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Introducing Your Rescue Dog to the Home

When you bring your new dog home from the shelter, it’s a day for celebration. However, look at things from your dog’s point of view. He has left a busy, noisy environment and is traveling in a car with people he doesn’t know to a place he doesn’t know. It’s no surprise that he may be a little scared and anxious.

Plan to bring him home on a weekend, or at a time when you can spend a day or two with him. Don’t bring him home then go off to work the next day. He’ll need you there to make him feel secure in those first few days. It’s also not a good idea to have too many people there to welcome him. It may be quite overwhelming, so ask your friends and neighbors to give him a few days to settle in before they come visiting.

Before you actually take your dog inside your home, go for a long walk with him, to relieve some of his excitement and nervous energy. This will make his introduction to his home and family a little calmer.

Introducing Your Dog To Your Home

Your dog should be treated as a member of your family, so bring him inside to live with you. Don’t leave him outside without anyone to keep an eye on him. It will take a little while for him to realize this is his home, and until then, he may try to escape.

Don’t give him the opportunity to destroy things around the home. Make sure you tidy up and pick up anything that a dog may want to chew. Stay with him as he explores his home, and don’t leave him to wander unattended.

Give him some time to get used to his new environment, and the people in it. You may find that, until he relaxes with you, he may be a bit reserved. However, once he settles in, he’ll become much more outgoing. He may actually go too far, just to test his boundaries. This is when you need to be firm, gentle and consistent, so he learns the rules of your household.

Give your new dog the opportunity to have some time out if he’s looking a little overwhelmed. Allow him to retreat to a place where he feels safe, and ask your family members to leave him alone. He might just need a little time to regroup, and he’ll be back to play again very quickly.

When you are introducing your dog to new people, make sure they have lots of delicious treats. Your dog’s first impression of your family and friends should be positive. Allow the dog to make the first approach, and give him a treat. Don’t try and pat him straight away, allow him to sniff you and explore you, all the while treating him generously.

Introducing Your New Dog to Your Old Dog

Dogs can be quite territorial, so you need to handle this introduction carefully. Your old dog may see your new dog as a threat, and feel the need to defend his home turf. Make sure you pick up any bones and toys from around your home and yard, to reduce the likelihood your existing dog will want to guard his things.

If your old dog is well socialized and has had some obedience training, there’s not likely to be a problem. However, follow these steps to make the introduction go as smoothly as possible:

1. Try to introduce the dogs on neutral territory. Go to a dog park or a neighbor’s yard, so there is no territorial behavior to get in the way, however make sure it is fenced. If possible, to gauge their reaction to each other. Make sure you have a helper to manage one of the dogs, should there be a problem.

2. Have both dogs on a secure collar (not a choke collar or a prong collar) for the introduction. A Gentle Leader or other head halter is a better idea still; you’ll have much head control than with a collar.

3. Relax. Dogs are very good at picking up on your mood, and if you’re nervous, they’ll think there is something to be nervous about. This can make them tense, and increase the risk of hostility when they meet.

4. Allow one dog at a time to walk over the other, and let them approach the other dog in his own time. You can expect them to sniff each other’s bottom when they meet; try to avoid tangling their leash so you still have control over their heads. If there is any hostility; tell the cranky dog to “Settle down” in a calm, firm voice.

5. Most dogs are quite happy to have a new friend, but some may want to squabble. If there is a fight, don’t pull the dogs apart by the leash. The leashes will probably get tangled up, and pulling them won’t have much effect, except perhaps to pull the dogs closer! Each person should grab one dog by the hind legs and pull them apart. If there is going to be hostility, you may need professional help to teach your dogs to live in harmony.

6. When your dogs begin to relax around each other, let go of the leashes, but don’t take them off yet. That way you can still grab them if you need to. At this point, take them home, but keep the leashes on. You may find that there are tension that did not arise while at the neutral territory.

7. It’s important to feed your dogs separately, at least for the first few weeks until you can ascertain that they’re not going to be protective of their food.

Dogs are pack animals, and enjoy having a canine playmate. By carefully introducing them, both dogs will happily share your home with each other.


Introducing Your Dog to Your Children

Dogs and children make the best companions. If fact, your children may have played a large part in your decision to get a dog. They can also help to take care of him, and this will encourage a close bond between them.

Education. Teach your children about how to safely interact with your dog. Show them how to stroke him gently. Teach them how to recognize when your dog is saying, “Leave me alone,” and make sure they don’t annoy him when he is in his crate, or den.

Supervision. Never ever leave any child alone with a dog, no matter how much you trust them both. The best behaved dog is quite capable of snapping at your child if he is hurt, and most dog bites to children are inflicted by their own usually loving family pet.

Involvement. Children are quite capable of helping to take care of your dog. It gives them a sense of responsibility, and it relieves you of some of the workload. Make sure you give your child a chore that’s appropriate for their age and ability. For example, a younger child is able to brush your dog, but it isn’t safe to allow them to take your dog for walk.

Possible Problems

Even a housebroken dog can make mistakes, particularly when they’re stressed. Don’t get angry at your new dog if he has an accident, and certainly don’t punish him. This will only make him afraid of you, and this is no way to start your relationship. Take him outdoors regularly, and praise him when he goes. It won’t take long for him to learn where he can go to the restroom.

Shelter dogs may crave attention, and they may jump on you or nudge you for cuddles all the time. Don’t give in, or he will learn that this is an acceptable way to behave. Ignore this behavior, and he will ultimately give up. Having said that, he does need attention so make sure you him cuddles, but on your terms.

If your dog is a little fearful or aggressive when he arrives at your home, don’t molly coddle him to make it all okay. This is inadvertently rewarding this behavior, and you’ll be making him more likely to continue to be frightened or cranky. If this behavior persists, seek professional help.

Don’t punish your dog if he misbehaves; he may not yet have learned what’s expected of him. Punishment now will also make your dog afraid of you, and is no way to build a close relationship with him. You will need to build up a little more trust before you can use a correction as part of your training. Instead try and redirect negative behavior, showing the dog what they should be doing instead of focusing on what they should not be doing.

You must be committed to spending time to help your dog settle into your family life. You’re setting the stage for your future together, so teach him your rules, give him time to adjust, and you’ll have a best friend for life.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

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