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Pet care and behaviour help topics

Pet care & behaviour

Bringing a new dog into your home is an exciting time. For a dog going into a new home, it will be stressful. You know where everything is and you’ve been through your home lots of times. For a new dog this will be the first time he’s seen your living room, your kitchen, or even seen your cat.

Remember everything is a first for him in your home. Think of it being like when you moved into a new home or got lost in a new town. Have patience, understanding and be forgiving if your new dog doesn’t know something.

To make it easier on your new dog and to help him get use to your home, it’s best to plan for his arrival and his first few days. Think of what you will need, what he will need and make a plan.

Before you bring your new dog home

Dog supplies needed

  • Food: Make sure you have some of his previous food so you can mix it with his new food if it is different. Switching to a new food without a slow transition can cause diarrhea.
  • Food & water bowls: Have the right size bowls for your dog. Check with your veterinarian to see if your dog’s bowls should be elevated off the ground.
  • Collar & harness: Put a collar on your dog even if you only walk him on a harness. Collars will have his I.D. tag and license on. Do not use a choke, prong or any collar that causes pain, stress or injury.
  • Dog toys: Toys are an important part of helping your dog engage in normal dog behaviour. Get toys that are appropriate type, size and safe for your dog.

Husky dog playing and biting down on a toy with a man indoors

  • Dog puzzle feeding toys: Also known as smart or work to eat toys, they’re a fun way for your dog to work to get his food. These feeding puzzles engage your dog in doing natural scavenging behaviour. Some dogs will need to be shown how to use them at first.
  • Kong: Kongs that are the right size for your dog are great smart feeding toys. You can fill them with food and freeze them for your dog.
  • Bed: Get one or two comfortable beds and have them ready for when he comes home. Don’t forget his bed from the shelter, other home or rescue. It might be used however its familiar and will help when he moves in to lower stress.
  • Crate: Make sure the crate you get is the right size for your dog. A puppy will need a smaller one and as he grows, he’ll need more space. Your dog must be able to stand up, turn around and lay so he can stretch out comfortably in his crate.
  • Pee pads/puppy pads: If you have a puppy be prepared. Where will you put the pee/puppy pads, how will your pup know where they are?
  • Exercise pen: It’s always a good idea to use an exercise pen for puppies or new smaller dogs. These are idea when you can’t supervise and you’re working housetraining and chewing issues.

Things to plan for before your new dog comes home

Where will he…

  • Sleep
  • Go to the washroom – if it’s a puppy where will the puppy pads be, where will he go when outside?
  • Stay during the day – crate, dog proof room, day care, with you
  • Stay during the night – crate, dog proof room, with you
  • Crate – will his crate be in the kitchen, living room or your bedroom
  • Walk – where will you walk him, can he go to the dog park, what if he doesn’t like other dogs?

How will you…

  • Housetrain an adult dog or puppy – what’s your schedule? Puppies need out more often.
  • Reward him – for going to the washroom outside, where will you keep treats so they’re handy.
  • Train him – yourself or hire a qualified humane trainer.
  • Crate train – not all dogs are crate trained, you’ll need to train him & crate train puppies.


  • Much food – should you feed him, when and how often
  • Long in crate – how long will your dog or pup be in a crate, too long is cruel and not fair
  • Dog proof room – setup a room with safe dog toys, bed, food & water when you can’t supervise
  • Trainers – how do you choose a qualified humane trainer

Merch shot of pro trainer wearing treat belt feeding a treat to a dog

What about…

  • His things from shelter, other home, rescue – take as many of his things as you can. His bed and toys will help when he has them in his new home.
  • Routine – set up a schedule so your dog learns your routine, this will help make things predictable for him
  • Veterinarian – when will he go for first visit, which veterinarian will you use?
  • Daycare – should your new dog go to daycare, which one?
  • Behaviour problems – What will you do if there are some you didn’t expect?
  • Elevator – has he been in an elevator before? How can you help him if he’s scared?

It’s important to try and think of everything you might need for your new dog. Getting your home set up so when your dog does come home you can focus on him and helping him move in.

dog tilting head on floor

New dog moving in

Day one

  • Bring him in the house on leash and let him sniff – let him get use to your home
  • Take him out regularly for bathroom breaks – don’t forget to reward him with a treat after he goes
  • Remind kids how to approach him and that the house is all-new to him
  • Take him for a walk – bring treats and let him sniff the neighbourhood
  • Teach family, neighbours and strangers how to approach your new dog for petting
  • Put his bed and some toys from his previous home out
  • Your goal during his first day is to help him learn about your home and have good experiences

Note – don’t bring your new dog or puppy home and just leave him alone while you go out.

What should I expect to do after day one with my new dog?

  • Veterinarian visit – take your dog to the vet for a checkup and a microchip if he doesn’t have one.
  • Learn about basic dog care.
  • I.D. your pet and get your dog license – visit your local animal control and get a license. It’s the law and it will help get your dog back to you if he ever gets lost.
  • Contact the shelter, previous owner or rescue with questions.
  • Have fun!

Happy mixed breed dog lying down being pet by smiling woman

Tags: dog, puppy

What is the rabies virus?

Rabies is a viral disease of warm-blooded animals that can be transmitted to humans. It is caused by a virus of the Rhabdoviridae family, which attacks the central nervous system and eventually affects the brain. Rabies is almost always fatal in animals and people once symptoms occur.

How is rabies transmitted between animals and humans?

The virus is transmitted through close contact with the saliva of infected animals, most often by a bite or scratch. It can also be transmitted by licks on broken skin or mucous membranes, such as those in the eyes, nasal cavity or mouth. In very rare cases, person-to-person transmission has occurred when saliva droplets became aerial. Bat bites can inflict small wounds and go unnoticed.

Who is at risk of being infected by rabies?

The rabies virus can infect any mammal. In North America, it occurs mainly in foxes, skunks, bats and raccoons, and can spread to domestic livestock and pets. In B.C. however, the only carrier of rabies is bats; no raccoons or skunks in B.C. have ever transmitted rabies.

Photo: Liron Gertsman

How common is rabies in bats in B.C.?

It is estimated that 1 percent of bats in the wild in B.C. carry rabies. In June 2004, four skunks in Stanley Park in Vancouver tested positive for the rabies virus. However, it was discovered that they all carried the bat strain of rabies; likely they had all been in contact with a rabid bat.

Cases of human rabies infection in Canada

In 2000 and 2003, two people in Canada died of rabies infection, one in Quebec (2000) and one in British Columbia (2003). These were the first cases of human rabies in Canada since 1985.

The most likely sources of infection for both individuals were unrecognized bat exposures. Without wound cleansing or post-exposure vaccinations, the potential incidence of rabies in exposed humans can be very high.

Does my pet need a rabies vaccine?

Dogs and cats account for fewer than 5 percent of all animal rabies cases in Canada. However, rabies presents a serious public health risk, and even indoor pets could come in contact with a bat. Some pets also need the vaccine for travel. Ask your vet whether your pet should be vaccinated.

What if my pet brings a bat home?

If your pet brings home a bat you should take your pet to a veterinarian. If the bat is available, your vet may send it for rabies testing. Additionally, your vet may vaccinate your pet against rabies and/or ask you to keep your pet in your home for several months to see if they develop signs of rabies.

If any person in your household has touched a bat with bare skin, seek medical attention from a doctor or local public health unit immediately.

What will happen to the bat?

The bat may be euthanized and sent for testing. As of April 1, 2014, CFIA veterinary inspectors are no longer involved in species collection activities. However, CFIA continues to perform and cover the cost for rabies laboratory testing involving domestic and wild animals and humans. This is vital as once the symptoms of rabies (flu-like including fever, headache, fatigue, progressing to GI and CNS problems) start to appear, there is no treatment and the disease is almost always fatal. However, wound cleansing and immunizations, done as soon as possible after suspected contact with an animal, can prevent the onset of rabies in virtually 100 percent of exposures.

What to do if there has been contact with a bat

Bat-to-person contact?

If treatment is given promptly after being exposed to (any bare skin contact) or bitten by a bat, the illness may be prevented by taking the following actions:

  • Immediately wash the wound or exposed surface with soap and water for 10 minutes and cover the area with a clean bandage.
  • Remove any clothing that may have been contaminated.
  • Immediately call your doctor and local health authority for advice.

Bat-to-pet contact?

Please contact your veterinarian to have your pet vaccinated and discuss whether a period of isolation/ observation is required for your pet. If the bat is available, your veterinarian may send it for rabies testing.

Yes, the BC SPCA recommends pet insurance. In fact, with every dog and cat adoption, you get a complimentary six-week trial of pet health insurance provided by Petsecure Pet Health Insurance.

With pet health insurance, you can lower the stress of paying for large, unexpected or unplanned expenses with a monthly premium.

cat wearing two casts lying down

The cost of spaying or neutering your pet depends on many factors and will vary according to each pet’s circumstances and needs. For example, a large dog will cost more than a small dog. If your pet is overweight or in heat this can also add to the cost. Contact your veterinarian to get a more accurate idea of the costs involved for your pet.

Curious ginger kitten looking down playfully

The cost of spaying/neutering is small when compared to other costs of pet care, such as what you will spend on food for your pet over their lifetime.

Consider the possible costs if you do not spay or neuter. If your pet should wander off in search of a mate, you may be faced with paying fines and impoundment fees. You may also be faced with the additional costs of caring for puppies or kittens for whom finding homes may be difficult. Worse yet, think of the costs should your pet be injured while roaming for a mate.

Spaying or neutering is a one-time investment with life-long health and welfare benefits for your companion.

If you require financial assistance, learn about low-cost spay/neuter programs in B.C.

Vaccines protect your pet from getting diseases that are contagious and possibly fatal. Vaccinating your pet doesn’t just protect your pet, it also protects other pets in the community who may be too young or sick to be vaccinated. Vaccines also protect against some diseases that can be passed from pets to people.

All cats and dogs should receive vaccines. Your veterinarian can help determine which vaccines are necessary and the best schedule for vaccinating based on your pet’s lifestyle and age.

Talk to your veterinarian about vaccines for your pet.

Puppies and kittens should start their vaccines at six to eight weeks of age. Your puppy or kitten will need a series of vaccines before they are four months old. Schedules for adult animals may vary depending on lifestyle and vaccines needed.

Shelter or rescue animals may require more frequent vaccines while they are in the care of a shelter due to higher risk of exposure to disease.

Talk to your veterinarian about when to vaccinate your animal.

Allowing a female cat or dog to produce a litter does not have any benefits to the animal. Animals who go through heat cycles and pregnancy are at higher risk for uterine and mammary problems, including mammary cancer, which can be fatal.

There are health risks to the mother during the pregnancy and when giving birth. Proper pre-natal care, emergency care for birth complications, and proper newborn care are expensive and time-consuming.

Learn more about the benefits of spaying and neutering your pet.

A happy smiling dog sitting outside looking up with tongue out

Most unintentional litters (particularly with cats) occur because guardians waited too long to have the surgery done. The usual recommendation is before six months of age for cats, and before six and a half months for dogs. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best time for your pet. Female cats and dogs do not have to have a litter before being fixed.

The BC SPCA supports early age spay/neuter procedures for dogs and cats. Pediatric sterilization prevents excess litters by ensuring animals are sterilized before adoption. This helps combat pet overpopulation and euthanasia of unwanted animals. All major professional, academic, and animal welfare organizations in North America support pediatric spay/neuter for shelter animals.

The BC SPCA will continue to promote other methods of combating pet overpopulation, including education and public awareness campaigns, non-surgical methods of sterilization, traditional spay/neuter initiatives and behaviour training.

The BC SPCA believes pediatric spay/neuter to be appropriate with the following qualifications:

  • The procedure takes place between 8 and 16 weeks of age
  • The animal is judged to be clinically normal and healthy prior to surgery
  • Proper surgical protocols specific to these young animals are employed
  • Post-surgery complications receive special attention

“Spaying” and “neutering” are surgical procedures used to prevent pets from reproducing. In a female animal, “spaying” consists of removing the ovaries or uterus and ovaries. The technical term is ovariectomy or ovariohysterectomy. For a male animal, “neutering” involves the removal of the testicles, and this is known as castration.

In addition to preventing unwanted offspring, spaying or neutering has many health and behavioural benefits to the animal.

A happy dog outdoors on grass being pet by a smiling girl

The quick answer is yes! However, you still have to meet our four non-negotiable factors and the animal needs to be matched to the person receiving the animal as a gift. Please visit your local BC SPCA shelter or check out our adoptable animals. Learn more, watch our video on giving pets as gifts:

Before you decide to re-home your animal, look into these alternatives to giving up your pet. We may be able to help you keep your pet with you. If you don’t see advice on your specific situation, please contact your local BC SPCA to discuss your situation. If you are looking at rehoming your pet through the BC SPCA, learn about the steps you will need to take before bringing in an animal to one of our shelters.

Reach out to family members and friends

They may be willing to take on full guardianship of your pet. If your pet is already familiar with them, it may make the transition to a new home easier.

Discuss your pet’s personality and needs with them to make sure it’s a match. If it is a match, it’s a good idea to create a pet re-homing contract for each party to sign. Make a copy for them and keep the original.

Create a pet information posting

Be honest about your pet’s personality and needs. Include important information about your pet in your posting:

  • What was your pet like in your home?
  • What potential issues should a new home should be willing to work on?
  • Is there anything you are working on with your pet that a new home needs to continue?
  • What would be your ideal home recommendations for your pet?
  • What types of homes would your pet not do well in?
  • Any other information about your pet you want to include?

dog being held by person

Post online, at local veterinarians or local businesses

There are several websites where people can post their pet information. Talk to your local veterinarian to see if they have a public billboard for pets that need new homes. Some local stores and businesses may also have public billboards.

Have conversations with potential new guardians

Discuss your pet’s personality and needs to make the best match with potential adopters’ experience and expectations. Use our tips on making the right match to help guide you in your conversations with potential new guardians for your pet.

Transfer your pet’s registered ID

If your re-homed pet has a microchip or tattoo, you’ll need to transfer their records. This will increase their chances of being found if they get lost.

Ownership cannot be transferred without permission from the previous guardian.

  • If your pet’s ID is registered with the BC Pet Registry, you’ll need to complete an Ownership Transfer form (PDF). For more details on transfer of ownership, please call us at 1-855-622-7722.
  • If your pet’s ID is registered with a veterinary clinic or other company, you will need to go through their process of transferring ownership.
  • If your pet has a microchip or tattoo and you don’t know who it registers to or do not have the information available, contact your local BC SPCA shelter for advice.

If you still want to rehome your pet through the BC SPCA, learn about the steps you will need to take.

Eye contact shot of a dog outdoors giving sad curious puppy dog eyes while being held and pet by a woman

No. Your pet will actually benefit from spaying or neutering, because he or she will lead a healthier and longer life. Pets become fat and lazy as a result of overeating and a lack of exercise, not from spaying or neutering. Furthermore, spaying a female eliminates the possibility of her developing uterine and/or ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the chance of breast cancer. Neutering a male eliminates the risk of testicular cancer.

Two happy dogs running through a forest trail with a person behind them

Cat playing with woman with wand toy

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