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Bringing your new dog home

Bringing home a shelter dog can take a little adjustment from both you and the dog, so here are some general tips on how to help settle your new friend into the household and build a fantastic and lasting bond.

Settling in

Unfortunately, with any shelter dog, we have limited information on the dog’s history and anything that it may have been exposed to in the past. Give your dog some time to settle into its new home and make sure that you provide it with a safe place to settle and relax. Sometimes dogs find it hard to settle once they arrive at their new home and, as a result, may be a little unwilling to eat. Hand-feeding a few pieces of kibble, and then offering the rest in a bowl, may help. Gently massaging your dog when it is lying still will also help it relax and settle into its new home.
Remember that your new dog may need some time to settle in. Give the dog some space and don’t force interaction. If your new dog is a little shy, giving it time to relax and approach you in its own time is much more successful than forcing it to interact. Likewise, if your dog is very exuberant, only offering attention when it is calm will help build a good foundation for the right type of behaviour.

Setting the rules

Have a family meeting and set some house rules for your new dog. Where is it allowed to be and where is it not? Who will feed it? Where will it sleep? All of these things are important in helping the dog settle in. Make sure that you stick to these rules. It is very important that we set the right foundation for how we want the dog to behave throughout its life. It’s not fair on the dog to change the rules once it has already ‘settled in’. Rewarding the dog when it abides by these rules will make it worthwhile for the dog to continue obeying them. What we are trying to teach the dog is that polite and patient behaviour results in plenty of attention and whatever else it wants. This will make the positive behaviour stronger. Temporary fencing, such as baby gates and playpens, can help prevent the dog from getting somewhere it shouldn’t.

Socialisation and training

Socialisation is not just important for puppies. Once your dog has had a few days to settle into life with you, it’s a good idea to take it out and about to socialise with its surroundings. Expose the dog to as many things as you can and try and keep the interaction as positive and enjoyable as possible. Take some treats with you and reward the dog for behaving appropriately in any situation, such as around other dogs, people, kids, crowds, or machinery, and the list goes on. This will help you develop a confident, well-adjusted dog.

Once again, remember to do this all at your dog’s pace. The key to socialisation is that the dog is comfortable and taking it all in its stride. Use some nice tasty rewards to show the dog just how good all of these things are!

Start training!

Never assume that a dog has pre-taught behaviours. Make sure you train the behaviours you want the dog to exhibit. It is also important that you do not allow the dog to practice unacceptable behaviours. Keep your new dog on a leash until you are absolutely sure that it will come back when you call.

When meeting other dogs, keep meetings short and initially mix with dogs you know. Expose your dog to lots of different dogs and breed types before letting it loose in a leash-free park. Remember to try to make all of these interactions a positive experience. You should only ever let your dog loose in a leash-free park if you have 100 per cent confidence in its behaviour and ability to obey your commands.

It may also be worthwhile to enrol in some training classes. The RSPCA adoption classes are specifically designed for newly-adopted dogs. Other classes teach basic obedience designed for both puppies and adult dogs. Please contact the RSPCA on 9224 2211 for more information.

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