Congratulations on Adopting Your Dog!
Choosing to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue is a wonderful thing to do, as I and most of my students have found.
Even though this may be one of the happiest moments of your life, understand it can be a very challenging and stressful one for your new dog.
For the majority of rescue dogs we do not know their history or what kind of life they have had. All dogs, regardless of breed, go through various stages of development. Most dogs who end up in shelters are returned during their adolescent period of 8-10 months. It can be a difficult time for puppies that missed establishment of boundaries, socialization and training. But with proper guidance you can help your new dog have a happy and healthy life with you.
Here are few steps before the dog comes home:
Buy an appropriate sized Crate, for most dogs a wire crate is fine. Some do better in more enclosed "travel" type crates.
If the dog is not potty/housetrained put away all the rugs
Research a quality kibble or raw diet
Pick up some Kong Toys to stuff, and comfy dog bed for outside of the crate as well.
Find a local dog walker to help even if you work from home, it's a great to have a dog walker that your dog is comfortable with for any emergencies or extra busy days.
Find a local trainer that can help guide you and your dog, and set you both up for success. Even for one session.
Find a local Veterinarian and have a scheduled check up within the first week of getting your new dog.
Many Dogs Experience A Honeymoon Period
This period can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months or longer. Every dog is different. Look at it as if you were dropped off in a foreign country, where you do not speak the language or even starting a new job. It would make sense that it might take a few days, weeks or even months to observe and adjust to the new environment.
Give Your Dog Time To Decompress And Take It All In Slowly.
The biggest mistake people make during this period is to give their dog too much too soon, such as too much touching, talking, and affection. We need to let them "just be" and have time to smell and explore your home, supervised of course, and get to know you and their surroundings with plenty of exploring walks around the neighborhood.
When The Honeymoon Is Over
Many times I hear from dog owners that their dog was perfect for the first week or month and then they tell me "He’s never done this before.” Well now that the dog has become comfortable in the new environment, and the honeymoon is over. It's likely they are seeing the behaviors and reasons that led the previous owner to drop the dog off at the shelter or rescue, and many times they do not mention these issues to them.
But fear not, most behaviors can be addressed when you learn how to properly communicate and set boundaries for your dog. It’s all about Bark, Train, and Love.
Create a quiet calm space for them to decompress such as their crate, it will become their safe place and can help in so many ways moving forward. Help them adjust by feeding all meals in their crate and give them plenty of rest time in there as well so it becomes their safe place.
When you are not home you can also leave on dog calming music, Spotify has a wide selection as well as Amazon Prime, here is my dogs Amazon playlist.
While your dog is adjusting and you are getting to know each other, it's a great idea to have a leash on in the home to help guide them.
When it comes to bones and other valuable resources, give it to them in the crate and see how they react, some dogs when uncomfortable can guard items they perceive as high value.
Learn About Your Dog's Body Language and What They Are Trying To Tell You.
Understanding your dog's body language is one of the most important things we as humans can do to help on our dogs.
Our dogs can’t tell us in words what they’re thinking, so once we learn how to understand their body language better, a whole world of communication with our dogs opens up and in turn a better relationship.
It's important to understand dogs have 4 responses to any stressful situation fight, flight, avoid and acceptance. Dogs will rarely learn to accept without our help.
Play The "Name Game"
A great way to start your relationship with your dog once is to teach them their name. When you are training your dog it's most important that you have their attention. Work on their name recognition in many different environments. Have some fun with friends, family and or your roommate standing or sitting in a circle and practice the name game.
Here are few videos playing the "Name Game";
Dogs Thrive On Structure, Rules And Boundaries
Continue to set your dog up for success by establishing clarity in communication and helping your dog learn what is expected of them in our crazy human world. From my experience, as well as my mentors, structure, rules and boundaries are needed to help create a calm well-adjusted dog in the home.
Start with some rules to set clear boundaries until you get to know your new dog better and especially until after their "honeymoon period". This will create a better relationship for all.
A few examples I recommend while you get to know your new dog are not allowing your dog on the furniture, keeping their leash on in the home to help guide them to make good choices, proper use and rest in the crate and structured walks.
Training your dog helps close the communication gap between our species. On this page are some short training tutorials to get you started like by playing "Crate Games" the "Name Game, "Leave It" and the ever important "Place" cue.
Use a crate to help create a calm dog when you are not home, scheduled rest periods, as well as a safe place to put your dog when the situation is too stressful for them while they are getting settled in their new home.
Many newly adopted dogs have not been taught to go potty while on leash or may hold their pee or poop, for a few days and even for a week until they are comfortable in the new environment.
Crate training is one of the most effective ways to house train your dog,
Most dogs like to keep their areas clean and the crate helps teach them to hold their pee and poop. Be consistent with the times you take the your dog out to go potty, and try and have a set schedule. Extra walks are always beneficial.
Play "Crate Games" to Make a Positive Association With The Crate:
Have going into the crate a positive thing, as well as teaching the cue/command by playing the "Crate Game. All good things should come from the crate, such as any bully sticks, or high value chews, and meals should be enjoyed in the the crate with the door closed.
Here are few videos playing the "Crate Game";
House Train Your Dog with 10 Minutes In 10 Minutes Out:
First thing in the morning take your dog outside for about 10 mins for a potty walk and if your dog doesn't go, then go home and put your dog back in their crate. Wait 10-15 mins mins and take your dog back out. Repeat this and when your dog does go potty reward with plenty of praise and treats.
When your dog does potty outside, start putting it on Cue by giving it a name such as "Go Potty" the more you build up their reward history the better your dog will understand.
Once your dog is better house trained the walks can be less frequent and your dog will start to let you know when they have to go out. After your dog has gone potty outside, it's usually safe to let them roam around while you are watching them. If you notice your dog circling or starting to sniff the floor take them outside to go potty.
I recommend using what we like to call the "umbilical cord" technique. This means tethering your dog to you so you can keep watch over them and set them up to success. If you feel them pulling away, maybe towards where the door, start smelling and circling, take them right out. Allowing you to catch every opportunity to teach them where to go potty is essential.
Walking your dog is great way to build your relationship, and have your dog get more comfortable with you and the neighborhood.
Many dogs from the that come from more rural areas have not been on leash and the walk can become a nightmare. This is why in the beginning is so important to get everyone on the same page before any problems get worse.
Practice A "Structured Walk"
When walking your dog, I find it's best to walk with your dog in a structured manner, instead of having your dog pull you to say hi to every dog, and smell every tree. You should decide the pace of your walk and when your dog gets to go potty or have a sniff,
While walking your dog keep them by your side, walking next to you, like you are holding hands with someone. Release them from time to time to go sniff and smell where it is appropriate, Your dog can have as much time to go sniff and smell and explore as you like. But when it's time to go, your dog needs to understand to walk with you by your side. Over time this will make walks far more enjoyable for you both and in turn have longer walks.
I recommend getting the help of a local trainer to find the right tools and techniques for you and your dog to be successful walking your dog on a loose leash.
Just like wearing a seat belt when driving a car, we want to back up our dogs collars and harnesses for safety reasons. A simple back up can save your dog's life as you can see in the testimonial video above about how a back-up saved Hugo's life.
I have also created a page to help guide on backing up a variety of tools.
Many new dog owners want to socialize their dogs and have them meet all the new dogs they see on their walks. It's best to only do proper dog to dog meetings as explained in this guide with dogs and owners you know.
Just keep walking and understand that meeting every dog while on your walk is not necessary and can be very dangerous.
Far too many times I hear "Don't worry MY dog is friendly" without asking about the other dog. This can lead to a very uncomfortable situation for a dog on leash and since "Flight" is not an option many dogs go into their "Fight" response.
Please be respectful of other dogs on leash and ALWAYS ASK before letting your dog approach another dog on leash,
Teach Your Dog To Just "Leave It"
The "Leave It" cue, is one of the most important things to teach our dogs, especially in cities with all the food, garbage and other interesting things on the streets our dogs want to investigate. Having our dogs understand not to eat everything they want is imperative and can even save their life.
Here are few videos teaching the "Leave It" cue;
Set Your Dog Up For Success With The "Place" To Be
The "Place" cue is a boundary stay that is a useful foundation behavior that can give you a great alternate behavior in many situations and help teach your dog to be calm in cue. When your dog is in “Place", they can sit, lie down, sleep, snore, scratch, or even better, play with an interactive toy.
This comes in handy in a number of daily activities. such as someone coming to the door, dinner time, TV time, and entertaining guest are all appropriate occasions to incorporate “Place”. It can also prevent unwanted begging, jumping, barking and other unwanted nuisance behaviors. To set your dog up for success I highly recommend using a raised bed or cot, my favorite is 4legs4pets.
Here are some videos teaching and practicing the “Place” cue:
Is Your Dog Destructive Or Barking When You're Gone?
Your dog might begin to feel anxious when you get ready to leave, as well as bark and destroy things when you are gone. Here are a few things that can help, as well as hiring a local trainer.
Feed all meals in the crate with the door closed, all good things come from the crate, You can also give them tasty stuffed Kongs with frozen peanut butter when you leave as well as when the dog walker leaves. Play dog calming music, Amazon Prime and Spotify have a wide selection, here is my dogs playlist, Start playing the music about 10-15 mins before you leave as well as when you are home as well as not to form a departure cue.
Change Your "Departure Cues"
Dogs are great reading the signs and patterns we make as we get ready to leave. Change up your departure cues by getting ready to leave and sit back down. grab your keys and don’t leave. Change up your routine. Remember no big hellos or goodbyes.
Practice "Graduated Departures"
Work on having your dog in the crate, and you being in another room. When your dog is quiet go back and mark with a clicker or verbal “Yes" and reward. Drop the treat in the crate don’t hand it to your dog,
Leave the apartment for, 5, 10, 20 then 30 secs, mark with a clicker or verbal “Yes" and reward. Leave and go to the elevator or down the hallway, then outside, down the street/corner each time mark and reward. Slowly adding more time. Practice being other rooms/out of site of your dog while they are in their crate. As your dog learns a good "Down-Stay" and "Place" you can use these tools as well to get your dog comfortable being away from you. The goal is to be away for 40 mins with a calm and quiet dog. Remember no big Hellos or Goodbyes
I highly recommend getting a remote camera or using a app to monitor your dog during this period, and see how they are doing while you are away. A bark collar might be an option but I like to start with training first and then possibly adding one. This would be a discussion with your local trainer.
Is Your Dog Fearful Of New People?
Many dogs that have not been properly socialized to the world and new people can form fears. Have new people come over so your dog can get comfortable with them, but do not force it. Let your dog approach them.
It's a good idea to have your dog be in their crate when new people come over in the beginning, especially while you are working on their training and learning more about your new dog. If you have a dog that is lunging, barking, nipping and biting people in the home please contact a local trainer today
Here is a Facebook Live Conversation with Nelson Hodges
about understanding and living with fearful dogs
Nelson was so generous and talked and answered asked questions about understanding, living and helping fearful dog’s for almost 2 hours.
Nelson began a serious study of animals and their behaviors more than 40 years ago and specializes in helping fearful and feral dogs. Nelson is the founder of Canine - Human Relationship Institute , Canine Behaviorist/Ethologist; IACP, CDT, CDTA, PDTI; CIS; IACP Board of Directors at Canine Content
Is Your Dog Fearful Of All The New Sounds?
The Sound Proof Puppy Training app is one of the tools I like to use to counter condition and desensitize to help make positive associations to all the new/scary sounds in our world.
Here is a quick video with an adorable 10 week old Cockapoo puppy Lola. We play everyday sounds and feed our dogs, here we are using Happy Howie's All Natural Dog Treats lamb food roll. You can also just feed your dog their meals while playing various sounds and use marker training and clicker training.
Are There Going To Be Other Dogs At Home?
If you already have a dog in your home and you are bringing in a new dog home much of what we discussed above applies to both dogs.
This video is from our success story when a the new foster dog, Charlotte and Penny did not have a great start. Read how they went from the worst fear aggression she'd seen in Penny to being the best of friends,
As for meeting other new dogs here is a great step by step guide to introducing dogs .
Are There Children In The Home Or That Visit?
It's imperative to teach children how to interact with dogs appropriately. 77% of dog bites come from a family or friend's dog. We also need to teach our dogs to be gentle and also accept some of the pulling and handling that children do. But we must always monitor and reward appropriate play between them.
Here are a few videos that can help:
Having Fun Is A Very Important Part Of Training Too.
Through training we build a better relationship with our dogs, so rewarding with play during training break or as the reward for good behavior is a great way to have fun with the training. Teaching your dog a new trick such as roll over or puppy push ups is always fun. Playing a proper game of Tug can be a biologically fulfilling exercise and reward as well.
This is just some foundation training and information to help set you up for success.
I hope this information helps you and your new dog and I wish you all the best.
If you are in Brooklyn NY, I would be glad to help you and your dog live better lives together.
In other areas, please find a local trainer, it will make all the difference in the world.
Shelter or Rescues download this printable page to to add to your adopters kit.