What have I done?

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OMG what have I done?!

This is how everyone feels the first few days after they get a new dog. Rescue dog, puppy, we all feel the same. Some people might not say it, but it’s never plain sailing. Life was so easy before and now we’ve gone and made it difficult by adding another dog.

If you have an existing dog family, then there’s all the stress of introducing a new dog, ideally on neutral ground. But in the real world, how often is that possible? If it’s a puppy then you can’t take it out so you just have to bring it in, with the other dogs thinking WTF is that? Do you hold it, do you put it on the floor? (answer is put it on the floor but ideally inside a puppy pen). If it’s an adult rescue dog it’s easier to meet on neutral territory but at some point you’ve all got to come back into the house together.

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(Who is this interloper on our sofa? – Morris’ second day)

Tall dog gates (like stair gates but taller) are a huge help with separating dogs from each other. It means the dogs can have their own space, they can sniff each other, and look at each other through the gate, without getting over the top or crowded in a small space like a hallway.

Feed them separately. I cringe when I see photos of new dogs eating together in the same room. Why make life more stressful? Give them space. Food is a very high value resource, it’s one of the things dogs might fight over. Let them eat in their own space. Toys are another valuable resource, pick them all up for the first few days, especially if one of your existing dogs might be a bit guardy over their toys. Chews. Don’t leave chews lying around. They’re food and likely to be highly sought after by your new dog.

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The first night is usually a nightmare. Puppies crying downstairs, rescue dogs barking at the noises outside that they aren’t used to. Husbands / children all unhappy because they don’t like their sleep being disturbed. (Neither do I!). As long as you’re prepared for this, and realise it isn’t going to last forever, it’s bearable for a few days.

Thinking back, when we got Tilly our second puppy, back in 1998, she screamed her head off for the first few hours until we gave in and brought her upstairs, where she slept perfectly, for the rest of her life! That’s a whole other blog though…. Since then all our new dogs (rescues or puppies) have come upstairs with us, some crated, some not – depends on the dog, and all have slept better with the rest of us.

Gradually your new dog/puppy will get used to your household routines. If it’s an adult rescue, don’t jump right in to training, just let them chill.  Don’t bath them straight away if you can avoid it, don’t get new harness, new collar, don’t invite all your friends over to see the new dog….  We see a lot of dogs from abroad, who’ve had maybe a 3 – 4 day journey in a transport van. Can you even begin to imagine how exhausted they are? How stressful it was in a van with other dogs and cats, and people they don’t know? The stress hormones all stay in the body for 3 – 5 days so they are going to be totally knackered for a week. Loads of sleep, gentle walks if they’re brave enough, try and keep your hands off them – not too much cuddling as this can over stimulate. Just let them be, and keep them safe.

It takes a long time for dogs to be this comfortable around each other.

I don’t train my own dogs much. I want them to be nice with people, nice to each other and nice to other dogs. I want them to come back when I call or whistle them. It’s nice to have a dog who can walk on a loose lead too. That’s about it really. The rest is all extras. I don’t care if they sit at the kerb, or give me a paw. I just want them to be happy.

So don’t worry if you feel sick the first few days after getting your new dog, it’s totally normal and we all feel that way! Usually things get a lot better after a few days, and then you soon realise the new one is a member of the family!

If you have real problems settling in the new one, get some professional help.

Penel Malby

Dog Comm 2017.