Since Elbee adopted me almost two weeks ago, I am reminded of just how important our early interactions with a new dog are. After Elbee got a few meals in him, got the medicine he needed, and had some shelter over his head, he become less fearful and more curious about his new home, and a curious dog is a dog that’s ready to learn. This is the time when he is discovering the new environment he finds himself in and how he can interact with it. If I want to establish a pattern of acceptable behaviors with him, NOW is the time.
Each and every reaction I make to any of his behaviors is put away in his memory bank. He becomes aware of how to get those things he wants. For instance, Elbee was very emaciated when I found him and as a result his first couple of days with us we fed him just about every six hours. He was very vocal and very excited at each feeding and who could blame him? After a couple of days he was feeling better but he still was very vocal and over excited at feeding time. But now, instead of putting his food down for him to eat I simply waited for him to sit and be quiet. It took Elbee all of about a minute to figure out that the old rules weren’t getting him any food. You could see him looking at me and trying to work out what was different. In the end he backed up, sat quietly, and was feed. His next feeding he was just as excited, but again I waited and it only took about 30 seconds for him to sit quietly. He is still excited for his food, but it takes him less than 5 seconds or so to sit quietly and wait. I’ve taken the same approach to his tendency to jump. He still jumps occasionally, but all I have to do is back up just a bit and he immediately knows that sitting quietly is the only way to get the attention he wants.
There is really no trick to this. Because it is a new environment for him, he is really open to learning how he fits into it and what is expected of him. A sponge that will adsorb every little piece of information he can. If I take care to encourage and reinforce those behaviors I want, and to ignore those that I don’t want, I am putting money in the bank towards a great relationship with him.
I realize that there is no “one size fits all” solution to all the challenges that you may encounter when you bring a new dog into your home. But keeping these simple things in mind during the initial “break in” period, can go a long way to making your lives together easier and more enjoyable for everybody.
Kevin, Jackie, Gavin, Annie, Tosha, Elbee