Bringing Home a New Dog – 5 Tips from Olive’s first week

A dog’s first week at home can set the
tone that’ll make or break you. My top 5
things you should work on first are
coming up.

Ian here with Simpawtico dog training and
before we dive into that first week at
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Now, bringing home a new dog creates a
a lot of challenges. Whether you’re getting
you or a new puppy is adopting an older
a dog from a shelter or a rescue, that
the first week is a crucial period that sets
the tone, in some cases, for the rest of
their lives. As some of you know, we just
I adopted a new dog ourselves, and I
thought to document how we approach this
the process would be helpful to all of you.

She’s a two-year-old
Boston Terrier. She was first picked up
as a stray by Animal Control in the next
city over. When her original owner was
located, he was kind of like, “Meh, whatever, I don’t
have time for her anyways,” and signed her
over to the city. Soon she was put up for
adoption. My wife saw her on the
shelter’s Facebook page, and we went down
to take a look.

Well, that was pretty much
it. We took her home that same day. Olive
was underweight and undernourished. She’d
had puppies at some point. She was not
spayed, but thanks to the shelter, she was
up-to-date on her shots. We changed her
name to Olive so we knew that she
wouldn’t say her new name right away,
which is just as well because she didn’t
seem to respond to her original name
either. In fact, she didn’t seem to know
much of anything, which tells me that she
probably had very little support or
training at home. One of the first things
we did with olive was to put our primary
focus on the routines and procedures in
our home. Management in that first week
is the most important thing you can do
for any new dog. Most people want to
start by teaching behaviours or even
tricks to their new dog, or to do fun
things together. Please believe me that
is a waste of valuable time right now.
For a new dog, focusing on structure and
procedures, and practising those until
they become routines is essential to
your dog’s long-term success. Otherwise
chronic bad behaviour causes people to
send them back into the shelter system,
or return puppies to the breeder, and
it’s not their fault. If a dog misbehaves
in your home, it’s your fault. You cannot
reasonably expect a dog to enter
your home and magically know what your
expectations are. And if you plan to punish them until they figure it
out simply, that is the worst thing you could do.
The home must be a safe and protected
environment where a dog can come to
learn without fear.

And I’m telling you
right now that the number one problem
with dog behaviour is not discipline, it
is management. It is a lack of procedures
and routines. It stands to reason then
that you before you try to teach them
what you want, you had better know what
you want. So to start, you need to sit
down with the family and think about all
of the procedures and routines you’ll
need to make the house run smoothly with
the dog, and then come up with a
management plan to make it happen. The
golden rules here are the more structure
there is, the more successful your dog
will be. And the clearer the instructions, the higher the achievement rate will be.
With Olive, we picked five big goals to
focus on in her first week: potty, food,
nighttime, home alone, and around the
house. Let’s take a look at each of these.
Going Potty. For a new dog of any age,
potty training is paramount.

It’s one of the most common problems
people complain about. Imagine if you
walked into a building in a foreign
country and none of the bathrooms was
marked. You wouldn’t know where to go, you
wouldn’t be able to ask anyone where to
go, and the longer you had to wait, the
more desperate you’d get. You might even
get to where you did some basic things
to relieve yourself. We must communicate
to the dog where they go potty, and we
have to engineer the space and their
life so that it’s almost impossible to
mess it up. Then, we reinforce the heck
out of it. The best way to approach this
with a newly adopted dog is similar to
how we do it with a puppy: use
confinement strategically and take them
out at regular intervals to the same
place every time. Take them out when they
get up in the morning when you come home,
and within 15 to 20 minutes after
mealtimes. Praise and reward lavishly
when they do their business outside. Keep
them supervised and do your best not to
let there be mistakes, as this will
compromise your training. But if there
are mistakes realize that they’re still
learning and don’t get too worked up.
Clean it up and move on. For Olive, we
made a concerted effort between the two
of us to make the first week as error-free as possible.

That meant that Olive was under constant
supervision. She was not allowed to go
out of sight and rooms were closed when
we weren’t in there with her. She was
also confined when we were not at home.
We took her out many times during the
day, always to the same spot, and waited
with her. Being two years old, the job was
admittedly easier than it would have
been with a puppy, but that doesn’t mean
that we didn’t have to stay vigilant and
try to read her signs. Our other dogs
helped in this process too. Even though
they were both potty pros already, we
praised them in front of her when they
went, and you could see her paying
attention. Soon, this meant when we called
everybody for the potty time, it didn’t take
long until she was running right out
with them and even asking to go out in
the morning if she was the first one up.
Food: where when and how do we get meals?
As you’ve no doubt heard me say before, I
am a massive advocate of routine, timed
feedings. Free feeding is just shooting
yourself in the foot in so many ways,
especially with a new dog. So for Olive,
just as with the other dogs, she was fed
twice a day, at approximately the same
times, in the same place, in the same
order, in the same way, every single time.
Because of the consistency of the
routine, it only took a couple of days
for her to figure it out completely.

Whereas on the first few times, she’d dive
into Dexter’s food and try to get in
there. With some gentle but consistent
feedback and positive reinforcement, she
quickly learned to hang out and wait for
her bowl. She knew it was coming, she knew
where to wait for it, and there was no
need to get silly. Now in our home, we
don’t expect Sit Stays or anything like
that. We do expect it to be mannerly and
we don’t tolerate stupid hijinks. But it’s
overall pretty laid back and relaxed. We
do, however, fill the food bowls on the
table and place them on the floor in the
same order, as I said, every morning and
every night. Food bowls always go down
Dexter,r Darwin, Olive, always.

Those of you
who enjoy a more rigid routine with more
steps and higher expectations, great!
Knock yourselves out. And honestly, there
are dogs out there who need that level
of detail in their methods due to their
high energy and drive. These are dogs
that will need to Sit Stays, for example,
before they can eat, and so on. The point
I’m trying to make here is that however
you do it, it needs to be outlined, it
needs to be shared with everyone in the
house, and it needs to be executed
that way every time. Routines are
the backbone of good behaviour. Nighttime.
You’ve got to spend some time thinking
about night time too. Does your dog sleep
in the crate, or a doggy bed? Where is
that located? Do they sleep in your room?
Do they sleep on your bed? With one of
your kids? What time is bedtime? And if
they’re on the couch, what are the rules? Do
they move if you ask them to? They should.
By asking these questions, we would know,
for example, that if your dog is going to
sleep in a crate, then you know you’d
better make sure that crate training is
squared away too, and devote some time to
that. Don’t just stuff the dog in there
and hope for the best. Be proactive to
make every part of the process as
successful as possible. In our home, the
dogs sleep on the bed with us. This
went pretty smoothly, despite a
little problem with chewing on the
blankets I’ll address in the next video.
However, if Olive had been a new puppy, I
would have opted to have her sleep in a
crate for the first few months so we
could work on other essential puppy
skills.

Puppies always need way more
structure in their lives than an adult
dog does. Here’s a side note tip for you
along those lines: most people screw up
their puppy because they do the
structuring backwards. They start with
very little structure, then they run into
potty training and behaviour problems, so
later they try to introduce
more structure to patch the issues gradually.
This is ass-backwards! Puppies
should start with a hyper-structured
life and graduate to increasing autonomy
as they get older and better. Home alone.
Where is your dog kept while you’re gone?
In a crate? In pen? In a specific room?
Do they have free range of the house? Do
they have sufficient things to do to
keep them busy? Have you trained them to
occupy themselves? In our case, all the
dogs are crated in the basement while
we’re away. Dexter and Darwin just cruise
right in without any trouble. Olive
needed a little coaxing but seemed to
accept it. This was also helpful to make
sure her potty training was on target. If
we’d left her alone loose, the
probability of a mistake would have been
very high. Honestly, her biggest hurdle
was the basement stairs. She was
initially very timid on them. Now she’s
comfortable enough that she flies down
them into the basement with the other
dogs. Around the house. How do we enter
and exit the house?
Is the dog allowed on the furniture? Are
there particular pieces of furniture that
the dog is allowed on? Do they have a bed
in individual rooms? Where the toys kept?
What toys are free to access, and what toys
are restricted access? How do we interact
with different family members, including
other pets? What provisions have you made
to help your other pets adjust? This
extends to outside the home as well. How
does the dog enter and exit the property?
How does the dog come and exit the car?
Where does the dog ride in the car? Are
they in a crate, or are they seat belted
in with a harness? What parts of the yard
are they allowed in? How should they
behave while the kids are outside playing?
What are the boundaries of their
property? One example that my wife and I
are ironclad on is which door we go in
and out of. We have a front door and a
back door. Dogs are very location
specific and do not generalize well, so a
routine can program them to look at
things a certain way. My dogs have never, even one time entered or exited
through the front door. I don’t want them
to consider it a viable exit because
there’s a road just 10 yards away.
Consequently, Dexter and Darwin just
won’t go through it. I can come and go, and I’m sure under the right
circumstances they’d go through it if I
asked. But that five seconds or so of
hesitation as they contemplate and then
check in with me could be the instant I
need to interrupt with a life-saving
command. In this vein, Olive will learn
this too. Being as how her original owner
mentioned that she had a habit of
getting out, I want to teach her to
forget about that front door. Okay, so you
may notice in this first week that we
didn’t focus on individual
behaviours much like Sit or Come or Stay.
These are still important, but in my mind,
it’s much more important than the first week
to focus primarily on the
management. Focusing on the management
also helps you identify what behaviours
are the most important to teach first.
Many people do what they think are the
first ones they should show.

They spend
tons of time on Sit and Down and Stay
and Come because “every dog should know
those” and then the dog runs wild around
the house. They also waste much of that
first time doing fun tricks like Shake
and Rollover which, while entertaining,
are both completely useless. Do you know how
many shelter dogs can shake? All of them!
But maybe if they’d been adequately taught
how to coexist in a human household,
they’d still be there.

By putting your emphasis on the
management, you can swiftly identify the
weak points and get these down first. For
example, I’d mentioned before that some
people expect a Sit-Stay before the food
goes down. For high energy and high
drive dog, that’s great. Then teaching Sit
and a Stay in the spot where the food
goes down is one of the first things you
teach. That’s much more impactful than
just doing random Sits and Stays in the
living room just because. Put it to work
immediately so you can enjoy
functioning and happy household as soon
as possible. As I also mentioned, in
Olive’s case, working on getting
comfortable with the stairs was
something we needed to square away more quickly.
This was more important to our
management plan than a Stay or even a
Sit for right now. Knowing what our end
goals were allowed us to prioritize the
training pieces we needed and use time
as efficiently as possible. Please
understand that you will not get
perfection the first week. But you will
be laying a solid foundation to grow on.
And as you move on to teaching more and
more things to your dog, you’ll have
established a practical framework for
them to make sense of those things. Sits
and Stays and stuff like that will take
on a greater meaning because they’re
being used in a real-world context. Don’t
teach Sit and Down and Stay so that you
can use them at random times to try and
control the dog; use them as steps to
complete in sensible routines that keep
your home running smoothly. Little Olive
still has plenty to learn, but she’s
already figuring out her place, and
bonding with our little family. We’ll
keep you in the loop with more videos as
we progress with her. So here are my
questions for you: I’ve suggested five
significant areas to consider. Did I forget
anything? Do you have suggestions or
questions about certain routines and
procedures in your home? Let’s connect in
those YouTube comments. Don’t forget to
give us a thumbs up if you learned
something. And as always: keep learning,
keep practising, and we’ll see you next
time.

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