Some families spend months doing research and preparing for that special moment when a dog comes into their home. Those families are most likely to be both mentally and emotionally prepared to raise a dog.
Many other families will make the decision to bring a dog home on a whim, with little preparation or forethought. Those families can quickly find themselves feeling overjoyed and overwhelmed at the exact same time.
In fact, even the most prepared families can quickly find themselves in this boat.
This article provides some general guidelines to successfully integrating a dog into your home.
Step 1: Create a Game Plan
Get all household members of reasonable age together and agree upon some basic guidelines so your dog gets clear, consistent information from everyone. Decide who will be responsible for meeting the dog’s basic needs like feeding, exercise and grooming.
Discuss what manners are important to you. Jot down a list of behaviors that will be permitted and those that will not. For example, will your dog be allowed access to all rooms and all furniture? Will it be allowed to eat whole food, to jump-up when greeting, to play rough with people, etc.?
Choose a couple management tools (see Step 2) and decide how and when they will be used.
Step 2: Use Management – Lots & Lots of Management
Rather than punishing your dog for acting like a dog, use management techniques to prevent problem behaviors, and then teach your dog how you would like him to behave.
Keep all new puppies and dogs from getting into trouble by confining them to safe areas when they can’t be supervised using doors, gates, fences, crates, tethers, baby gates or exercise pens.
Management not only prevents many problem behaviors from occurring, it can dramatically decrease the likelihood of bad habits developing. If a puppy doesn’t have the opportunity to chew shoes while it’s young, there’s a very good chance the grown dog will never have an interest in chewing shoes.
Management alone doesn’t usually teach your dog how to behave, but it sure can make life easier while you’re working through the training process.
And there may be times when you choose use management as a permanent solution instead of training. For example, you could choose to make trash inaccessible rather than training your dog to stay out of it. That would be fairer than yelling at your dog every time you returned home and found trash on the floor.
Step 3: Learn How To Communicate – Train Your Dog
Enroll in a training class so you can learn how to effectively communicate with your dog and actively teach him how to best fit into your household.
Don’t confuse communication with harassment. Constantly reprimanding your dog for breaking rules he doesn’t understand isn’t very fair or effective.
In a good training class, you will learn far more than how to teach your dog a few obedience commands. You will learn how to read your dog’s body language and how to use your own body language to influence your dogs behavior. You will gain a deeper understanding of how dogs learn and what reasonable expectations are.
In a good training class, you will get loads of helpful information on a wide variety of topics concerning dogs. Heck, you and your dog might even make a few good friends.
Step 4: Provide Freedom Gradually
If we bring dogs into our homes without providing boundaries and structure we often set them up for failure. When dogs fail to live up to our expectations they often wind-up neglected or in an animal shelter.
Expect to spend several months working to develop good habits through management, teaching your dog the household rules through training and creating a relationship based on respect and trust.
Once those bases are covered you can gradually provide more freedom as your dogs behavior permits- until one day, you find yourself dancing that seemingly effortless dance that results when two souls are in tune.