Bringing a New Dog Home

Building a new relationship

Your dog’s previous home may be totally different from his or her new surroundings, and possibly one where the relationship between dog and owner has failed.

‘You need to allow around four to six months for them to readjust, and learn the skills and coping strategies to deal with their new life in your world,’ says pet behaviourist Claire Hargrave.

Work at teaching them new behaviours one step at a time, and make sure all co-operation is reinforced and rewarded with small treats.

Space to settle

Be sure your dog has his or her own quiet space and place to sleep where they feel safe and secure. Cover their bed (or a crate with the door left open) with an old duvet to help soundproof it from household noise. Use a plug-in DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) diffuser such as Adaptil, which will give a sense of familiarity as it imitates the chemical a mother dog releases when caring for her puppies.

Never insist your dog comes out of their ‘den’, but let them build up confidence to explore when they want. Signs of stress include tucked tail, ears flattened back, blinking and licking their lips and nose.

New introductions

Meeting new people – from relations to friends and neighbours – needs sensitive handling, and should preferably occur in an open area like the garden so your dog doesn’t feel trapped.

Make sure people don’t stand or lean over to see the dog as this could seem threatening, especially if it’s done over a fence or gate as this can spark territorial behaviour such as growling.

Ideally squat down, with one foot flat on the ground, to be level with the dog but not staring him or her in the eye. Give the dog a small treat for good behaviour.

A gentle touch

Your dog may be wary of how and when he or she is touched, so go easy on the patting and stroking until you both learn what suits.

Stick to neutral areas, such as the chest, under the chin and just between the front legs, so they have the option to move away if they are not happy rather than growling.

You always need to supervise children near your dog, especially one whose history may be unknown.

Out and about

Help your dog feel safe and confident in their new neighbourhood by gradually introducing the great outdoors, and if you don’t have their medical history, do so only once you have checked with your vet what vaccinations they might need (boosters can be given to help your dog avoid infection).

‘Start on an ordinary lead so the dog walks close to you and you can stay in control, but gradually give them a longer leash, rewarding good behaviour with treats,’ says Claire. ‘Give praise and positive feedback before you hit any tricky situations so your dog does not have to make his or her own decisions.’