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Welcoming a New Dog Into Your Home

Leah Lykos

Are you bringing home a new dog? Here are few helpful tips to remember: 
Have a cozy crate set up in a quiet area of the home. This is especially helpful for puppies and rescues. If they become stressed, they can retreat to the crate.
If you’re bringing home a second dog, take the dogs for a walk together, and walk head-to-tail to let them sniff each other. A head-to-head introduction can be stressful, especially indoors! The best way to walk them is if one dog sniffs the other dog’s backside. Doing that gives them a lot of biological information. It’s emotionally grounding, and can even be pleasurable for the dog being sniffed. Once they’ve sniffed and can parallel-walk together, that’s ideal. Be watchful for any body language that is stiff, surging, or shut-down.
At home, if they do get stressed, they can retreat to the crate. Let them do their thing; don’t try to engineer the social interactions. If that isn’t working, put up a baby gate (or start by crating/gating and rotating the dogs in and out of the living spaces). The more time they have to acclimate to each without direct contact, the better. Separating spaces helps them get used to having another dog in the home, without having to confront the emotionally charged situation "head on." 
Provide a dog bed. If you don't want the dog on furniture, train him to his "place,” using lots of treats. That way you can keep the house clean and save the furniture. Puppies know only what they experience. If they’ve never been on a couch, they don’t feel the need to be there. But once they’ve been “invited,” it’s very difficult to tell them that’s not their place. So decide early on what the rules will be. 
Outside, fence off part of your yard where your dog can have his own place to dig and hang out. This protects the nicer parts of the yard and landscaping, and gives him a space where he can chill out and just be a dog. It’s really important to let dogs express their natural behaviors, and part of that is digging. Inevitably, in the hot weather, my dogs always dig themselves some sort of den or pit to lay in in order to keep cool. Sophie used to create a full blown cave underneath the concrete stoop. It looked exactly like a wolf den! It was only big enough for her get into, turn around, and lay down--with her head facing the opening. This is what we're trying to re-create when we give the dog a cozy crate indoors. 
Let your dog settle in for a few weeks before going on big adventures, leaving him at a kennel, or engaging in other activities that might be disruptive to the routine you’ve worked to establish. Although while wer're on the topic of kenneling, try to get a dog sitter, this is much less stressful for your dog than boarding!
Overall, the most important thing is to allow the dog to acclimate to the home without being overstimulated. Keep interactions calm and soothing. When you come into the house, they’ll be excited to see you, of course, but don’t do anything to increase that stimulation. Indoors is for quiet time: the dog in his den, decompressing, relaxing.
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