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Setting a New Dog Up for Success

Young chihuahua mix white puppy sticking his tongue out

Getting a new puppy or rescue dog is a thrilling and intoxicating thing, many of us project a lot of our fantasies about what a dog should be when we bring home this blank slate. However, you cannot plop a puppy down in a new place and expect things to sort themselves out. You must practice foresight, management, and enrichment to make sure your new dog doesn’t turn into a troublemaker.

For the people who have had puppies before, this may be redundant but it’s worth repeating: pick up your shoes, wires, socks, trash, kids’ toys and anything else that looks appealing to the teething puppy or bored adult. Foresight means looking ahead at what may be a problem for a new dog. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do my kids have a good habit of cleaning up after themselves?

  • If I had an infant crawling around, what would I want to protect them from?

  • Where am I going to put a dog when I leave the house or sleep?

If you seek out to change your home before you even bring the new dog in, you are ready for a dog. Think about what barriers you may need around the house; should you gate off the kitchen, gate off the baby’s room or put chicken wire around your garden beds? Preparedness is what adoption and foster coordinators are looking for in ideal homes.

Rescue retired greyhound with a broken leg in a cast
Different dogs will require different setups — find out their individual needs

Different dogs will require different setups — find out their individual needs

So you already have the dog in the home, now what? You need to manage that dog’s access to the environment. In layman terms: leash, supervise, crate! The most basic thing you can do to prevent misbehavior from occurring is to keep the dog on a leash for a few days while you figure out what their habits and quirks are. If they leap for a sock or try to eat a plant, no harm done, you have them safely on a leash and now know you need to be mindful of socks and put the plant on a table. When you’re ready to start dropping the leash, you still need to supervise to make sure they don’t try anything funny, then gradually start leaving the dog for a few minutes at a time and spy on them. Another way to contain a dog to a designated area is to crate the dog. Many dogs don’t mind the crate, some love it, and unfortunately some loathe it. If your dog is showing unhealthy amounts of anxiety in a crate, you should seek behavioral help for your dog.

Many problem behaviors that happen when we’re not watching happen because the dog hasn’t been challenged enough. Dogs crave mental stimulation, they love problem solving and playing, just like us! Anything a dog enjoys doing and does so voluntarily is enrichment and there are dog toys that can help your dog find their next hobby. There are snuffle mats, where a dog noses through fabric pieces to get to food. You can use dog bowls that make it more difficult for them to get their kibble out. Another popular choice is the Kong, the king of unsupervised enrichment toys, a durable rubber toy you can stuff with their meals, freeze and set in the crate for them to enjoy when you need to leave. Exercise is also very important, sometimes walks won’t cut it. More enriching exercise would be a long line walk at different parks, playing with a flirt pole or fetch.

Female pit bull and husky mix plays fetch with a kong ball
Fetch is a great way to enrich your dog’s life — and helps you bond with each other too!

Fetch is a great way to enrich your dog’s life — and helps you bond with each other too!

There are a lot of small lifestyle adjustments you can do to make your new friend’s transition into a strange world so much easier. While enriching their life and protecting them you are also saving yourself a lot of grief. Many dogs have been surrendered or returned in the US for causing property damage but it’s something that can be prevented easily. It’s not their fault when they’re set up for failure, so set your dog up for success.

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