Spring is almost here. And that means a lot of dogs are finding new homes. Whether you picked up a puppy or adopted a rescue, you are now on a new and fantastic journey. Here are three simple guideposts to help you build a rewarding relationship with your new best friend.
Boundaries: Set them right away. A big mistake most new dog owners make is “letting the dog get used to them.” But what exactly is the dog supposed to be getting used to? Well, he or she should be getting used to your daily routines—waiting at doors, sitting politely to be pet, walking nicely beside you and coming when called. Do not wait to begin shaping these expectations.
When you work with a new dog, they don’t know you. They don’t know what they can get away with or what a pushover you really are. Do not let on, at least not until you’ve established your boundaries. This will pay off heavily in the future when you don’t have to undo bad habits that you allowed your dog to “get used to.”
Training: Establishing expectations can be easier said than done, especially if you are bringing home a mature dog from a shelter. These dogs come with an uncertain past. You may find that the dog already has a few undesirable habits, and now it’s up to you to change these behaviors.
Perhaps you have a puppy, and though you were somewhat prepared, the puppy is crying all night and potty training is, well, a little sticky. Don’t wait for these issues to simply disappear. (Hint: they won’t.)
Join an obedience class right away. Sign up for private lessons. Do whatever you can to prevent your new friend from continuing down this path. The longer they practice these unwanted behaviors with you the more you become an accomplice to the habit.
Changing these things in the future will be much harder. If you need help, don’t be ashamed to seek it from a professional.
Socialization: Dogs are pack animals. They love being around other dogs. They enjoy the company of humans. And it can be a calming influence on their overall behavior when they are able to express themselves as members of a pack.
A well-rounded dog can heel with their human through the pet store, ride quietly in the car, pass a wheelchair or a person on crutches without losing their minds. They can greet a friendly stranger. They can walk over grates. They aren’t easily startled, and if taken off-guard, they easily recover. All of this comes from a calm demeanor and valuable experience a dog gains along the way.
Do not take this process for granted. For the puppy people, you will be going through several different socialization periods in which your puppy will seem confident for a short while and then become insecure for a while. This is all a part of their survival instincts. You cannot rush this. But you can make the socialization process as positive as possible.
For the people who have adopted older dogs, you may find that they did not receive proper socialization, and now you are helping them cope with unfamiliar and often emotional circumstances. Training is a good way to start your socialization process as it provides a structured/controlled atmosphere allowing the experiences to be positive.
At The Watering Bowl, we can help you work through all three of these important points in your dog’s development. And our four-legged institute of higher learning, Butt Sniffers Academy, is here for dogs of all maturity levels to continue to develop. And if you’re reading this because you’re thinking about adopting, we can help point you in the right direction there as well.