Bringing Home a New Dog

It can be quite easy for us to over-do it when we first bring a dog home. Let’s think about it: we get a puppy who has been in a home or kennel with mom and litter mates. Think of how different our home is. Shelter dog: a very different environment, which may be more structured, and may not look good to us but has been somewhat regular and comforting for the dog.

Here is a common scenario. Someone picks up their new dog from a shelter on a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. Everyone is so excited and happy. They take the dog home, show it all those great things about its wonderful new life. The person spends every moment with the dog, lavishing affection. Then, Monday morning the person gets up, starts acting in a different way, says “see ya” or often a really high energy “LOVE YOU POOKIE” good-bye and then disappears. For 8-10 hours. This is a method to “build” anxiety and destructive behaviors.

When we first brought our Andy home from the Animal Protection Society of Durham NC, he licked our arms nervously for a few days. He was totally startled by the TV. He was fine about my really loud washing machine. He was super easy to housetrain. He was terrified of the dishwasher (and we have 2/foodie family). He hated getting in my white Honda CRV. I tried to not stack too many changes, but I could have done better. Now people see him as such a confident dog, and he often is. I did keep training to a minimum and immediately praised him when he went to his bed or lay down away from me. (I have joked that foster dogs in my house probably think their name is “Go Lie Down” the first couple of days.) I let him explore and tried to keep my reactions very calm. I sat on the floor and read or watched TV and let him come to whatever distance he wanted. I put up with a couple of days of his rude, ball-obsessed behavior but then that had to change.

When you bring a puppy home, they have a LOT of growing up to do. Let them do just that, before they are given too much formal training or structure. Sure, you want may to start with some manners training, but don’t do too many excursions and activities at first. With a dog from a shelter or rescue, it may take them weeks to become comfortable and have all the parts of their personality show. Think about the transitions a rescue dog may have had: owner surrender,  or out on the street, in a shelter, to a foster home, to you. That may have happened over days or months.

So, congrats for getting that new dog! Now, just take it slowly and enjoy time with your new buddy.

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