Dog Trainer Tips For The First Few Days
Congratulations! There are few things as exciting as bringing home a four-legged family member (and perhaps saving a life). You guys will do great, but it may be an adjustment — the adorable creature you fell in love with may bark and beg, dig and jump up or alternatively be skittish and scared. Here’s a primer to help you and your dog through the first few days.
Before picking up your dog
- Collect supplies: Leash, flat collar or body harness, ID tag; bed, bowls, treats, a treat pouch for training, chew toys, including Kong stuffables. Baby gates and/or crate, ex-pen as needed.
- Have a game plan: Work out beforehand who’s going to walk the dog, feed the dog, teach the dog tricks. Draw up your house rules and get all humans on board. Plan the adoption for a day when you’ll have time to help your dog get settled. Have a crate for the car or a safety harness. Don’t run errands on the way home.
- Set up a confinement area: Restrict your dog to a room or two initially and gradually allow more freedom once you know she’s house-and-chew-trained. Baby gates are great for partitioning space. The confinement area should be easy to clean and cleared of non-dog-related things your dog can chew — to an untrained dog, power cords and furniture may be as enticing as chew toys. It should contain a bed, a water bowl, a chew toy or a Kong stuffed with part of your dog’s meal. It should also be in an area where the family spends its time.
- Introducing Dog To Human Family (Scrap The Welcoming Party): As exciting as this is for you, your dog may be a bit overwhelmed. So take things slow and easy — less commotion is the way to go. Keep introductions low-key and limited to immediate family, particularly if your dog is shy. Let your dog approach family — and later, strangers — as she feels comfortable. Nobody should reach for or touch your dog if your dog hasn’t moseyed up to them first. Offering treats can help your new dog feel more comfortable. Consult a professional force-free trainer if your dog signals she isn’t comfortable with certain people.
- Dog-Dog Introductions: Again, slow and easy. It’s best to do introductions when both dogs are exercised, and it’s best to have two people, each one handling a leashed dog. Keep the leashes as slack as possible. Keep initial encounters brief and make sure you don’t have treats or toys in the areas where the dogs meet. Be familiar with dog body language. Supervise and keep dogs separated until you are confident it is safe to leave them alone together. Be especially vigilant when introducing a big dog and a small dog. A force-free trainer can help integrate the household, particularly when introducing a big and small dog.
- Dog-Cat Introductions: Never force introductions — these should occur over time — and never allow chasing. Have safe rooms for the cat that the dog cannot access — use baby gates, doors and leashes to prevent contact initially. The cat’s food, water, comfy sleeping spot and litter box should all be where the dog cannot access. Over time, through habituation, you want to see the dog display less and less interest in the cat and you want to see the cat become curious and relaxed around the dog. Only then do you consider a controlled greeting. A certified force-free trainer can help you integrate your household.
- Pottying: Let your dog (on leash) sniff the yard or wherever you want her to do her business. Reward with a tasty treat the nanosecond she finishes pottying and continue this the first few days, even if your new dog was house trained in a former home. Dogs don’t generalize well, so she may need help learning where to go and not go in her new environment.
- More House Training: The key steps to potty training are 1: preventing accidents in the house and 2: accompanying your dog outside and treating the instant she finishes pottying. A properly-sized crate can help prevent accidents but you must work to ensure the crate becomes a favorite place for your dog before you begin leaving her in it. Don’t crate your dog for longer than she can hold it, and never punish your dog for mishaps. Punishing won’’t solve your house training problem and it will likely make your dog anxious. In addition to or instead of crating, you can tether your dog to you and take her outside when you notice her needing to potty.
- Alone-Time Training: While you might want to spend every waking moment with your new dog, come and go a lot for brief periods — anything from a few minutes to half an hour. This will help teach your dog that you always come back. Make arrivals low-key events. Also, to make alone-time more tolerable, leave your dog in her confinement area with a stuffed Kong or other chew toy.
- Patience and a sense of humor: Be patient with your new dog as she adjusts to your household — it may take a few weeks for her to feel at home and bonded to you. Understand that she may not have been adequately socialized and may arrive with no training. Establish a routine for your dog that includes feeding, exercise, play, sleep and training/enrichment. Don’t scare, yell, punish or force your dog to interact or do things she’s not ready for. Learn to read her body language. If your dog shows signs of fear and/or aggression, go especially slow and bring in a force-free trainer. Finally, keep your sense of humor and enjoy the inter-species cohabitation that’s about to unfold in your home, your very own Animal Planet!