The First Days with a New Dog
by David Schmucker

Now that you are the new owner of a dog – what’s next? Here are some tips that will help settle your dog and help her find her place in the family. 

Stay Calm

As exciting as it is to have your new dog at home, stay calm. Let the dog wander around the house and yard.  Just stay calm – by doing so you will minimize your contribution to the "emotional load" your dog is carrying. Take a week or two just to get to know your new dog's natural state. 

Long Walks

Three things are accomplished by going for long walks. First, the dog can demonstrate her elimination needs. Second, a walk creates a "pack" in the dog's mind even if it is just you and your dog. Third, the exercise will help reduce anxiety. After all, an exhausted dog can't be anxious at the same time, right? 

 The daily walk with your dog will establish and reinforce your dog's position in the household. Walking with your dog out in front of you – while letting her pull and zoom around – will tell your dog that she's in charge on the walk and, by extension, in the household. On the other hand, walking with your dog in a controlled manner with her obeying and following YOUR lead demonstrates that you are in charge.

In the canine world as well as the human world, someone always has to be in charge. Here is a link to a short video by Cesar Milan teaching the owner and the dog how to take a walk. 

Meal Time

Feed the dog twice per day and give her 15-20 minutes to empty the bowl. Then – and this is important – remove the bowl until the next feeding time. Leaving food in the bowl all day is not recommended. Why? 

1. Your dog will need to relieve herself at odd times of the day.

2. Because it creates fussy eating. The dog is never really hungry.

3. Contaminated food.

Your dog will not starve herself. So relax. No need to worry if the dog doesn't finish her food during the allotted time for several days. Either you are feeding too much, the taste isn't acceptable or there is still too much stress. A dog will refuse food if it is feeling stress.

Waste Management

With regular meal times your dog will need to eliminate 20-40 minutes afterwards. The rule of thumb for minimizing accidents is "the more walks the better."   In the first few weeks pay attention your dog's elimination habits. How soon after eating is the right time for a walk? Where is her favorite spot? (Dogs, both male and female, will return to a favorite place.) Start with hourly walks and lengthen the time between them as you establish a rhythm.  (This is why the ideal time to take your new dog home is Saturday morning!)

Lavishly reward successful behavior. When there is an accident don't scold. The negative attention (which is still attention) may inadvertently REINFORCE the behavior you don't want. 

Clean the spot with 50/50 white vinegar to water or with a commercial product such as Nature's Miracle. These two methods will completely eliminate the scent and reduce the chances that your dog will return to the spot and mark again. 

Minimize the waste problem when no one is home by using a crate.  Dogs are very reluctant to soil their immediate area.

In no time your dog will meld into the family routine and provide endless fun, love and companionship.

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