So you want to adopt a dog. If you are first time pet owner or a have had pets all of your life, it is very important to be prepared for the new member of the family. There are many references that a new pet owner should read before adopting a pet, one good informational website is from Caesar Millan, the dog whisperer, who explains pet adoption from A to Z. The key to having a great time with your new pets is being prepared before the pet comes home with you to making sure that you are following the right training with the dog. The key to training is being consistent and patient. Dogs can read people very well, they smell when people are afraid, can read body language better than you think, and can understand what needs to be done just by their owner’s raising and lowering of their voices. Everyone will have different encounters with your pets, but by following some basic rules (for both the pet owner and the pet), you will have the dog adjusted to its new home in no time.
Before Bringing an Adopted Dog Home
- Create the area where the dog will be spending most of its time at your home. The first week could be extra stressful as they are getting used to a different environment and they might forget housebreaking and other learned behaviors. Dog-proof this area by removing plants, rugs and breakables, installing baby gates and setting up a crate.
- If you plan on crate training the dog, be sure to have it set-up and ready to go for when you bring the new dog home.
- Training your dog starts the first minutes you have them. Make sure the entire family knows what words you will be using to give commands.
- Gather pet supplies that you will need such as a collar, leash, food and water bowls, food and toys. Also, order an identification tag to put on the dog when you pick them up.
First Days at Home
- The first few days of having your new dog at your home will be stressful. A new pet needs to get acclimated to your home and family.
- When picking up your dog, ask what and when they were last fed. Keep that same eating schedule for at least a few days to avoid any eating problems with the pet. If you want to switch food, then do so over a period of time by adding the new food into their current food mixture.
- When you get home, introduce the pet to their toileting area immediately. Spend as much time as needed there, so they can get used to the area and relieve himself. However, be prepared for accidents during the first few days, even with housebroken pets.
- If you are crate training, leave the crate open so they can go in/out of it whenever they feel like it.
- Start adapting the dog to a schedule of feeding, toileting and play. Dogs will need a mixture of family and social time and also times of solitary confinement. Give dogs attention for good behavior, but don’t give in when the dog is whining.
Start Training Right Away
Dogs thrive on order. From the time that you bring the dog home, the training process must begin. Dogs are pack animals who need leadership and rules to survive. They must be taught that the humans are the leaders in the house. Training will make the dog trustworthy and a socialized member of the family.
There are many informational websites on dog training from the Humane Society or Paw Rescue. Each pet owner will want to train their dogs differently. Mae Williams, owner of Men’s Cuts, adopted her dog, Casey, over four years ago. Mae did lots of research about training for the dog and decided to enroll the dog in obedience classes versus getting an electronic fence installed at the home. The training class involved training with the entire family and not just Mae. Mae describes, “We purchased he basic package of lessons including: sit, down, stay down, heel, come and spot. We were told don't treat the dog like a person, treat the dog like a dog. The dog has to respect you, in order to listen to you. Repetition and consistency is key when training a dog.” Their trainer recommends obedience classes within the first week of the dog’s arrival at its new home. This way the dog establishes the house rules from the beginning.
For Mae and her family, the benefits of obedience classes has paid off! “Casey does all the things we want her to do and she knows what to do, I am amazed. She knows potty is (poop) and to pee when told. She even knows when I ask her to go outside to play ball, versus going for a car-ride. She loves to go for walks and walks beside us, not pulling us, as many dogs I see with their owners.” The most important thing is Casey has adapted to the Williams family. That is what training is all about. Mae recommends reading the following books to help with adopting and training your new dog: Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz, The Dog’s Mind: Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior (Howell Reference Books) by Bruce Fogle and Through a Dog’s Eyes: Understanding Our Dogs by Understanding How They See the World by Jennifer Arnold.
Adopting a dog is a wonderful experience for any family. Doing research, being prepared before they head to their new home and taking the time to train the dog is key to success in the new home.