Welcoming Your New Dog Into Your Home
Taking your dog home after filling out all the adoption forms and paperwork is one of the best experiences. I still remember putting our dog Savanna in the car after adopting her from a local shelter. She was so happy to have a new family that her tail was wagging at a hundred miles per hour. When she got home, though, we realized she must’ve had a bad experience with her previous owners. She was afraid of loud noises, strangers, and rain. She also had a bad case of separation anxiety. Luckily she got over most of her problems, and now she is a very people-loving dog who spends as much time as she can outside.
The truth is, when you adopt a dog, you have no idea what you are getting. Unless you get their full medical records and meet the previous owner there is no way to be sure your dog is 100% stable. This is why I don’t recommend adopting a dog if you have small children. Of course, with any dog, there is no certainty that they won’t be violent, (Dogs are animals after all.) but unless you raised your dog from a puppy, you don’t know what can set them off. Many people have anecdotal evidence to support the argument that it is all about how you train them, but many dogs come from violent or neglectful households. A dog raised in an unstable environment is more likely to react aggressively to a perceived threat.
So with that rant out of the way, let’s discuss how to welcome your new dog into your home
Crate training is a great way to ensure your new dog feels safe and comfortable. If you decide you want to crate train your new dog set up the crate before your dog walks in the door. Setting up a dog cage can be loud, and having one already set up will encourage your dog to accept it as part of his new environment.
To introduce your dog to the concept of crating, first, let him sniff and inspect the strange contraption. Once he is used to the crate as an object, tap on the cage a few times and give your dog a treat. Most crates make a lot of noise, so it is important to have your dog associate everything to do with it as a good thing. Next, try entering the crate yourself. This shows your dog that it is something you can get into. Once you are inside, try calling your pup over. If he seems wary at first, try coaxing him with a treat. You are not trying to get him to come inside yet, rather you are letting him know that it is safe to be inside.
If your dog is especially wary of the crate move his food bowl closer each time he eats. Eventually, move the food just inside the cage and gradually move it further in. Once your dog is comfortable in the cage close the door for a few seconds, give him a treat and shower him with praise. Each time you do this increase the time he spends in the cage until he is completely okay with staying in the cage for a few hours. Presto! Your new dog has been crate trained.
Some adopted dogs have had very bad experiences with being caged. Some owners leave their dogs in the cage almost all day. It is recommended you only crate your dog at night after he relieves himself, or for a few hours at a time. If you leave the crate door open all day a dog that has been crate trained will likely use it as a favorite napping spot. However, if your dog starts shaking when he sees the crate or absolutely refuses to get in, he probably has some psychological issues associated with them. Never force your dog into a crate as they will begin to resent it as a prison instead of a comfortable bed.
While most dogs are already housebroken by the time you adopt them, this is not always the case.
When you are housetraining your new dog you should never leave him unattended. When you let your dog pee on the floor without being there he thinks that it is acceptable behavior.
You should let your new dog out often. How often? For the first few days try letting your dog out once every thirty minutes to an hour. Now, your dog may not have to relieve himself every single time, but this gives you more opportunities to teach him that outside is the place to do his business. When your pup goes to the bathroom outside give him a treat immediately. This reinforces your dog’s good behavior of being outside when he does his business. Over time he will recognize that going outside to do his business makes you happy, and he will stop doing it inside.
What to do if your dog goes inside.
A non-potty trained dog doesn’t know the difference between peeing inside the house and going outside. This makes perfect sense. As we, humans, want our dogs to do their business outside out of personal preference. It hasn’t even been that long that humans have been using toilets so how can we expect our dogs to immediately grasp the concept of acceptable human behavior?
If you see your dog starting to relieve himself in the house, quickly say “Let’s go outside!” in an encouraging voice, and take him outside to finish up. When he is done give him a treat and praise him with a classic “Good boy!” and he will soon pick up on this whole potty training thing.
Only use this method if you actually see him trying to go to the bathroom in the house. If you step in a puddle on the floor it will do your dog no good to drag him outside, as he won’t associate peeing with going outside.
Positive reinforcement and consistency
Potty training can be frustrating. Believe me, I know. We have all been there, but it is important you do not get angry or raise your voice at your new dog. If you yell at your dog after you see your dog has made a mess on the floor you are more likely to scare him than to encourage good behavior.
The general rule is one feeding in the morning and another at night. This consistent feeding schedule ensures your new dog is well fed throughout the day. A good feeding schedule can also help with potty training, as keeping it consistent will help you understand when your dog needs to go outside. With enough consistency, you and your dog will be on the same page and you won’t have to worry about him making a mess on the floor. Keeping your dog’s food bowl full at all times is not recommended, however. A dog who always has food readily available is more likely to overeat and have a much less consistent potty schedule.
It is recommended you always have a bowl full of fresh water for your pup. Dogs often don’t drink as much as they need, so it is imperative to always have water at the ready in case they feel like lapping some up. Check out my article, How to Read Pet Food Labels to find out what foods you should feed your pup.
Some dogs who come from bad homes will have psychological trauma from abuse and neglect. You should try to recognize any of these “irrational” fears and do what you can to help him cope. Some dogs, for instance, will be happy in a home with only women and children, but bark or cower whenever they see a man. This is likely because they associate men with a bad experience in their past. One of my dogs, a rescue, is afraid of anything long that looks like a stick or bat. I have no idea why, but when he is exposed to one I try to comfort him and make him understand that nobody is trying to hurt him
Some fears are extremely hard to help your dog overcome. If your dog experiences one of these fears, try seeking out an animal behaviorist. Behaviorists focus on the root cause of your dog’s trauma and try to help them get over it. This will not work 100% of the time, but it is helpful especially if your dog is prone to react violently.
Sadly, some dogs who come from shelters or rescues have problems with socialization. A lack of socialization simply means the dog hasn’t been exposed to enough people or other dogs and therefore doesn’t know the proper way to interact when he meets one. I don’t think my rescue dog, Oliver, had ever met a smaller dog before we got him, (We rescued him from some friends who specialize in rescuing Rottweilers.) and once he saw our tiny dog, Ella, he tried to nip at her. I don’t think he really meant any harm. He probably just thought she was a rodent at first, but with a little positive reinforcement, and a little avoidance training, he now thinks of her as part of his pack.
Adopting a dog can be difficult, but I believe it can also be one of the most rewarding things in life. Just the thought that your new dog is in a happy home instead of on the street or in the pound is a great feeling. Hopefully, this article will help you on your way to becoming a more competent dog owner. I wish you all the best!