Bringing Home a Rescue Dog
By Alpha Dog Training
You just adopted a dog—congratulations!! This is an exciting time and we at Alpha Dog Training hope you’re enjoying it. Here are two best practices to do when you bring home your new pup.
Since you are an animal lover, I’m sure you’re prepared to give your new dog plenty of love, affection, treats, food, water and shelter, so I’ll leave those items off my list. Instead, I’ll focus on the things most folks either overlook or don’t know about.
1) Crate train your new dog
Most folks feel guilty crating a dog when it first arrives home. This is doubly true if the dog came from a shelter environment. I often hear statements like “He’s been in a cage for the last few months, but he doesn’t have to do that anymore!” That idea feels good in the moment, but it isn’t actually in the dog’s short or long-term best interest. If your dog came from the shelter, the crate is likely the only thing he sees in your home that’s familiar to him. Don’t rob him of that!
Over the long haul, an appropriately sized crate is the safest way for your dog to be home alone. While crated, there is no risk of him ingesting any household items, chewing on furniture, peeing around the house, or developing bad habits, like nuisance barking. The crate should never be used as a punishment; in fact, when a dog is properly crate trained, a dog understands that the crate is his safe space and that it’s a place for relaxation.
2) Limit roaming around the house
Another human impulse is to unclip the leash and say “Welcome home! Go explore your new territory!” While this is not a horrible thing, it’s also not helpful. You’re basically telling your dog in this moment: “Do whatever you want! You make the rules here!” Your dog is now free to develop whatever habits and behaviors he feels like, many of which you may want to undo later. Remember: Dogs come with no intuitive knowledge of what it means to be a family pet.
For example, they have no natural understanding that it’s not appropriate to potty inside, that it’s not okay to grab food off of tables or counters, or that couches are not for launching off of. When you unclip the leash and let them have at it, you’re basically treating your home like your new dog’s personal dog park.
Consider an alternative: How about keeping your new dog on leash in the house for the first few days and showing him the lay of the land yourself? Here’s a really concrete example of how that changes things: When you go to let your dog out of the crate first thing in the morning for his potty break, he may come bouncing out, jump all over you, sprint all through the house, and by the time you catch up with him he’s got his paws on the counter and is investigating your banana tree! You now have to scold him (for what, he’s not sure) and escort him outdoors to use the bathroom. Since he practices this behavior every morning, he’s solidifying some pretty problematic behavior patterns: arousal, jumping, sprinting through the house, counter-surfing, etc.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!!
If you open your dog’s crate and clip his leash on and escort him through the house instead, he practices exactly none of that. You can interrupt jumping, prevent him from sprinting around like a nut (knocking things/people over), and prevent him from counter-surfing. More importantly, you’re also teaching him what you expect from him in that situation. Every single morning he’s practicing walking calmly from his crate directly to the back door. If you’re consistent with this, it won’t be long before you can just open his crate and he’ll go directly to the back door—no shenanigans!
Alpha Dog Training hopes this short post helps explain how to bring home a rescue dog in a way that develops positive behavior patterns over the long haul! Congratulations again on your new addition!