, Come, and Stay. These games will help build a stronger bond with your dog as well!

After about 2 hours (for a puppy under 6 months) or 4-6 hours (for adult dogs that are already crate trained) of exploring your home with you take, your dog out for another potty break. Then lead them back into their crate for another 2-6 hour (age appropriate) nap.

Puppies need up to 18 hours of sleep per day and dogs should sleep ~12-16. If you do not allow your new pup to get their rest they may begin to show signs of being over tired such as hyperactivity or mouthiness.

Essentially repeat these windows (Sleep, Eat, Potty, Play/Explore, Potty) for 3 days, adding new areas of your house and cues for the exploratory/play sessions.

Remember - do not bring over visitors (especially children) who do not live in the household during these first few days/weeks to meet the dog. If you plan to have visitors make sure your new dog is safely tucked away in his/her safe zone in a crate. Do not let them rush up and greet folks at the door. Similarly do not allow strangers to pet your dog while you are on walks during this period, practice saying "They can't say hi, they're training thank you!"


If you have children in the home you can absolutely allow your new dog to hang out with them during these play/exploratory times. These interactions must be actively supervised by an adult. Remember to show your dog what you want them to do around children, and not allow the to jump on or knock them down. An example is make sure all four feet are on the floor before your pup gets any attention.

Do not allow children to feed the dog treats right away - especially if the dog appears nervous or overly excited. You can toss treats behind the dog (away from the kids).

Do not allow the dog to approach children or children to approach the dog until the dog is calm and able to take cues from the adults.

If this doesn't happen right away it's okay to have the dog in the same room as the children being rewarded for being calm and checking in with the adults. No need for them to physically interact with children just yet.

Once you are able to get your dog to focus on the adults, you can allow him to say hi to the children Check out these kid friendly videos for tips on how to safely allow children to pet/interact with dogs.

For additional information I highly recommend this article:

Never, under any circumstance, leave young children unsupervised around ANY dogs.


After the first three days of stress vacation you can slowly begin integrating your new dog into life with your other pets if they are ready. Some dogs take longer than others to decompress.


Review the following video on how to safely and slowly integrate your new dog into your home with other dogs

For your first introductions with your current dog/s you will need to take several parallel walks on neutral territory (such as a quiet park or field) where the dogs can begin to get used to seeing one another and building a positive association.

It is imperative not to let the dogs rush up to one another and meet head on with tight leashes, as this is a recipe for a disastrous rude greeting and possibly a dog fight which can permanently damage your dog's relationships.

After the dogs have been parallel walked for several days (a week if possible) you can then allow them to greet in an open neutral area for a brief and positive 3-5 seconds. Then call them back to you and reward. If the dogs are interested in playing - allow them to play for 30 seconds or so and then call them back to you and reward.

Pay close attention to body language and play styles. Please review the following videos outlining proper dog play and behavior.

Note that play styles differ and it's important to advocate for your dog if they appear overwhelmed, annoyed, or if they are being bullied.

It is equally important to interrupt and possibly time out a dog who is bullying other dogs. A bully dog may not be suitable for play groups.

How can you tell if dogs are being bullied or are being bullies?

Repeat these play sessions on neutral territory for 2 days and then bring them in to the back yard (new dog first, followed by the current dogs) and repeat the process. If you don't have a back yard somewhere close to your home is fine, just keep them on long lines. After the dogs are comfortable outside you can allow them to explore a room of the home together (with the other rooms blocked off by baby gates/exercise-pens) while you are actively supervising.

Make sure there are NO resources in this room, including (but not limited to) toys, food bowls, or high value treats. In this case allow the new dog to enter the home first for a few minutes, and then allow the current dog/s to enter afterwards.

Keep these intros in the home short, positive, and productive with frequent breaks.

Gradually increase the areas the dogs have access to and the duration of the interactions until the dogs are fully integrated. Never leave dogs unsupervised in the yard or in the home until you are completely certain they will not fight or guard resources. If you have any doubts put one or both of them in crates when they can not be supervised.

Remember to always feed separately. Never free feed.

Make sure there is access to multiple fresh water sources.


Please review the following video on how to safely and slowly integrate your new dog into your home with cats

Your Doggedly Dog has been "cat tested" if we adopted them into your home with a cat which means we have done our own introduction. However; living with a cat is often significantly different than meeting a cat once or a even few times. It is absolutely imperative to take things slow and allow your cat to get comfortable with the idea of a new dog in the home, as well as allowing your dog to slowly learn how to properly greet, interact and live with a feline friend.

Making sure your cat/s have multiple safe spaces in your home such as a very tall cat tree and a room (or several) with a baby gate where a dog can't get in to is essential for a successful integration. These cat safe rooms should include fresh water, food, and litter boxes. They must be secure so the cat does not worry that a dog could break in.

We highly recommend purchasing a Feliway diffuser as a way to calm your cat during the decompression period. Set this up in your cat's safe zone.

Dog/Cat integration can take a bit more time than Dog/Dog integration so don't get discouraged if it's taking awhile. After a few days, when your dog does not seem fixated on trying to find the cat set up an intro training session. To do this pick a day when you have some extra time, open the safe zone and allow your cat/s to choose to come out into the room where you and your new dog will be waiting and prepared. You do not want to rush this. Keep your new dog on leash. Once the cat enters the room immediately get your dog's attention and practice the cues you have been working on. If the dog seems too excited you can create a greater distance between the dog and cat. Once the dog is not fixated at trying to get to the cat when it's in the same room, you can allow your new dog to approach your cat and sniff. Keep this interaction short and positive, then call your dog away and tell them what a great job they did.

Keep facilitating short and sweet monitored interactions such as this for several days/weeks depending on the dog -- always allowing your cat to have access to dog free safe zones.

Never leave dogs and cats together unsupervised in the home until you are completely certain your dog will not chase or mouth the cat. If you have any doubts put the cat in its safe zone with the door shut and your dog in a crate in a separate room when they can not be supervised.

Check out this podcast episode for additional tips:

2 weeks

After about the first 10-14 days you can slowly start increasing the areas you walk your dogs and allowing them to greet friends and family who don't live in the home.

Only do this if the dog seems to want to do so.

My favorite way to teach a dog to say hi to new people is giving them an option with the cue "Go Say Hi". Then they can choose to walk over and greet the person briefly and come back to you for a treat or praise. If they choose not to say hi, that's ok too! (See video below)

You can also work on handling exercises

And make sure to offer lots of opportunities for sniff walks and enrichment!

3-4 weeks

Now that you are entering the end of your first month with your dog you can continue to slowly grow your new dog's world and introduce them to new adventures.

Take care to ensure each of these is positive by observing your pup's body language. Don't force them in to situations they are uncomfortable in. Instead work on confidence building exercised and positive exposures. Below are some fun exercises you can use to help an under-confident canine.

If your dog likes socializing with non-family dogs (not all do - see video below), it is probably now safe to start introducing them to non-family dogs, slowly and allowing group play.

Ideally this play will be with dogs you know in large back yards or SniffSpots, rather than with strange dogs in crowded places.

We do not recommend taking your dog/s to a dog park for at least 4-6 weeks after adopting them and only after you have a very reliable recall cue installed.

As a general rule we do not endorse dog parks but we do understand each dog is unique and each park is different.

After your dog has decompressed and built a relationship with you they will likely start feeling comfortable being themselves around you. This can manifest in behaviors you may find undesirable. Now is the time to start work on modifying those behaviors - either with your Doggedly adoption coordinators and/or a Doggedly approved trainer. We believe every interaction you have with a dog is training so be sure to capture every good behavior your dog exhibits with praise, affection or a treat and interrupt or redirect behaviors (see video below) you don't want becoming habits.

Doggedly highly recommends you do not feed your dog out of a bowl, as dogs are biologically programmed to scavenge for food.

Instead, use your dog's meals for training and in a variety of enrichment activities/toys/puzzles to keep them happy and mentally stimulated. We are with you every step of the way so do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns! Please text or email us any time day or night!

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