This weeks DAWGTALK TOPIC OF THE WEEK is all about - bringing home a new dog or puppy!
This is one of my favorite topics to educate on, whether you're a dog trainer, rescue shelter worker, foster family , Doggie Daycare professional or just your average dog owner , this article is for YOU!
There are so many different variables to consider and be conscious of when bringing a new puppy , or more importantly, an adult dog that you just adopted from your local shelter into the human world.
Where should my new dog/puppy sleep? How do I introduce my new dog/puppy to my existing pack ? How do I Socialize my new dog? How do I introduce the kids to my new Dog/Puppy ? How do I know if my dog is comfortable ?
These are all very common questions and concerns I get from new puppy parents or families who just adopted a new dog and let me tell you, they are SO important (Not only for comfort and understanding but also for safety and a stable household) and I'm always so eager to enlighten and educate on this topic .
THE HONEYMOON PHASE:
We all know those adorable newly-wed couples who are so madly and magically in love the day of their wedding and are serenaded with champagne , flowers and a romantic dinner for two followed by a bed of roses in their honeymoon suite . Now of course , they love each-other and are happy beyond measure - but most people tend to escape reality (say things they wouldn't typically say, do things they wouldn't typically do out of utter joy) and they forget that after the hype and the sequence of magically planned events are over, it's not all rainbows and butterfly's every minute of everyday. Now again, this doesn't mean they aren't in love and happy , It's just the reality of life - and truth be told , any genuine human should understand that an authentic partnership should be built on trust, respect, clear communication, honesty , and of course, love! - not champagne, roses and margaritas on the beach.
That said, the honeymoon phase also tends to happen when we first bring home a new dog or puppy. We are so incredibly excited to share the world with our newest, adorable pal. We can't wait to shower them with affection, treats and toys, bring him/her everywhere to meet all of our friends, family, dogs, kids , to our favorite parks and pet stores etc... so we do. BIG MISTAKE. Not only are you taking things way too fast , but you're also setting you and your dog up for failure from the get-go by starting off your relationship in an unbalanced way, which will only lead to problems in the future (most of the time). Most new dogs or puppies aren't comfortable or confident the first week of living in their new home environment, so even tho they may be doing great with your kids, other dogs, playing at the local park or pet store etc.. that doesn't always mean this will last for a lifetime and that they are truly comfortable doing so, there's much more to it. As your puppy or new dog begins to become comfortable over time, and the "honeymoon phase" is over, he/she may start to act out, test boundaries and exhibit unwanted behaviors because while we were busy hugging, kissing and running around town with our new pup , we entirely forgot about working on the important variables of a relationship (trust, respect, clear communication, leadership, rules, boundaries etc..).
DECOMPRESSION PERIOD / THE TWO - WEEK SHUTDOWN:
Much like a newborn baby or Toddler, new dogs and puppies need time to adjust and adapt to their new environment (some dogs adapt quickly and others take more time so the 2 weeks is just a generalization). Most humans don't realize or understand this and immediately assume or expect their new dog/puppy to immediately be great with the kids, other dogs in the house, understand the routine etc.... but that's so unrealistic, even for the super easy, all around balanced dogs.
Imagine you are 10 years old and were just adopted by a new family . This family loves and showers you with affection and is very welcoming upon coming home. But, in the same day, they introduce you to your new siblings whom you are expected to become best friends with and play with immediately, that night you accompany them to their annual Christmas party and you meet the whole entire family , they are asking question after question, insisting you try some of their food, begging to hear about your life and they are eager to get to know - without taking into consideration how out of place you may be feeling. Then, the next day you are expected to make friends at your brand new school - PHEW , talk about an uncomfortable , emotional overload! Every human / and dog needs time to adjust to change - some more than others .
Below is a link to an incredible article elaborating and explaining the general step by step process to the 2 week shutdown and I highly recommend reading and applying it!
INTRODUCING A NEW PUPPY/DOG TO EXISTING DOGS/CATS :
This one can be challenging because of course it would make our lives much easier and enjoyable if our animals just automatically hit it off - but in reality , it doesn't always go this smoothly and there are protocols and variables to consider when first "introducing" your new dog to your existing pack to ensure long lasting balance, pack structure and a strong bond with one another.
so, lets play the scenario game. I'm going two draw out two different scenarios , both completely opposite, that both have a negative effect when introducing a new dog to existing animals.
SCENARIO #1: A family currently owns a 4 year old Labrador retriever, Max who loves to play, socialize, play fetch, swim and absolutely loves other dogs. So, they decided a puppy would be a great addition to the family to serve as a buddy and playmate to their 4 year old dog. They decide to call the same breeder they bought max from a year ago and inquired about a new puppy. 1 week later , they bring the puppy home and bring her right into the backyard to meet Max! Max immediately runs over like a freight train , excited as ever to meet his new sister. Max is running around, chasing her, licking her, smelling her and ultimately, the family believes "he is just so happy to meet her, he loves other dogs!" But what they aren't noticing is how fearful, nervous and overwhelmed the puppy is by Max's over-the-top greeting. This can very easily go south - the puppy can begin to develop a fear of Max and begin guarding her space or running away and hiding if not advocated for, and before you know it she may start bearing teeth out of fear in an effort to get Max out of her space. Puppies are just like babies, still learning, developing and learning about the world around them. If the puppy is ambushed by big, happy, goofy dogs constantly, she will learn that dogs are scary and she will begin to put up walls.
SCENARIO #2: 2 years ago, a family decided they were ready to adopt a dog . So, they made the trip to their local shelter to pick out their very own puppy! Fast forward 2 years and they have an incredible 2 year old, fun, loving, mixed breed dog named Lilly who loves to adventure, explore and play with other dogs. They decided it was time to help save another dog in need and to get a playmate for Lilly ! This time, they decided they would much rather adopt a dog who is already potty trained, crate trained and out of the puppy phase. So, they took a trip to the same local shelter to search for another 2 year old dog that also loves to play with other dogs , and there was Rover! Rover was a 2 year old mixed breed dog who they were told also loves to adventure and interact/play with other dogs, how perfect! After some paperwork and a meet and greet, they officially adopted Rover and were so ready to bring him home to meet Lilly! Upon arriving home, they immediately bring Rover into the backyard to meet/play with Lilly. Lilly and Rover immediately hit it off and played phenomenally together and were really enjoying it !! after 15 minutes of constant play, the family decided it was time to go inside, but they had one problem......they cannot get the dogs to stop playing and Neither of them are listening and when going over to try to get them, the dogs are ignoring the humans and running around continuing to play. So what was previously adorable, happy , fun and cute is now frustrating, rude and developing a bad habit. 2 dogs playing well together is a great thing, but 2 dogs playing nonstop in and out of the house with no boundaries and blowing off their humans? NOT COOL! Not to mention, this is a very quick way for them to get sick of each other and eventually, they will get irritated with one another if not given proper structure, rules and guidance.
KEEP THE INTRODUCTION/ACCLIMATION PROCESS SLOW, STEADY AND STRUCTURED!
Keep both dogs on a leash and allow the dogs to sniff and interact with each-other through a gate or fence so that there is a boundary to help the dogs get used to one another but to also encourage calm greetings while advocating for both dogs if they feel nervous or uncomfortable but this will also teach them how to interact without immediate play or excitement.
Take your dogs on a structured, enjoyable leash walk together so that they can do something together and can bond but again, there is still structure so neither dog gets nervous and or too excitable.
Teach your dogs a "place" command to set some rules/boundaries in the house in order to teach them how to be relaxed around each-other and how to just simply exist comfortably around one another which will result in a calm and controlled atmosphere in the house .
Train and Work on obedience with your dogs individually (one on one) to start , so that you can get to know your new dog and what areas need improving and touching up before adding your previous dog into the mix! For example, if your goal is to eventually allow your dogs to play together without issues, both dogs should have a solid recall (come command) so that if things go south while playing or it's time to go inside, you can successfully stop the play by calling your dogs to you. if you are inexperienced in this particular area, I highly recommend looking into local dog training programs to enroll you and your dog(s) into !
Both dogs (or your new dog at the very least) should be crate trained and crated when you leave the house, or leave the room for a long period of time. Dogs need constant supervision when interacting with one another, especially when they don't know each-other very well yet . So, while you're away, to ensure both dogs are safe and practicing proper behaviors in the house, the crate is the greatest tool.
Work on tons of impulse control around both toys and food. The last thing you want is your dogs - who are getting along so well, to have an issue or altercation with food or toys. Both dogs need to understand that food comes from you, you are the pack leader and provider and it's your job to teach the rules. Much like we teach our Toddlers to share toys at school and how to appropriately play , dogs need the same type of structure and guidance. (again, if you don't have experience in this area, i highly recommend contacting a reputable dog trainer !)
*AS RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNERS, IT IS OUR JOB TO TEACH, GUIDE AND LEAD OUR DOG(S) THROUGH THE WORLD THAT WE LIVE IN. WITH TIME, PATIENCE, CONSISTENCY, LEADERSHIP AND A PROPER UNDERSTANDING OF CANINES, YOU WILL BE GRANTED THE BEST GIFT OF ALL - AN EAGER, WELL-MANNERED, BALANCED DOG AND BEST PAL!
ALL THE BEST,