The ABCs of Welcoming a New Dog into the Family

Did you just adopt a dog? The whole family is probably pretty excited about bringing that little fuzz ball home! But remember: Things could get off on the wrong foot if you don’t properly plan your new companion’s arrival. Here’s how to ensure a successful adoption.

A: Arranging and dog-proofing your home

Welcoming your new dog means a lot of changes for everybody, especially if your pooch is still a puppy. Your animal may not know how to behave indoors or have learned very different rules in their old home. Preventing incidents before they happen and managing the house are your best strategies to avoid bad surprises in your first few weeks together, while you teach your pup the behaviours you expect of them.

Don’t hesitate to utilize various tools to make integrating your new companion into home life a little easier. For example, to guide them through the house when needed without invading their personal space, you could put them on leash or, to remember to take them outside regularly so they can relieve themselves, you could set a timer. For the first few weeks, it’s wise to keep certain everyday objects out of their reach while you take stock of their house behaviour. You can add these items back into your environment gradually once you’re sure your dog doesn’t have an inclination to chew stuff or relieve themself in the wrong place! This precautionary approach will prevent a lot of damage and frustration all around.

It’s also a good idea to close off certain rooms at first by closing doors or installing baby gates. Leaving your dog free to roam in a large space is too stimulating for them and makes it virtually impossible to keep an eye on them.

Also, have a few extra toys and accessories on hand. Don’t wait for the sofa to be gnawed on before you think of taking out a few chewing toys for your dog! Before bringing your new dog home, make a list with your adoption counsellor and get all the necessary items right off. This is a great way to support your local shelter and make sure your dog has all the gear they need, like toys, a well-fitting harness and treats.

B: Building a clear routine and setting consistent rules

Routine is key to your dog adapting their new environment. Making things predictable for them helps reduce the anxiety that such a big change can cause. Therefore, make sure that everyone in your household follows a regular routine for meals, outings and dog training. This will help your pup better adapt to your family life in their new home.

It’s important to set rules as a family so everybody gets off to a good start. Inconsistent commands will leave your animal stressed or confused. If it isn’t clear to your family members what’s a good and bad doggy behaviour, it certainly won’t be clear to your pooch!

A common situation is for one family member to pet the dog when they jump up for attention, while others scold this behaviour, especially with visitors. When responses are inconsistent, it’s hard for your dog to know what’s expected of them! Agree on the rules so you don’t create confusion or even reinforce undesirable behaviours.

C: Creating a trusting relationship, based on success

Training an animal using positive reinforcement does not mean that they can do whatever they want. Quite the opposite, actually! Positive reinforcement is a training technique centred on the behaviours you want to instill in your dog. Rather than just saying they mustn’t jump on people coming into the house, focus instead on what you want them to do in that situation. Go to their mat? Sit on it? Bring their toy to your visitors? All of these are good rules, but it may take quite a bit of training to get good results, depending on the complexity of the situation.

Make a list of the behaviours you want to see in your dog. Once your goals are clear, create simple exercises that your animal can complete successfully so you can praise and reinforce the desired behaviours. For example, if your dog already knows the word “sit,” put them on a leash some distance from the front door. When guests arrive, practice the “sit” command and reward them vigorously when they succeed, rather than letting them jump on people. You can also consult a dog trainer, who will help you train your companion with this kind of praised-based approach.

In addition to helping you build a good relationship with your dog, the use of positive reinforcement will allow you to make them understand—in a way that is pleasant for them—the rules of your home!

If your furry companion fails, don’t scold or punish them. This will undermine your relationship and could lead to anxiety or aggression. To learn how to use positive reinforcement, like teaching your dog to walk on a leash without pulling, please read our article on the subject.

In closing, let’s remember one last point: you are the mastermind behind the mission! This means it’s up to you to put the elements in place so that your dog learns the right behaviours at their own pace!

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