The First 24 Hours

When you bring your new dog home, you are going to be overwhelmed with excitement and nerves. Take a deep breath and jump in. It’s quite a journey! Bring your dog home when you have a few days off work and can spend time helping them acclimate to this new life. Don’t bring a dog home and expect them to sit quietly and happily in their crate for 8 hours while you go to work. It’s going to take much more work than that! 

Dogs don’t come pre-programmed to do anything we WANT them to do. They come pre-programmed to do all the things we DON’T want them to do. You have a lot of training to do! 

Have your home set up and ready for your dog before you come in the door. 

Don’t worry about training your dog their new name, sit, come, or anything else. None of that matters right now and can be taught at any age. 

The long term confinement area

Come in and set them up in their designated “long term confinement area” or LTCA. They should have access to fresh water, a few toys, a comfortable bed and/or crate, and if you’ve prepped one, a stuffed, frozen Kong or chew to work on. Don’t try to approach or pet while they have this – just leave them alone and let them work on it. 

After 15-30 minutes of letting them explore their LTCA (or once they’re done their chew) take them straight outside to their designated “potty area” and be sure to bring a few delicious little treats to give them if they do any business there. It seems silly to go so soon, but when we have a new dog in a new environment, potty RE-training has to be a focus in the early days as accidents are common due to stress and anxiety. Best to go out frequently for the first few days and show them exactly where you’d like them to go, rewarding them well when they do. 

Back to the LTCA and now you’ll want to give them some time to settle in and observe their new world. Come and go from the room as if you’re just touring that floor of your home. Coming and going frequently as early on as possible can show your dog that you always come back and the absences are literally seconds long – not minutes or hours. Be sure to check your Fitbit for all the steps you’re getting in! 😉 

Try to limit the visitors and intense interactions in the first few days so that you give your dog a chance to settle in and get used to the new surroundings. We will open their world up soon! 

While you will want to spend all your time with your new addition, ensure that you both get little breaks from each other so that when you go back to your normal routine, your dog isn’t set up to fail.

Take a walk

Go for a short walk (5-10 minutes is likely enough) around the neighbourhood and let your dog explore. You probably won’t get very far because they may want to sniff everything or just sit and observe.

  • If your dog stops, you stop. You hang out with them and crouch down beside them. 
  • If your dog is scared (see your upcoming lesson on Body Language and Stress Signals), comfort them gently and quietly, and/or feed them a few treats to create a happy association (you’re not feeding the fear – don’t worry!). Let them move away from “the scary thing” whenever they need to. 
  • Do not let people approach your dog quickly to pet them. Start your advocating NOW. Ask them to stand still and allow your dog to approach them. If they want pats, they will solicit them! Keep it short and sweet. If your dog has no interest in the new person, stay at a safe distance and feed a little treat every time they look at the person. This creates a great association with strangers. 
  • If you choose to ask neighbours to treat your dog, ask them to toss the treat gently towards your dog’s feet from a safe distance instead of hand-feeding. Hand-feeding from strangers creates too much social pressure for some dogs. 
  • No need to meet dogs just yet. One thing at a time!  
  • No. Dog. Parks. Seriously. It’s too early and it’s unsafe for your dog and other people’s dogs at this time. 

Go to the washroom

Wait. What? Me? — Yes. You. Once you’re home, you go to the washroom and leave your dog in the LTCA for a moment. Don’t stay longer than a minute or two. Listen carefully. Does your dog continue playing with a toy, sleeping, or relaxing? Or does your dog stand at the gate and panic? If they’re relaxed, you’re golden! You can start increasing the length of time you leave them in the LTCA while you go do other things out of sight. 

Some things you can do in under 5 minutes in another room:

  • Go to the washroom
  • Change the laundry from washer to dryer
  • Check the mail
  • Put away the laundry
  • Brush your teeth / wash up
  • Tidy up or spot clean 
  • Make a tea or grab a snack
  • Check your email / social media

If they’re not relaxed when you leave their sight, you will need to tread carefully. 

DOGS DO NOT “GET USED TO IT”. 

I REPEAT: DOGS DO NOT “GET USED TO IT”. 

Hoping a dog will “get used to it” or “get over it” can be so detrimental when we spot an early red flag. Don’t rely on your dog habituating to the stressor. Acknowledge the discomfort and take action immediately to help them. 

Something that (seriously) worked for me was to actually talk in a relaxed tone the entire time I was walking out of sight and while out of sight so my dog could hear me. If you have nothing to say, recite the alphabet over and over again. Then, when in the same room, I would sit on the floor just outside his LTCA or crate and I would check my phone, read messages, etc while we were close but not always interacting.