First and foremost – if you are reading this blog because you have, or are exploring the idea of adopting a dog – thank you from the bottom of my heart! Working with rescues (not to mention having one myself) is THE most fulfilling and rewarding part of my job. I am able to truly witness a dog’s level of trust and forgiveness regardless of their past experiences – something I believe many humans are not even capable of. Because these beautiful animals give so much to us, I want to ensure we provide everything they need – especially when first introducing them to their new home and family members.
The first 48 hours after the adoption can be the most chaotic, while at the same time, most critical for you to pay attention to your dog’s specific needs. At this point, your home is just a glorified kennel and in no way comfort zone for them…yet. Their first introduction should be done on lead outside around your entire yard. Allow them to take in all of the new scents and reward heavily with treats and praise when they go to the bathroom outside. This is the first step to showing your dog where to use the restroom. Even a potty trained dog can have accidents in a new home due to stress or anxiety. Attempt to avoid any future messes by spending plenty of fun quality time outside to get them more familiar with their surroundings.
Your next step is to bring them inside of the home after they have relieved themselves outside. Remain keeping them on lead to give you more control of the introduction. There are many new sights, scents and sounds in your house. Allow them to explore room by room in as much peace and quiet as you can offer them. Reward heavily for calm sniffing or other desirable behaviors. This helps create a very positive association with your home. Keeping petting to a minimal during this time is recommended as it could startle the dog or make them feel overwhelmed with forced interactions. With so many unfamiliarties, it is important to have your dog focus on their new home first before introducing them to all of the people and animals they will be sharing it with.
I recommend giving your new dog a kennel or gated-in room to make as a “safe place” for them. Providing them with a dog bed, treats and durable toys in their “safe place” is a great way to make it more exciting. No one is allowed to go into the enclosure with them. It gives your new dog a sense of security and allows them to relax in an undisturbed environment during this potentially stressful transition.
If you have other pets in the home, avoid introducing them for now. Your new dog needs time to decompress, and forcing a potentially stressful encounter could have a negative outcome. The same goes for meeting outside friends and family. Right now, your new dog needs some serious down time.
Some common behaviors for a new dog are either hyper and agitated, or quiet and subdued. Due to the stress they are experiencing, it is common for a new dog to have sleepless nights or heavy sleeping throughout each due as a way of coping. Stress can cause a dog to act out in behavior not common for their personality. Mistakes are bound to happen due to your dog’s unfamiliarity with household expectations. You must have an extra amount of understanding and patience while they adjust to the new rules in your home. Providing clear guidance is a must while they make this transition.
Additional signs of stress that a dog may be sending to us are lip licking, yawning excessively, scratching and stretching – all of which are done out of context. The best way to help your new dog cope with these anxious feelings are to begin a routine starting day one. A few good examples for starting a routine would be to feed, walk, and play fetch with them at the same time every day. Consistency is key for a dog to feel secure around their surroundings and owners. I would suggest giving your dog a few weeks to adjust to their new lifestyle before testing them out around additional people and places – if possible.
Thank you again for opening up your heart and home to such a deserving dog. Remember that your dog needs specific needs and desires, and if you can provide all of which for them – they will give back to you more then you feel you even deserve!
Happy Adoption and Training!