Bringing a New Dog Home!
Planning On Bringing a New Dog Home?
Or perhaps you've already brought a new dog home and are having problems?
There are several things to consider when bringing a new dog home and I'm here to tell you about a way you can make adjusting easier.
Stacie Sparks is the person I originally heard about the "Two Week Shutdown" from and she deserves much of the credit for our promoting this method. It WORKS and it's something everyone needs to keep in mind, especially those with multi-dog homes.
What IS the Two Week Shutdown?
Here's a break down of the basics
A very brief overview of the Two Week Shutdown is this:
Your new dog needs time to adjust and there are many scenarios that people put their new dog through that only encourage negative behaviors to surface. Dogs may be resilient creatures, but they do also need to know that we are in control of situations, that we will protect and provide for them, and give them clear expectations and routines to follow.
Two weeks is just a guideline. Most dogs advance faster but depending on the individual dog and how closely you follow the guidelines, it may take longer.
What Does The Two Week Shutdown Mean To Me?
When you bring home a new dog, young or old, we KNOW you are so excited and you want to share your new addition with everyone you can!
Did you know that by taking your dog to pet stores, friends and families homes, dog parks, pet events, or other really busy, social settings, you may inadvertently be telling your dog to act out?
Think about this: the majority of us when put into new situations do not put all of ourselves out there. We put forth what we want people to see or think they want to see. Also, we are much more likely to withdraw from situations that make us uncomfortable. What would you do if you were on a date with someone new and they took you to meet their family who constantly hugged you, kissed you, or otherwise invaded your space? What would you do if they then took you to meet all their friends and they did the same? Would you consider your date sane? Would you consider your date someone you could trust? Sure, you liked them initially to go out with them on a first date, but wouldn't their actions throughout that first date dictate whether you would see them again? Would you see them again if they put you in so many situations that made you uncomfortable? Consider this as well; say you had to go live with a new family who spoke a language you didn't understand. You'll be reserved, perhaps a bit detached. What if they doted on you, as a new family member, speaking to you in a language you don't understand, expecting you to interact with all their family members and friends? Would you feel comfortable? Would you want to retreat to a safe place? Would you know where a safe place was? Would they give you one?
Things many people forget is that we expect our new dogs to be so accepting of everything and we put them in these very similar situations and then become alarmed when they "act out." Your new dog is acting out or misbehaving because they don't view you as the decision maker. Remember, to them, you are putting them in situations that make them feel uncomfortable.
Keep reading to find out how to help your dog adjust and begin to view you as the decision maker of the home and to help them put their trust in YOU, where it belongs!
Trust is EVERYTHING to building a good and solid relationship with your dog!
So, How Do I Get Started?
Even if you've had your dog a few days and are beginning to notice some issues behaviorally, you can still start fresh and get them started on the shutdown.
Some things you want to keep in mind with your new dog when you first get them:
You can find these if different lengths but 20 ft is pretty standard and really helps you to let the dog run about while still maintaining control.
- A tired dog is a happy dog! Exercising your dog(s) regularly and thoroughly will help ensure they relax into their new household a little easier. Without that pent up energy, they've GOT to relax! However!
- Do not take them on walks yet. Walks provide an overabundance of stimulation and there are many variables you may encounter that you need that trust built FIRST before subjecting them to those new situations. Instead, exercise your dog in the yard on a long lead (20ft plus) and spend some time getting to know one another :)
- Do not take them to pet stores, dog parks, other people's homes, etc. Again, these situations provide an overabundance of stimulation that your dog needs to have the trust built in you for YOU to handle the situation so they don't have to.
- Keep them leashed to you at ALL times when they are not crated. Yes, even in the house and yes, even if you have a fully fenced yard. Why? It builds the precedence with them that YOU are the bringer of everything in life. Additionally, keeping them leashed to you keeps them from getting in trouble. If they aren't housetrained, they can't very well go run out of your line of sight and have an "accident" if you have them leashed to you huh? Or, if someone new comes in the home, keeping them leashed to you can help prevent them reinforcing undesirable behaviors like jumping on people. When the dog is leashed to you, YOU are in control. The dog WILL begin to understand this.
- Do not allow your new dog and your existing pets into a 24/7 free for all. Remember, your existing pets don't know this new "intruder" and the new dog doesn't know the routine of the home and what's permissible. Setting a routine with the new dog first, without the full distraction of other pets will make life 1000 times easier when you begin integrating them.
- Do not allow your new dog furniture privileges. They haven't earned them yet. Create a spot for them to be when they are out lounging around in each room. Furniture privileges can be given later on down the road if you so please :)
This will be your dog's safe zone; the place your dog can retreat to when they need quiet time.
When bringing your new dog home, give them a brief tour of their primary living area or the places they will be most often. Now, it's crate time! It's time to give the dog some time to itself to take in everything that's happened thus far.
The crate will be used as a tool in the shutdown, not as a prison. Think of it more like their safe place. Sure, some may cry initially but with positive reinforcement (yummy crate-only treats, no coddling, etc.) they'll learn to accept their time alone and realize, it's not so bad! Something to remember is to NOT let the dog out of the crate while they are crying. Do NOT give in as this will only serve to reinforce their crying and barking to be let out of the crate. Being inconsistent will likely train your dog to be a screamer in the crate and that's not what you want at all!
Special considerations should be given to dogs with Separation Anxiety. Read more about it here!
Initially, keep out of crate interactions short, just like time in the crate should be short. 20-30 minutes at a time initially will help keep interactions with you positive and help reinforce positive crate training. You will increase the time as needed as the days move forward. Little by little. You are using the crate as a way to give them a time out to collect their thoughts and to process the new information they received in their interactions with you. If this is a new and only dog, you'll likely find that progress will move swiftly! No worries! Patience is a virtue and you will be handsomely rewarded!
For more information on integrating your new dog with existing pets, keep reading!
Patience and consistency with your new dog will reap the greatest rewards!
Have Other Pets?
Take things SLOW and easy!
When bringing home a new dog to a home with existing pets, its important to realize that everyone in the household will need time to adjust to the new living arrangements and routine. It's important to take things very slow initially and keep things positive and upbeat.
First, let me go ahead and say that the initial meeting of the new dog with resident dog(s) needs to happen OFF your property in a quiet, neutral setting. We don't need your resident dogs to feel the need to "protect what is theirs" without having the opportunity to get to know one another first.
Now, after the initial meeting if things go well and you choose to bring the new dog home (or this can be tweaked if you've already introduced some other way that wasn't recommended here), it's time to crate and rotate initially. I'd say for at least the first 48 hours, keep the new dog and your existing pets separated. Sure, let them sniff around. Shoot, crate them side by side (never nose to nose!) to help them get used to the other being around. But, keep at least the first 2 days for yourselves and don't expect the new dog and existing dogs to interact and everything be hunky dory.
After the initial time has passed, do another outdoors meeting on leash first, then bring them indoors and let them further interact. KEEP LEASHES ON. This is just in case something unexpected DOES happen. You've got leashes on to help keep things under control. It can also help when you interject a too hyper play session to encourage the dogs to settle and relax. Keep new interactions VERY short initially. I'm talking 10-15 minutes. End things on a positive note and give the dogs time to process everything that happened. Doing things this way does a couple of things. It gives the dogs the opportunity to enjoy one another's company without becoming overstimulated and it also gives them the desire to want MORE interaction. Sure, you might have to deal with a bit more whining from them because they want to play, but remember, YOU call the shots. Not them. Being very deliberate in the amount of time they have to play together and WHEN they get to play together sets that precedence of YOU being the person they look to for direction. And with multiple dogs, that's what you WANT!
Over the course of a few days, slowly increase the time they are out together. Remember to end things on a positive note and be on top of their play 100% of the time. Do not allow over excited play because it can quickly amplify. If one of the dogs is walking away from play, step in and separate. Pay attention and supervise and you can help keep a peaceful multi-dog home :)
Make sure to monitor toys. Actually, at the very beginning of interactions, I recommend not having any toys at all for them to play with. Let the dogs learn one another first before introducing things which may be of high value to one or all. Give them the chance to realize one another's signals for play and for agitation. It is also YOUR responsibility to learn these things as well. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Kinda confused about it all still? Read the next section about my personal experience with the Two Week Shutdown and how it helped me :)
Hand's On Experience!
Deja was my first dog. I adopted her in October of 2005. We stayed a single dog home until March of 2007 when I decided I was ready for another one.
We drove out 3 hours to the rescue who had the dog we wanted and brought Deja along for the ride. She was so smitten with him at the meeting and he was just a little in his own world as he'd gotten into a tiff the day before with another dog. Because of the tiff, I left him at the rescue so as not to stress him out. A few days later, they brought him down to me and that was that :)
I initially let Cyrus and Deja pretty much have a free for all. I also let Cyrus have the run of the house too and lost some blinds to the experiment. I began crating him after that. :)
Anywho, I'd say within about 3 days, our first issue arose. Cyrus snapped at Deja over a toy. Poor Deja was SO offended and concerned that for the rest of the night she came and sat down by me. I'd picked up all the toys and began searching the internet for some immediate ideas I could put into play with the situation that was going on.
Something I feel I should let you guys know, I'm a savvy 'net searcher and a frequent forum user. I'd joined Pit Bull Forum a few months prior and went there to explain my issues. This is where Stacie came into play and laid it down for me HARD. She point blank told me that I was moving entirely too fast and that I needed to separate the dogs and move VERY slowly.
Honestly, at the time, none of that made sense to me. Cyrus was such a laid back and chilled out kinda guy that I didn't see why I needed to make those changes. I asked a few more questions and explained the dogs a little more and again was told that none of that mattered, I was moving too fast and that's what the problem was.
I was skeptical at first but you know what? I had NOTHING to lose by trying it out. Well, except a dog I had just adopted and had started bonding with deeply.
The dogs immediately went on a crate and rotate schedule. What this means is that they did NOT interact with one another at all and only saw each other in passing as they were being crated and taken out individually. One crate was set up on one side of my bed and the other crate set up on the other side of the bed. I kept them separated like this for about one week. I kept each dog out for an hour at a time when I was home. I also had to work with Cyrus on his "crate issues" because he would SCREAM in his crate. Initially, I'd have to wait an hour after getting home to even remotely venture upstairs to get him to start reinforcing the "I'll let you out when you're quiet" routine. I thank doG Deja was so wonderful during this because she got the "short end of the stick" in waiting while he was worked with.
When we were ready to reintroduce the dogs, we took them outside for a sniff first and then brought them back in to play. We kept both dogs leashed at first and then eventually took them off when letting them play. They got about 10-15 minutes of time together then I stepped in, leashed one and took that one up stairs to be crated for quiet time and to give the other dog some one on one attention.
Over the next couple of weeks, their time out together supervised was extended. It was a slow process that WORKED. It may have taken time, however, it set the precedence of who was who in the home and what was expected of them. It was at least a month before I reintroduced toys and at the first sign of any attitude, I stepped in and took them all away.
Now, years later, they are out together when I'm home. They can have toys out and play quite well with them. The difference from then to now is REMARKABLE and so worth mentioning. Cyrus took a couple of months of conditioning with the crate but he no longer throws fits and waits quietly for the most part.
Slowing things down and setting a solid routine helped tremendously. It helped him learn who makes the decisions and it helped build the relationship between him and Deja. It helped KEEP him in his new home as it likely would have gotten out of control if I hadn't been proactive and stepped in.
It may sound like tough work, but it's worth it!
PIctures Worth Endless Words! - Before and afters from the Two Week Shutdown!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Can You See It?
The before photos show blank stares, typically with mouths closed. But after affording them with the time to learn and trust, boy does that smile come right on out!
So, What Are You Waiting For?
What else do you have to lose by following these guidelines? What WILL you lose if you don't? A new family member?
It's worth the work you put in. And it gets easier in the end. Try it. Then come back here and tell us about it :)
Feedback is important here and I'd love to make sure you understand the concept of the Two Week Shutdown.
Voice your opinions here!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.