Dog Adoption: A Myth and A Mistake Part II
A Mistake: Fast Freedom
I’m just going to come right out and say it. The biggest mistake when bringing home a new dog – especially an adolescent or adult rescue – is allotting the pup TOO MUCH FREEDOM from the start!
It’s a wonderful thing to provide a loving home for a dog in need. However, if you want to make life easier on yourself and your new fur friend, then start small and take it slow. Introduce them to their new environment starting with small, supervised, safe areas before expecting them to appropriately navigate your entire home alone.
When acquiring a young puppy, we often plan to crate/kennel, leash, supervise, train, etc. Yet, for some reason, our expectations when adopting an older dog seem skewed. Many adopters seem to be under the impression that an older dog will come knowing the ropes and be able to just fit right into their lifestyle. In reality, dogs of any age are going to benefit from a structured homecoming.
A successful homecoming plan begins before your new dog even enters your household. Careful thought should be given to things like where the dog will sleep and where they will be kept if you are not with them. Whether your pup is 5 weeks or 15 years old you should consider how to set them up for success in their new environment. Using gates, leashes, crates, doors, exercise pens, or other barriers to create small, safe, comfortable places can help ease the transition for you and your new dog. Routine, consistency, and predictability provides comfort, safety, and familiarity that your pup can rely on when faced with interpreting the new world he’s becoming accustomed to.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. It is stressful for a dog to be rehomed, even if it is to a better place. They need time to become familiar with everything and everyone in your home. It’s best to give your dog time to adjust and get to know your family before flooding the house with friends and other people for introductions. Your pup also doesn’t necessarily come knowing the rules of your household. Plan to train them, and not just test them, in their new surroundings.
In this instance, training your pup means managing the environment while guiding and reinforcing desired behaviors. As they continue to be successful repeating those desired behaviors, then you can increase their freedom. Dr. Susan Freidman stated this simply by saying, “Freedom is correlated to skills.” For instance, if your dog has not shown skills that display their ability to be successful when supervision is present in one room (ie. they potty on the floor, chew on the coffee table, don’t respond when you say their name, etc.), then there is absolutely no reason you should allow them free roam of any space. It’s not about how old they are, or how long you’ve had them, or even how long you’ve been training together. If they aren’t demonstrating reliable skills, then it’s probably time to implement some boundaries and re-evaluate your training plan.
Understanding this concept can save dog owners a lot of frustration (and property damage). Potty training problems? Inappropriate chewing? Won’t listen? Tearing up the yard? Counter surfing? Can restricting some of the freedoms you’ve allowed your pet turn some of these common problems into things of the past? Train the skills first, then provide the freedom to test their readiness. There should be a whole lot of training before a trial. You should be quite certain that your dog is ready for the next level of independence before attempting it. Fast freedom is frustrating to both pets and their people. Be flexible, but don’t get caught in the trap of providing freedom too quickly for Fido.