Are you bringing a new dog or puppy home? Here are some tips to help you get off on the right paw! So you have a new dog! This is usually a very exciting and happy time for owners! As humans, we tend to become over-excited and fuss over the new addition and treat it as the massive happy event it usually is for us!
Although we should enjoy and treasure these first moments, we also need to keep in mind that for the dog, being introduced to a new and unfamiliar environment can be stressful. The dog has not chosen this new territory and life; you have chosen it for them. How would you feel if you were in this same situation? They have no idea what to expect and understandably can feel insecure and bewildered. First impressions last, and we want these to be positive!
10 Tips to help your dog settle in smoothly.
As much as you may want to cuddle, smother, squeal and show lots of emotion, this has the real potential to stress your dog. A stressed dog very often comes across as really excited and even hyper and it’s sometimes hard to know the difference! Your energy and emotion provide an enormous amount of feedback to your dog, so be mindful here. They won’t understand that your excitement and intense focus means you think they are adorable and you are excited they have arrived – even if this is your intent! Try to provide a calm atmosphere, and give the pup space and time to settle and observe the huge changes that have happened without their consent. Not many of us would enjoy be stared at or smothered by strangers in a new situation and puppies are no different. Sharing love is fine of course! but be careful that you don’t go into weak or intense energy such as excitement or “I feel sorry for you” or ” you are sooo cute” when your new dog is insecure, stressed or anxious. An anxious dog craves stable, strong energy first, not treats and cuddles. Having someone powerful and loving around when your pup feels vulnerable or compromised helps them feel safe and send a important message about who you are. Wait for the right moments to excite and play, when your pup has had time to adjust and settle.
Your emotional state
Dogs are great healers, and they are wonderful at helping us feel unconditional love and acceptance, They can be great at helping us cope with life’s ups and downs and haven’t earned the title Man’s Best Friend without merit! HOWEVER! Please be mindful of your emotional state and the effect it can have on a new dog. If you are grieving, sick, extremely anxious or experiencing other strong negative emotions when you introduce yourself to a dog it can have a lot of leverage and create an unhealthy association. Because dogs live in the moment, they will just assume that the trauma you feel is happening now. If you are in this situation and you are feeling emotionally weak or having strong negative emotions, just be aware that they can be just as overwhelming to those around you, especially animals. Like any new relationship, it’s important to try to deal with any existing emotional baggage or issues as soon as you can so you don’t project it onto the new one. Even though it is completely understandable and normal if you are going through stuff to feel this way, your dog will find it very hard not to stress and probably try to take over in an attempt to help while you are compromised. Remember, leaders put themselves first so they can look after others effectively.
Find a Safe Place
Allocate your new dog a special ‘safe’ place to have time out and give them lots of opportunities to spend time here. Give them a chance to “hide” when they are overwhelmed. A crate or playpen is perfect for this, It also allows you to have time out and know pup is safe and not chewing, weeing or swallowing something they shouldn’t.
Go for a Walk
We encourage that the very first thing you do with a new older dog, even before entering your yard is to take them for a calm walk, preferably following you, not you following them around all the while trying to please them. Their brain is already probably full, try not to excite them further and constantly talk to them and stare at them or be a human treat dispenser. Just be present, calm, and share love and connection while walking together. This allows you to bond, form a new pack and burn off excess energy and stress. It will also develop a peaceful, passive association with you that fosters trust. If you have another dog, it’s great to take them with you on this walk as well.
Claim your stuff early on
It’s up to you to ‘claim’ your house, yard and other pets or your new dog will! Because you can’t tell them verbally, you’ll need to show them they are yours. This is important to a dog. Enter the home or yard first and then invite them inside when their minds are calm. Be firm and patient and insist they come in calmly and respectfully. Your aim is to maintain a calm and passive energy throughout this entire initiation period and inside your home. You wouldn’t let anyone else rush into your home, so don’t allow a dog to. Being first speaks volumes to a dog. Don’t let them rush up to or chase your cat, kids, horses etc. Greet your family and cat first. Don’t let them get on furniture before you or without your permission unless you want them to think they can own and guard the furniture. If you’re struggling with this, we suggest initially keeping them on a leash inside to help support the right behaviour.
Set the boundaries
Think about how you would like your new dog to behave in the months and years to come and create it NOW. Provide lots of structure and set clear boundaries straight away. You can easily promote them later on when all the basics have been established. Letting a new puppy have the run of your house straight away or allowing too much attention, stimulation or freedom too soon is a good way to create chaos.
Allow the new dog to take their rightful place in the hierarchy
If you have another dog, you will need to allow both dogs to work out their natural hierarchy. Supervise this of course, and step in and correct any unhealthy interactions, but overall, you cannot choose this for them. It is normal for owners to want their old dog to be number one because they have been there longer and they were “first” but in the dog world it is whoever is more powerful. Feeling sorry for, favouring or trying to ‘boost’ the underdog is a fast way to create conflict between dogs.
Closely supervise and structure all interactions with other pets and children
You should not allow any member of your pack to bully or harass the other. This applies to adults, children, cats or dogs. Supervise all new early interactions and step in when necessary. Don’t go overboard and be a helicopter parent but do take control and refuse to allow anything you aren’t comfortable with. Use a lead if you need to to insist they listen. If they aren’t ready to be left together alone, separate them and supervise when you are able to be there.
Show empathy not pity
If you have a ‘rescue’ dog, although they may have come from a bad situation, it is counterproductive to “feel sorry” for them. Having pity for another being is a human emotion and doesn’t help. Dogs live in the moment and don’t carry baggage like humans do. Start afresh from today and move on so they can leave it behind. They aren’t in a bad situation any more so focus on that and celebrate their success 🙂 Of course we need to understand that they may have certain habits or associations from their past but deal with these objectively. Don’t let their “story” define how you move forward and be careful not to give them unhealthy excuses for continuing patterns of behaviour that aren’t serving you or them.
If you are having issues, get help from a professional dog trainer
If your new dog starts to display behavioural issues that worry you or that you can’t get on top of yourself, get a professional dog trainer straight away. Do this sooner rather than later! Nipping a small issue in the bud is definitely better than waiting for it to develop into a major problem.
And lastly and most importantly – enjoy your wonderful new family member! Call us if you need a hand.