A newly adopted Pit Bull dog relaxing at his new home

Helping shelter pets settle in at home

Team Walmart Pets

June 24, 2021


min read

Shelter pets aren't the wild cards that some people make them out to be, but being able to read them — and knowing common issues that crop up — can help ease their transition from “on their own” to “home sweet home.” Check out these expert tips that help rescued pets become and stay part of your family.

Adopting a pet at the shelter

Wondering where to adopt a dog? A shelter is your best bet. And when it comes to these shelters—it’s good to do a little homework first. Is it a kill shelter? In that case, you might consider prioritizing a cat or dog who’s been at the shelter longer than others. Do a background check and make sure beyond kill or no-kill, that the shelter is reputable. 

When it comes to the pets, read the kennel cards and online profiles thoroughly, including whether they came in as a stray or were surrendered by a family. Sometimes, strays could have more behavioral problems than animals that came from a family. If you’re at the shelter and don’t feel a connection with the pet you are meeting, that’s perfectly OK.

Take your time adopting a pet! Don’t just get the first one you meet. And consider asking the shelter to meet another pet, and see if you connect with them. Hopefully, you’ll find a pet you connect with. And if not, consider looking at a different shelter. There are plenty of cats and dogs who need homes. 

When it comes to adopting a pet from a shelter, trust the professionals — especially if they say a pet shouldn’t live with children or other animals. 

Before you adopt your pet...

Make sure to get the essentials. Get a pet ID tag engraved with your new pet’s name, your cell phone number and city/state so they can be returned to you if you’re separated. Take a note about asking the shelter about microchipping your pet.

Grab yourself some food bowls, but don’t worry about the food yet. Lots of times, shelters send you home with your pet’s preferred food. Just make sure to get more before it runs out! And while you’re at it, you can ask your shelter about treats as well.

Pick up oatmeal-based pet shampoo to freshen your friend and soothe sensitive skin. Ask the store’s groomer for a brush recommendation based on your pet’s coat type.

For your home, you should make sure your new buddy has a bed, a crate and maybe some fun toys while you’re at it. Pets play and chew to relieve stress, frustration and boredom, so they’re essential. Fill your cart with durable Kongs, deer antlers or some other durable chew toys. For cats, consider getting some catnip, a laser pointer or feather boa cat toy to keep feline paws prancing. If you have an empty cardboard box, you’re already way ahead of the game.

Dog training tools

Get a crate! Look for one large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around, but not so large that he can do his business on one end and escape to the other.

Purchase a clicker trainer plus training treats and a treat pouch to train your new addition.

Look for a dog harness. To keep pulling in check, try an Easy Walk Harness, Sense-ation Harness or Gentle Leader Collar. Then consider getting a fixed leash, which is easier to control than a retractable one. If you’re feeling adventurous with your cat, there are also cat harnesses available.

Be patient with your new pet

This might be the most important part of getting a pet. Remember, they’re not going to seamlessly fit into your life as soon as you open their carrier and welcome them into your home. It would be nice if that were the case, but new pets always require some training and getting used to.

Anxiety can cause accidents and nuisance animal behaviors like chewing, digging and vocalization. Give your new shelter pet lots of exercise, provide plenty of chew toys and teach your pet to see their crate or bed as a “safe space.” 

Don’t worry if it takes a month or two for a shelter or new pet to learn your routines and become perfectly comfortable in their home. 

If you’re at all concerned, contact your vet or a professional dog trainer for advice!

Pet Care

Photo by David Statham on Unsplash