Bringing your dog into their new home is an opportunity to show them that they are in a safe place with people they can trust. Remember, they have left whatever family and home they have had and are arriving in a strange place without anyone they know. Make it a point to give them safe, relaxed, and stress-free experiences during their first several weeks with you. There will be plenty of time to introduce them to extended family, the neighbor’s dogs, and take them on outings once they have adjusted. To give you a little more perspective about what your newly adopted dog may be experiencing here is an article I wrote:
A Message From Your Dog
Today I went to my new home. Leaving the shelter was amazing! I was very nervous there. Everything was loud and different around me. What would my new home be like? I was hoping I would have quiet time to check it out. After all, I’m in a new place with people I don’t even know! But that’s not what happened. The very first thing that happened was a large, strange dog came running at me. I was shocked and I didn’t know if he was friendly or not. So I growled. Then strangers crowded all around me, touching me without asking first. I’m not sure if I’ll be safe here.
Newly adopted dogs need safe time to decompress and not to be rushed to greet others.
Today I went to the dog park. At first, I was excited. There was green grass and a big place to run. But when we stepped through the gate, a lot of dogs ran up to me and swarmed all around me. I got worried and snapped. I just wanted them to give me some space! I got more comfortable once I wasn’t the center of attention. I even made some new dog friends. But then another pushy dog started to pick on me. He barked in my face, nipped at my ankles, and stood over me. I didn’t like it. I told him to stop and he wouldn’t. It scared me! I was hoping you would help me get away from him. When you didn’t, I lunged at him because I didn’t know what else to do. I’m not so sure about meeting new dogs now.
Don’t gamble with your dog’s well being by putting them in social situations you can’t control, (dog parks included) and advocate for your dog’s safety.
Today an off leash dog rushed me. I heard you tell the other humans about it when we got home. You told them it scared you but that it ended up OK because the dog didn’t actually bite me. But I wasn’t OK! I was hoping you would understand that just because I wasn’t bit doesn’t mean it didn’t terrify me. This was the first time I realized that anytime we are out walking, a scary dog could run up and try to hurt me. Now I’m worried when we go out on walks that it might happen again so I scan for other dogs and bark at them as soon as I spot them.
Consider your dog’s mental well being just as much as his or her physical well being.
Today I met a child. She was loud and didn’t act like any other humans I knew. She stumbled when she walked and yelled loudly. When she touched me, it wasn’t soft. She grabbed me and I thought she was scary. I was hoping you would notice that I was really uncomfortable like when I wouldn’t look at her and started to freeze. Even when I moved away, she followed me. When she wouldn’t stop, I nipped her. Now I am scared of all kids.
Monitor ALL dog/child interactions while teaching children appropriate dog manners.
Today I went to training. I was barking and snapping at people and dogs. You didn’t know how to get me to stop so you hired an experienced trainer to help. I was so thankful when you listened as the teacher explained that I was just scared and needed your guidance to feel safer. As we practiced together, I learned that I didn’t need to panic when meeting new dogs and people because you would protect me and help me when I needed it.
Seek help from a qualified dog trainer who will assist both you and your dog in making better choices.
Today I went to the vet’s office. At first, I got really scared. When I peered around the corner, there were two other dogs who barked at me. I wasn’t sure I’d be safe. I was so thankful when you brought me back to the car to wait for my turn instead of making me wait inside. Then when we did go in, you gave me really yummy treats which made me feel better. Now I can’t wait to visit again and get more snacks!
Make vet visits more enjoyable by avoiding interactions with other dogs (who may be sick or injured) and bringing your best treats.
Today I got a calm massage. I was used to playing, jumping, and wrestling with you so I assumed you wanted me to be energetic all the time. But then you decided to gently pet me and speak in soothing tones instead. I was so thankful to have the chance to fully relax and enjoy a different way of spending time with you. Instead of being over the top excited whenever humans are around, now I know sometimes I can just be calm too.
Practice calmness with your dog as much as you practice excitability (if not more).
Today I growled. A strange man was approaching us and I got scared. You had me on the leash so I knew I couldn’t run away. And I don’t know how to say words that would tell you I was afraid. So I growled. I was so thankful you understood that I was feeling fearful and didn’t let the man come any closer. When you moved us away from him and then bent down next to me and reassured me with petting and praise that I was ok, I felt a lot better. Next time something scary happens, I’m going to look to you for guidance.