Two weeks ago, some tips were outlined in this column on selecting a dog, particularly one from the humane society.
Once you pick out a pet and decide to bring him home, then what? Whether it is a new puppy or an adult dog, those first few hours and days are so important for both the family and the new pet. Patience is vital.
Imagine that you, or maybe a child of yours, are young and being brought into a new environment. You are very scared. There are new people all trying to get your attention. There is a lot of noise. How is this new dog reacting? Is he quite confident and curious or shy and nervous? Respond accordingly. What could you do to make it more comfortable for him? How could it be less traumatic?
The first thing is to take the dog on a tour of his new property, both inside and outside. Having him on a leash, talk to him and walk him around the entire property. If there is a fence, follow the fence line. Let him take his time and do all the smelling he needs to do. Take him to a spot where you would like him to relieve himself. Allow him to investigate. Tell him to go to the bathroom, or whatever word you will use. He probably will not go right then but you have made the introductions.
Every time you bring him out after this, first take him to this spot and tell him to go to the bathroom. Naturally, if he goes, praise him profusely.
Bring him into the house and give him the grand tour. The whole family will be eager to welcome the new dog, but it is important that he has a quiet introduction. Try to get everyone to sit quietly, ideally all on the floor, and allow the dog to snoop around and check out the family.
When he seems fairly comfortable, show him his food and water dishes. Hopefully, you will have a kennel set up for him. Take him to it and let him smell it and wander around it. Put treats inside. If he goes in, do not close the door on him just yet. He may never have been in a kennel. Whatever his age, you need to proceed slowly. After an hour or so in the house, take him out again to that chosen place. Praise any successes.
After all this excitement, this new dog, particularly a puppy, will be worn out. Take him to the kennel and encourage him to go inside. Have wonderful treats in there, a soft rug or blanket, a bone to chew and a stuffed animal. From now on, these things are his. Let him have access to them day and night, but don't let him take them outside. If he is going to spend time outside, have wonderful things for him outside as well. Close the kennel door. Sit next to him and talk softly. Assure him that everything is OK. As soon as he settles down, let him out. If he is barking or crying, keep talking, but do not let him out until he is quiet. Do not leave him in there too long in the beginning. When he is not being restrained, leave the kennel door open allowing him to come and go. This will become his special place.
As bedtime approaches, take him to his spot in the yard, and then for a little walk around the yard. You want him to settle in for the night. The first few nights will be a bit frightening. Don't put him in some dark corner all by himself. Bring his kennel into a bedroom where he can be near people. If it is a wire kennel, cover all but the door side, providing a feeling of security. Talk to him, but do not let him out. Have his special things in there, particularly a bone to chew and his soft stuffed animal.Sometimes a ticking clock provides diversion.
When you turn out the light, he must be quiet. If he starts to cry, tell him gently to be quiet and put your hand on the kennel so he knows you are there. Talk gently, but firmly, insist that he be quiet.
During those first few nights, if he wakes during the night, take him outside to his place. Tell him to go to the bathroom. Give him a few minutes and then bring him inside and put him back into the kennel. Insist that he be quiet. First thing in the morning, take him immediately outside to this same spot. He should relieve himself. Praise him. Then fix him a wonderful breakfast.
Hopefully, you have brought this new dog home at a time when family members have some time off and he will not be left alone right away. The more time the dog has at the beginning with people who are gentle and kind, the better will be his settling in. He will probably have an accident in the house. Do not scold him, but tell him he must do that outside and take him to that spot and tell him to go to the bathroom. Clean up the spot in the house immediately so that the smell of it is gone, otherwise he will think that is where he should go again. After a few days, he will catch on to the routine and become more comfortable. It is important that family members are kind to him, but not overly excited around him. Take him for walks. Throw the ball for him. Find out what he likes to do.
If the family must be away during the day, provide a spot for the dog where he is safe and cannot do damage. The kitchen, bathroom or back hall work great. A gate across the door way allows the door to be left open so he does not feel closed in. Make sure there is light. You might leave a radio on for him. Give him his things to play with and chew and his stuffed animal to cuddle with. If possible, put his kennel in there with its soft blankets. Take him out to the spot immediately before you leave the house and put him into this space and take him out immediately when you return home. Spend some nice time with him after he has been alone. A young puppy may never have been alone.
There are many good books in the library about training a dog. Read a few of them. The most frustrating task is to teach the dog to go to the bathroom outside. Remember, we are house training him, not breaking him. He does not know what is expected and we must gently show him. Children today are given three years to learn to use the potty. How can we expect a puppy to catch on immediately?
Patience, more patience and understanding. A good beginning will insure a good long relationship.
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.