Here are our top ‘day in the life’ tips for helping adopters start off on the right paw with a new dog during those oh-so-important first days after adopting…
- Don’t let the dog out of the car until you are sure that it is securely leashed. Once an adolescent or adult dog is out of the car you cannot expect it to stay with you as you might a puppy.
- Take the dog outside on leash to potty before even entering the house. The dog may not go, but it’s always worth a try. Even if a dog already has experience where ‘not to go’, they need experience about where ‘to go’ at the new home. Take the dog outside again in 10 or 15 minute intervals if it hasn’t eliminated outside.
- Introduce the dog to each two-legged member of the household one at a time. It’s critical to make a good first impression by being calm, offering a treat, and avoid hugging, kissing, pats on top of the head or forcing physical contact.
- Introduce dogs to each other outside in a neutral environment, keep everything relaxed and in an open space rather than right by a gate or door. Keep meetings brief, if at all possible. To avoid any conflict, keep introductions between dogs free of toys and treats. Prevent cat chasing with leashes and gates.
- Once the dog has a chance to get acquainted with its new home, give it a chance to settle down, perhaps with a chew toy (if there is not another dog).
- Stay close to home. As tempting as it may be, going all over town with a new dog adds to the feelings of being overwhelmed that many dogs experience right after adoption. Save the adventures for later or after the dog is already familiar with the new environment. Let the dog get used to your house and yard for a day or two before going on a long walk beyond your neighborhood, which might be frightening to some dogs.
- Spend as much time with the new dog as possible, especially in the first week. Ideally, take a week off work when you adopt a new dog, but at least give yourself and the dog a weekend. Do what you can to avoid taking trips, spending evenings out, or leaving the dogs alone for long periods. Especially before they have learned how to be ‘home alone’.
- Start conditioning the dog to be comfortable alone by giving a food stuffed toy and ‘leaving’ only for seconds at a time. It is important to keep absences extremely brief in the initial phases of conditioning. Gradually accustom the dog to being left for longer periods of time.
- Leave a short leash on the dog if it is at all fearful or difficult to catch. Avoid grabbing at the dog’s collar, and start homework on day one to come when called to your hand as a target.
- Have the dog sleep in the same room as the owners, if possible (we don’t necessarily recommend sharing a bed though).
- If a crate is going to be used (and we hope it is!), put it in a room where the family spends time, but not where people are constantly passing by, and not next to a window.
- Feed the dog, on a schedule, in an area where it will not be disturbed by people or dogs walking by.
- Don’t leave the dog alone and loose in the house until you have a better idea of how it will behave (a few weeks at least).
- Entice the new dog to play, but don’t force the issue. Try interesting the dog in different toys to see what it likes. Some dogs go crazy for balls, while others ignore those but are entranced by squeaks, or rope toys.
- Start with a little training using positive reinforcement only – perhaps just to sit on cue or to respond to its name.
- Begin training classes once you know your dog better and have some idea if the dog can handle a group setting.
Krystal Ellingson CDBC CPDT-KSA
Krystal Ellingson CDBC CPDT-KSA, is the founder of Speak Dog, the first dedicated ‘positive’ dog training company in the Tri-City area where she lives. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer with both Knowledge and Skill accreditations with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers along with a list of other credentials, certificates, and affiliations.