When I first adopted a dog I was kind of thrown for a loop – this wasn’t the type of dog that my family had for years when I was a child. This dog was scared, untrained, and unruly. I didn’t really know to expect that, and I think it was stressful for the both of us. I encourage people to remember that their dog is going to be quite scared and disoriented at first. However, there are some tips that you can follow, including some from this helpful article from Whole Dog Journal:
Timing is everything
If at all possible, allow extra time in your schedule to help your dog adjust. At minimum, bring your dog home before a weekend so you can spend extra time helping him settle in. Ideally take a few extra days or a week or two off from work.
But that doesn’t mean spend every minute with your dog (even though you’ll want to!). In fact, it is best to get your dog used to short absences within a few hours of bringing him home. Soon after you bring your dog home, take him for a short walk or bathroom break. Then introduce him to his confinement area. You can give him a great chew bone or a stuffed Kong and leave him in his crate or exercise pen for a few minutes.
Throughout the first few days, leave your dog alone in his confinement area for several minutes at a time. Vary the time you leave him from 30 seconds to 20 minutes. Start by leaving him in the confinement area for a few minutes while you are home, and gradually build up to leaving him for 10 to 20 minutes or so while you leave the house. By keeping your absences short, matter of fact, and pleasant, your dog will learn that being alone in the new home is safe.
You can also make your departure a good thing for your dog by giving him a food-filled Kong each time you leave him.
Train for confidence
Basic training–sit, down, stay, come, and walking on a leash–can begin the day you bring your dog home. Use positive training methods such as clicker training. You can get started by referring to a book or video. Beginning training right away can help dogs understand that you will be taking care of them, and that they are safe. It will also help build confidence. For many dogs, training games will help them de-stress and settle in quicker.
Some dogs, however, will be “shut down” at first and may have a hard time learning a new behavior or even doing something they already know. Don’t worry if your dog is not as responsive at first as you might like. If your dog seems reluctant, just make training games very easy, fun, and rewarding.
Try working with one simple behavior, like sit, and practice that until he seems ready to experiment with other behaviors. Or, if that seems too much, you can begin by simply hand feeding a portion of your dog’s meals to help him learn to trust you.
While training right away is beneficial, wait a few weeks before taking your dog into a class if he is stressed at all. For some dogs, you may even want to wait a little longer as training classes can also be very stressful. DeNeffe notes that for her dog Barkley, a month and a half was way too soon after re-homing to start a training class. “He needed to relax into his world first,” says DeNeffe.
If you need help right away, consider having a trainer come to your home instead of starting a class. Waiting to start a class until your dog has settled a little, and you have had time to bond can help you both get the most from the experience.
With most dogs, bonding takes time. While a dog may form an attachment to a person quickly, he or she may not be bonded to the point of trusting that person to provide safety for several weeks.
Richmond, Mardi. “Adoption advice: here’s how to make your new dog’s adoption work for life.” Whole Dog Journal 9.1 (2006): 14+.