Bringing Home a New Dog

Here is some helpful information to get you and your new dog off to a good start!


Fido meet Spot

If you already own a dog and are considering acquiring another, one of the best things you can do prior to adoption is to bring your current dog with you to meet his potential new buddy. Introductions are always completed best on neutral territory, where neither dog feels threatened or feels the need to defend his “turf”.

Ideally, find a fenced yard or other large area where the dogs can be slowly introduced while on leash. Make sure you have the help of another person to assist in the introduction. Sometimes one dog may be overly exuberant and intimidating to his new friend. In this case, take the dogs for a walk, side-by-side, with you walking your own dog, and your helper or other family member walking the newcomer. Keep walking for five minutes or so, allowing the dogs to both settle down enough to decrease the over-excitement. When you feel like both dogs can interact without one dog feeling threatened, let both dogs off-leash to play freely.

By using this method of introductions, a lot of snarling, growling and hair-raising is easily avoided. Provided both dogs seem to approve of one another, they can both go home as pals as opposed to being introduced on your current dog’s home turf where he may feel the need to be defensive and protective.

If the above scenario is not possible, then you’ll need to recruit a volunteer. When your new dog arrives home, arrange to have someone walk him down the street. You, of course, will need to take your new friend on a nice little walk where he can be introduced to your current dog. While not all dogs require such effort for introductions, it is definitely the easiest way to encourage a smooth transition for both dogs.

Preventing Fights

The best way to handle dog fights is to prevent them from happening altogether. After bringing home a new dog, be careful to avoid situations that could lead to arguments. Most families who call us to report their new dog is fighting with their current dog have set the dogs up to fail by allowing them toys and treats that can are guarded by one or both dogs. Follow these preventative measures for the first few weeks until you are sure your dog and your new family member have settled into their new roles:

  • Feed dogs in separate rooms and keep the doors shut until both dogs have finished eating. Never let them eat side-by-side, where fighting may start over left-over food.
  • When giving treats, only give those that are eaten directly from your hand. Don’t give them big bones, rawhides or other treats that will be carried away and guarded.
  • Pick up any special toys that your dog may not wish to share and try to guard if the other dog approaches.

Fido meet Kitty

Now that the canine intros are completed, what about introducing your new dog to the feline family member? The method that you use for this will largely depend on your dog’s previous exposure to cats.

If your new dog has lived with cats before or has been “cat tested,” you will still want to keep him on a leash while allowing him to greet your cat for the first time. This will give your cat a sense of security, and will also allow him to exit the room if necessary without being chased. Keep in mind that certain dogs, especially large breeds, have a very high prey drive. While they may not intend harm to your cat, they will often be intrigued and will attempt a game of chase. Do your best to prevent this from occurring, as this behavior is reinforced each time your cat flees and your dog sees. If your new dog is overly interested in your cat, keep the dog leashed when your cat is around. Praise him lavishly and provide treats for ignoring the cat. Likewise, when he engages in chase or barks at the cat, make your displeasure known with a loud “NO KITTY!” It make take a few days or a few weeks before your dog realizes that the cat is not a walking woobie. Be consistent and you’ll eventually see results.

One simple and economical tool to assist in promoting a positive relationship between your cat and your new dog is the use of a baby gate. Use the gate to separate rooms of the house, allowing the dog to visualize the cat but not giving him access to the kitty. This will also allow your cat to join you in the remainder of the house, but if the dog begins to chase, your cat will have a means of escape into a dog-free room. Of course, if your dog is aggressive towards your cat (as opposed to simply interested in play), seek the advise of a local trainer or behaviorist and DO NOT allow your cat and dog to remain together unsupervised.

House Training Your New Dog

One of the advantages of adopting a dog vs. a puppy is that the adult dog is already house trained. However, many dogs that enter rescues or shelters have never been allowed indoors, and will need to learn basic house manners and house training. While the principles are the same for an adult dog as they are for a puppy, it is often much easier to train a dog or an older puppy who is old enough to have developed bladder control. In addition, the adult dog and older puppy have longer attention spans and are more readily able to learn the principles you are teaching them.

Housebreaking is often the first attempt at training you and your dog will make. It is very important to use careful thought and obtain accurate information prior to working with your dog. Incorrect technique, excessive, harsh and ineffective punishment may lead to behavioral problems later. It is crucial that you work to control your own emotions and remain calm while training. Set realistic goals, and give it time.

1. Select an area

Front or back yard? Not only is it easier to clean up one area, but your dog will learn which door to use to go outside to do his “business”.

2. Set a schedule

Do not free feed your new dog. Not only does this promote unhealthy weight gain, but it also makes house training more difficult as you cannot expect when your dog may need to eliminate. Most dogs will need to defecate following a meal, and by designating feeding times you can anticipate when he will need to go outside.

So, when should you feed your dog? Most veterinarians recommend feeding large dogs twice a day. This helps to prevent over-filling of the stomach, which is thought to predispose dogs to “bloat,” a painful and often fatal gastric torsion. Feeding twice a day also gives your dog something to look forward to. If you work or leave the house in the morning, set the A.M. feeding early enough to allow you time to walk your dog or make sure he/she has eliminated. The evening meal generally should be fed no later than 6pm, with 4pm preferred. This allows ample time for digestion to occur and helps your dog to be able to do a last “doodle” before going to bed. If you find your dog leaves you a pile during the night, chances are you are feeding too late in the evening.

3. Watch that water!

If you are training a puppy, it is often helpful to monitor fluid and water intake. Don’t leave the bowl down, but instead, offer water at regularly scheduled intervals – usually every 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Take your dog outside after each meal and after each time water is consumed. Ever hear someone talk about potty training a young toddler? People will often say that Mom is actually the one trained, and to a certain extent, that is true. Mom knows if she takes Johnny to the potty on a regular schedule, she will build his confidence and prevent accidents from happening. The same principles apply to house training a dog or a puppy.

4. Praise, praise, praise – and reward!

One of the best ways of helping your dog understand that he is successful in accomplishing what you’ve asked is by rewarding him or her with a treat. When Rover toilets outside, take a handful of treats with you and reward him with a little snack and lots of verbal praise for each success. Play with him for five or ten minutes afterwards, which is an extra reward in and of itself for your dog. Additional training can also be incorporated into these sessions. Your dog will soon look forward to going outside to potty if you apply these principles.

5. Watch out for the excited pooch!

Over excitement (such as new visitors, a new, fun toy or other distractions) can cause your dog to forget his new training. Help him or her by scheduling potty times after these events to prevent accidents in the house.

6. Keeping close

In the beginning, do not allow your dog free access to the house unsupervised. Consider using an X-pen or crate, or better yet, use baby gates to section off rooms of the house.

If Rover voids and you do not catch him in the act, scolding later will be futile. He will not associate your displeasure with his action. The best way to keep this from happening is to supervise him when indoors, and keep him in sight at all times. If he begins to have an accident IN YOUR PRESENCE, yell “NO!!!!” Then immediately and in a cheerful voice say “Rover, OUTSIDE!!” When he finishes outdoors, then reward and praise. Even though he began to go in the house, if he completes the act outside he has done what you’ve asked and should be rewarded with lavish praise. Never, ever hit your dog for voiding in the house or rub his nose in his puddle. A simple but loud verbal correction is sufficient, and your dog will respond much more rapidly to praise and motivation than he will to harsh scolding which he will not understand.

7. Those long nights!

Is a crate the right tool for you? Different people have varying opinions on the use of crates. However, used correctly, crates are wonderful training tools, especially at night when you cannot observe your dog. In addition, many dogs feel secure in crates, just as their wolf ancestors used dens for comfort and security. Ever see a dog sleep under the bed, a table or other piece of furniture? They like the privacy and security of an enclosed space. Besides offering your dog security, the crate has an added benefit – dogs do not like to soil in their sleeping area. This will greatly assist you in house training your dog. Most dogs will not mind the crate at all if kept near you, by your bed – this allows them quiet companionship with you, his owner, and helps the bonding process.

If you do not want to crate train Rover, you may opt to use a leash instead. You can attach it to your bed, keeping your dog near you at night and limiting his space. An X-Pen also accomplishes the same goal. Whatever you decide, it’s important that in the early stages of house training that your dog’s space be limited when not observed, and especially at night.

8. Clean, clean, clean

There are many products sold in pet stores that were designed specifically for cleaning up urine and feces. These products have enzymes which neutralize the odor and prevent resoiling of the area. Do not use products containing ammonia, which will only accentuate the odor and may cause your dog to continue to void or defecate in the same areas.