Imagine being air-dropped, alone, into a strange country where nothing is familiar, you do not know anyone, the rules of acceptable behavior have changed and you cannot speak the language. It would be confusing, if not downright scary and you would be bound to offend a few people before you got the hang of things. This is probably how your new dog is going to feel although he may not show his confusion. As far as he knows, you are just another part of the parade of people who have passed through his life lately and your home is just another stopover.
The dog you are adopting has been through a difficult journey that started when his family gave him up or he became lost. He may have been under stress or neglected in his past life or frightened by being homeless. His first stop was at a shelter, town pound, a concerned stranger's home. Whichever source he is from once he is medically updated, (neutered if necessary) and tested for temperament, he is ready for an adoption program.
In the process of transforming your dog's confusion into security and knowledge it is important to look at things from HIS POINT OF VIEW. Dogs are eager to please their owners ONCE they understand the rules. It is your job to communicate clear rules in a way your dog can understand. Be sensitive to the fact that in your dog's previous home he may have been encouraged to sit on the sofa, beg for food, jump up for attention, or play roughly. If it is not permissible, TEACH HIM, DO NOT BLAME HIM. Be kind and patient, dogs need repetition and consistency to learn. Instruct him in a positive way so that he does not feel defensive or confused. Reward him for good behavior with treats, hugs and a happy voice. Corrections for inappropriate behavior should be used SPARINGLY. Dogs can be sensitive and often a calm but firm verbal reprimand is enough. Make him familiar with key words that elicit certain behaviors. Along with the regular commands like 'sit', 'stay', and 'come', it is very helpful to teach him 'off, give' or 'trade', 'leave it,' and other terms that will foster communication. We strongly suggest an obedience class, even if your dog comes with training. You will find it a fun and rewarding way to bond with your new family member and no dog is ever too old to learn. Obedience classes are a great environment for dogs that need to improve social skills with people and dogs. Classes are also a resource for information and support as your dog and you adjust.
As your dog settles in and starts to learn the rules in his new home he will get more comfortable. The transition time for each dog is different, taking from a few weeks to a few months for him to completely adjust to his new life. Like people, dogs deal with change and stress in many different ways. Some dogs will be overly active, other dogs will be a bit depressed by the loss of family and surroundings, some are needy and clingy, still others might be a bit defensive and worried, and then there are those dogs that take it in stride. No matter your dog's reaction, remember to go slowly, start teaching the new rules from day one and be respectful of the difficulty of being air-dropped into a different world.
It will take time for your dog to bond with you. Offer love and guidance but never force yourself on the new dog. Children must be supervised closely when with your new dog and contact should be limited during this time. Keeping the environment quiet for the first few days will be important. Allow your dog to get comfortable with your home and new rules before he meets your friends, co-workers and the neighborhood. Your dog may drink an excess amount of water his first week, this is due to stress. He may make a mistake, therefore try to be aware of the water intake and take him out more often. Be consistent on what door he goes out in order to relieve himself so he can begin to let you know when he needs to go out.
Be realistic about your expectations during the transition period. Never assume that your dog can cope with all the new situations in his life without a problem or two. Set up precautionary measures when he is alone in the house, when he first meets new children, when around unfamiliar dogs and get him outside more often to help him to adjust to a new toileting schedule. Living by the old saying-an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure- will prove wise during this time.
Your dog should wear an ID tag on at ALL TIMES. People frequently forget to put their dog's ID back on him after bath time, so don't forget! Your Dog's ID is the most efficient way to recover your dog should he or she slip from you. Do not rely exclusively on a Microchip. Be extremely careful when taking your dog "out and about" for the first month or two. Do not assume that he will come to you when called or he will automatically stay with you on a walk. Use a well fitted collar or even better a harness when out walking so he can't slip out of his collar if panicked or aroused. Most importantly DO NOT ALLOW HIM OFF LEASH in un-fenced areas for the first few months and NOT UNTIL YOU ARE SURE HE WILL COME WHEN CALLED EVEN WHEN DISTRACTED. Getting your new dog to come when called takes practice and must always be a positive experience. (Food rewards combined with praise work well.) Remember not to let him off leash except in very safe areas that are far from cars and only when you have complete control. Rushing ahead before your dog is ready could teach him bad habits or cause a horrible tragedy. Now that you have had the opportunity to consider this new relationship from the dog's point of view, we know you will do your best to make the strange new land into a safe and happy home. Be positive, be consistent, work out a daily routine and use lots of encouragement, your new friend wants to please you.
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