Freedom & Your New Dog
Everybody wants a well trained dog that they can trust and include in their activities. They want the dog that can be well behaved around family and friends, that they don’t have to worry about chewing things, that can run around off leash, that can come to the cottage or visit people’s houses and be the best dog! Unfortunately, it takes some work to get that good dog!
When you bring a new dog home, they don’t understand what the rules are, what they are allowed to do, what’s expected of them, so it’s up to us to teach our pup what they’re allowed to do and what they aren’t. Part of bringing home a new dog is giving them structure and boundaries, and watching them to be able to communicate to them if they’re doing something inappropriate so they can learn.
It’s about not giving them the opportunity to be poorly behaved.
Set your dog up for success now by taking away freedoms, and giving them slowly in a controlled manner. Here are some great tools:
Crate – crate your dog when you aren’t watching them. For the first 2 weeks of bringing home a new dog, crate them for the majority of the time when you’re not going for a walk or doing training. Allow them to get used to you, your routine, maybe other animals, while not having to chose to interact with everything. Always crate overnight and when you’re at work so that your new dog doesn’t have the opportunity to get into mischief and possibly hurt themselves while you aren’t there. Feed them in their crate and teach them to go in on command so it’s a safe space with positive associations, give them treats in there. Most importantly, don’t tease a crated dog. Leave them alone with their food or toys – don’t talk to them or wave hands in front of their crate. This is their space to relax.
Leash – keep a new dog on leash in the house so that you can easily give them a correction or redirect them if they start to do something inappropriate like jumping up on furniture, the counter, chew on something inappropriate, jump up on someone, or have an accident. If you have multiple dogs, keeping the new dog on leash helps set up rules for conduct in the house. I don’t let my dogs play indoors, so I don’t allow foster dogs to interact with my own dogs for a couple weeks while they’re getting used to the house. Once you’ve built up trust with a new dog and can predict their behaviour, let the leash drag behind them in the house. Long Line – Don’t trust a new dog off-leash!! Start building up freedoms using a long leash. If you don’t have a fenced yard or if you’re visiting a cottage, friends, or going for a hike down a trail and want to give your pup more freedom, use a long leash. A long line is better than a retractable leash- which encourages a constant pull for your dog. It never hurts to have that extra bit of insurance to keep your dog safe, especially in unfamiliar environments.
Other freedoms that should be introduced slowly:
-Keep pets off furniture at first – you don’t want an entitled dog doing the living room Olympics on a muddy spring day. Training dogs to not go on furniture for their first 6 months teaches them to ask/only be allowed up when invited later on.
-Limit toy access at first (ESPECIALLY if you have other pets). Be the controller of resources- be the one to reward your dogs with toys, and limit dogs playing with toys with dogs they don’t know very well. Toys can be a resource that starts fights. My rule for new dogs in my house is 3 weeks without toys so they feel more comfortable around other dogs first, and don’t let them share toys till you’re confident they are comfortable doing so. Giving a toy in their crate, or while they are on leash beside you is a good way to start. Keep high value toys like bones separate.
-Do not free feed- controlling your dogs access to food builds up a food drive, and is a perfect training opportunity! Using feeding times as training opportunities builds up their excitement for training, and training twice per day is a good way to prioritize training into your schedule.
Remember – dogs may need to adjust to new environments, people or pets – don’t be afraid to take away freedoms with these adjustments and go back to the basics.
We love our dogs and we want to give them everything to make them happy, because it makes us happy! But we have to remember to take it slow and set your dog up for success.