You JUST got a new dog – Don’t freak out – Pet tip 255
Most new dog owners are super-excited when they decide to get a new dog but when the dog actually arrives, some new dog owners get stressed out because they haven’t researched ’the basics’ and are confused by their dog’s basic requirements. Although a book on puppies/dogs/dog behaviour should be purchased and read before the dog gets home, most new dog owners don’t make this purchase. In order to help explain some of these basics dog trainer Sherry Bedard (who wrote a fabulous book listed in the last paragraph that you should check out) offers up a few tips on what to expect when your dog comes home for the first time.
Today’s domestic dog is still closely related to the wolf. Like all wolves living in a pack, dogs must be part of a stable family and feel safe. Most domestic behavioral problems occur when the dog is confused about how to act/behave in different situations such as your home or out on a walk.
It is recommended that you keep Fido confined no matter his age for at least the first month in your home. This will allow him to settle in more comfortably and adapt to your lifestyle. At the same time, confinement will reduce such misbehaviors as chewing and separation anxiety.
Here are a few general rules to help you to prevent misbehaviors when you bring Fido home:
1. HOUSEBREAKING – Almost all dogs are naturally clean animals, meaning that the dog will not eliminate where he sleeps. If you keep Fido in a confinement too large, he will eliminate in one corner and sleep in another. With this fact in mind, keeping Fido in a confinement large enough to turn around and lie down, he will be more motivated to hold it.
2. ELIMINATING FREQUENCY – The general rule for elimination is the dog’s age plus one. (Example: the dog is 3 months old. This means that he can technically hold it for 4 hours.) A dog can hold it for up to 10 hours after the age of 1 year old. The dog will need to eliminate 15 to 20 minutes after eating, as soon as he wakes up and during or after playing. With this in mind, a person working a regular job 9-5 Monday to Friday, their schedule might look like this:
Morning - wake up and put the dog out — feed the dog — put the dog outside — put the dog in confinement
Evening – get home, put the dog outside — let the dog play — put the dog outside — feed the dog — put the dog outside — put the dog in confinement for the night
3. FEEDING – A dog should only be fed twice a day, morning and evening. The dog needs to be shown who is the boss. In a wolf pack, the alpha dog or leader always eats first. Therefore you should and your family should eat before the dog. For a more unmanageable dog you may take it a step further and make him do obedience before you give him his food. Example: make the dog sit in front of you for one minute before you give him his bowl of food. Feeding your dog table food could give him health problems, such as diarrhea, as well as behavioral problems, such as begging for food at the table.
4. CREATING LEADER ROLE IN YOUR HOUSE – To become alpha leader in your house, you must practice some basic commands with Fido:
- You must always enter the house before your dog
- You must always eat before your dog
- You must always sleep at a higher level than your dog
- You must never play tug of war games with the dog unless you are sure you will win
5. GAMES – Play biting or puppy nipping should not be allowed or encouraged. This allows the biting to become harder and more painful as the dog gets older. Tug of war should not be played unless you are 100% sure you will ALWAYS win. Fetch is a highly recommended game. Keep two balls on you. Throw one of the balls. When the dog comes back with the first ball, show him the second ball so he will drop the first ball. When the first ball is dropped, you may throw the second ball. Repeat as often as you like or until the dog begins to show signs of boredom. When the game is played this way, the game will not turn into a game of tug of war, thus creating less of a chance of developing possible behavioral problems in the future.
6. DISCIPLINE – The area or cage for confinement should never be used as a punishment. Disciplining Fido 2 seconds after the misbehavior is too late. You must catch him in the ACT. You must never hit the dog. Hitting the dog may make him more aggressive toward strangers or other members of your family. Example: To discipline their dog, some dog owners hit the dog with a rolled up newspaper. One day, your children grab the newspaper to look at the pictures or a hidden word puzzle. The dog may DEFEND himself by attacking the child in fear of getting hit by the child’s newspaper.
7. CHEWING – The dog should have many different bones and toys to chew on. If you see Fido chewing on an inappropriate item, simply say “NO” and direct his attention to an appropriate toy or bone.
Sherry Bedard is the author of Sherry’s Secret Dictionary, A Guide to Your Dog. She is an animal behaviourist and trainer working in Montreal. She founded Animal instincts school in 2005 and she teaches people how to become dog trainers and consults on a 1-to-1 basis with dog owners that are having problems with their dog. Sherry also teaches canine and feline behavior to students in the adult education program at Vanier College and regularly volunteers her time and expertise at local animal shelters in Montreal. Recently, Sherry started a dog club called Power Paws Dog Club which offers free training in canine pulling sports.
This document was originally prepared for the SPCA in Montreal, Quebec by Sherry Bedard to help reduce the number of abandoned or returned dogs to local animal shelters.