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Adopting a dog: What to do first

There is nothing better than the feeling of bringing home your newly adopted dog. It is such an exciting time for both your family and the dog. This time is also a very important transition, and there is a lot that you can do to set up your new family member for success.

Our first instinct may be to spoil the pup … after all, he’s been through so much. He’s been in the shelter, and who knows where before that! We often feel that the best way to show how much we love our new pet is to spoil them – let them sleep on the couch, in the bed, give them all the toys, and just make a huge fuss over how wonderful they are. This may go over well in the beginning, but in the long term you are actually setting up your dog for potential failure with this approach.

We strongly recommend introducing your new dog using the “Two-Week Shutdown.” This method has proved successful over and over again. The two-week shutdown gives the dog an opportunity to grow comfortable in his new environment while learning that you are his “safe” person, his leader. Canines seek a leader, and if one is not provided for them, they often will attempt to take on this role on their own (not good!).

For the first two weeks, you will limit the new dog’s exposures and mostly keep him in his crate, with limited activity in the yard outside. For these first two weeks, you will want to avoid over-exciting situations, such as dog meets, human visits, long overstimulating walks and intense obedience training. You will put your dog in the crate, take him out for brief play time (in a familiar room or yard), praise him gently when he does well, ignore bad behavior and then return him to his crate.

And yes, not meeting other dogs includes any other pets in your household. “Impossible!” you say, but nothing is impossible with a good crate. A crate is the best way to keep a new dog safe. We always recommend that adopters and fosters practice crate training. When introduced properly, your dog’s crate is more than a way to keep them out of trouble when you cannot watch them – it’s their den and their comfort zone. And it’s the most foolproof way to keep dogs safe in a multi-dog home. Think about it: Instead of immediately having to figure out how to interact with this new canine companion (What’s their play style? Can we share this? Where do I sleep? …) you have given your new dog a safe place where he can comfortably observe and get a feel for your current dog. And your resident dog doesn’t suddenly have to share everything he previously thought was his with a strange new dog.

When you move on to the next step of leash walking the dogs together, they already will be comfortable with each other and the walk will help build their relationship. And it will feel completely natural and safe when you are finally ready to drop the leashes and let interactions occur.

I already can see some people shaking their head and thinking how cruel or overcautious this sounds. I could explain why it works (this is how a mother introduces puppies to the world; you don’t know what type of transition you are asking of the dog; how dogs perceive leaders; etc.) but I will leave that to you to research and simply assure you that it works. Outside of my own experiences (introducing dozens of foster dogs to my small home), I have seen the success of so many of our shelter dogs, many of whom have had challenging behaviors or backgrounds, who have gone to foster or rescue homes that utilize this method.

And if you are still skeptical, ask yourself what there is to lose. You may be fine without doing the shutdown (this is more likely to be true of senior dogs or very young puppies), but why risk it? If the dog is the type who does need a shutdown and you don’t provide it, you jeopardize the entire future of your relationship with that dog and you may not even know it until months down the road when problems emerge. These types of problems will now be significantly more difficult to correct.

For a complete read on the Two-Week Shutdown, please visit our rescue partner Bella-Reed Pit Bull Rescue’s website: www.bellareedpbr.com/bringing-dog-home.php.

Source: Adopting a dog: What to do first

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