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The Good Dog Advice Column: When You Bring Me Home

I am a dog who ended up in a shelter where so many things were different: new people, lots of other dogs, loud sounds, strange smells, and more. Now, you are giving me a second chance in your home. Once again, I find myself in an unfamiliar place, and certainly for the first few days, I may be overwhelmed and frightened. But I just need time to adjust.

Do not be surprised if I hide somewhere safe and quiet. In fact, you can help me by providing that kind of place. It could be a crate or a comfy dog bed in a cozy corner. Do not worry that a crate is a bad thing for a shelter dog. A place all to myself will give me time to get used to the smells, surroundings, and my new family members. Do not be surprised if I sleep a lot in the first few days. If you have other pets, please separate us for at least the first day and then introduce us gradually. 

When you first bring me home, please keep things as calm and quiet as you can. While you may want to cuddle with me because I am so adorable, I need time to get used to my new family members. If there are children in my new home, please teach them how to treat me, too. One day, I will likely want to run, play, and cuddle with them, but not at first. I may sit quietly as far away as possible from everyone because I need time and space to figure this out. Please do not think that I don’t like you.

 I know that you are happy with me and want to show me off to others but let me go at my own pace. Allow me to approach people when I am ready. As hard as it might be to resist holding or petting me, please go slowly and let me show you what kind of attention I can handle. I may just want to sniff your feet or hands. Wait until I am feeling more relaxed to introduce me to others, and then only one or two people at a time. The first weeks at home are not the time to take me to pet stores or events with lots of people.

Even if I once knew house rules such as going to the bathroom outside, I may have forgotten, or I may be too scared to tell you what I need. Please be patient with me! Start house training me all over again, and I will learn fast. While I am re-learning, keep me on a leash next to you or in a crate when you cannot watch me closely. Take me outside often until I learn the routine. If you keep a consistent schedule for feeding, going outside, playing, etc., that will help me because I will soon learn what to expect.

I am still learning the house rules, so do not get frustrated with me if I bark too much, chew up something you valued, jump on the furniture, or zoom around. I will learn if you teach me boundaries with kindness and praise me when I do the right thing. I can’t be responsible for things I have not been taught.

If after an adjustment period, you have trouble figuring me out, consult a trainer who is knowledgeable about my needs and how to positively improve my behavior, not just how to teach things like sit and stay. It is best if the class is held in a quiet location where I can be comfortable. When my behavior is not appropriate, remember that I am not trying to give you a hard time, I am showing you that I am having a hard time. Please do not be quick to give up on me! I want this new companionship to last forever!