Just one month ago we added Captain Jack, an 8-month old Golden Retriever, to our Smartypaws family. He’s quite a handful and the first month together has been a time of great adjustment for our entire family. I’ll share more on that soon, but first I’d like to point out the 5 things we DID NOT do, and DO NOT recommend, for anyone adding a new dog to their home.
1. We did not take him on walks:
Go ahead, gasp in surprise! This one seems to get the most confused reactions. Dogs who are rehomed or have experienced stressful events need time to unwind and take in their new environment peacefully. Whether you’re dragging your new pup down the street, or he’s dragging you, either way is not going to help anyone get to know each other better or feel safer together. Your dog is likely to be bombarded with extra sights and smells while ignoring you at the other end of the leash. Walks like that really do not help them decompress, socialize, or bond with you at all. Play, use enrichment games and training initially to satisfy their exercise needs. Going for more connected walks together can happen soon enough.
2. We didn’t take him to the pet store:
Once again, it doesn’t help any of us to be faced with unnecessary stressors. Get to know each other a little bit and have some experience together before tackling places filled with potential triggers and things, they may find frightening. It’s interesting to me that I often have clients tell me that they felt uncomfortable about doing that type of excursion with their new dog but did it anyway because that’s what they thought they were supposed to do. Take your pup home and give yourself a few weeks to get to know each other. Maybe take a beginning manners class in a controlled environment where there will be professional guidance if your dog reacts unfavorably. Don’t feel obligated to take them anywhere immediately in the name of socialization but do try to get them to the vet for an initial wellness check. You have the rest of your lives together to visit pet stores and people.
3. We did not leave him outside (or inside) unattended:
Plan to go outside with your new dog so you can observe and guide them, as well as reinforce them for going potty outdoors. You’ll learn a lot about your dog by watching how they do or do not investigate the world.
4. We did not just let the dogs go free together and see if they can work it out or play until they dropped.
As a matter of fact, we are still working on getting to the place where the dogs can be together full time. We’ve made loads of progress, but still have a little way to go. Take a peek here on our Instagram page to see how we started teaching them to be calm around each other instead of hyper focused on play or interaction.
5. We have not let Jack interact freely with the kids:
Everything that Jack does with the kids is parent guided and usually revolves around teaching him to be calm or respond appropriately to them (view an example here). Jack gets crazy excited quickly and begins mouthing, nipping clothes and skin, jumping and pestering. As an 8-month old puppy it is somewhat ridiculous to expect him to “behave” around children, whether he had previous training or not. He likes them, but certainly has not developed the maturity to respond suitably to the novelty kids of all ages bring. We know this is something that will take time (growth, maturity) and training (consistency, practice) to achieve.
6. We did not take him to a dog park:
Well, we were only going to talk about 5 things we didn’t do, but this one is important to note. We did not and will not be taking our dogs to a public dog park to play. Dog parks are probably the worst place in the world to take dogs to socialize or learn appropriate behavior. Though many people think their dogs enjoy pup playgrounds, paying attention to body language and careful observation of canine communication often tells a different story. The risk of diseases like giardia, worms and kennel cough, as well as the rude, rough, over-aroused play, are reasons enough for us to avoid them. Instead, have backyard play dates with pups that are paired fairly with similar play styles.
Check back soon to hear what we did, and you can do, to make integrating a new dog into the family safe and successful.