In our ongoing Wundertraining series, dog trainer Luke Balsam walks new rescue dog owners through the first steps to ensure your new life together starts off well. Building on his previous post, how to prepare your home for your new dog, Luke shares his plan for the first 24 hours
First things first: make sure you have a few days with nothing planned so you can dedicate your time to your new dog and getting to know each other. As you walk in, go straight through to the area where they can toilet (garden, front of home, etc) and spend some time there with them, so they can relieve themselves. Then go into their area you have created and let them explore. This may be the moment where you suddenly realise your dog proofing wasn’t quite compete, so do keep an eye out for anything you need to remove or secure. This is also the time to introduce them to the crate by throwing some tasty things in there to encourage them to explore it.
A lot of rescues may have incomplete toilet training, and even if they did have toilet training, they may not know where to go in your home. Therefore, follow this simple routine to ensure accidents are never likely to happen.
Your dog has just woken up, eaten, drunk, been playing or an hour has gone by.
Put them on the lead and go to the area you would like them to toilet in.
Stand still and be boring for 5-10 minutes, so your dog has limited options.
When they decide to go, say a word for them to associate this with such as “toilet”.
When they have finished tell them “good” or “well done” and reward them with a tasty treat. This will increase the chances they will choose this over other places.
If they didn’t go this time, no worries, but rinse and repeat to capture most of the times they do need to go, and soon enough the toilet training will be well on its way.
Keep it quiet
It can be so tempting to invite everyone round as your new dog comes home, but we want the first day to be really quiet and relaxing. Try to ensure there will be nothing going on and only the household coming home that day. As for anyone coming home that has yet to meet the new dog, introductions need to be done calmly and you should allow the dog to come up to them rather than let the person approach the dog. Get them sitting on the floor and let the dog come over and sniff and investigate. Only when the dog relaxes near you should you start stroking. Remember: this is all new to the dog and they may have worries or be anxious about their new home; it’s been a big day for them.
Take on board all the info the rescue centre gave you about the dog in terms of what they like, don’t like, but also keep a close eye on them and see if you can add to that list. If you notice something worries them (hoover, etc), avoid using it for a while. Have low expectations of what you are going to do with your dog right away. Letting them ease into everything is a great way to ensure they build their confidence and enjoy their new home.
A dog that has an enriching day is one that will sleep easier, and generally be calmer. Therefore, walk around their space exploring things like toys, sleeping space and the garden; keep it all slow and steady and just spendtime together. Enjoy playing games, but ensure you spend time afterwards calming your dog down, if they got excited. When feeding, use interactive food toys or games so the experience lasts longer, gets them using their brains and uses up energy. While they have a food toy, you can try and step outside of their space for a few seconds and see what their reaction is. If they aren’t that bothered, try being away (but within sight) for a bit longer and then keep increasing this time during the day. If they stop eating immediately and get worried, you will need to work on them being ok with you out of the room.
It is important to start thinking about your daily routine and what the day is going to be like for your dog. Keeping the water bowl in the same space, getting them used to which doors they can go through and which ones they can’t. There will be times when they are on their own, when other people come round, when they need to be fed. The more into a routine you get them, the less likely you are to have any issues. If you have any other pets in the home, don’t rush to introduce them all, take it slow and have your dog on a lead and keep a distance so they can just observe. Reward them for just being relaxed around the other pets, but don’t expect them all to be best friends; we just want them to be relaxed at least.
Settling down for the night
Think about what sort of time you will want to put your dog to bed, start dimming the lights and keeping noise to a minimum about 30 minutes before then. Take your dog out for a chance to toilet and then start encouraging them to relax in their crate/bed and long, soft stroking to start sending them off to sleep. Once they are pretty much asleep, slowly and quietly remove yourself and hopefully they will have a pleasant night’s sleep. However, it is not uncommon for a dog to be unsettled, if they are crying and whimpering fairly soon after you leave them they may be struggling to adjust to the new environment. Try putting the crate in your bedroom, get them settled, shut the door and the may find it easier there. Leaving a dog crying in their crate throughout the night will not help them settle and they will find the crate distressing. Over the next few days, as they become more settled, you can slowly move the crate back to their space.
When you wake up and go and see your dog, try to keep things calm and don’t encourage really excited behaviour like jumping up – this is also more likely to followed by a toilet accident. Go to the crate or dog gate and wait for calm behaviour before opening. Then go outside with them and allow them to toilet in right area (don’t forget the points above on how to do this as part of their training). Then you could have a bit of a play and think about feeding. Remember to put this in their crate/bed so that space remains amazing to the dog and they have no fears.
Well done, you have survived the first 24 hours. In my next post, let’s look at the first few days and ensuring your relationship and their experience goes from strength to strength.