Congratulations on your new dog! As a serious dog owner, you have probably prepared in advance and purchased food, some toys, a sleeping place, and looked into a good veterinarian.
But while a dog may become your best friend, you cannot forget that a dog is a dog, and not a human. This means that your dog does not think like a human, and you cannot expect the things from a dog moving in that you would for a human. The adjustment period when the dog comes home is a challenge, as any owner who has watched their dog run amok the minute they got inside for can attest. Here are a few smart tips can make the adjustment period much easier.
1. Take Charge
At the end of the day, you are that dog’s master. This means that when you take it home for the first time, you have to make it clear that this is your home and not the dog’s.
So while it is tempting to just hug your new pet and give it treats and play with it, you have to be firm at the start. When you take it home, enter the house first. Have the dog accompany you while you enter every room first. Do not let it wander around and do not hesitate to be stern (not angry) if it starts trying to sniff or move away from you.
With pets and children, it is better to be stern first and ease up later than the other way around. Show your dog that you are in charge, and that will go a long ways towards ensuring good behavior in the long run.
2. Give it Space
One mantra you will hear from dog experts is “three days, three weeks, and three months.” This mantra refers to the amount of time it takes a dog to get acclimated to its new home. It takes three days for a dog to get over the shock of moving, three weeks to get settled into a routine, and three months to feel “home.”
This mantra matters because you cannot expect a dog to feel right at home when it moves in. Your dog may spend the next three days just sleeping, and he will make mistakes as he will not be sure of his boundaries. Correct him the instant he makes a mistake, but understand that your dog views his new spot as a foreign spot and that he will mess up. Patience is necessary.
3. Be careful with dog food
If you picked up your dog from a shelter, check to see what kind of food they have been feeding it. If your dog is eating one kind of food at the shelter and then immediately switches to another kind at your home, the result can be digestive problems and diarrhea.
This does not mean you are stuck feeding your dog the shelter food. As pet nutrition company Hill’s observes, you should switch over a period lasting from five to seven days. Mix the old and new food together. Each day, decrease the portion of the old food and increase the portion of the new food.
And do not try to save money by skimping on dog food costs. The additional expense of higher quality food in the short will be made up by your dog’s superior nutritional health. This means fewer visits to the vet.
4. Don’t forget to dog proof
Before the dog enters your home, you need to proof the home and prevent him from getting into and destroying your valuables. The American Humane Society has a fantastic list of actions you should take in advance. Note that proofing is a constant process that does not end when the dog is brought in the home for the first time. When you make changes to your home, consider how it can impact your dog’s safety.
But while you may have tried to proof your home, the odds are that you have missed something that your dog could get into or destroy, including its own bed. You can easily find indestructible dog beds, but even then, you need to monitor your dog for the first few days or weeks to make it clear where he is allowed and what he can do. As noted above, be stern at the start.
5. Be careful with dogs and children
If you have children, their excitement towards having a new dog will far exceed your own. But young children often lack the self-awareness and discipline needed to treat a dog properly, which can end tragically if you do not supervise both of them.
One of the biggest tips when watching children and dogs interact is to ask yourself how you would feel if that dog was a human. You would not let your child poke through someone else’s food or stare in their face, so do not let them do that to your dog.
You should also construct a safe space where a dog can go away and be alone. Make sure your children understand that when a dog goes to that spot, it is not to be disturbed.
Featured photo credit: Thomas Aiko via flickr.com