Starting Off Right
The First Week with Your New Dog
Congratulations on your new dog! We’ve put together some helpful tips to get you and your new best friend started off on the right foot together. Keep in mind that the transition into a new home is potentially stressful for any dog, so keep the environment quiet and predictable for your new pet as he adapts to his new surroundings.
Set you and your new dog up for success by treating him like a puppy for the first few weeks; limit his space in the home so he does not have full access to everything in every room right away (limiting space will also help insure that your new dog potties outside), provide him plenty of appropriate chew items and keep things you don’t want him chewing away and out of reach, expect some mishaps as your dog learns what is acceptable and not acceptable in your home, and keep your rules and expectations consistent and clear.
Keep in mind that your house rules may be different from any other place that he has lived, so having the mindset of a teacher in the first few weeks will only help you and your dog adjust to life together.
1) When you arrive home, take your dog out for a walk right away so that he can have a bathroom break. Have treats ready if he eliminates outside. You might as well start reinforcing the right behaviors right away.
2) If you have other dog(s) that your new dog needs to be introduced to, take them for a long walk together in a neutral place. If there is more than one dog, make the introductions one at a time so as not to overwhelm your new dog. Walk them on opposite sides of the street and as the energy level settles down let them sniff each other as you keep both dogs moving forward. There is no need to rush this process so take it slow and give the dogs the time they need to acclimate to each other before bringing them into the house together.
3) Introduce him to his new home on leash. Walk with him and let him investigate each space. If there are other dogs in the home, crate them or put them away somewhere while the new dog investigates his new space. Make sure all food and high value items (brain toys, bully sticks, rawhide toys, favorite toys, etc.) are picked up to avoid any initial conflict over toys or food.
4) New dogs can drag around a leash for the first week while you establish house rules. If he gets on the furniture and you don’t want him to, just take the end of the leash, say “Off!”, and use the leash to matter-of-factly pull him off, if he begins eliminating inside, say “Outside!” and quickly take him outside. Having the leash on the dog already makes this much easier for you and safer for your dog.
Give Your Dog a Quiet Transition
Bringing a new dog home is exciting for the people, but remember, no matter where your dog has come from, coming to your home is a big transition, and is potentially stressful for the him. Depending on your dog’s personality he may handle the transition without any hesitation, but many dogs need some settling in time to feel comfortable and figure out what this new life is all about.
The first week home with your dog should be as calm and predictable as possible. This is not a great time to have a “Come meet my new dog!” party with a bunch of noise, friends and family. It’s also not a great time to proudly march your new dog through every dog-friendly pet store in town. You will have plenty of opportunities later to introduce your dog to family, friends and places once he is feeling adjusted, secure and comfortable in his new life.
Keep Your Rules and Expectations Consistent and Clear from Day 1
Your dog’s transition will be much smoother if the rules of your house are clear starting on your very first day together. If you don’t want your dog on your furniture, then don’t let him hang out on the couch with you for the first week because you feel bad for him, and then think that it’ll be a snap to teach him later that he is actually not allowed on the couch. Whatever you don’t want him doing for the rest of his life (being fed from the table, being on the furniture, barking out the window, jumping on you or your kids) needs to be immediately interrupted and not allowed from Day 1.
Start Alone-Time Training
After your dog has been home with you for a few days, you’ll want him to get used to being alone. If you have to go to work right away, this must happen sooner rather than later. If you have the option of easing him into being alone then do that. He must learn to be relaxed, calm, and settled when alone—and this doesn’t come naturally to dogs, social animals that they are.
How? Leave your dog alone in his confinement area (crate or gated room) while you go out or spend time in another part of the house. Vary the length of your absences, from 30 seconds to 20 minutes, and repeat them throughout the day. If your dog seems comfortable, you can increase the amount of time he is left alone. You can give your dog something yummy (bully stick, filled brain toy or bone) to chew on while you are away. This will also create positive association when you leave. I.E. Your leaving and absence predict a high value brain toy, bone, etc.
Remember, it may take several days or weeks for your dog to make the transition to your home. Providing your dog with plenty of exercise will help him be calm in your absence.
At night, put your dog in their sleeping area about a half hour before you need to go to bed. If he whines or barks it will be easier for you to ignore him. Put a chew toy in your dog’s crate or sleeping area and leave the dog. He may have trouble settling in at first, but should eventually relax and go to sleep. It is important not to let your dog out of his confinement area if he cries or barks because he’ll learn that barking gets him out.
The bottom line is, if you give him attention for making noise, he will keep it up longer next time. Steel yourself and wait it out. It’s absolutely normal for your dog to cry a little for the first few nights, but he will quiet down quicker each night.
Another option is to tie him to your bed at night. Provide a dog bed as necessary. This allows you to sleep and the dog to feel secure that you are close by. If your dog has been in a shelter this maybe particularly helpful since he’s been alone for weeks or months. Once he has settled in, it might be easier to begin crate training in your room.
Give your dog plenty of exercise, and you get a happier, healthier, better-behaved dog. Well-exercised dogs bark less, chew less, sleep more, and rest easier when left home alone. They are also much less likely to rummage through the trash or attack the couch cushions. Leash walks are great, but your dog needs to run, swim, or do something else that gets his heart pumping for at least 30 minutes every day. For example: chasing a ball or Frisbee, swimming, playing tug, romping with other dogs, or hiking.
Remember: A tired dog is a well-behaved dog.
What about Mistakes?
Dogs can bring so much companionship and joy into our lives, but they can also bring frustration and aggravation. To help your dog understand your house rules and expectations, you can spend some time teaching your dog what it is you want him to do. I.E. Instead of my new dog begging at the dinner table, I would like him to lie on his bed. Then spend some time training your dog to lie on his bed during mealtimes. The key will be making lying on his bed valuable from his perspective by giving him something yummy to chew on or providing treat reinforcements.
The more time you spend on training and helping your dog understand the behaviors you want from him, the less opportunity he has to do things you don’t want, and the less time he will spend developing behavior patterns that will be harder to change later.
At Everything Dog, we are happy to help you get your new dog started off on the right foot, crate training or problem solving any other issue you are having with your dog. Contact us with your questions and concerns and let us help.