Making Your New Adult Dog Feel At Home
Bringing home an adult dog from a shelter is an exciting time with some unique challenges. Shelter dogs come from all backgrounds, from dogs that were lost to dogs given up for behavior issues or because the owner was unwilling or unable to provide adequate care. Consequently, dogs entering a new home may not behave the way you might expect “adult” dogs to act.
Housebreaking Issues with Adult Dogs
A dog that has not had a structured home environment may have no idea that your house doesn’t play double duty as a toilet. Until they prove otherwise, it’s generally a good idea to assume that your dog will not be fully housebroken right away.
A great rule of thumb when housebreaking is to only offer your new dog three possibilities:
- Safely crated: dogs don’t generally go in their crates as long as they go outside at regular intervals. Puppies and smaller adult dogs need to go out every few hours. If your dog does go in his or her crate often even with regular walks, you should contact your vet.
- Outside where it’s okay to go.
- Under your direct supervision. Direct supervision means “eyes on,” so you should be able to watch your dog at all times to prevent accidents.
With frequent breaks and a good feeding schedule, your dog should be housebroken in no time if you follow these guidelines.
Chewing, Jumping and Other ‘Puppy-Like’ Behaviors
Shelter dogs can display behaviors that are more commonly seen in puppies, like chewing, jumping and general unruliness. They may have never been taught that these are not okay behaviors around humans. Don’t assume that they know how to behave - you’ll have to teach them these new skills.
If you catch your dog chewing on something inappropriate, interrupt the behavior with a loud “Ahh!” and then immediately offer an appropriate chew object and praise. Thoughtful confinement in a crate when you can’t watch your dog can help ensure that your dog won’t mistake your shoes for chew toys. It’s no wonder I created the Zoom Room; obedience classes to teach basic manners are a great way to help your new rescue transition to your family and can safely introduce your dog to other pets.
Fear of Stairs and Other Socialization Issues
It could take a while for an adopted dog to settle into your home and show its true personality. Dogs that have not received proper socialization as puppies may find new experiences unsettling and could become anxious or stressed.
When introducing your dog to new things, such as other household pets, kids, or even stairs or outings, keep in mind that this may be the dog’s first experience in those settings. Never force a dog to accept a new situation; if a dog is allowed to approach a new object or person on its own, the dog will respond better, particularly if you stock your pockets with small delicious goodies and pair scary things with small delicious treats.
This is called “classical conditioning” and helps your dog associate new scary things with something he or she loves – food.
Finally, one of the most challenging behavior issues with newly adopted dogs is separation anxiety. Many dogs have been shuffled around and quickly develop strong attachments to people that provide affection and a stable environment. While this is very gratifying as a new adopter, sometimes dogs become over-attached and panic when left alone.
The goal is to make your new dog confident and secure, and to do so, you’ll need to make your entrances and exits extremely low-key, without a lot of emotional excitement. In addition, a schedule with predictable absences, puzzles to work on while you’re gone, and regular exercise and socialization can help minimize the separation anxiety.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to seamlessly integrate your new shelter dog into your household, but if you ever encounter problems, try contacting the shelter or point of adoption – often they have trainers “on call” to answer behavior problems via the phone or can steer you to a qualified trainer in your area.
By Jaime Van Wye
Jaime Van Wye is the CEO and Lead Dog Trainer at the Zoom Room, which offers classes in dog agility, obedience, puppy preschool, therapy dog, tricks training, and a wide range of specialty classes such as Shy Dog for newly-adopted rescue dogs.
Ms. Van Wye has trained dogs in search and rescue, bomb and drug detection, criminal apprehension and tracking. She is a Certified Master Dog Trainer, a graduate of the North State K9 Academy, and a Professional Level Member of the International Association of Canine Professionals.
For help with puppy socialization, be sure to check out Jaime’s article: Puppy Socialization: Introducing Your Puppy to the World.
For more useful information, please download our free Dog manual.