Bringing A New Dog Home: What To Do, And What NOT To Do
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Bringing A New Dog Home: What to Do, And What NOT to Do

Bringing a new dog home can be very difficult, because he knows neither you, nor your home, nor your routine. Therefore, he may show some signs of stress during the first few days. I am sure you would too if you were in his situation! Here are some suggestions to help minimize the problems that may happen in the first few days of your dog’s arrival.

• As soon as you arrive home, take your dog DIRECTLY to your backyard, or the outside area in which he will be consistently going to, to go potty. Wait for him to do his thing and IF he goes to the bathroom, reward him with a little treat (nothing big, just a mini treat). He will at some point “mark” his territory and in this first instance, reward him for going potty outside. After he has explored his new outside surroundings and has gone to the bathroom, THEN you can take him inside. You want to start right away with rewarding the good behavior of going potty outside. This way, he starts to learn that this is an acceptable place to go to the bathroom.

• For the first few days, give your dog the same food that he had when he was in the kennel. (It is therefore important to ask about his diet before you bring him home). Your dog might have diarrhea simply due to the stress of the changed environment, so drastically changing his diet could make things worse. Change his food gradually by mixing the old food with the new one over the next few days.

• Establish house rules before the dog arrives. It is very important that all the members of your family follow the SAME rules and stick to those rules. These rules can include: no jumping on the couch or other furniture, no feeding food scraps from the table, no sleeping on the bed, etc. It is important that your dog knows what is ok and not ok, and if everyone in the family does something different, then it can be confusing for him. So, keep your rules straight!

• Try to keep the same routine from day one. Keep breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time every day. Also, try to take him on a walk or to go potty more or less around the same time of day. Although, if your dog has never been potty trained, then it would be wise to start potty training him as soon as possible! Also, since he is in a new environment and is unsure of the rules, take him outside a little bit more often in the beginning. This can prevent a surprise leak on the floor. Always reward him after he goes to the bathroom OUTSIDE. I talk more about this below.

• During the first days, don’t overexpose your new dog to too many friends or relatives. Your dog needs time to feel comfortable with you and your family first, before he can meet other people. For the same reason, if you have a cat, do not let them meet on the first day. Just let him become familiar with the cat’s scent. I talk more about this below.

• Make sure that within the first few days, you make an appointment with your local vet. Your vet can give you advice on future treatments and vaccinations. If your dog adoption was from a rescue group (and I hope you did!) they sometimes will provide documentation of past vaccinations or vet visits. As this is very helpful, it never hurts to bring your dog again to a vet (along with the paperwork that was given to you). He or she can then determine if your dog requires anything else, and they can check to make sure your dog is healthy and ready to live in his new home.

Learning the bathroom rules

Bringing a new dog home During the first few days after you adopted your dog, you will have to pay close attention to what he is doing, and take him out VERY regularly. Aim for every two hours if possible! The more he is rewarded for going potty OUTSIDE, the more he learns that this is where he is supposed to go to the bathroom. Here are some more tips on preventing bathroom accidents inside your home. Believe me…NO ONE wants to clean up that mess!

• Try to observe your dog carefully and learn to predict when he needs to go potty. Usually, dogs need to go to the bathroom after they eat or drink. Yes, just like you and me. They may also have to go after doing a stimulating activity or if they get over excited. Therefore, a little while after meals and play time, are great times to take your dog outside.

• Most dogs have specific behaviors that they do when they are preparing to potty. They sniff around searching for the “right” spot, they appear distracted, they turn in circles, and begin the final stage of bending their legs with their butt lowered to get into position. If you see your dog doing these things inside…you are doomed. No just kidding, just encourage him to stop and to go outside. You can say in a firm voice, “NO!” and quickly take him outside.

• ALWAYS reward your dog with a small tasty treat when he goes to the bathroom outside. This re-enforces his good behavior. If after a few minutes, he didn’t do anything then just go back inside. Wait another half hour or so because he will probably need to go later.

• Never punish your dog for going potty inside the house! I know you are mad and your carpet is stained, but it is totally counterproductive. Punishing him can only make him nervous and more likely to potty again. DO NOT yell, hit, or punish your dog for going to the bathroom inside or for anything that he might have done. That is just cruel.

• If you have a puppy, remember that during their first six months, they can’t “hold it in” for long periods of time (meaning more than 2-3 hours). They need to be taken out much more often.

The first meeting with your current dog/s

• The first interaction between your dog and your newly adopted dog must be in neutral territory. The park is a great place!

• When you arrive home, take both of the dogs outside to the backyard or to the outside area, or even better to the park. Be relaxed and don’t force contact between the two dogs. Let them do it at their own pace. If either dog has problems with other dogs in general and shows aggression, I suggest consulting a professional dog behaviorist to help you and guide you through the right process on how to properly handle the situation.

• Never hold either dog in your arms! This can cause tension or can create jealousy. This doesn’t mean to not show them love, but make sure that during the first few weeks, you don’t hold them in the presence of the other.

• Before taking both of the dogs into the house, remove all the toys and any food lying around to avoid creating a conflict. Within a few days, when the dogs begin to know each other, you can start to give them their things back. Start with those that your dog least likes then give him the ones that he really likes.

• For the first couple weeks make them eat in separate rooms. After they have gotten used to one another, you can let them eat together. Some dogs are really aggressive and possessive with their food. It is very important, that if your dog has this problem, that you ALWAYS feed them separately (including giving treats) to reduce the risk of fighting. Consult a dog behaviorist to show you how to properly handle this type of situation.

The first meeting with family and friends

• If your dog is very shy, expose him very gradually to new people. He needs time to develop confidence to approach new people. Too many strangers at once can make him feel afraid.

• Give people a toy or a treat and ask them to encourage your dog to approach them. Tell them to be calm and use a soft tone of voice. The more positive interactions that your dog has, the better he will be able to handle new people.

• Understanding your dog’s body language is EXTREMELY important. If he is calm, his body will look relaxed. A submissive pose is when his ears are pulled back against his head, his tail is between his legs, and his head is lowered. Some will even crawl very close to the ground. An aggressive stance is when the hair on his back is raised, his head is held high, ears are straight up, and he is holding his ground. Growling should be an obvious sign as well.

• If your dog is aggressive towards other people, contact a professional dog behaviorist to help you handle the situation properly.

• Some dogs just don’t do well with children. If your dog is ok with children, remind the kids how to pet him properly. They should NEVER touch his face, and they should always pet him in the direction that his hair grows. They should never hit the dog or pat him too hard. Always supervise your children when they are playing with a new dog. If you have small children, you should have already checked to make sure that your adopted dog does not have any issues with kids.

The first meeting with other dogs

Dogs are normally social pack animals. However, sometimes dogs may lack social skills, or they have had negative experiences in the past that create tensions or anxiety when surrounded by other dogs. If your dog is aggressive towards other dogs, this is not the method you should be using to interact with other dogs. If this is your case, consult your vet or a dog behaviorist to help you and your particular situation.

• First meetings should be in neutral territory. I have probably said this already, but it is very important!

• It is very important to always stay calm and relaxed no matter the situation. A calm and relaxed owner will make a calm and relaxed dog.

• Let him sniff the other dog and let them take their time to greet each other.

• Make sure you pay attention to the other dog’s behavior too. If the other dog is reacting aggressively, then perhaps it is better to move on to meet another dog. This is extremely important, because if you are unaware of the interaction, it may end badly.

• Let your dog approach another dog while still holding the leash, but the leash should be loose and relaxed. You shouldn’t have a death grip on the leash! This allows him the freedom to move and also so he doesn’t feel trapped because he can’t move.

• Do not pull the dog away or remove him from the other dogs by overpowering force.

• Never punish your dog verbally or physically. This can make future interactions with other dogs more tense.

• When your dog is confident and relaxed around other dogs, you can give him more and more freedom.

What was your dog’s first day at home like? I would love to hear your stories! Share below!

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