Setting Up For a New Dog
Getting a new dog this holiday season? Congrats! Here's some advice to make the transition easier.
Before you bring your dog home, take some time to think about what areas the dog will be allowed in, what areas the dog is not allowed in, and how you plan to confine the dog when necessary. Dogs can’t read our minds, so it’s important to take measures to enforce these boundaries.
In the rooms that you will allow your dog to hang out in freely, make sure that you puppy-proof the room. Get on your hands and knees and look for objects that may look like chew toys to your new dog. Avoid clutter as much as possible and keep household objects out of reach. If you don’t give your new dog the opportunity to chew on off-limits items, he won’t have the opportunity to develop bad chewing habits. Instead, make sure you leave out appropriate chew toys to ensure that your dog has a healthy outlet for chewing.
If there are certain rooms you want to keep your dog out of, block off those rooms by closing doors or using baby gates. If you don’t want to use physical barriers long-term, you can do boundary training with your dog to teach him not to go in specific areas. But in the short-term, physical barriers will keep everybody happy and safe.
When coming into a new home, most dogs will need to be confined when you are away. This is especially true for puppies under a year and dogs rescued from a shelter. Young dogs typically lack the maturity, self-restraint and training to not get into trouble when you are gone. Dogs rescued from a shelter – even if once fully trained – have often regressed in house breaking and chewing habits. If left with run of the house, these dogs will often chew furniture, get into the trash, toilet in the house or engage in other destructive behaviors out of curiosity, boredom, frustration or stress. Freedom to roam the house when alone is a privilege that is earned through training and maturity. Many people make the mistake of giving their dog too much freedom, too soon.
When you leave the home, confine your dog to a crate. The crate should be big enough for the dog to stand up and turn around in – but not big enough that he could use one end as a bedroom and the other as a bathroom. No master suites, so to speak! Always leave your dog with something safe and appropriate to chew on – he needs something to keep his mind and body occupied while you are away. Some dogs will already be crate trained when they come to you – but many dogs will need to be trained to accept the crate as a safe and relaxing retreat. If your dog shows any aversion to his crate, you will need to undergo a crate training program.
For puppies, you will likely need additional confinement for times when you are home, but don’t want the dog wandering around the house unsupervised. I recommend a dog pen (also known as an exercise pen or ex-pen for short). These are great because they give your puppy plenty of room to play but limit their freedom and access to off-limit items. They are also easy to move around from room to room as needed.
Christine Fasan is the head trainer and canine behaviorist at K9H. She specializes in German Shepherd Dogs and healing reactivity in dogs of all breeds. K9 Holistics offers dog training and behavior modification in St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County and Tampa Bay. We also offer pet care services including dog walking and pet sitting. Please contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org.