If you just adopted a new dog or puppy, congrats! I wanted to write a blog post specific to bringing home a new dog that wasn't picked up right at 8-10 weeks from a breeder's home with a known history, because we chose a different route in integrating a puppy or dog into our home that is a little older and one that may have fears or unknown behavior problems.
Many wonderful rescue groups and shelters promote a fantastic protocol named the "Two Week Shut-Down." In this protocol, they advise new adoptive owners to take a two week break with getting to know their new family member. This means literally that the new dog should NOT leave your property for two weeks and you should not have new guests over to greet the dog. Don't stop reading! This is a very crucial time for your new pet to adapt to you, your family, your home and learn the ropes. There is more than enough going on without taking the dog out to stimulating environments or having new people come into the mix.
What is the plan?
First 24 hours:
Plan your car ride to be as stress-free as possible (someone in the back or the dog in a crate). Bring your new pal home and already have all the gear you need in place (high quality food, bowl, puzzle toy, a few plus toys, ball, bully stick, collar with ID tag, leash, crate, gates, dog bed if old enough, training treats, poop scooper....everyone's ideal list varies and it varies by age and size of dog as well) already at home. If you have not purchased items, send a family member to do so. Do NOT take your new dog into the pet store for the supply run. It is not worth the stress while this new pal doesn't know who you are yet.
Bring your dog into your home on leash and take his lead and follow him around as he explores. Don't take the leash off (some dogs may not come to you yet or they may get into things quickly) for the first hour or so. If you have children, tell them to give Fido a tour but to stay calm and keep hands to themselves for now. Have them talk to the new dog and show them around. They can also offer treats to the new dog to build a positive association. Start in your yard in case Fido has to potty, then move the tour to the interior of the home. See all the rooms, even if some will be off limits later.
Post tour, I typically recommend going outside (to avoid accidents) and taking the leash off and seeing if Rover would like to play ball or do an activity with you. If he doesn't quite yet, that's okay! Pull up a chair and watch him sniff around.
Next, have someone go inside and set-up Rover's "safe zone" whether it be a crate, pen or gated area (ALL dogs, no mater the age should start with a safe zone. It is just like having their own room and can prevent a lot of issues off the bat by having one). Put in the area a mat to lay on and one plush or chew toy and when Rover has been home for about 1.5-2 hours, leash him up and walk him to his new "room." Give him the bully stick or trachea or raw bone and let him settle in his new spot. I recommend if Rover is doing well, going about your business of tidying up your home, checking the mail, watching a show or browsing the internet. Likewise, let children know that your new pet is having some quiet time. This one step alone can prevent separation anxiety from developing in dogs (that don't already have it).
Leave Spot alone for about 2 hours, then take him out to the potty spot (notice, we have made no room for potty errors as of yet!) and wait for him to go without repeating "Go potty" over and over. Say it when he goes and give him a treat right there for a job well done. At this point, if he wants to hang out in the yard, do so. If he wants back in, go back in but put him on leash again.
Now you can get some treats out and see does he know any cues? Test Sit, Down, Shake as those are the most commonly known cues taught. If he doesn't know any, teach him! Lure him with a treat into a sit (watching some YouTube videos prior is very helpful!) and reward. Do multiple reps then switch it up with training a down or stand or watch or touch. Cut training off after about 5-10 mins since that is more than enough.
Set-up a mental toy with Spot's dinner and see if he is interested. If not, use the bowl and feed in the safe zone.
Then just hang out! Make sure Spot is with you on leash or gated into a room to avoid accidents and destruction. Supervise all child interactions and teach children to not approach an eating dog or sleeping dog at any time.
Use the safe zone for bed time and if needed, sleep next to Spot for the first night or put the zone next to your bed for comfort.
Over the next two weeks:
Each day will be an opportunity to strengthen the routine. Finding out: When does Daisy like to eat? Does she like puzzle toys or are they too hard at this time? Does she have separation anxiety I need a trainer to help with? Does she like to fetch or play games? Does she know any cues? Is she potty trained? Does she have issues with my other animals (keep separate as needed)? Does she have house manners? Is she fearful of anything? Does she have any aggressive tendencies.
I like to keep adding more training cues and start introducing novel items, surfaces, sounds. I will intentionally get out a box, some foil and maybe a placemat and see if the dog can walk over it (baited with treats of course). We play with can the dog get into a box? Jump over a broom? Go around a chair in her way? Let me brush her? Put a harness on? I drop metal spoons and make noises and give treats so the dog isn't afraid. I get back to a normal work schedule pretty quickly to avoid creating any false expectations on the dog's part that I will be with her 24/7. I start leash work in the backyard and driveway and we go for car rides.
Once that two week period is over, this new dog has done a ton of great bonding with you and has built trust that will help with getting out in the world! Then starts going out to mellow places, inviting people over, starting group class etc.