- You have already looked deep into whether you were ready for any dog.
- Your lifestyle was analyzed so as to list the qualities in a dog that would fit well within your every day activities.
- Breeders, Rescues, and ads to re-home adult dogs were looked at very carefully and vetted.
Herein lies the question, what can I do to help my new adult dog family member get to know us and feel safe?
- Structured walks: Before you bring your new dog home or shortly after reading this, you are going to want to buy some well made equipment. Leashes (I prefer leather but if you have a dog that chews through leashes that is not necessary, and for it to be all one fabric or leather as opposed to fabric stitched onto fabric or leather) that are well stitched and have brass or stainless steel (not inferior metals) hardware on them. Collars that have no plastic (I have seen more than a few break away) as the primary way to keep the collar on (inside this is fine, but outside I prefer metal training collars or flat buckle collars with sturdy metal hardware. Structured walks are going to be necessary to build your dog's confidence in you and build a partnership relationship. The equipment that I start my walks in my yard with are usually long lines (15' to 20' long). Leashes that I use on the road or off property without a lot of acreage are 6' long. Equipment that may fail will not be helpful in this scenario, and your dog will not feel safe if something happens to them where they get lost or hurt. Remember these walks are just for you and the dog at first, you should not be trying to meet other people or dogs during the first few weeks. Just let the dog settle in and feel safe with you and your family. NOTE THE LEASH DESCRIPTION HERE, SOME COMPANIES STITCH A SEPARATE PIECE OF LEATHER OR FABRIC ONTO THE LEASH FOR THE HANDLE, THIS IS NOT SAFE!
- Crate Training: I highly recommend a crate purchase and crate training. Crates keep your dogs safe in the car, in your house, and prepare them for the almost inevitable veterinarian stay. Most dogs can be learn how to calm down and sleep in the cheaper wire crates sold at pet stores. Do be sure that you find something that feels like it has been welded together well. Set the crate up with bedding (if you have a bedding shredder there does not need to be bedding in there). I like thick old fashioned blankets that I find at thrift stores for the bedding. You will also want a good chew toy (big enough not to be swallowed and sturdy enough not to be torn apart and swallowed). When I crate train a dog, I start by sitting near them while they are in the crate at first. If they howl or cry, I wait for that moment when their is silence. Then I usually drop some of their food or a treat in their crate. There are many steps to this, but this is a good way to begin. When guests come over, they are not to bother the dog when in the crate. This is the dog's safe space to become accustomed to. Many tips on this crate training article could be helpful to you going forward.
- Housebreaking: Even if you have purchased or rescued an adult dog that was house trained in their previous environment, they still do not know where to go out in your home or how to ask to go out in your home. Select the door that they will go out. I would place a crate near that door as well ( or use the tether or umbilical cord method when you can not closely supervise your new dog--tethering simply means have a dog on a leash with you when not supervised). Please see our housebreaking article for many tips for this to get your new adult dog familiar with the setup in your house.
- Supervision, supervision, supervision: Many adult dogs coming into a new situation are not familiar with your expectations. You may not know what the previous living arrangement has been, and even if you do, the dog may not be ready to be put in a position where a costly mistake can be made. If your new dog is easily with you, have them dragging a leash (while you are supervising them of course) so you can step on it and redirect them if a housebreaking accident, or food theft, or furniture chewing incident is about to begin. Keep in your memory any things that may be problematic and require behavioral training later on (nipped at you for taking something, demand barking, submissive peeing, jumping on you anxiously---just to name a few). Some of these may disappear as your new dog gets used to their home. Some of these may get worse with new behavioral problems also appearing. Most anything can be dealt with, trained, and modified with training or a trainer's help, so I don't say this to alarm anyone. It is pretty rare to get an actual dangerous dog these days. This is the time to assess how you can help your new dog really integrate with your family in the best way. Both of you have a job to do, and yours at this time to is to meet your dog's necessary needs, and be their partner in settling in.
- Be easy and careful with the human and dog introductions, if doing them at all in the first two weeks: Your new family member has their work cut out adjusting to you at this time. Do not place them in situations that up their stress level, and count on their good nature with you to extend to other strangers just now. Consider crating them when company comes over, and keep company away from their crate at this time. Do observe how the dog seems during this period of time (anxious, scared, wild, panting, calm, and so forth). Dog to dog nose introductions are iffy at the best of times. Now is not the time to force your dog to interact with strange dogs. Do observe if they are comfortable observing other dogs though. If your new dog is coming into your home that has other dogs, please read this multiple dog article.