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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Adopting or Fostering a New Dog.

Bringing Home a New Dog

We've already addressed before in this blog, the importance of breed knowledge before adoption.
But one thing we haven't covered is setting your new dog up for success, after you bring him/her home.

Many adopted dogs end up returned to the rescue or shelter that they came from within a few weeks. One survey I read said this happens to about 20% of adopted dogs. 
Why? Is it because shelter/rescue dogs are bad?
No, I believe that it has to do with well meaning people just not knowing how to set their new dogs up for success.
A great read on this is: 5 Common Mistakes Adopters Make

Not to give away the article, but the mistakes aren't what you may think.

Recently we took on the responsibility of being a foster family for Jack, a stray we found wandering around near our home. Meet Jack!

He has integrated perfectly with our family, not because of his good nature but because we worked really hard to make sure this young, easily excitable male had some immediately established rules and boundaries that have remained consistent.

I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "He's lucky he's cute, because he's driving me crazy!" I'll admit it, I've uttered this phrase myself at times. But if your dog is driving you crazy it's because you are not meeting a need that they have in some way, shape, or form. Usually with dogs it's a lack of training or exercise that causes them to behave bonkers. Sometimes its medically related.

Setting up for Success:
When you first bring a new dog home, keep the leash on. 
The leash is an easy connection to the dog that helps you with setting rules and boundaries inside your home.
If you have other dogs or cats, the leash allows you to gently remove your new dog from a situation if they are becoming to excited, over aroused, or overwhelmed by the situation.
Meeting new dogs can be scary for some dogs, a leash also allows you to maintain a level of control If it is possible - exercise your new dog before bringing him/her home so that they are in a calmer state of mind.

You Introduce Your House.
Don't just let your new dog run willy nilly through the house. Introduce them, walk them through the house and show them all the rooms they are allowed in - do not introduce places that are off-limits. Set these boundaries early on so you don't confuse and have to undo bad habits later on.

Immediately Set Rules and Boundaries.
Back to the leash, we have one couch that is off-limits to dogs. The first thing Jack did was to jump on that couch. We immediately began with boundaries by walking over, gently taking the leash and leading Jack off of the couch and offering an alternative - his bed. Every time he jumped on the couch, we removed him and brought him back to his bed. When he finally chose his bed without help we rewarded him with some yummy treats and praises, further reinforcing his good behavior.

Another rule in our house is no rough housing indoors, I have a glass hutch and wine cabinet that I don't want broken because of my pibbles who love to crash into things when they play and wrestle, so any crazy play must go outside. Well Jack is still struggling with this one, but it's getting better! If he tries to instigate crazy play hubby or I end up breaking it up by taking a dog out of the game and leading them to their bed, we use the word, "settle". If they insist then they get kicked outside into the backyard.

Dante loves to be crazy!
Spoiling your new dog does not set them up for success, instead it leads to potentially possessive behaviors. We've been lucky in the fact that Jack doesn't have any resource guarding issues, we practice taking things away from him, including food, treats, and toys. We also ask that he respect when Dante and Ziva have something and vice, versa. Toys they can play with together, and sometimes you'll see them sharing a horn and chewing at the same time, however if they don't want to share, we step in and ask the pushy party to back off.

Immediately Begin Crate Training.
Crate training is such a wonderful tool! Not all dogs need to be crated when you leave but all dogs should be crate trained for a variety of reasons. At some point in their life your dog may be crated, this can be for travel, after surgery at your vets office, daycare, or maybe crated while you are doing a home renovation project. What you don't want is for the crate to be a stressor for you pup.
Proper Crate Training

In our case Ziva and Dante were both originally crate trained due to separation anxiety, the crate was a great way to work on that issue. Now both dogs can safely be left un-crated when we leave and I don't have to worry about them destroying my house. I also don't have to worry about Dante and Ziva fighting, they have never fought, never shown any possessive behaviors towards each other, and I trust them.

Jack on the other hand can be a naughty puppy, he'll harass either dog if he wants to play and he doesn't respect Ziva's space when she shows teeth or growls due to his bad behavior. She has never bitten him, but because he doesn't respect her space he needs to be crated - we can't trust them to be alone together. And being that he is crated, we also have gone back to crating Ziva. We do this because both crates are side by side, and it gives Jack a calm presence to lay next to. Ziva has been a great teacher showing Jack that proper crate behavior involves sleeping, or quietly chewing on the horn we leave for them, and enjoying a frozen Kong treat.

Set Your Routine.
Dogs do great with routine!

Our routine is:
In the morning - wake up, shower, take the dogs out for playtime or a walk (we alternate exercises depending on the day), humans eat while the dogs cool down and their tummies settle, dogs eat, dogs go outside one last time, humans go to work.

Afternoon - I get home, play with or walk the dogs. I also usually squeeze in some formal training time with each dog individually, depending on how crazy my day is. We try to train daily but it just doesn't always happen.

In the evening - dinner, maybe another walk/play time, potty, bed time.

Sometimes when you bring home a new dog it can take a few days for their personality to start showing through the stress of a new environment.
Exercise and training help to encourage your dog to relax. An exercised dog is a happy dog! A relaxed dog is easier to train, training helps you and your dog to bond. Bonding makes for a great integration process! And integration means fewer dogs being returned to shelters and rescues.

So far fostering has been a lot of fun, it can definitely be stressful at times but it's been a good experience. It also has shown us where we need to brush up on certain aspects of training for both Dante and Ziva.

Thoughtful Thursday, in our case., Thankful Thursday Weekly Blog Hop, pet centric


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