Trainer Tips

What to Know When Bringing Your Shelter Dog Home
By Karen Owens, M.Ed, CPDT-KA

What’s the most important tip to remember when bringing a shelter dog home? ​
    ​Going slow with new experiences and allowing plenty of time for adjustment is critically important for your new dog.  A few new experiences per day will help your dog not to feel overwhelmed.  Keep in mind what your dog has experienced prior to your home: kennel life can be difficult and frustrating.  Your dog may be coming to you in a state of stress and overstimulation.  However, new experiences are stressful as well (a new home, new people and excited children, new pets, new smells).  Allow your dog the gift of time.  Don’t worry if your new dog doesn’t act perfectly well adjusted in the first few days. It usually takes a minimum of two weeks for a dog to begin to relax in his new home.

Adopt your dog when you can spend time with him.
    As mentioned above, there is a lot of transition happening when you bring your new dog home.  Try to schedule the adoption when you have a couple days off, you have vacation, or you’re at the start the start of a weekend.  Spending time with you dog will help the two of you bond which will, in turn, help your dog to be more secure and relaxed.
The importance of building a bond.
    Taking time to build a bond with your dog will lay the foundation for a great relationship.  Take time to learn your new dog’s habits.  Focus on activities that are fun for both of you.  Spend quiet time together, play outside in the yard, take walks.  Your new dog needs your companionship.
Put your new dog on a schedule and potty training
    This sounds simple, but it is really important for your dog to learn what to expect.  Feed him at specific times of the day.  Create a schedule for play time, training time, potty time, and quiet time.  If quiet time is in a crate, give your dog a toy to chew on, such as a stuffed kong.

    Remember that your new dog has been in a kennel and has not had the opportunity to go outside to potty multiple times a day.  Assume that your dog will need help to establish this routine. Make sure to take your dog outside to potty frequently to give him lots of opportunities to potty in the correct location.  Immediately reward (within 2-3 seconds) your dog with a treat for going potty outside.
Dog/Dog Introductions
    Introduce new dogs to each other one at a time, slowly.  Do introductions on leash so if there is a problem, you can manage the dogs. If you are by yourself and don't have someone to help you, you can tether one dog to a tie out and approach with the other dog on leash.  Try not to pull back or tighten up on the leash-this can bring tension to the introduction.  Let the dogs approach at their own pace.  If the dogs are sniffing around, turning away and taking their time, let them.  Don't force them into the interaction.  If the dogs are sniffing each other’s butts, let them. This is part of their greeting ritual.  However, if you feel that there is too much tension in the interaction or if one dog is being too overwhelming, take a break and try again later. Taking the dogs on a walk together before bringing the new dog in the house is a great way to help facilitate introductions.
    Manage the dogs in the house.  There is no reason for all dogs to be out at all times.  Too many dogs together with not enough space will create problems-especially when the dogs don't know each other well.  If you have multiple dogs and they need to be crated, only let one or two dogs out at a time.  Your new dog may need to be out without any other dogs for while.  Once your new dog is more comfortable, then he can be out with another dog he gets along well with.    
    Do not allow your new dog access to the entire house all at once.  He can have access to main living areas with supervision.  Do not leave him unattended outside of a crate, with other dogs, or with children.   
    Make use of the leash.  The leash can be a great management tool in the house.  If your dog is out of his crate, but you still need a way to manage his behavior, put him on leash.  You can hold the leash, tether it to a belt loop with a carabiner or step on the leash if needed.  

Food, toys and bones
    Your new dog should be fed separate from any other dogs for at least the first week.  Do not leave out toys, rawhides, greenies or bones.  Leaving these things on the floor with having a new dog present can cause resource guarding.  If you want to give bones or other chew toys-give them in crates or with the dogs in separate rooms for the first week or two.  Then, introduce one toy at a time, with supervision, to make sure none of the dogs exhibit any guarding behavior.
Remember: with time, patience, and love your new pet will bloom and enrich your life!

Please contact our trainer if you have any questions or concerns about the animal you adopted from CMPD Animal Care & Control.

If you have training questions about your current dog, please look at the Resources for Adopters page to get training tips and help.