Dogs can bring enormous joy into our lives. If you are considering adopting a dog or have recently adopted one, this page has been developed to help answer some common questions about helping your new dog settle into your home.

If you have any questions or concerns after adoption, please contact the branch directly or email us at or call us at (844) 835-4798 to speak to a member of our friendly team who will be happy to assist

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[accordion-item title=”Your New Dog Supplies Checklist”]

You will need some basic supplies before bringing your new dog home.

Dog shopping list

  • Food and water dishes
  • Food
  • Dog brush
  • Collar and ID tags
  • Leash
  • Chew toys such as ‘Kong’ or ‘Nylabone’.
  • Dog bed with washable cover
  • Dog treats for training
  • Crate or Kennel
  • Coat (depending on breed and time of year)
  • Registration / Dog License

[accordion-item title=”The Journey Home”]

Taking your new dog home is exciting, but a trip in the car might be a completely new experience for your dog or pup. If the dog is young or small you can carry it on your lap (passengers only!).

Make sure you have an old towel or blanket in case it is nervous and urinates or vomits. Using a towel or old sweater with your scent on it can help the dog to bond with you. Larger dogs are best in the back of the car, in a crate or held on a lead or car harness.

[accordion-item title=”Arriving Home”]

Essential information on arriving Home

Set up your dog’s space

  • Set up a space with a bed, crate or blankets
  • Provide water, toys and a feeding area
  • Keep puppies in one room for the first day or two (a tiled bathroom or laundry is ideal)
  • Ensure the room is secure, warm and well ventilated

Dog proof your house

  • Remove hanging wires, cords or electrical cables that your dog could chew or get tangled in
  • If you don’t want something chewed put it away!
  • Remove breakable items
  • Keep toilet lids closed to prevent drinking or falling in

Meet the family

A new environment and new people can be overwhelming

  • Avoid scheduling group gatherings of family and friends the first few weeks while your new dog gets settled.
  • Try to keep the house calm and quiet
  • Don’t force attention on the dog – let your pup come to you
  • Avoid everyone cuddling or playing with the dog at once

Explore the house slowly

When you first arrive home, leave your dog on leash and explore your home together. It is very important that the dog remains on leash especially if there are children or other pets already in the home. Show your dog each room in your home, where the food and water bowls are, and where the bed or crate/kennel is located. Let your dog take their time to sniff around and check things out.

After the tour of the inside of the house, it is time to go outside. Take your dog around the property of your home to the spots they will be using for bathroom breaks. Until your dog’s bathroom habits have been established, it is recommended that you take your dog outside every hour when you first bring him home, as well as after any play sessions, meal time, nap time or drinking a fair amount of water. Puppies have much less bladder control, which you can accommodate by taking your puppy out every 30 minutes or after the above  mentioned activities. Check out the House Training section of this page for more advice about house training.

  • Take your dog outside for short regular visits on a lead
  • Supervise your dog outside for the first week or two
  • Watch your dog to identify hazards in the yard
  • Dog-proof your fencing by ensuring they can’t get under or over the fence. Remove climbable objects near the fence
  • Praise your dog when it uses the washroom outside
  • It is important you do not rub your dog’s nose in a “mistake” or make them nervous about relieving themselves in your presence.

[accordion-item title=”Dogs & Kids”]

Dogs have a completely unique way of expressing their emotions. Growls, teeth baring and snapping are all ways a dog is telling you that they are not comfortable with the situation. Do these behaviours mean you have a bad or dangerous dog? Absolutely not! But it does mean you have to make serious decisions to either manage or learn how to change the offending behaviours, before they lead to a bite.
  • Always supervise young children with your dog
  • Allow the dog to approach first and try to ask children to stand calmly and quietly.
  • Teach children to handle and approach your dog properly, avoid hugging the dog, don’t chase, or squeeze/poke/pull at the dog.
  • Don’t let children play tug of war games with your dog
  • Keep children away from dogs when they are eating, sleeping, enjoying their favorite toy or bones, or in a crate

Dog bites ARE preventable! Know your warning signs.  Your dog is trying to communicate he is uncomfortable in the situation by displaying any of the following behaviours.:

  • Barking or growling
  • Showing the white’s of their eyes
  • Baring or showing their teeth
  • Ears hung low and tail between legs
  • Becoming stiff like a statue
  • Lip licking, turning head away from the situation

If you see any of the above remove your dog from the situation immediately.

[accordion-item title=”Another Dog in the Home?”]

Most branches will want your resident dog and your prospective dog to meet prior to adoption to observe how they interact. Many dogs view the arrival of another dog as an invasion of their territory. To get everybody off to a good start, let the dogs meet in neutral territory. Have short fun sessions.
Introduce your dogs with both on a lead at first in the neutral area (like outside) and let them sniff and interact. Stay relaxed, your behaviour will influence how the dogs react.
Release both dogs from the lead (in a secure area only!) once they appear relaxed. Try to monitor but don’t interfere as they get to know each other.
It is a good idea to initially monitor all interactions between your dogs. If you cannot be there to supervise, separate the dogs by putting either one or both in their crate/kennel or in different rooms.

Only introduce toys once your dogs are getting along and you can supervise them.

If introductions don’t go well seek professional advice immediately. The longer the problem continues, the harder it can be to resolve. Most conflicts can be resolved with professional guidance.

Keep feeding bowls apart or in separate areas to begin with and always supervise feeding. Perhaps start by feeding on a lead, so you have control if one dog finishes first. Always use separate bowls.
When you introduce you newly adopted pet to the family, your resident dog may revert to some long forgotten behaviours like chewing or marking their territory. Punishment for these behaviours will only make your dog more upset, creating a bad cycle.

Always make sure the resident dog knows they are still loved. Tip the scales in favour of the resident dog, making sure they are the first to receive extra hugs and kisses or an extra treat. Your resident dog has earned this and needs to feel secure about their relationship with you.

Set up a separate area or crate for your new dog with water and bed. This will prevent negative interactions at night or when unsupervised.

[accordion-item title=”House Training”]

Most adult dogs will catch on to the idea of house training with relative ease. The age of your dog and any possible medical issues they may have will also affect your house training. Situations such as stress, change in diet, intestinal upset, intestinal parasites and urinary tract infections can make house training difficult to impossible. It is important to talk to your veterinarian if you have these concerns.

When dealing with a puppy or a young dog, a good rule of thumb is to relate their age (in months) to the number of hours they are physically capable of controlling their bladders and bowels. A puppy at two months should be capable of controlling their bladder for about two hours. A four month old puppy can manage about four hours. If you have adopted a puppy or a young dog, there will be some time before you may be able to manage a full night’s sleep.

Just like every other aspect of your dog’s life, consistency is key when it comes to house training. The more consistent your feeding and walking schedule, as well as crate training (see Crate Training section for more information), the more successful you will be house training with your new dog.

Designating a Relief Spot
When designating a relief spot, certain factors should be considered. Will this area be easily accessible all year round, including during the winter months? What about garden areas and walk ways? Once you have designated a relief spot take your dog on leash to the designated toilet area.

Stand quietly, so that the dog can sniff around. Most people may instruct “go do your business” or “potty time,” but do not repeat this request and distract the dog. Do not praise the dog during their search. If after about 5 minutes your dog hasn’t gone to the bathroom, return them to the house, keeping a close eye on them for about half an hour, then try again. Once your dog has completed their business outside, praise and make a fuss about how smart they are and, of course, don’t forget a treat!

Good Morning!
When people wake up in the morning, their first stop is usually the bathroom. If another family member already has the bathroom occupied, we know how uncomfortable it can be to wait. Your dog will appreciate access to relieve himself as much as you do in the morning. Take your dog out to use the bathroom as soon as you can after you wake up.

Create a schedule that is practical for you to maintain. If you cannot stick to your schedule, you cannot expect the dog to adhere to it. Try to feed your new dog one to two hours before you have to leave them. This should provide your dog enough time to digest their breakfast and ensure they have an opportunity to use the bathroom before you leave for work. Schedule your dog’s bed time and waking up time.

Adhere to these times as closely as possible. If you have a puppy or young dog and will be away from your home for more than a few hours, you will need to arrange to have somebody come in to take the dog out to their designated relief spot. Keep track of your dog’s routine. Some dogs will “potty” two or three times per outing in the morning, but only twice per outing in the evening.

Even if the weather is foul, do not let your dog know that you don’t want to be going outside with them. By teaching your dog that even in bad weather going outside is “the thing to do,” they will be more willing to convey their needs to you.

Supervision in the House
Any mistakes your dog makes while you are at home are due to your inattention. You should always know where your dog is and what they are doing. If you realize it’s almost time for a potty break, don’t delay or you will have missed an opportunity to positively reinforce your dog’s bathroom habits. By observing your dog you will quickly learn to tell the difference between a dog exploring his new home and his searching for a location to relieve himself. If you cannot supervise the dog for a period of time, put the dog in a confined area such as a crate or room where you are. Have the dog on their leash if it will help. When you are relaxing, watching TV, reading or on the computer, have your dog with you as well. Try giving your dog some of their toys to play with.

[accordion-item title=”Crate Training”]

Crate training has many benefits when used appropriately. A dog “crate” is the general term referring to a rectangular enclosure. Crates can be constructed of wire, metal, molded plastic or a combination of these materials. Be sure that the crate is of adequate size. Most people with puppies will opt to buy a crate that will accommodate the dog when it is full grown, but can be partitioned off to help with house training when they are young. A dog should be able to stand up straight, turn around and stretch out in their crate. A dog that is properly crate trained will enjoy their crate throughout their lives and will use it for refuge from a busy household.

Crate training has several benefits, including:

  • Puppies and dogs that are being house trained to eliminate (urinate and defecate) outside are less likely to eliminate in their crate unless left for inappropriate amounts of time or before the dog has had a chance to eliminate outside.
  • Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety and destructively chew or otherwise endanger themselves or damage household items during the times they cannot be directly supervised cannot practice these behaviours in a crate.
  • In cases of travel or illness, crates can be a necessity. A dog that has been trained to be comfortable in a crate is at an advantage in these situations.
  • For dogs involved in dog sport functions like agility and flyball, crates provide a much needed resting spot during break times.

The crate’s location needs to be somewhere inside the house where the dog is comfortable. The location should be in a quiet space close to family areas but just outside of heavy traffic zones. Make it clear to all children living or visiting the house that the crate is not a “playpen” for them. You should, however, get your dog used to people reaching in and out of the crate to avoid your dog guarding
his crate (see Resource Guarding for more information).

While puppies (8 – 16 weeks) will normally adjust more quickly to crating since they are being introduced to this new world only a small portion at a time, crate training adult dogs should start in smaller steps.

  • If possible, have your crate purchased and setup prior to bringing your new dog home for the first time.
  • Secure the door open, so that it cannot accidentally shut and frighten the dog.
  • Encourage the dog to explore the crate by placing treats or toys in the crate and rewarding the dog with praise every time they go in the crate.
  • Feed the dog all their meals in the crate, start closing and latching the door, working up the time until their meal is done.
  • Slowly increase the time they spend in the crate, perhaps during your suppertime or while going out to run errands.
  • A crate should NEVER be used for punishment. It is NOT recommended that any dog spend more than 6 consecutive hours at a time in a crate.

As many dogs mature or settle into family routines, regular crating may become unnecessary. If you think your dog is a good candidate for having unsupervised household access, start in with small steps. Leave your dog with limited access in the house while you do some activity close at hand but out of the dog’s sight.
Leave the dog for no more than a few minutes at a time, gradually increasing your absence to half days then full days when necessary.

[accordion-item title=”Food & Water”]

Feed your dog premium dry food

Dogs need a premium food for energy and health. The Nova Scotia SPCA recommends a quality dry food. Biscuits clean your dog’s teeth and have higher nutrients than soft foods. Royal Canin Premium food is available at the Nova Scotia SPCA shelters. Dogs need some variety in their diet – discuss options with your vet.


Your dog should have easy access to fresh clean water at all times, inside and outside.

Foods to avoid

Cat food is not suitable for dogs, human food has salt, sugar, or additives which can be harmful, fattening or cause severe reactions
Cooked or small bones can splinter and get stuck in the throat or gut.
Do not give your dog milk, most are lactose intolerant and will get diarrhoea

Choose food for the age of your dog
Puppies need high-energy puppy food for bone growth and a healthy immune system. After 12 months, most dogs need an adult dog food for healthy weight and nutrition maintenance. Larger dog breeds may need puppy food until 18 months (discuss with your vet). Dogs over 7 years old need a senior diet with reduced calories, lower proteins and elements to support bone structure.

Introducing a new food
Introduce any new food gradually over one or two weeks to avoid stomach upsets, mixing in new dry food with the old, slowly changing the proportions.

How much and how often?
Puppies need to be fed more regularly to provide regular nutrition for growth. For amounts see the daily feeding guide on the packet.

Feed pups under 6 months three times a day
Feed pups between 6 and 12 months twice a day
Feed adult dogs once or twice a day
[accordion-item title=”Exercise, Play and Basic Commands”]

Exercise is important. Unless they are injured or ill, dogs need exercise every day – rain or shine!

Walking on lead
This is just as important as running off lead. It teaches your dog to stay by your side, and pay attention to you. Practise walking at different paces, about turns, sudden stops and commands to sit.

Off lead
Add some structure into off lead runs; call the dog to you and release them regularly so you have control and work on their recall. Do this in a safe area away from busy roads. Use a long line at first if you are unsure if your dog will return.

try a Frisbee instead of a ball for variety. Make your dog sit before you throw a ball. Praise your dog for returning and releasing the ball. Find a spot without other dogs, as toys can create fights.

Play is also good for dogs; it makes them happy and exercises their brains. Always play using toys, not your hands or feet and do not rough play with your dog.

Treat balls – are a great entertainer. Remove the amount you put in the treat ball from your dog’s next meal.

Paddling pools – are great to cool off in summer and for water play.

Frozen treats – these can entertain your dog in summer. Freeze liquid meat stock in an ice cream container. Remove the lid for a giant ice block.

Toy variety – Have plenty of different toys to play with so your dog doesn’t get bored.

In multi-dog households always supervise dogs with treats or toys.

Basic commands

Commands like “sit”, “stay” and “come” are great for exercising your dog’s brain, as well as being useful. They keep your dog safe when in an off lead area and ensure you have control of your dog. Use the same command words consistently to avoid confusion. Choose short, one-word commands and the dog’s name, not long sentences.


Put your dog on a lead, gently tighten the lead while pushing its bottom down. Say the dog’s name then “sit” as you see it start to lower. This helps associate the act of sitting with the word. Release tension on lead and praise calmly when sitting. Practise whenever you give your dog a toy or food, open a door or remove leash.


Master the ‘sit’ command first. The ‘stay’ command teaches your dog to remain still. Attach the leash and hold it in your right hand with your dog on your left side. Say “dog’s name” ‘stay’ in a firm voice, then step forward leaving the lead loose. Wait a few seconds and return to its side. Praise calmly.

If the dog moves tighten the lead, move the dog back in to its stay position and repeat. Practise for 10 minutes a day, gradually backing away to the full extent of the leash. Give plenty of praise for every successful attempt. Use a short word like “okay” to release the dog.


Start this training in your backyard. Once you can consistently call your dog back, try the local park. Call your dog once or twice while crouched down; it will probably come running to you.

Praise your dog when it comes. After a few times in the crouched position begin calling while standing. If your dog doesn’t respond, walk after it calmly. Take hold of the collar firmly, move back to the original position, then praise.

Rules and boundaries

Dogs feel confident and settled when they know they are doing the right thing. Have clear rules and boundaries for the dog that everyone in the household can agree and stick to.

Consistency is the key to training. If you break a rule occasionally, you are not giving your dog a treat; you are creating confusion and uncertainty.

Rules and boundaries should work for you and your family. Keep rules simple and straight forward. Everyone needs to be consistent with the rules.

[accordion-item title=”Behaviour Advice”]

There are many avenues to get behaviour and training advice, to ensure you are getting the most accurate information we recommend to consult with a positive reinforcement trainer to discuss any behaviour changes.

Sometimes the SPCA is able to observe behaviours with a dog while they are in their care and may be able to advise the new owners accordingly.   Within a month or so of welcoming a new dog into their family, many adopters are left wondering how anyone could have given up such a perfect dog. However,  once  the  dog  becomes  settled  in  their  new  surroundings,  and comfortable with their new family, undesirable behaviours may arise.

Some of the more common behaviour issues experienced and basic information on how to deal with these behaviours.

Some dogs experience separation anxiety. It can be caused by your daily comings and goings, or changes where your dog is at home alone more often.

It can result in excessive barking or destructive behaviour. The dog may chew itself excessively or toilet in the house. It is not done to annoy you; your dog is expressing anxiety and a need for help.

Separation Anxiety, Destructive Chewing

Many dogs are happy to lounge around their homes all day, perfectly content snoozing on the couch or their dog beds while their family is out working and attending school. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all dogs.  Some dogs find the departure of their human companions very stressful. A variety of unpleasant behaviours can occur, including howling and barking, destructive chewing or accidents in the house, because of the physical effects of that anxiety. Most dogs with separation anxiety can be helped through behaviour modification on the part of the owner. If your dog suffers from severe separation anxiety and starts causing himself bodily harm, you should consult your veterinarian as well as a professional behaviourist.

A family’s daily absences from the household are a fact of life.  Make your arrivals and departures part of your dogs’ routine.

First, we recommend the use of a crate. When introduced properly, a crate can be a safe haven for most dogs and will help provide them with a feeling of security. For dogs that may be chewing destructively, this will not only protect your material and sentimental possessions, but in turn will protect your dog from items that could potentially cause them physical harm. This will help reduce the anxiety when the family returns home, anticipating what their dog may have gotten into. If a crate is not an option, you will need to confine you dog in an area where the dog will feel comfortable and can easily be maintained as a “dog proof” area.

Start slowly. Using short quick sessions, place your dog in their crate or safe area with a good chew toy, a meal or something that they are normally engaged by. Leave your dogs’ view for a very brief moment. Reward your dog with calm praise or treats for maintaining a calm and quiet demeanour. This should gradually build to more extended periods of time and incorporate such things as opening your door and simulating your departure.

Are you making your dog’s separation anxiety worse? Many owners feel guilt ridden when preparing to leave their dogs for the day. What many people perceive as reassuring their dog only makes the situation worse. Dogs are very perceptive to our emotions. Many people anxiously shower them with love and kisses and constant attention right before they walk out the door. After such personal attention, our immediate departure no doubt comes as a very big shock to the dog, and leaves them feeling worried and anxious.

Upon returning home, many humans can’t get to the door fast enough and make a big fuss about how happy they are to be back home.  Your departures and arrivals have become very big events to your dog.

When you leave for the day, place you dog in their crate or area about five to ten minutes prior to your departure. Make sure you provide the dog with something they will find stimulating. This will take the focus off of you. When you leave, say nothing or simply a little “Bye Max, see you later.”

When you arrive home, don’t run to your dog immediately. Say nothing or a simple “Hi Max, mommy’s home.”  Put down your bags, hang up your jacket and take a minute to relax. This requires restraint on the human’s part. Max will be okay for a few minutes and you most likely have the whole evening to look forward to. Go let your dog out of his crate or area and take him outside to relieve himself. Wait a few minutes until outside or after coming back before showering your dog with “I missed you.”

Destructive chewing can go hand in hand with separation anxiety. Dogs have a natural desire to chew on things and chewing is usually a very soothing outlet for the dog’s anxiety. Not only can a destructive chewer ruin many of your household items, this type of unsupervised chewing can be a big health risk to your dog.  Determining the level of your dogs’ chewing requirements will help in your quest for safe and suitable chewing items. Some dogs may be happy to carry a stuffed animal around for years while others may remove the stuffing in minutes.  Chew toys also vary in their strengths, so sometimes investing in one good and slightly more expensive chew toy will be a necessity.

Fear and Shyness

Some SPCA dogs have had very hard pasts or may never have been socialized properly. If your dog starts to exhibit fear or shyness around people or new things, it is your job to show the dog these things are okay and there is no reason to worry. When your dog becomes upset by a situation, avoid panicked human voices “reassuring” your dog it is okay; this is actually only reassuring that there is reason for the dog to worry. Act like the situation is no big deal.  Reward your dog for confidence in these situations.

Resource Guarding

Many dogs have a tendency to guard objects they perceive as valuable. The Nova Scotia SPCA does test for the most common forms of resource guarding (food and toys) but when you arrive home with your new friend, you may discover they have placed great importance on other less common items. Some dogs may be possessive of locations such as the sofa or bed, their owner or a variety of objects such as empty food bowls, raw hides or sticks, to name a few. Similarly, some dogs do not enjoy being handled in specific regions on their body.

If  you  discover  your  dog  is  possessive around  certain  items  or  people,  it  is recommended  that  you  consult  with  a knowledgeable trainer who has experience in  treating  resource  guarding  using desensitization  and  counter conditioning, not  punishment.  In the meantime, every effort  should  be  made  to  manage  the environment your dog is in to ensure the trigger object is not present or your dog is not around other people or dogs when near the person they have chosen to guard.

If you are faced with an emergency situation where your dog has somehow acquired a valued object, you may wish to try to “bait and switch” by quickly and calmly bribing the dog with food or a toy. Do not attempt to confront, reprimand or wrestle a dog that is guarding an object or person. You will compromise your dog’s trust and you may become injured during the altercation. Bribery is not meant to be used instead of proper training, but in emergency situations you may have to use it as a last resort

[accordion-item title=”Pet Insurance”]

The Nova Scotia SPCA highly recommends buying pet insurance to cover the costs of unexpected illnesses or pet emergencies. Vet care can be expensive so we have partnered with Pet Secure to offer quality and cost effective insurance plans to suit your needs and budget. Pet Secure supports the animals at Nova Scotia SPCA.

[accordion-item title=”Health Advice”]

Vaccinations against disease are critical throughout your dog’s life. The Nova Scotia SPCA gives most initial vaccinations and a health card recording them. There are a variety of additional vaccines available and most vaccines require boosters each year.  Consult your veterinarian to discuss the frequency and type of vaccines your dog will require.

Young pups may not have completed all vaccinations. We will alert you to this. Your puppy needs to be fully vaccinated before you take it off your property.


Flea and worm prevention and treatment are essential. Fleas become worse in warm weather and if left untreated can spread to your home. Prevention is better than cure, consult with your veterinarian for the safest and most effective preventative treatment options.

How do I tell if my dog has fleas?

Your dog may be itching and scratching a lot or grooming excessively

You may see fleas or flea dirt in your dogs’ coat.

How do I get rid of fleas?

Contact your veternarian about the most effective and safest treatment.  Many over the counter treatments available at retail outlets are not recommended as there are possible negative side effects.


There are a variety of types of worms and treatments.  Your veterinarian can tell you the treatment you will require for the specific type of worms. Dog can get intestinal worms from drinking infected water, or eating something they shouldn’t, or from being in contact fleas. Cleaning up your dog’s faeces and general good hygiene help prevent this.  Worms live in the dogs gut and feed off the dogs’ food causing malnutrition, making the animals coat appear dull, making them tired, causing diarrhea, causing weight lost or giving them a pot-bellied appearance. Worm infestations can be a serious health concern and should be treated immediately.


Regular grooming of your dog is a good way to calmly interact with your dog and help detect health concerns. Even dogs with short coats need regular grooming and all dogs need their nails clipped. It is good to start this from a young age.

Regular vet visits

Contact your vet if you are concerned about the health of your dog. Take your dog for a check-up once a year. This can be done at vaccination time to ensure early detection of problems.

NEVER give a dog human medicine such as Tylenol or Aspirin as these can be harmful or even fatal.

Your Dogs’ microchip

All dogs adopted from the SPCA are microchipped. It is ESSENTIAL to keep the micro chip details up-to-date with 24 hour Petwatch if you move, your phone number changes or the emergency contact you provided changes their contact number.

The SPCA receives many lost dogs each year where we cannot reunite them with their owner because the microchip details have not been updated.