Congratulations to your new family member if you have just gotten a puppy or even took in an adult dog! It’s exciting times because you just got a new forever friend.
When acquiring a new dog, there some common mistakes that people make which makes the transitioning time harder for the dog and new owner. I will try to help you avoid the most common mistakes people make when getting a new dog. Often times it’s out of good will, however it can make everything just more stressful for you and your new friend.
Mistake Nr. 1: Taking The New Dog Straight To The Pet Store Or Friends To Visit
It can be extremely stressful for a puppy that was just separated from its mum and litter or a shelter dog that has been sitting mostly in a kennel for some time to be taking into a new unknown future by a complete stranger.
Taking your new dog to a pet store to buy supplies could be harmful for a puppy (if it doesn’t have all its shots yet) but will likely for either (puppy or new adult dog) just be another stressful situation that ads to them already being a little confused of what’s going on. Ideally, buy all the supplies you need prior to picking up your dog so all you do is pick up the dog and head straight home.
The same counts for going to visit your friends or have them come see the new dog the same day you got it.
What these dogs need is some transitioning time to adjust to their new environment and new life. We recommend that first the first 1-2 weeks you only have minimal visitors to your house and also are not taking your puppy to all your friends. The new dog needs to learn where their new home is, who is living there and who is actually part of the family and who is not and where is their place. They need some quiet bonding time with you, time to rest and sleep and just get comfortable. There will be enough time for everybody to see your new dog soon enough.
Mistake Nr. 2: Letting The New Dog Off Leash
This is a big mistake many people make; letting their new dog off leash in an unfence or unsafe area. Many new dogs escape or run away within the first couple weeks of acquiring them.
The problem with this is again, that you are a stranger. It takes time to bond with your new friend to gain his trust and for him to understand that you belong together now. Some dogs may still be looking for their old home and do everything to try to get there. Some dogs are afraid and confused about their new life situation (often happens with dogs that have been strays for a while) and are trying to save themselves by escaping. Or some dogs get spooked by something and their first choice is simply not just yet running to you to seek comfort but rathe run as far as they can.
Off leash time is important for dogs to be dogs, but before just letting your dog off leash anywhere, make sure you and your dog have spent some good solid quality bonding AND training together. Make sure your dog actually responds to you and accepts you as their new family.
You can have them off leash in your yard or an empty dog park (EMPTY, read below why). Play with them, train with them and have fun. Do lots of on leash walks as they give your dog a chance to get to know you and spend quality time with you, bond together and form a team.
Mistake Nr. 3: Going To The Dog Park
I’ll be separating a puppy and adult dog because there can be different reasons
Adult dog: Your adult dog has already developed a certain personality and in the beginning of adopting or acquiring a new adult dog, they will be going through something called the honeymoon phase. They might show you certain sides of their personality but not others. It can take 1-3 months until you actually get to know your dog’s new personality, sometimes even longer.
What can happen in this case is that your dog might have certain problem behaviors you don’t know about but they might display at a dog park when interacting with other dogs. To make matters worse, if something goes wrong (whether your or another dog caused it) if you are trying to remove your dog, he might simply not listen to you or even redirect on you.
Again, it’s about developing a relationship and bond but also an understanding of who your new dog is before putting them in such situations. It is also your dog that needs to learn to trust in you that you take care of situations that might be difficult to handle for him. However, if you have not developed that trust, your dog will likely try to take care of it himself the dog way.
Puppy: Your puppy is young, small and does puppy things. Some other dogs don’t like puppy things and might try to put your puppy in place, which, if the dog is not appropriate, can scare your puppy. Your puppy can be bullied be other dogs with bad manners or your puppy might even be attacked by an unfriendly dog. The problem with many dog parks is that you don’t know the other dogs and can’t control them.
Your puppy can easily be scared at the dog park and while your puppy is still young, bad experiences like that can be imprinted and can either cause your puppy to be reactive towards other dogs, develop being scared of other dogs or simply learn bad dog manners.
It’s like putting a 2-year-old in the middle of a real rugby game.
Another reason can be diseases. If your puppy is not up to date on shots, the dog park is a dangerous place to be.
Mistake Nr. 4 Over Showering With TLC
Especially with shelter dogs but also oh so cute puppies, all people want to do is love on them. They seem to think that all they need is love and TLC to forget about everything that has happened in the past or because they are just a baby. The new dog is allowed on all furniture, jump on everybody or show other pushy and bratty behaviors and has free run of the house. A few months later, the dog is still jumping on people, actually now steals food, drags everybody down the road and is just a bad behaved dog because somebody let them become that way and are suddenly annoyed by it.
Yes, dogs need love and TLC, but you can’t just fill their love tank and leave all the other needs empty. Dogs be dogs and they are animals. We can never forget that they are predators with teeth. What they need is clear guidance, boundaries and structure. From the day you bring your dog home, set up rules and boundaries that you want them to follow for the rest of their life’s (these rules are totally up to you to decide) and implement and enforce them from day 1! It’s either Yes or No, there are no Maybe’s in a dog’s world. If you teach them exactly from day one what you expect, you will come out of the honeymoon phase without any major issues because you already had that conversation with your dog and he can easily adjust to his new life.
Mistake Nr. 5: Waiting With training Until Bad Behaviors Surface
Many people think they don’t need dog training because they have trained their own dogs before (15 years ago when they had their last puppy). Or they think they don’t need training as long everything is good. Once the dog just doesn’t stop jumping on people or now maybe even starts growling at the owner when the dog is sent off the furniture, that’s when most people get training.
Well, training is like insurance, you get it before you have a problem so that you have something that backs you up. It is my experience, that clients that come to training with their young puppies, extremely rarely come across issues with their dog at a later point simply because they taught their dog from the very beginning what’s expected and have created that relationship with their dog.
Fact is, it’s much harder to fix something that has been rotting for a while than just keep it nice and shiny from the start with some regular maintenance.
About the author:
Simone Krebser - CPDT: Owner and head dog trainer of K9 Possible Dog Training serving the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia from Osoyoos to Penticton and Kelowna with result based dog training. Certified dog trainer, certified pet first aid instructor, member of the IACP, dog crazy and chocolate/cheese addict. “My life revolves around dog’s day in and out and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is my goal to help enhance the lives of as many dogs (and their owners) as possible. Your dog is my priority and I’m as committed to your dog as you are. But I can only help those who sincerely want to help their dogs and not only themselves.”