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Bonding With Your New Dog

Make Your New Companion A Part Of The Family

Congratulations on your new family member! You will be rewarded with a lifetime of friendship and love. You are eager to get the “baby” home. And you are probably wondering how to help your new family member adjust and transition from the rescue (or foster home) to your home. Let’s face it, a rescue dog doesn’t come with a whole lot of background history. Except for an estimated age and breed there’s very little to go on. If the dog has been in rescue or foster care there's a bit more available about the dog's temperament, such as personality and behavior traits. Right now you just want to help him adjust and bond with you. Here are a few tips to help your rescue dog adjust to his new family and home.

The primary key to helping your new dog adjust to your family and home is patience. Try not to have any false expectations. Your new friend is probably feeling slightly disoriented: new sights, sounds, smells. Not to mention new people! Give it time. Your companion’s cortisol levels (stress hormones) are elevated right now and they will stay up for about 7 to 10 days. During this “adjustment” period your new dog might experience a variety of emotions (stress can do that to humans too). He may sleep a lot, he might become hyperactive, he might whine, he might chew, and he might appear overly anxious and nervous. This is all normal. So please do not worry. Try not to rush the relationship. Keep in mind that all relationships are built on trust, including the canine/human bond.

After about 7 to 10 days his true personality will begin to emerge. He’s going to feel much more comfortable in this new environment once he knows he can trust you. Building trust means establishing a bond. That bond will help him adjust to his new home. To adjust quickly and bond completely with you (and your family) it’s important to gain his trust. The best method to do this is to hand feed him. Instead of plopping the food bowl down in front of him, feed him a mouthful of food at a time from your hand. While you feed him speak softly to him. Food stimulates the pleasure center of the brain and he will quickly begin to associate your voice and your smell with pleasant things. Do this for the first week that he is with you, at each feeding (if possible). Repeat a few times a week after that until he gets the idea that all good things come from you!

There’s an old Rodgers and Hammerstein song that goes like this, “getting to know you, getting to know all about you” and that’s exactly what the two of you will initially be doing. Make the time to get to know each other by taking nice walks together and engaging in fun activities such as playtime. This is particularly important If you have adopted a high-energy dog or a puppy. If that’s the case plan on getting in a few games of fetch or other form of play each day.  Play and walking are important forms of bonding behavior. These activities will accelerate the dog’s ability to adjust in a positive manner to his new home and family. Keep in mind that your current pets (and perhaps human family members) may feel slightly neglected with all the attention the newbie is receiving. So please don’t neglect them! In fact, including them in these activities is a great way for the whole family to become involved.

Adjusting to a new environment also hinges on a routine. The dog’s ability to know what is expected provides him with a sense of comfort. He wants to please. He wants to know what’s going to happen next. Establish a routine as quickly as possible, setting house rules that your dog or puppy can understand. Arrange with other members of the family what these rules are so there is a consistency in the daily schedule and the rules. Determine who will feed the dog, who will walk the dog, and if Newbie is allowed on the couch, or in the bed at night. If he is to sleep in another area, then where will this area be? Most important establish what areas are off-limits. Set your dog up for success!! DON'T START SOMETHING NOW (allowing on furniture, jumping up, etc) THAT YOU LATER ON PUNISH YOUR DOG FOR!

Every canine likes order. They want to know that you are the “parent.” This actually takes a tremendous burden off the dog because he can relax while you make all the decisions. Let your new pet know from the start that you are the leader. Establish leadership in a variety of ways, but first and foremost have him earn what he gets. No freebies! Have him sit before he goes for a walk; sit before playtime; and sit for treats. Help him understand that you direct the show. Always praise good behavior, never withhold love, never scold. Redirect bad behavior with a toy or some other activity.

Most important, enroll your new dog in an obedience class as soon as you can!  A well-mannered dog is an absolute joy to be with!

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