Introducing a New Dog to Your Home

You just got a new dog or a foster dog and you’re super excited.  Maybe the dog has had a tough life so far, maybe you’re not sure.  Either way, you’re super excited to have a new family member and you can’t wait to show him/her all of the affection you have.

STOP!  All that affection could create separation anxiety or cause your dog to get protective.

If no other animals in the house:

The first thing I do when I bring a dog into a house without other animals is give him/her freedom to explore. If there are other people in the house, we do a quick introduction of the people. The dog gets to smell everyone, maybe get a treat or two from each person.

At first, I’ll walk around the house with the dog (not really talking to the dog) just to make sure there are no potty accidents and they don’t start eating something they shouldn’t.  I usually just do a once over.

Then everyone leaves the dog alone.

I sit on the couch and do something unrelated to the dog. I don’t talk to the dog, pet the dog, or interact in any way (unless there is a behavioral or medical thing that needs to be addressed).  Essentially, I’m giving the dog freedom to continue to explore on his/her own and the opportunity to settle down on their own.

The first time your dog settles (lays down and looks relaxed), you can say “Good boy/girl”.  By speaking, your dog will likely get up. That’s okay.  Continue what you were doing and wait for them to settle again. Usually, if you get up, the dog will follow you, so I try to be sure I take in a new dog when I have the time to stay settled myself.

Settling is really important. Dogs can be nervous in a new environment.  They don’t really know what’s going on.  I think the most important thing to do with a new dog, is let them calm down and relax.  If your dog is panting, it could be a sign your dog is nervous.

When a dog is nervous, they may exhibit behaviors that they may not normally exhibit.  If you add people putting their hands in the dogs face, or trying to force the dog to play, it can be very overwhelming for the dog.

If other dogs in the house:

It’s extremely important to do proper introductions in a controlled environment. Introduce each dog slowly and individually. Don’t let all dogs out at once.  If possible, have the other dogs go out for a walk or to a dog park when you bring the new dog home. Let the new dog sniff the house without other animals.

Then, you can introduce the new dog to the other dogs one at a time.  If possible, I try to do introductions in an outside location that doesn’t have too many other distractions. This helps the dogs to focus on each other and not “this is my house.”

With both dogs on a leash, slowly walk towards each other.  Try to keep a loose leash.  But if the dog is pulling, try to control how quickly the dogs approach. Try to keep them from jumping on each other right away.  If you know a dog is a jumper, I usually have the jumper sit, I hold on to the collar and stay close to the ground with them.  Then I have the other dog slowly approach.

After they sniff each other a little, if they seem good, you can go for a short walk together, then go inside.

Since you don’t know how they will react to toys, bones and food around each other, pick up everything before the dogs are both in the house. Slowly introduce 1 item at a time to see if there is any resource guarding.

Why did I start doing this?

I took in a black lab years ago.  She was a 100% outside dog before I got her and she didn’t get much attention.  So when she got to my house, I kept her inside and loved on her all weekend.  We were both happy.When Monday came, I put her out back and went to work.  When I got home from work, I could hear her barking.  My neighbor was outside and worked from home so I asked if she was doing that all day.  He said, without a smile, “Yes.”

When Monday came, I put her out back and went to work.  When I got home from work, I could hear her barking from the driveway.  My neighbor was outside and worked from home so I asked if she was doing that all day.  He said, without a smile, “Yes.”

Now I felt worse. I created a separation anxiety situation because I didn’t let her out of my sight for the first 2 days I had her, then to her… I suddenly left.

That was 10 years ago and the first time I had to work on correcting separation anxiety.  Luckily, we figured it out within a week and she was good to go.

Resource Guarding People:

In my opinion, another reason to give your new dog space, in the beginning, is to try to prevent resource guarding. Some dogs get really protective of their people.  I find if the dog has more “doggy alone time” they don’t tend to become as much of a resource guarder towards people.

Don’t worry.

Just because you’re giving your dog “doggy alone time” doesn’t mean you won’t build a bond with your dog. You will still build a bond, perhaps even stronger, and definitely more appropriate bond.

Within a couple of hours of getting my new foster dog, he is already settling, in his crate of all places, on his own.  And so starts the beginning of crate training!

Once your dog has settled down.

After I notice the new dog has settled down for a bit, maybe 10 – 20 mins. I’ll take the dog for a walk.  Don’t worry to much about jumping or pulling on the leash at this point. Each area will be addressed.  If the dog is pulling excessively, keep the walk on the shorter side.

When you are back from the walk, grab a toy and try to play with the dog. Play for as long as you or the dog wants. Once you’re done playing, repeat the steps above to have the dog settle.

Try to get a long settle in. Maybe an hour or so. Enough for the dog to take a nap. Again, you’ll likely have to be settled to so you don’t disturb the dog.

When you’re ready, before you get up and disturb the dog, call the dog to you.  This can start your next interaction with him/her.  You can play, walk, pet… interact in any way you want.

Continue to alternate through periods of interacting with your dog and having your dog settle.  Once the dog seems comfortable in the home and can relax, we’ll start training in other areas.

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