The First Few Weeks
Remember, there is no dog out there without a behavior problem; if your dog’s basic temperament is sound, we can help make his transition into your home a permanent one, where you’ll both be grateful you have each other.
There are a few things you can predict when opening your home and heart to a new dog: a little less freedom and flexibility in your schedule, to find a poop or pee or two around the house in the first few days, and to sacrifice some personal item or belonging of value to nibbling teeth. You can also expect to be entertained by, in awe of, and in love with your new dog.
Most of the behavior problems and questions that come up in the first few weeks are easily addressed and solved.
Teaching your dog that you are not going to abandon him when you leave him alone is not an easy task. Dogs who have come from a rescue or shelter are very ready to bond to you, and they usually bond rapidly, closely and deeply. There are some things you can do to make this easier:
- Be very casual about departures and arrivals
- AS SOON AS YOU BRING YOUR DOG HOME, depart frequently. Just step outside the house and close the door for a few seconds to teach him that you leave and return frequently.
- Ignore your dog COMPLETELY for 20 minutes before departing. Just get up and go.
- Leave the radio or TV on.
- Feel OK about leaving and your dog will, to.
The more structure and guidance you give your new dog in the first few weeks, the better he’ll adjust. Just when you feel sorry for him and feel like over-pampering him – the kindest thing to do is to set firm, clear limits. Lay down some rules. Give him a schedule. Don’t let him dictate all the interactions; let him know immediately what pleases you and what displeases you. Teach him to ‘sit’ and ask him to sit throughout the day. It’s a great way to speak the same language. Your new dog will appreciate being told what to do. He’ll feel calmer with your confidence.
You’re likely to have a few accidents in the first few days, even from a housebroken dog. Don’t let this freak you out! When your dog first arrives home, he’ll want to sniff and explore the house. Keep the dog on leash to explore your home, and then quickly walk him outside, where his permanent area will
Clean up any messes with an odor neutralizer. Don’t get angry at your dog, you don’t ever need to punish him. Dogs learn very quickly where you’d prefer them to eliminate by repetition and success. Be patient, and be there when he goes, and REWARD!
Leash walking and the six foot rule
Shaw PBR recommends that all rescue dogs are walked using “the six foot rule.” When walking your dog, leave at least six feet between your dog and any other dog you meet. This keeps handlers and dogs safe from possible conflicts and also reduces the transmission of diseases. You will need to be extra diligent because many dog owners seem to encourage their dogs to “greet” every dog they encounter out on a walk. This nose-to-nose greeting is particularly stressful for many dogs, as dogs typically greet each other from an angle.
A simple way to avoid an oncoming dog walker is to just cross the street, or start to walk in a wide semi-circle around them. Most people recognize that this is a sign that you don’t want your dogs to meet. If this isn’t possible, just announce to the oncoming walker that you are walking a rescue dog, and you would prefer that the dogs don’t greet each other. Sometimes you must broadcast this loudly if their dog is off-leash or on a retractable leash. Keeping your dog to your side (rather than at the end of the leash) and creating a “body block” with your own body is also helpful. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid another dog, so just stay calm, walk between your dog and the oncoming dog and move past quickly. Also try talking to your dog, “Fido, keep with me” and giving them treats as you pass an oncoming dog will help keep their attention on you, not on the other dog.
Do not use retractable leashes when walking or running your dog. It’s impossible to have control with a retractable leash, and they can easily tangle or break.