Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Giving Dogs Time to Thrive

I've talked to three new clients this week about their recently adopted dogs.  These dogs are all different; one came from a breeder, one came through a local humane society, and the last was re-homed with my client by a neighbor who was moving out of the country.  What did each dog have in common?  They were having a rough time adjusting to their new home environment and their owners were frustrated.  Frustration will not, however, improve this situation. In fact, it could make it just that much worse for those new dogs.  It's time to set the record straight on bringing a new dog into your home.

First off, any new dog, regardless of age, requires an adjustment period.  Yes, even puppies.  They've just left their mother and littermates and are now on their own with new people, new expectations, and new experiences.  That's scary!  So, it doesn't matter if you've brought home a new puppy, an adolescent dog, a senior, or anything in between, it's going to take them time to adjust to being *your* dog.  Most dogs need 4-6 weeks to get the hang of their new routines.  Yes, some will acclimate faster than that, but there are just as many dogs who will need longer to feel safe and grounded in their new homes. While you may have thought that bringing home an adult dog means that they will be somewhat "wash and wear,"  don't be surprised if they are actually "gentle cycle only."  What do I mean by that?

Even though you've adopted an adult dog whose description indicated that they are house trained, that doesn't mean they won't have accidents in your home.  Until they learn where the exits are, where they are supposed to toilet, and feel safe asking to go outside, there may be accidents.  You can make this easier on you and on your new dog by keeping them somewhat confined in the beginning.  Restricting where your new dog is allowed to explore in your home means it is easier to keep track of them and know when they need to go outside.  It also means accidents, if they occur, are limited to an area that you can easily clean up. And just because a puppy or dog comes to you "crate trained" does not mean that they won't have issues in separation when they come to your home.  Plan to keep crating on a predictable schedule for your new dog with appropriate mental and physical exercise in between as they learn to stay alone in their crate in your home.

Decide on a schedule that will work for you and your family BEFORE you bring your new dog home.  Keep to that schedule as much as possible.  Predictable schedules bring comfort to new dogs; they know what is supposed to happen next with few surprises.  While you may be excited to show off your new dog to all your friends and family, resist the urge to do so.  Too many new people can be overwhelming; introduce new friends slowly over a few weeks, rather than over a few hours. If you are hosting a party or attending a party, best to leave your new dog behind so that they feel safe and not overstimulated. And if they can't be home alone, hire a sitter for your new dog!

Don't change foods too quickly.  While you may be a fan of a particular brand of food (or it's the one you feed your other dog), you will want to switch your new dog slowly over to that diet.  Start with whatever they were fed before they came to live with you, and gradually begin mixing in the food you plan to switch them to.  While you definitely want to use treats to reinforce behaviors and lure your new dog to you, stay within the realm of the food they were on when you got them.  So, for example, if they come to you on a chicken-based diet, plan to use chicken based treats like freeze-dried chicken or chicken jerky for training, at least until you are sure that your new dog can tolerate other proteins. If you've brought home a new puppy, talk to your veterinarian about adding probiotics to their meals to ensure good gut health.

Puppy proof your yard, even if you didn't bring home a puppy!  Look for holes in fences, loose boards, areas that can be dug out, or fences that can be jumped to escape. Don't leave your new dog unattended in your yard; supervise them until you are certain that they can be trusted alone in that space.  And if they can't, plan to crate them, kennel them, or send them to doggie daycare until you can.

With all these "don'ts" what are the "do's?"  Do offer your new dog ample opportunities to bond with you.  Sit on the floor with them; offer them toys; brush them; walk them; take them for a ride in the car.  Show your new dog your willingness to be a good companion and they will show you, over time, unconditional love.  And that's why you got that dog in the first place.

As always, if you have questions about your dog's behavior, you know where to find me.

This is Shadow.  When I adopted her, she was so shut down, she spent 3 months living under an end table in my living room.  She'd let me put the leash on to take her outside, but she'd go right back under that table when we came indoors.  I gave her space and time and she not only came around, she became my constant companion, my protector, and truly my heart dog.  She's been gone for over 20 years, but I still miss her every single day.

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