Truly, hindsight is 20/20. If I knew then what I know now about dogs, stress, and behavior, I would have been a lot more proactive about creating a soothing, welcoming environment for both of my dogs when I first brought them home from rescue.
Before you bring your dog home, ask the shelter, breeder, or rescue for as much information about her current lifestyle as possible. Where does she sleep? A dog who is used to sleeping in a bed or even outside may have a harder time adjusting to sleeping in a crate than a dog who is accustomed to sleeping in a crate. What is her current routine like? It may be helpful to try, at least for the first day or two, to mimic the existing routine, slowly transitioning the dog to your own routine. When does she normally eat? Go potty? Go for a walk?
Here are some things I will likely do in the future, when a day arrives that Jim and I decide it’s time to add another pooch to Maison de Lomonaco. In today’s blog, we will be talking a lot about calming aids. If you are unfamiliar with calming aids, many of those I discuss today are explained in a previous entry, Nine Calming Aids for Fearful, Anxious, or Nervous Dogs.
THE CAR RIDE HOME
Through a Dog’s Ear (TADE): Play”Mu sic to Calm Your Dog in the Car” c.d. on the ride home to establish a relaxing sound environment.
Dog Appeasing Pheromone (D.A.P.): Spray down the area/crate/bed where the dog will be riding with Dog Appeasing Pheremone.
Bring a friend: Bring a friend along, so that someone is able to comfort your new dog or puppy, providing soothing tactile manipulation (if welcomed) and vocal encouragement for the dog on the ride.
Bring treats: Bring treats for your friend to feed your new dog, and ask that she watch the dog closely for any signs of carsickness. Dogs can create bad associations with the car from carsickness, because the feeling of being ill/nauseous is very aversive. Make sure you have scheduled enough time to stop and give your dog or puppy potty and water breaks if it is a long trip home. Have towels (and a small bottle of Nature’s Miracle) on hand in case your dog does get sick.
THE HOME ENVIRONMENT
More TADE and DAP: Whenever possible, it’s nice to have someone at the house who can have soothing music playing when you arrive. If you have a DAP plug in, it should be plugged in next to your dog’s crate.
Low-Key Welcomes: While you may want an elaborate welcome party for your dog full of party noise-makers, hordes of screaming toddlers grabbing at her, twenty seven friends with three or more dogs each, cake, ice cream, and a rock and roll band playing in the back yard, this really isn’t what’s best for your new dog or puppy.
I probably would not invite guests over the first day, asking just that family welcome the dog home initially. Allow the dog to choose when she is comfortable greeting and approaching you. Each family member should be prepared with some yummy treats to give the dog when she is confident enough to greet and interact.
Practice short-duration separations: It is best to start practicing short separations during your time off from work with the dog to prepare her for longer separations while you are at work.
Establish a routine: What is your routine like on a regular workday? While you are taking some time off to welcome your new dog, practice getting her adjusted to his new routine. When will you be walking her in the morning? In the evening? When will she be eating? If you are gone from 8 -12, home for lunch, and then back at work from 1 – 5, practice crating her during these hours when you are home, periodically giving her treats, KONGs, and chews for quiet behavior. (NOTE: Many puppies and even some adult dogs need more frequent elimination opportunities).
Begin positive training: Rewarding your dog for desired behaviors will help her establish trust in you, confidence in herself, and comfort in your home. A great beginner book on positive training is The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller.
Invite guests over to greet your dog: Initially, only invite one or two guests at a time. Ask that they wait for your dog to initiate social contact and provide them with treats in advance so they are able to reinforce her for these prosocial behaviors. Learning to understand canine body language will help you read your dog’s signals and know if she is getting overwhelmed. If she does, give her a stuffed Kong in her crate and do not allow individuals to approach or bother her in her crate.
Enroll in training classes: It’s always a good idea to get your family and your new dog off to a good start by enrolling in training classes. If your new dog or puppy seems very fearful or is uncomfortable about strange people and dogs, you may want to ask your training instructor if you can get some private lessons with an eventual goal of working in a group class.
Stay tuned tomorrow, when we’ll discuss the adjustment period of rehoming.