Yard-When your rescue arrives at your home, you will want to let it inspect the yard. Walk the dog around the yard (leashed). Let him take in the smells and go to the bathroom. A lot of dogs will mark (pee on) anything they can. This is normal. Especially if you have resident pets or other fosters.
Dogs-If you do have other dogs, this is when I like to do first introductions as long as there is not a reproduction risk. This is best done in a neutral area like a front yard. First, keep the dogs about 10 to 15 feet apart, and walk across the space parallel to one another. Again, pay attention to their body language. If both dogs are showing relaxed social behaviors, gradually reduce the distance between them until they’re walking beside one another. Both dogs should have loose postures throughout the process, and if things are going well you might see a few play bows—you know, the “bum in the air, elbows on the ground” stance that’s an invitation to play. Observe both dogs for improper reactions and body cues. Focused, hard stares; slow, tense movements; or freezing in place are warning signs that things might be moving too quickly. If you’re concerned about the body language you’re seeing during the introductory stages, consider increasing the distance between the dogs and slowing down the greeting process. Remember: It’s better to move too slowly than too fast. Be ready to separate them. You do not want to let them have the freedom to interact as they please for several days.
Leave a 6’ leash on the NNR Rescue dog at all times until you know how your NNR Rescue dog will react in different situations. It may be crucial to be able to pull him out of harm’s way, pull him out of a dog fight, or stop him from darting out the front door. NEVER grab and pull on an unfamiliar dogs collar without a leash, it is a sure way to get bitten. Especially if two dogs are fighting. Please be sensitive to the fact that, to a dog, being on a leash is a disadvantage for them and can make them vulnerable towards other dogs, especially ones that are not leashed.
Home- After dog’s first introductions are over, it’s time for him to be introduced to his new home. Walk the dog around the house once or twice while the other dogs are still outside. Show the dog his bed (freshly cleaned with no other dog odors) and room or crate the dog will sleep in. This will be the dogs “Safe Space”. It is crucial a new rescue dog has a place that is secure and it can call its own. It is counting on you to keep it this way for a while.
KEEP IT LOW KEY
It is crucial in the first week that your dog’s environment be kept low key and relaxed. Your dog’s world has been turned upside down and it was thrown into this new, unknown environment. Give him a chance to get used to it before adding stimulation. Solo walks, minimum play, only people living in home should interact, no car rides, no interactions with other dogs are “musts”. Interaction with household dogs should be kept to a minimum. Chew toys, sticks, and bones are great for relieving anxiety and keeping them occupied during this time.
Bonding with any dog is crucial for its well-being. Bonding with a human is one of the most simple, most natural things a dog will do, even if it was neglected and has never bonded with anyone before. A bond is created simply by interacting with the dog. The more interaction there is, the stronger the bond will be. Start by sitting quietly and gently stroking and petting the dog. Keep from patting or rough housing with the dog. Let him come to you. Don’t pull the dog or force it at first. You need to build trust. Look relaxingly into the dog’s eyes while speaking gently. Eye contact is SO important to dogs. Give him a treat or two while doing all this. Treats give pleasure, reward, and let them know your hand will provide for them. Other ways to bond with them are, sitting with them, speaking to them, training, and playing with them. Once that bond (trust) is created, the training and everything else gets easier.
This is not a puppy you know the entire background of. Many rescue dogs have issues surrounding food from various experiences like starvation or having to hunt for food. They can easily view other dogs or even you as someone who may take their last meal from them. If this is the case, time, training and trust building are the path to overcoming it. Since you don’t have those yet you must take it slow for now. This is the same for treats and bones. Give your dog a safe space to enjoy their meal. If there is food aggression or resource guarding, begin working with a trainer immediately. Don’t test these boundaries in the beginning. Do not drop food or treats on the floor that your dogs might compete over. Remove all food dishes before letting the dogs interact again after meals.
It is very common for dogs to have loose stool during early transition. They often are switching food brands in their new home and diarrhea is a common stress response as well. Here is the recipe for nervous tummy fed once in the morning and once at night as meal replacement:
- Boiled chicken approx 1/2-2/3cup
- Boiled white rice approx 1cup
- 1/4 can 100% pure pumpkin purée
- 1/4 cup plain dry oats
Don’t leave kids alone with your new dog. For the first few weeks, your dog is going to be stressed just from the fact he has moved to a new place he is not familiar with… add a child that just wants to hug and kiss the dog, and it’s a recipe for disaster (i.e. dog bite). Even the nicest dog can bite out of fear and protection. Teach your children to properly approach and greet strange dogs and also teach them proper dog etiquette. It could save a dog’s life. The general guidelines for Child-Dog interaction is no hugging, no kissing, no chasing, and no asking to be chased. Children shouldn't climb on, lay on, lay their head on, or step over a dog. No children under 4 should physically interact with an NNR foster dog while they are a foster. Children under 10 should only interact with the dog while supervised. For adoption, it is recommended to wait 3 weeks to integrate your new dog and your children.
SETTING BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS
Setting boundaries and expectations is very important for you, and your dog’s happiness. A lot of these dogs have never had any boundaries and they will quickly test to see what they can get away with. It is your job to set expectations. You are the human, you are the Pack Leader (*see definition below). They are the dog. You need to earn your dog’s trust, loyalty, love, and respect before they will look to you as their leader and you do this by giving them clear boundaries, rules, limitations and conditioning good behavior. First of all, always remain calm and be assertive. You also must be consistent. Don’t sometimes let them jump up to greet you and sometimes make them stay down. It’s confusing for them and these habits will be hard to break. (Jumping up on people is never acceptable and a habit that must be broken immediately.) Secondly, don’t treat them like humans. No counter tops thieving, jumping on furniture, etc. Third, make them work for treats, toys, affection. Simply making them sit before meals and treats is setting a boundary and an expectation. Address any and all shortcomings, immediately. If you don’t have the knowledge or ability to do this, we can help with trainers and mentors. Please speak to your coordinator before bad habits continue or start and then need to be broken.
Creating a routine will also help your dog feel more comfortable. Schedule his feeding, walks, sleep and play time. The sooner you establish a routine, the better you both will feel. A feeding schedule will help if your dog is not house trained yet. Routines build confidence by the dog knowing what to expect from you.
There are many schools of thought on ways to obedience train. The simplest is positive reward training. The dog does something right, the dog gets a treat and praised. Some tips are, keep commands to simple, single words, be repetitive, train often in short sessions, associate commands with hand gestures, celebrate with tons of praise, and always keep training fun!
HOUSE TRAINING (Potty Training)
Most rescue dogs will have at least one accident in the house. Some lived outside their whole lives and were never taught, others were never taught properly, and others were taught but don’t know your home and what is expected. Either way, I feel house training a rescue is much easier to do than a puppy. First, assess your dog’s ability to hold it and how often/when he goes. This will help when creating a routine for walks, meals, and yard time. Control the dog’s diet and intake. Feed meals at the same time and limit treats. Adjust his diet if the dogs stool is loose. Praise him when he goes where he is supposed to. NEVER discipline a dog for going in the house. This will actually be counterproductive and most likely he will not understand why he’s being disciplined. If caught in the act, simply and firmly say NO and take the dog outside immediately.
OBSERVE AND ADJUST
Continually watch your dog for how he reacts in different situations, with different people, and to different stimuli. Make adjustments to how you approach these situations to ease any stresses the dog may have. Does the dog start to shake when you attempt to brush him? Does he get too excited around children? Does he tuck his tail between his legs and lower his head when certain people approach? Try to figure out what the dog’s stresses are, what his triggers are. Once recognized, then we can address them so we can work to overcome these stresses and inadequacies. We will need to figure out where his line is, press it slowly while avoiding certain situations. Ease him slowly into these situations to desensitize him and build his confidence. Not recognizing these issues, not addressing them, and not being sensitive to his issues will never help him overcome his insecurities. A scared dog or one that feels cornered can react negatively and even bite.
YOUR RESIDENT DOGS
Please don’t forget about your other dogs during all this. They deserve the same love they’ve always received. Especially now that there is a new dog in the house.
*PACK LEADER (definition) aka Alpha
For thousands of millennia, dogs have been pack animals. The Pack Leader was the top dog. This dog lead the pack to food and protected the members of the pack. This dog helped to fulfill all the requirements the pack needed to survive and thrive. Since we have domesticated dogs, we have become their pack. Dogs are content to spend their lives following a pack leader. It is ingrained in their nature. This is why dogs and humans make the perfect partnership. You must assert yourself as the Pack Leader. As the pack leader you want to be calm, assertive, set rules, and encourage good behavior. You are NOT trying to dominate the dog. If you do not become the pack leader, the dog may instinctively want to fill that void. This could lead to unwanted behavior such as aggression or guarding. Your dog is counting on you, as Pack Leader, to provide, safety, security, boundaries and care.