Your recently adopted rescue dog has been through many confusing changes in his life lately. He will need time to settle in and adjust to his new home. Chances are you will not see your dog’s true personality for a least a week or two as he begins to incorporate himself into your “pack” and daily routine. Make sure he gets lots of attention from you, but also give him time by himself.
A crate is a wonderful tool for you and your rescue dog. It provides a safe haven for the dog when he wants to “get away from it all,” and it is a safe place for you to put him when you’re too busy to supervise. Some animals are used to sleeping or napping in their crates, and a crate is also the best way to house train.
Dogs feel comfortable with a schedule, so try to reduce your new dog’s stress by starting a routine. Feeding times, play times, potty time, crate time should all happen in an order he can anticipate. Do not allow children to overwhelm your dog with attention. Teaching children to respect the dog’s space and privacy now will head off possibly tragic results later. Give your pet time to adjust to his new home before inviting lots of company in to meet him. Inform your guests that dogs greet by sniffing – they are not being rude; this is how they get to know you.
Dogs that are very timid or not well socialized may need to be “ignored”. You may have to restrain your inclination to reach out and hug him. Instead, put him where you want him and just let him alone for awhile. Wait for him to come to you instead of going after him.
Introduction to other pets can be tricky. If possible, it is a good idea for the new dog and any resident dogs to meet for the first time on “neutral ground”. A friend’s yard is always a good place because you know if it is fully fenced and also what other dogs have been there (for disease prevention). Back home, keep the dogs separated as much as possible the first day or two. Give them time together under your supervision, possibly with one or both dogs on leashes. Don’t play favorites with either dog.
Dogs are pack animals and they need to know who is “top dog”. That should, without a doubt, be you in your role as pack leader. But the dogs also need to know where they rank in relation to each other. There is likely to be some posturing and possibly even a confrontation between them in the first few days or weeks, but that is normal. Typically, a confrontation or scuffle between two dogs sounds much worse than it is. The best bet is to supervise closely and try to diffuse a situation before it escalates into a fight. Break eye contact with the two dogs. Distract them with training exercises. But on some level, they will need to “sort it out” because the pack order must be clear before they can relax. Don’t confuse the two dogs by trying to “help” the lower ranked dog out. That can just cause the dog to feel in a position to challenge the other dog for dominance.
Cats in the home should also be introduced slowly. Make sure that if you use clumping cat litter you change to regular for the first few weeks. This will help prevent a vet visit should your dog decide to “snack.”
A tired dog is a well-behaved dog! If a dog begins to chew up the house, dig in the yard, or bark, chances are he is bored or under-stimulated. Dogs need varying amounts of exercise, but odds are that a stroll through the neighborhood isn’t enough for a young, healthy dog. Most dogs need periods of vigorous play each day. This might include a game of fetch or other running games. Just being out in the yard is not exercise. So get out there and play with him!
Interaction between you and your dog is critical. An obedience class is strongly encouraged. It will teach you to communicate better, how to make your expectations clear, how to correct appropriately, and reinforce your pack leadership… plus it is a lot of fun!
Indoors, toys are important! Dogs need to chew and they need some activity to keep them occupied while you are away. Kong toys with a treat inside, appropriately sized raw beef shanks with marrow inside, or Nylabones can provide a dog with a “project” for the day. Rawhides and squeaky toys present a choking hazard and should only be used under supervision.
Dogs and children can have a wonderful relationship. However, to prevent incidents which might cause injury to either the dog or child, it is important to never leave any dog alone with a preschool child! Dogs rarely accept a child under 12 or 13 as an authority figure, and a child trying to discipline a dog as he has seen you do can result in tragedy. A dog’s only real defense is to bite, and if he feels he has no choice, that is what he will do. It won’t be the dog’s fault, but he will be the one who must pay the price. There is no such thing as a dog that will not bite. If you believe there is, then you are putting the child and dog at risk.