Good Intentions Gone Wrong with Your New Dog
So, you got a new puppy or rescued an adult dog. How exciting! You got a new dog because you wanted to go places and do stuff with your buddy. You wanted to get more exercise and fresh air. You have been dreaming of throwing tennis balls, camping and hiking trips, and joyful kids with their playful pooch. And here it is! The moment you have been waiting for…… What now?
I want to do stuff with my new dog! I want to walk him, and take him to barbecues… Maybe go hiking? The dog park sounds fun. I can’t wait for everyone to see my pooch!
The biggest mistake people make is ‘too much, too soon.’ Your new puppy or new dog needs time to bond with you and your family. He needs routine and consistency. He needs to get to know you and learn what you expect of him. This is especially true of a rescue dog. Your new pooch might have been in need of rescuing because he doesn’t come when called, was afraid of loud noises and ran, chased cars, jumped fences, or bolted out of doors. These are not insurmountable behaviors, but if you try to do too much, too soon, you might find out the hard way that your new dog has some vices. Improper socialization, even one bad experience, can lead to a lifetime of behavior problems. You have time to check the ‘do stuff’ off your list. Let your dog settle in. Rescue dogs, in particular, need about 90 days of a routine and just getting to know you, and dog training, before you should be introducing them to a lot of new environments.
I want my dog to get to know his new house…. Maybe find a spot on the couch. He’s a rescue. I don’t want him to feel cooped up.
The second biggest mistake people make is giving their new dog too much freedom. Dogs are creatures of habit, just like us. What ever they practice becomes ingrained in them, and is difficult to undo. Letting your dog have ‘free run of the house’ causes big behavior problems. It may result in difficulty potty training, counter surfing, trash diving, destruction, nuisance barking, and even aggressive behaviors like resource guarding. If your dog has the opportunity to practice these things, not only will they continue to do it, they will get better at it. Dogs eat inappropriate items all of the time (plastic, rocks, chocolate, coins, cell phones; You name, they have eaten it – ask your vet!). And sometimes, they require very expensive surgery to have that inappropriate item removed. Learn how to put your dog on a schedule, and properly utilize an ex-pen and crate. Your pup (and house and it’s contents) will be safe, they will practice calm behavior in the house, and potty training becomes much easier. Purchase a high quality crate (think: Ruffland Kennels, KBC Kennels, or similar), use it from day one, supervise your dog in the house, and reap the benefits later!
I want my dog to be well socialized! I’m going to let everyone he meets pet him. He needs to meet every dog he sees too, right?
I highlighted this one on purpose! Over-socialization and improper socialization are some of the most egregious common mistakes people make with their new dog. Everybody knows they should socialize their dog, but they have no idea what that means or how to do it. It seems like simple math; just introduce the dog to as many new dogs and people as possible. However, the CRITICAL part of that math equation is ensuring they are having a POSITIVE INTERACTION during that experience. That requires intense scrutiny of your dog’s body language, understanding what types of human behavior can be bothersome to dogs, and what the other dogs are ‘saying’ with their body language during their interaction with your dog. You need to know how and when to intervene before things go south. What your new dog REALLY needs is exposure to new people, places and things. He doesn’t necessarily need to interact with them. He needs to have a positive experience with each new thing that he encounters to understand that new things are fun and interesting, not frightening and harmful. An exuberant child who pets your puppy or dog roughly can make a negative impression on your dog that could cause your dog to dislike children for a lifetime. Instead, let your new dog observe new people, cars, dogs, critters etc. from a safe distance, and give him treats in the presence of these things. If your dog shies away from someone or something, don’t force the interaction. Praise and give them treats for good, calm social behavior. Don’t allow your dog to fixate on a dog or person for too long, or you could create a stage 2 clingon!
My puppy wants to explore everything and meet everybody. Look, she has spotted my neighbor, who she LOVES. She’s so excited to see her. Look how much she’s pulling to go over there!
Last, but not least, a huge mistake that people make with their new dog or puppy is letting the dog take them places by pulling on the leash. We love to watch a puppy explore their world, and if they want to sniff that bush over there, what’s the harm? When your dog pulls on the leash to go investigate something and we grant his wishes by giving into that pressure (following behind with tension on the leash), your dog is learning to get what he wants by pulling on the leash. After several repetitions (remember, dogs get better at what they practice), your dog will pull harder and harder to access whatever ‘it’ is that they want (to sniff, to chase a squirrel, to greet a stranger). After a while, you will tire of this and begin to resist. Or maybe they’re pulling towards something dangerous, so you don’t want to go over there. But your dog has already learned that pulling gets their way, so they will drop their shoulders and really put their back into it! It’s a vicious cycle. The more you resist, the harder they pull; All because we wanted to let them sniff a bush or greet a friend! Instead, direct your walk with your new dog. Don’t let them mark every tree or stop to sniff every blade of grass. Don’t let your dog pull on the leash to greet people or other dogs. In fact, go in the opposite direction, until your dog follows you, be sure to reward that behavior!
Dog Dynamix can help you make sure you aren’t heading in the wrong direction. We offer board and train programs, in home training, and the best version of doggy daycare that focuses on obedience training and socialization (the right way).
Following these guidelines will have you well on your way to having the dog of your dreams. Happy Training!