There are right and wrong ways to bring a new dog into your house.
Any time a dog enters into a new environment it is a big deal for the dog.This is true for any new environment for a dog be it a new car, dog park, a house, and it’s especially true if this new house that is going to be her new home.
If you want to help your new dog adjust to your family with ease, there are 3 areas to focus on.
- Your New Dog
- The Family. AKA humans who live in the house, and
- Other animals maybe living in your house.
Your New Dog.
Dogs are social animals and hierarchy is very important to dogs. Whenever a dog enters into a new environment the first thing she needs to figure out is where she fits in. She needs to know who is in charge, who is following who? Who is responsible for the survival and the protection of the pack? She will need to figure things out instinctively. She will not accept her position based on what you’re thinking/dreaming/planning, but based on her observation. This the “Observation Period” is what humans from corporate world call “onboarding.”
The Observation Period is different for each dog. An 8 week old puppy maybe be like a sponge vs a rescue dog with some bad experiences with former humans likely will need much longer time to learn to trust again. But a good rule of thumb is your first month is the most crucial period for the successful relationship with your dog.
What I noticed with dogs we worked with is the first 2 weeks your new dog will be observing you, The next 2 weeks she will begin making “statements.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard clients start their calls with ” We got this new dog first 2 weeks she was amazing….. Then, he started doing ___________.”
You and Your family
Just know as soon as your new dog arrives your life will be different. Therefore, it is important for you and your people to have some ground rules before your new dog arrives.
What are ground rules ? Things like is the dog allowed on the furniture? What’s the dog’s feeding schedule? Where’s the dog going to pee or poop? Is she going to sleep with us in the bed? There are infinite number of things you need decide before the dog comes in so making some of those decisions as a family before your new dog arrives will make your life easier… Trust me on this. The fighting over if the dog sleeps in bed, or allowed on the couch is real.
Whenever you are considering the Ground Rules consider the adult dog not the tiny puppy that fits into your forearm at 8 weeks of age. Speaking of Puppies If you’re bringing home a new puppy make sure to puppy-proof your house BEFORE she arrives. Puppies like babies are very inquisitive. She will start exploring/ discovering your house as soon as you put her on the ground.
Remember The first 2 weeks of your new dog’s arrival will be the time she is observing and studying you. This is the time to establish the hierarchy in the family and the rules of the new pack. Set the boundaries of how to play,
Is he allowed to jump on you or not. I like physical dogs and I allow my dogs to be physical with me, so I taught my dogs how I invite them to be play full contact with me.
Is she allowed on the furniture or not. Many of my clients love to cuddle with their dogs on couch, but don’t want dog hair covering their entire couch, so we teach dogs to be on a designated blanket.
In dogs’ world one who controls the movement and the one who controls the food is the one who’s in charge. So, freedom of movement for your new dog can tell her where she fits in. Also where and when she receives and eats food will tell her where she fits in too. So these are two critical areas when you can naturally and instinctively establish the humans of your family as the leader(s).
First figure out a feeding schedule. Is your dog going to eat once, twice, three times a day? Puppy usually eat three times. Most Adult dogs eat once or twice. Then decide where will you feed you feed her, and who will feed her.
Pro-Tip: If you’re feeding your dog kibbles once you pour the food in the bowl play with the food for about 10 seconds to infuse your scent on the food. Your dog will begin associating your scent with love.
Next is control of the movement. New dog should not have full free-access to the entire house right away. Good house rule for new dogs (also applicable for teenagers) Freedom is earned! So make adjustments in your home to have some new-dog free areas. You can use crate, leash to make this happen. In fact having a crate as a safe space in the room where you spend time as a family where your new dog can observe your family for couple of weeks will be the best practice you can implement. ABSOLUTE BEST!
Last point. You must allow your new dog to adjust to your family (remember 2- 4 week span) During this time don’t worry about training with “commands.” Just enjoy your dog, learn her personality, demonstrate Global Rules. You will have plenty of time to teach, Sit/ Roll over/ Play dead etc. Also if you have small children at home it is your responsibility to be the leader. Make sure your children are NOT torturing/annoying your dog to death because they are super excited and they love her so much.
Your Existing Animals
If you are introducing a new dog to your existing dog there are additional things to consider. Don’t bring a new dog in to the house declaring “Hey. I got you a new brother. Here you go. Play!” This could be very dangerous -even deadly.
Let new and old dog meet in a neutral environment. Have a quick walk with 2 dogs on a leash with 2 humans. Let them smell each other, walk together, pee on bushes, look and size each other up, even a gentle body-check is OK If they are both goofy then they’re okay you can breathe easier and then continue with the plan.
Inside the house your existing dog was already the leader or the only child….. until the new dog came. As soon as a new dog enters to your house the leadership role has to be established. Remember just because your existing dog was there first doesn’t mean he is going to be the the leader. For Leadership size doesn’t matter, age doesn’t matter, breed doesn’t matter, and most importantly YOUR DESIRE OF WHO SHOULD LEAD doesn’t matter.
Your existing dog at home will have the advantage of living there, having his routine, smell, toys etc. So it is going to be more stressful for your new dog. This is another reasons to crate your new dog… Quite a bit.
A Crate will help her get used to the new home safely, as long as you don’t allow your existing dog to torment the new dog.
ProTip: Do a light training to demonstrate your relationship with the existing dog to your new dog while she is crated. So she can see your interaction and hierarchy with your existing dog. This will send the message: Dogs are not really competing for THE LEADERSHIP position. “I’m the real boss.” And it will ease the stress between dogs.
And Finally let’s talk about The Second phase of Observation Period starts around 2 weeks mark. First two weeks Your new dog observed you and your family. It’s been 2 weeks…. She now knows she lives here… So she is going to make some statements.
Depending on the dog’s dominance levels and how well you did the first two weeks, your new dog is likely to behave differently. Stealing socks, challenging your authority, grabbing your pants -to see if you fall. Maybe pushing on you and letting you know “Hey. I have muscles too,” stepping on your foot,maybe marking.
You will have to deal with all of these situations. This is the time for you to really exert yourself as a leader of the dog. So remember the first two weeks you were setting the global rules, the second 2 weeks you will set The Dog Rules.
You are the Leader!!
A Good Leader is not the person who is going around and yelling everybody that everything they do is wrong. I want to remind you that your dog never thinks “Let me drive my human crazy.” All she is able to do is being a dog. When your new dog starts making statement is the time to start some of the behavior training. When she is acting an unwanted way you can actually start introducing some commands. Teaching him Sit command… Then teaching him where and when to sit. Like before getting the her food, before walking out the door, before getting out of the crate. It is also a good time to let them play more, allowing your kids to have more access to your dog, reduce the crate time…. even stop crating. Perhaps have full access to your house and your existing dog. So, based on the trust she earned from you her world is expanding more and more.…
If you’re planning on hiring a dog trainer this phase will be a good time to find one. If you want to learn how to find the best trainer for your dog, then listen to the episode How to find the best trainer for my dog.