We are often asked what to do when your new dog gets home. We hope you will find this useful.
1. A Golden Rule
We have told many people about the 1-3-8 rule and they mostly report it was true.
Day one – expect some chaos. Think about yourself, if you suddenly found yourself in your third home in a few weeks. You might be anxious and confused. Your dog has been with a foster parent and before that, in its original home. So be patient.
Day three – things are starting to settle down. You’re getting to know each other. New routines are being established. Familiar smells and people are now everywhere.
Day eight – success. It feels like you’ve been together forever. Many of us at BAGSR are foster parents and we see this sequence many times.
2. Getting Started
When you first meet your dog at an adoption event, it's going to be a different dog versus the one you take home. Adoption events are quite stressful. Once home the dog may temporarily regress in his/her behavior, almost going thru a rapid repeat puppy hood, having accidents in the house, whining a bit, pacing, crying, exhibiting separation anxiety problems, etc.
Treat these situations as you would with a pup. Show your dog how to be good, and except for the housebreaking, ignore most of the mild bad stuff for while and reward good behavior. Note that most of this behavior will disappear rapidly as the dog regains his/her confidence and bonds to you.
OR, the dog may be very, very quiet at first, and then, 2-4 weeks later, the “real” dog appears. Sometimes dogs behave best when they’re unsure of things. The real character can come out later and more closely resemble what you saw in your visit to the dog. Be sure to establish a good schedule and lots of structure with the dog….he’ll come around.
Treat housebreaking problems as you would with a puppy, using a crate and establishing a firm potty schedule. Taking the dog out to the same spot works well. Praise when the dog does his business in the spot. Whenever the dog is not confined, supervise him-set this dog up to win! Watch for typical pre-piddling behavior, circling, sniffing, etc. Do not scold or hit a dog for having an accident, rather verbally get his attention, and take him right outside to his special spot to do his business.
Whenever he has slept, or eaten or had a drink of water, take him to the bathroom area. Use a command, like “go potty” said over and over slowly and quietly. If he does, then praise him! If he doesn’t go, bring him inside, without showing any anger, crate him for 15 minutes and then try again. Be patient!
Your new adopted dog needs your patience and affection, especially if he has been in many different situations recently. Whenever he does something good, be sure to let him know! Happy praise and affection really helps him to know that you care and that he is good. This includes if he is lying quietly and behaving himself…let him know that this is desirable behavior.
3. Quiet Time
We recommend that after you bring your new adopted dog home, let him check out the area of the house where he is allowed, and let him figure things out for 3-4 hours with your direct supervision. Wait a couple of days before inviting friends and relatives over to meet the new dog.
We had one family host a party on the dog’s first night for friends to come round and see the new dog. They ten phoned up the next day to say their dog was not doing so well. Yup, this is a true story!
Rescue dogs have already been through a series of changes, so quiet time with your immediate family is important. If the dog wants to play a bit with you, that’s fine, but do NOT allow him to interact with very young children. If the dog does not solicit play or attention from you, however, let him establish himself for a while. Don’t force him to play.
4. Meeting Your Current Dog
Do this slowly, over a period of a few days. Do NOT introduce the dogs in the house right away. There are 2 main ways to do this:
1) Before allowing them to meet, take both dogs to a neutral spot (away from your home). Make sure that two adults are present, each responsible for one dog. Each dog should be on a sturdy 6 foot leash, with a collar on that they cannot slip out of. Try pretending that you are going for a walk with both dogs, on leash. Keep a few yards apart, then stop and chat, again keeping them apart for a couple of minutes. Now allow them to meet as nonchalantly as possible. Keep the leashes loose, but remain vigilant. Try to transmit that you are relaxed. The dogs have seen each other and met at least once before already during your visit, so this meeting should go smoothly for the most part.
Once the dogs sniff and are OK, you might want to continue walking with them a bit to relax everybody. Then you can walk them both home, or drive them both home. If you drive, they should be crated separately in your vehicle, or be put into different vehicles. When you are home, put the new dog in his crate in a main living area, with the crate having at least one side against a wall, and then your original dog loose in the house to investigate the newcomer. Do this for a day, keeping the dogs separate for that first day..
Once you are ready to introduce the two, put the dogs collars on and leave a 6 ft. leash on both for a little while as you watch their reactions for the day. Try to make sure another adult is around to help in case there is a scuffle that gets carried away. One way to break up a scuffle if you are alone is to spay water on their faces or even shake a heavy dose of pepper over the two dogs. Crate the new dog at night for at least the first few weeks until you’re sure the dogs get along well. You should ALWAYS be present whenever the dogs are together for the first couple of MONTHS! See section on Quiet Time.
2) If the dogs are just not happy with one another in the house after the first meeting, crate the new dog in the house and let the original dog loose for a couple of hours. You can try alternating which dog is in (their own) crate (do NOT use the same crate) while the other dog is loose for while, and then try introducing them again the next day. Another tactic is to give each dog something very yummy that they can chew for a while in the vicinity of the other dog, but not close by, as a distraction. (Do NOT use rawhide) Give the treats to each dog in separate, not close to one another. Insist upon some down-stays for both dogs when they are out together for a while in this situation, and do this only if there are 2 adults around.
If you see dominance struggles between the dogs (little arguments, etc.) always support the dominant dog by NOT cuddling/praising/soothing the lesser dog, but rather jollying him with a happy, up attitude. At the same time, do not allow the dominant dog to pulverize the lesser dog! You can decide on how much is too much. The subordinate dog may be your original dog, but it might be the new dog. It’s difficult to support the dominance of a new dog over your old buddy sometimes, but it makes the transition easier on the dogs if they are both already clear on who is who. Do NOT try to “equalize” the situation. If the new dog is the dominant one, put his food bowl down first; greet him first when you come home, treats go to the dominant dog first, then the rest. And vice verse if your original dog is the dominant dog.
5. Meeting Your Cat
It’s best to keep cats separated from your new dog in the beginning. Put the cat/s in an area of the house that can be shut off for a while. Let the cats and dog sniff each other under the doors and get used to the new smells.
Make sure that when you do introduce them, that there is adult supervision and a way for the cat to escape from the dog. Initially introduce them with the dog dragging the leash…that way you can restrain the dog if need be or grab the leash and give a quick correction followed by a sharp “NO” if needed. You can also use a spray bottle of water and squirt the dog if needed….most dogs will respond to this.
While your dog was with us we fed it on high quality kibble. We will provide you with a few days supply to help you transition to whatever you choose to feed. We recommend transitioning gradually. One day at 75% of our food. The next day feed 50/50. The third day at 25% of our food. On the fourth day you can move 100% to your chosen food.
We recommend feeding your dog twice a day, half in the morning, half at night. Put the food bowl down for 5-10 minutes and if the dog does not eat his food, pick up the bowl until the next mealtime. Usually, doing this over a period of a few days changes the mind of even the most finicky eater. Before putting the bowl down for the dog, ask him to sit first (if he knows how to do that). Then put down the food, release him from the command, and let him eat.
If you have other dogs, feed your adopted dog away from your other dog at first. You can feed in the same room, but try starting by putting down bowls at opposite ends of the room, putting the dominant dogs dish down first. This is usually the original dog on the first few nights, it may change after that. You never know what other dogs will do when you feed a newcomer to the “pack” and it’s best to start out easy.
Feed both animals at the same time, but separated by space. If the new dog seems wary of the others and won’t eat, or if one dog keeps stealing from another, you might want to feed at least one dog in his crate for a while. Watch that each dog sticks to his own bowl and doesn’t wander near another dog. Watch over this for a couple of months until the new dog has settled in and all the other dogs have jostled for and settled into their position in the pack.
NEVER feed your dog right before or after hard exercise, as doing this may contribute to causing a malady, sometimes fatal, called “bloat”. Bloat involves excess air in the stomach and sometimes torsion (twisting) of the stomach, a life threatening emergency. Wait an hour after hard exercise to feed. Do offer your dog all the water he wants before and in-between meals. Try to limit the amount of water he drinks immediately after he eats for about an hour, again, to help avoid bloat. A little water right after a meal is fine.
Daily exercise if VERY important to helping your dog to behave in ways humans want dogs to behave. Engage his mind with obedience training and even little games whenever you are together- this will eliminate many behavioral problems from occurring. Try to engage the dog in 20-30 minutes of hard exercise a day- fetch is a good game for most dogs. If you want to run with your dog, work up to distances over a mile slowly.
Do not play chase games with your new dog in play until a firm bond has been established between you and the dog bestows leadership respect to you. Be sure to keep your new dog on a leash for the first couple of weeks you have him, even in your fenced yard. This way, you can gently reinforce a recall command (praising and sometimes giving the dog a treat when he comes to you) A 30-50 ft leash is helpful for when the dog is in this situation. Keep your new dog on a leash for the first 3-6 months outside of your fenced area. After that, use your judgment on whether you can trust the dog to come to you if you need him to. NEVER allow your new dog to be loose unsupervised, not even while you answer the telephone in the house, even in the fenced area.
If you have more than one dog, you can take all your dogs for activities together once they’re all getting along. It’s usually best to bring another adult along to help chaperone for the first few months. Remember, though, to create “special time” for each dog by taking just one of them on little trips while the other stays home. This helps the dog at home to realize that he can be alone okay, and it helps the dog you have with you feel that special bond to you.
Every dog needs a place to escape to, a place to call his, and a crate is the perfect place for him. He’s safest in the crate whenever you are not home. And in the evening, too, until you can totally trust him loose in the house. This is especially true if you have another dog because you can’t supervise the dog’s interactions when you are asleep or gone. Crates are also great to have for traveling – the dog always has his familiar den to retreat to.
Many people see crates as jails. Your dog sees it as a den or a safe place. We crate our dogs and will often find that if we leave the door open the dog will go there for a rest.
Important Note: While crating a dog helps make everybody safe, crating should NOT be abused by locking a dog in its crate all the time. Dogs need to be with you, and should be with you unless they cannot be trusted alone in the house AND you cannot supervise them at the time. For instance, if you are going to shower and the dog sometimes still chews items, crate him for those 15 minutes for safety, but then let him out to be with you. If you are gone for 8-9 hours a day, you need to make an extra effort to let the dog out to be with you and supervise your dog when he’s with you until he is reliably loose in the house when you are home.
Rescue dogs come from a variety of backgrounds, but all dogs can do with more socialization!! After your new dog has had some time to settle in and he is showing some confidence in you, give him lots of pleasant social experiences. He should be able to meet people (and other dogs, if he’s not dog aggressive) at home and near home. Then perhaps in new places like parks, obedience school, etc.
Try to make sure that you allow your new dog to be handled by other people only after he has had a chance to trust you. Then do introductions to other people gradually. Family members first, then friends he knows. Introductions can take the form of petting, playing fetch games, even going for a walk with a trusted, dog oriented friend. Do not force the dog to accept other people- do it positively, with lots of praise, allowing the dog to approach people, rather than people approaching the dog.
Use treats and have some patience if he is reticent to allow other people to touch him or play with him. He’ll come around in time, usually.
Be sure to tell people to NOT reach for the dog right away for the first few months you have him. – let him come to them if he wants to. If he doesn’t, the visitor should completely ignore the dog. Suggest that after the dog has met/sniffed the new person, that they pat the side of the dogs neck or side of the shoulder. Patting a dog on the top of the head is interpreted by dogs as a powerful dominance attempt and can issue a challenge to some dogs, or frighten some others. Most dogs have no problem with this, but since some do, it is always best to exercise caution.
We strongly encourage you to enroll your dog in obedience classes. This will build up the relationship between you and your dog and is a way for you to gain confidence in training and having control over your dog. Training will help to make him/her a pleasure to live with, and will get him out with other people and dogs so the two of you learn to be comfortable and confident in a variety of situations.
When going for a walk, always keep your dog on a leash. It is safer for your dog and that is the only way you can control/correct your dog if the need arises. If your dog shows aggression towards another animal that is not threatening it, give a sharp collar correction, a quick jerk or several quick jerks, saying a firm “No” and continue walking. There are some dogs that will be somewhat dog aggressive no matter what you do and your job is to always be on top of the situation.
There are also private trainers who will come to your home and work with you and your family on an individual basis. Call us for referrals.
11. Loud Sounds
Some dogs are born with noise sensitivity and some have had a bad experience. Thunder, lightning, fire crackers are all sounds that cause some dogs to become frantic. With a new dog, you need to watch and see if this is a potential problem.
Dogs that normally do not escape or jump fences have been known to become frantic on Fourth of July or New Years.
It is best to either be home and supervise your dog during these times or keep them inside. If the dog becomes really frantic, it is best to crate them and place in the crate something that has your scent on it, like an old sweat shirt.
12. Dog Proofing Your Home
Remember, dogs, especially young ones or untrained ones, are like children and will get into everything. Your house can be deadly. The kitchen and garage need to be dog proofed. Kitchen cleansers, soaps, drain cleaners will kill your pet if ingested. In the garage, detergents, cleaners, anti-freeze, paint removers, garden supplies such as weed killers, snail bait, fertilizers etc. can all be deadly.
Either install child proof latches on cabinets or place items on shelving at least 10 feet tall. Counters are not out of reach of German Shepherds! Remember that chocolate is also deadly to dogs so keep that out of reach. Bathrooms also contain similar items, plus various medications. A bottle of Tylenol or Motrin left on the counter is an invitation to a dog and will cause liver/kidney failure and death.
The garden can also be a dangerous area. There are many plants/bulbs (inside and out) that are poisonous. It is very important that you check for mushrooms during damp weather as these are extremely dangerous and can cause death if only a small amount is ingested. Remember, dog-proofing your home also means making sure that you have high fences and gates that are locked.
13. What To Have Ready For Your New Dog
a) A crate! A MUST! For example, Vari-Kennel 400 for medium sized dogs, or 500 for larger dogs. The crate must be large enough for the dog to turn around in and should be a safe den for the dog, not a prison.
b) ID tags-a MUST! You can get temporary ones at pet stores to put on immediately until you order a permanent one. If your new dog is not microchipped, we advise you to consider having this done as a permanent form of identification. Ask your vet.
c) Old towels, sheets, blankets as bedding for inside the crate. Use these until the dog is used to the crate and you know he/she will not destroy bedding. Then you can order a nice crate pad if you wish.
d) Good quality kibble (not supermarket variety)..such as California Natural, Nutro Max, Natures’s Recipe, Innova, Solid Gold, Pinnacle….can be supplemented with canned food of the same variety.
e) Dog treats/cookies–milkbones or various similar biscuits. Most dogs like Rollover, which you can slice, dice and freeze in plastic bags. Great for training treats!
f) Two stainless steel bowls….for food and for water.
g) Toys/ chew toys: Do not give butcher bones or raw hide as ingestion of these things can cause serious digestive complications. Sterilized femur bone or Nylabone use must be carefully supervised as these items can cause broken teeth. Other toys that are good are large balls (bigger than a tennis ball so they cannot be swallowed) and Kong’s made of hard rubber, do not leave your dog unsupervised with toys.
h) Natures Miracle –a liquid for cleaning up “accidents’ in the house.
i) A good quality leather or nylon buckle or “quick release” collar for ID tags. Keep this on your dog at all times.
j) A training collar and a good leather leash. Nylon can hurt your hands. A long line or Flexi lead can also be handy for exercising your dog.
k) A bottle of something for yourself ☺
Finally, if you have a question that we did not answer, please call us on our hotline
(855) 473-5683 - 855 GSD-LOVE