Bringing a new dog home, (c) 2011-2016 Frania Shelley-Grielen all rights reserved
Bringing a new dog into your home can be an exciting and stressful time for us as humans and an exciting and stressful time for the dog. As many plans and expectations as you may have for your new dog know that your dog simply cannot share them, he or she does not speak English, read or know your intentions. He cannot know that you plan to be the best of friends, to go for plenty of walks every day, teach him to play fetch or let him sit on the couch with you. Your new dog cannot trust that you will find the right dog food and make sure she gets to the vet when she needs to and find the right toys and games to play with her. Things are changing very fast for your new dog; whatever routine or family or place your dog has been in is now gone and his world will never be the same. What your dog does know is what is around him right now, what this new immediate environment (including your presence) smells, sounds and looks like in this moment. There is a biological necessity for this new dog to seek safety, safety, solace and routine. Read on for some tips on how to provide this much needed assurance of safety:
1) Anticipate what your dog will need and have it around before you bring your dog home. Things like high quality dog food, bowls for food and water, a leash (4-6 feet of leather or cloth), a leather or cloth flat or martingale collar (Skip prong, choke and head halters) toys--especially chew toys, a brush and a dog bed round out the the essentials.
Do not be concerned if your new dog does not exhibit much interest in play initially, this will come once your dog feels safe enough to play and when you identify which toys your dog prefers to play with.
2) Bring your new arrival directly home, do not stop and run errands or introduce this dog to your friends or family on the way home. As much as you may want to show off your new dog, resist, you do not want to overwhelm your new companion. For the first week or so limit visitors to your home in order to allow the dog to process you and your home environment at an easy pace.
3) Make sure and take time to allow the dog to sniff around (on a leash!) the block, yard or perimeter area of your home. This walk around should also include the indoor areas of your home. Remember to engage the dog at all times in this process—talk to your new dog in a happy and calm voice, explain what is going on. While your dog may not understand every word you are saying, your tone of voice and accompanying body language will reassure your dog that he or she is in a possibly welcome and safe place. Keeping the dog on leash will keep the dog connected to you, helping to foster both emotional and physical security (all new dogs are capable of escaping from unfamiliar surroundings given an opportunity).
4) Establish a consistent and frequent on leash walk routine. Initially use your dog walks as relief walks rather than recreation. Take your dog for shorter walks in your neighborhood for the first several weeks, save excursions and dog park visits for the second month when you are and your dog will know each other better.
Even with the best house training your home is new to this dog, there are no familiar smells, routines or safe and comfortable places to be yet. Should there be a break in housetraining, know that this loss of control may be stress related. Avoid any reprimands as they will only serve to create more stress.
5) Place your dog’s bed in the area the dog will be sleeping in; a cozy and quiet corner of your bedroom is ideal-- avoid hallways, garages, basements or other isolated areas. Dogs are social animals and you have brought this dog home to be a part of your family, this is the time to incorporate him or her into the comfort of you and your home.
Set your radio to a classical music station and make sure to leave it on for your dog when you are not around. The soothing music coupled with the melodic voices of the announcers will add to the comfort of your new dog’s new home.
6) Allow for the dog to move at his or her own pace. It is essential for your new dog to have ample down time or quiet time with no expectations. Do not put pressure on your new dog by assuming an immediate friendship; it is perfectly acceptable and natural for this dog to be hesitant around you for the days it will take to get more at ease in these new surroundings. Please allow the time necessary to get to know the individual dog, including expressed preferences and dislikes. Relationships take time to build, so no forcing allowed here. The dog should never be yelled at, scolded or scared—ignore all bad behavior and reward all good behavior with simple calm praise. Stay positive. Remember that over 90% of communication is non verbal and that dogs are masters at reading this non verbal communication. Should you be concerned or discouraged your new dog will "read" this as easily as he can "read" contentment and ease.
You are encouraged to engage with the dog by announcing your presence when you walk in a room—say hello and use the dog’s name but leave it at that for the first few days. Again, do not expect instant rapport, this dog does not know you and needs to see how trustworthy you are. Your new dog will be watching your facial expression, body posture and tension and anticipating your movements so go slowly and be the friend your dog would like to have eventually without scaring him or her off. If you simply cannot resist interacting with your new dog no matter what, take a book and sit on the floor parallel to your dog leaving about three feet of distance between you both and read out loud--to yourself. Pick something you are interested in (no horror stories!) and stick with it for a few pages. This will allow the dog to become more accustomed to your presence without that pressure of on the spot intimacy.
7) Watch and observe your new dog to get to know them. “Listen” to your new dog, their behavior will often tell you what they need and when they need it. Do not expect all things right away. There is no set time table here; every dog is an individual and what take one dog weeks to feel at home with may make take another dog months.
I was recently asked how to help a new dog overcome a fear of stairs in a home where the dog had been in for less than 24 hours. The dog was settling in but was reluctant to climb a flight of stairs after an initial slip. The new owner was concerned that the dog needed to overcome this fear right away in order to be at home in her new surroundings. The answer is that while there are ways to work on getting your dog to be more comfortable on stairs this is just not the time to ask for it. For now, it is certainly acceptable, if not, preferred to carry that dog up the stairs. Helping a fearful dog is never a bad thing, as Suzanne Clothier points out-- we never, ever see a wild animal (think of a mother tiger or polar bear) forcing their babies to “suck it up.”
What is key here is creating a trusting relationship first off. A relationship in which it is OK to be afraid of new and scary slippery stairs. Much of what your new dog is afraid of is necessary caution in encountering a novel situation. Given time and a safe environment (which you are helping to create) the situation becomes familiar and the caution gives way.
8) Utilize the positives in relationship building. Add to your positive and reassuring behavior effective communication strategies. Training classes offer a dog manners to navigate the human world, structure, stimulation and bonding activities for you and your dog (—do wait until your dog has settled in first). Avoid at all costs dominance based or aversive methods and look for classes or material offering positive reinforcement styles.
9) Even as your relationship with your new dog progresses always permit adjustment periods to changes in environment or development and allow for individual personalities, likes and dislikes. There are some New York City dogs that would prefer never to walk on sidewalk grates and as long as there is a way around the grate why not allow for that? The point here is that what you are aiming for is an optimal relationship and not for a perfect dog (even if all dogs are perfect already).
copyright Maria Gray
"As many plans and expectations as you may have for your new dog know that your dog simply cannot share them, he or she does not speak English, read or know your intentions. He cannot know that you plan to be the best of friends, to go for plenty of walks every day, teach him to play fetch or let him sit on the couch with you. Your new dog cannot trust that you will find the right dog food and make sure she gets to the vet when she needs to and find the right toys and games to play with her".
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copyright Maria Gray
copyright Maria Gray
copyright Maria Gray
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