So, you finally took the plunge and decided to bring home a new dog. You’ve researched what type of dog will best suit your daily routine and family and are about to have a companion that will be there with you through thick and thin. The decision to take care of an animal is a big commitment and the first few days are extremely important in laying the ground work for a successful relationship with the dog and your family.
The first step in bringing home a new dog is prepping your home. Before the dog ever comes to your place you want to do a little “puppy proofing.”
I recommend getting latches for cabinets at ground level that have any type of cleaners or chemicals in them. Also, make sure lamps that may be antique or fragile are out of the reach of exuberant tails and curious noses. Pick up any random items you may have on the floor and break out that old laundry basket. (Gross but true- dogs love to eat underwear and socks.)
THE FIVE MAJOR NECESSITIES
You also want to head out to the store and pick up the five major necessities.
1. A crate is considered a necessity. This is not a place for punishment. It is simply a safe place for your dog to go when you cannot physically watch him.
2. Food and water bowls. Make sure they are either stainless steel or ceramic – plastic bowls are breeding grounds for bacteria.
3. Leash: Get a 4- to 6-foot cotton webbing or leather leash. Retractable leashes are technically illegal in D.C. and truly unsafe. They are not a reliable way to keep your dog under control and often will snap or fly out of your hand when you are least expecting it
4. Martingale collar – this collar is designed to tighten as a dog pulls. It is the safest way to ensure your dog will never be able to back out of the collar with resistance. It is not to be confused with a choke chain that should never be left on a dog! You should also attach ID dog tags to this collar.
5. Healthy food. The days of buying Science Diet or Beneful are over. Check the ingredient lists and be an educated consumer. Feeding your dog a healthy diet is the best thing you can do for your dog and your wallet in the long run.
Now the day has come to pick up your dog from the shelter. (You did rescue your dog, right?) Okay, okay. Even if you didn’t what’s next?
TAKE A LONG WEEKEND
The first few days are important. Rather than taking a week off to hang out with your new pal or jumping right into work, I recommend taking a long weekend to acclimate your new family member to the house routines.
When you first bring your dog home, keep him on a leash and walk him through your entire house, room by room, allowing him to smell everything at his own pace. Once he has smelled everything, bring your dog into the room where his crate is set up and just sit in the room with him.
Be present with your dog. If he is jumping all over you, and is too excited for the “calm” approach then remain standing and praise him when he’s calm and turn your back on him when he jumps.
It is important to establish a leadership role early on. Dogs need a leader, not a best friend. You will be best buds later once you’ve established yourself to him as the leader of the pack.
Once the dog feels comfortable with you, the other members of the family and the new surroundings, you can begin establishing your routine. Dogs are creatures of habit and the faster they get on board with your routine, the better off you will all be.
You may hang out all day with him on Saturday and Sunday, but by Monday you should leave the house for a few hours so he won’t be surprised when you go back to work for eight hours and it disrupts what he thought was his routine. If you can have someone come home midday for the remainder of the week, it will get him used to the idea that someone will let him out mid-day — you can hire someone else to do this after the first week.
An important note about puppies: until your puppy has had all of his vaccinations, he should not be taken on walks in the grass or be socializing with any other dogs. His immune system is not strong enough to fight off the diseases that are airborne or stay in the ground for years at a time (Parvo virus can live in the ground for 7 to 10 years and is one of the most deadly diseases for puppies.)
The next steps involve getting a trainer and enjoying the new member of the family. Congratulations! You are now part of the proud dog owner club!