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10 Tips to Ease Your New Furry Family Member Home From Dogs Without Borders by Carolyn Yeh

First things first – CONGRATULATIONS!!! We are so happy that you chose to help a dog in need and are willing to open your home and heart!  By considering a few guidelines to transitioning your new dog, you can anticipate problems and correct them calmly and as quickly as possible.

  1. Determine where your new dog will be spending most of his time and dog-proof the area.  This will prevent him from getting into harmful objects—loose electrical cords, household chemicals, plants, rugs, and breakables. If you plan on crate training your dog, be sure to have a crate set-up and ready to go for when you bring your new dog home.
  2. The first few days in your home are special and critical for a pet. Your new dog will be confused about where he is and what to expect from you. Limit the amount of excitement around your dog and keep his environment calm.  Set up clear structure and a schedule of feeding, toileting and play/exercise for your dog – this will be vital in making as smooth a transition as possible. This schedule will show your dog what is expected of him as well as what he can expect from you.
  3. Know your pooch’s food and feeding schedule and replicate it for the first few days to avoid gastric distress. When switching to a different brand, do so over a period of about a week by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days; then switch to half new food, half old, and then one part old to three parts new.
  4. Be patient with potty training.  The first time home, take him immediately to his toileting area and spend a good amount of time with him so he will get used to the area and relieve himself. The change of environment from shelter or foster home to your house is stressful, and he may forget any housebreaking he’s learned. Even if your dog does relieve himself during this time, be prepared for accidents. Coming into a new home with new people, new smells and new sounds will throw even the most housebroken dog off-track, so be ready just in case.
  5. Teach the dog a couple of simple commands like “sit” or “down.” This early interaction helps to create and strengthen the human-animal bond and helps your relationship with your dog to grow.
  6. Encourage your new rescue dog to come to you.  Rather than you always approaching your new dog to interact, allowing your dog to approach you (with various treats and toys) on his own terms really helps to build on your friendship with your new pet. Understand that although the dog may be new to you, he already has a complex personality with his own preferences. It can be very rewarding to figure out what a dog likes and dislikes.
  7. Be consistent. Make sure that every person—everyday and every time—is giving the dog the same message. Dogs like rules; rules help dogs to better understand their new home and family and build confidence. A dog that has figured out the rules can relax.  Training your dog will start the first moment you have him. Take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use when giving your dog directions. This will help prevent confusion and help your dog learn his commands more quickly.
  8. If you plan on being away for several hours, start by giving the dog brief periods of solitary confinement and building up each stretch of time. Don’t give in and comfort him if he whines when left alone. Instead, use “anxiety busters” such as food puzzles, problem-solving toys, or nature shows/DVDs designed for dogs to keep your new pup occupied. Dogs are bright and they need mental stimulation. A food puzzle toy will give him a project to work on while you’re out. Examples of food puzzle toys include KONG® Toy, the Buster® Cube, the Tricky Treat™ Ball, the Tug-a-Jug™, the Twist ‘n Treat™, the Atomic Treat Ball™ and the TreatStik®
  9. Set long term goals, not short term “fixes.” Be reasonable in your expectations. It will take a bit of time for your new dog to understand some things, but once she “gets it” she’ll likely never forget. Besides, your new friend is going to be with you for some years, so for both of your sake, it’s worth it to put in the work now.
  10. Always use positive reinforcement to train your dog. Just like people, dogs that are stressed or anxious do not learn well. They need to be calm and focused to really interact with you and learn what you’re trying to teach them. Remember, when you’re teaching the dog a trick or specific behavior, about half of the actual learning is you figuring out how best to interact with your new family member.

To have a long and happy life together with your dog, stick to the original schedule you created, ensuring your dog always has the food, potty time and attention he needs. You’ll be bonded in no time! If you encounter behavior issues you are unfamiliar with, ask your veterinarian for a trainer recommendation. Select a trainer who uses positive-reinforcement techniques to help you and your dog overcome these behavior obstacles.

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