Although this guide is aimed at taking your rescue dog home, the general idea can be applied to all adopted dogs coming into their new family home for the first time.
Walk Around Your Neighbourhood
When you arrive home, don’t go straight inside, go for a long walk around your (and their new) neighbourhood. This should be as long as you can make it, but at least an hour.
This walk will establish a strong bond between you both and will go a long way to establishing the dog’s trust in you. Also, it will fulfil the dog’s desire to roam making the transition from one home to another less stressful.
This exercise will also tire out your dog making to home introduction more successful.
Introduce Your Dog To Your Home
Entering your home for the first time with your new dog is important to get right. This will establish the ground rules for which the dog will be living by.
As you arrive back from your initial ‘migratory’ walk, wait at the front door, open it but don’t simply let the dog off the lead to discover his new home for himself. It’s your home first so you have to introduce him to it. At the open door, wait to make sure the dog is calm and neither excited nor fearful, then keeping the dog on leash, enter the house first then invite the dog in after you.
Lead your dog slowly around the rooms he’ll be living in letting him sniff and familiarise himself with his new home in a calm relaxed manner. If possible, limit the rooms he’s allowed in for a week or so, maybe just the kitchen, hall and lounge.
This simply aids the dog’s familiarisation with his new surroundings. At night, the dog should be led to a designated sleeping area, be it his bed/kennel/crate. He should not be allowed the run of the house at night, but left in the room with his bed in.
After a week or so the dog can be slowly introduced, on lead, to the other rooms he will be allowed to inhabit. You enter first, inviting him to follow as you lead him all around each room.
Introduce Your Newly Adopted Dog to Your Family
The temptation with a new pet is usually for the whole family to welcome it and shower it with excited affection. Although this is a natural response for humans, it only confuses dogs and adds stress to the situation.
Here, calmness is key. The most effective technique for introducing a new dog to the family is for the family to sit and relax, ignore the dog and let it be led too them so it can sniff each person and learn their scents (thus their identity).
Once the dog is let off lead it should be ignored and allowed to approach family members in it’s own time and on it’s own terms. Affection can be given once the dog is comfortable and asks for it from that person.
A dog will seek affection with relaxed eye contact, nuzzling, rubbing against you or sitting down right next to you. The dog sniffing you shouldn’t be seen as an invite to stroke him at this stage.
How Long does it take a Rescue Dog to adjust?
Give the dog a few days to become confident with their new family before introducing them to your friends. Having several people round to show off your new dog in the first few days will only cause the dog undue stress and confusion.
WARNING: dogs are most likely to nip or bite a member of their new adopted family during the first few days in the new home.
This is a common reason for dogs being returned to the rescue centre. This situation is simple to avoid; give the dog time and space to settle into its new calm, consistent, stress free environment, and provide steady non threatening guidance.
Once you and the dog have learned each other’s mannerisms, behavioural patterns and are confident in each others presence, the chance of a misunderstanding occurring will be vastly reduced.
Teach Rules, Boundaries and Basic Social Etiquette
For the next couple of weeks the dog must earn everything and be given permission to do anything, basically, manners. To earn something all I expect of a dog it to calmly show some polite manners, not be excited and pushy.
If the dog can ‘sit’ utilise this, if not, simply being calm and respectful before affection, food or walks are provided will form the basis of a rewarding respectful relationship for both of you. Affection within the first week to ten days should be only given if the dog is calm, thus encouraging calmness and relaxation.
Offering affection randomly or when the dog isn’t calm and relaxed undermines all the other rules you have applied as the dog hasn’t offered the desired behaviour this affection should reward. Another mistake people make when settling a new dog into their home is to invite all their friends to come and visit.
Extra (usually excited) people to meet in his new home will lead to confusion and excitement and may well undo the work your rules and efforts have so far achieved. If new people do visit, as before with your family, ask them to ignore the dog, remain calm, then lead the dog up to sniff and meet the person.
If you make a rule, never break it. If you don’t want your dog on the couch or upstairs, NEVER let your dog on the couch or upstairs. If you allow it now and again the inconsistency will only lead to confusion for the dog who will struggle to know when or if to obey the rule.
The most important part of a dog’s education is simply going for walks calmly on a loose lead next to you. This is the fastest way to earn a dog’s trust and confidence is to provide access to explore the wonderful outside world in the security of a calm relaxed atmosphere.
Allowing your dog to pull on the lead isn’t providing a calm relaxed atmosphere, but instead, a stressful one. I rarely see a dog with problems who doesn’t pull on the lead during walks.
Set A Regular Routine For YOur Rescue Dog
A set routine adhered to every day will rapidly help your new dog to settle into his new life. If the dog knows when he will be eating, going for a walk, training, playing and when they are going to be left alone each day then stress levels will be minimised.
A dog’s typical routine maybe, wake, be let into garden/yard to go to the toilet, go for morning walk, receive breakfast, relax whilst owner goes out (work, shopping etc), afternoon walk, sit/down/stay training, evening meal, play session, relax with owner in evening, let again into garden/yard if needed, go to bed for sleep.
An irregular routine will leave the dog anxious as to when he will be allowed food/walks/to go outside for the toilet and the stress will be displayed through unwanted behaviours.
As your dog settles into their new home and begins to relax into their new lifestyle, all your hard work teaching them how they should behave will pay off.
You will find your dog will not need reminding of what they should be doing, as they will already be doing the right thing; staying calm, relaxed, confident and content, but principally happy!
Structured daily exercise and stimulation is the most natural way to owning and keeping a happy balanced canine companion.
Remember a spoiled dog isn’t one which gets to sit on a couch all day and receive plenty of treats and affection, that will lead to a bored frustrated dog.
A spoiled dog is one which gets a long varied walk in the in the morning, a different walk in the afternoon, training and a play session in the evening then cuddling up with their family for some affection before a deep sound sleep.