Rules for the New Furry Family Member

Written by 2SpeakDog. Posted in Articles

By Jennifer Kyzer, Master Trainer and Behavior Specialist

Bringining Home Doggie

 Congratulations on the new furry member of your household! By following a few guidelines, the integration of your new pup into your family can be a smooth one.  Hopefully you have done your research and found the perfect member for your family. For simplicity, this article will address a dog that has been rescued, but many factors can be applied to a purchased pup (from a responsible breeder) as well.


Shopping List before you bring the pup home:

Remember to shop local if possible.

  • Crate
  • Quality dog food
  • Pea size treats
  • Toys
  • Food and water bowls
  • Leash and collar

The First Day

Before entering the house, introduce your pup slowly to your yard by taking him for a calm walk around your property. Let the pup smell around, praise him if he potties and check in with him every few minutes. Next, take your pup for a short walk around your neighborhood to wear off a little energy and allow him get to know his new environment with his nose. After the pup has calmed a bit, bring him leashed into your home. Take him to the room your family spends the most time in. If you can gate or close doors on this room or section of the house, this will help keep him from wandering off. Also, introducing a dog to one or two rooms at a time helps them from becoming overwhelmed and/or too aroused.

Introduce the dog to the other members of the human family. When children are being introduced to the pup, supervise closely, but not with nervousness. Dogs can sense changes in energy so remain calm. In general, keep things as relaxed as possible while the pup is getting used to his new environment. Introduce your pup to the crate and where he will be sleeping. It is recommended to crate your pup when you are gone, during Crate Training practice, and at night for sleeping. Keeping the pup close to you the first week will help with efficient potty training, bonding and getting to know your pup.


Establishing Rules

Every pup needs rules. Rules are an important part of establishing leadership. Becoming a confident, calm leader to your dog will create a dog that is working for you and eager to please you.  It will also lead to trust, respect and overall a well-mannered, well-behaved dog.

General rules

Discuss and make a list of commands, behaviors and rules with the family.

Rules often are established by things a pup should not be doing. When establishing rules, make sure to give your pup alternatives instead of the behavior he is displaying. Instead of jumping on people to greet them or when he gets excited, teach him to sit or keep ‘Four on the Floor’.

Instead of jumping on the furniture whenever he decides, teach him to ‘ask permission’. Instead of pulling on leash, teach him to walk in a loose-leash heel.

Ignore small misbehaviors.

Often small misbehaviors will resolve themselves if not given too much attention. Engaging in a new behavior will often discontinue many small mistakes made by your pup. This can be as simple as walking into another room when you notice your pup investigating an object that is not for him.  When he follows you, give him a command, such as sit, and reward.

Reward good behaviors.

Notice when your pup is doing a good job or is acting appropriately and reward him. Rewards can be verbal praise, petting, and food/treats. Make sure that when you reward it does not change the good behavior. For instance, if your pup goes to lay down on his dog bed, quietly reach over and pet gently, or tell him, “Good boy,” in a calm voice, so he remains laying down; you do not want excited praise to lead him to getting up.

Reprimand with an appropriate level for the misbehavior and quickly redirect.

If the pup picks up an item that is off limits, quickly reprimand with an, “Ah-ah,” and then pick up one of his toys and engage him in play. Make sure that you do not over-reprimand. Typically reprimands are short and followed by calming techniques or redirected to an appropriate activity. Another strategy is to simply call him to come to you (use enthusiasm!) and reward them quickly, then pick up a toy or bone for him to play with or chew on. Redirecting your pup to a more appropriate behavior gives him positiveoptions.

Establishing Rituals

Your pup should understand from the beginning the rituals of the household. This can help him to feel more comfortable and know what is expected of him. Feeding rituals, potty rituals, daily schedule of the family, and leash walking are some of the first rituals to establish.

Establishing a Feeding Ritual.

 Feed your pup about the same times each day. Begin the ritual by preparing your dog’s food on the counter; don’t just pour the food into the bowl on the floor. This creates the importance of their food and begins the work-for-reward process. You can scent the food by touching it with your hands, stirring it with a little water or soft food to activate the smell. As you are preparing the food, give your dog a command such as sit, or use body language to back him up out of your space. You can then release the dog as you put the bowl down; as your pup continues to progress, you can release him after the bowl is down.

You can also add hand feeding as a part of the ritual. Hand feeding can be used to bond with your dog, calm excited behavior, earn respect, teach impulse control, slow eating down, improve control, and more. Add hand feeding when a life event has happened, when you are in a tough developmental stage, or as a new puppy or rescue is added. Begin by preparing food on counter, touching/ mixing food, scenting the food with your smell. Sit in a chair facing your dog, holding the bowl tightly against your body with one hand. Scoop out a handful and as the dog gives respect, reward him by offering food. A dog can show respect by backing up, sitting, or laying down. When the behavior is offered, as opposed to you giving a command, this develops the wonderful ritual of your dog thinking for himself and offering behavior that will earn him rewards.  Open your hand to allow pup to eat out of your open hand.  Continue with each scoop of food. Hand feeding can be done for the whole meal, part of a meal or at certain meals.  You can revisit hand feeding, as needed, throughout his life.

Earn Trust and Respect

 A pup needs more than love. It is a hard thing to state and sometimes an even harder lesson to learn; however, it is true. Pups needs more than love – especially if he is developing new or modifying unwanted behaviors. Earning trust and respect with your pup includes the pup knowing that you are keeping him safe, that you are in charge of things, and that you will support and calm him when needed. To earn trust you should be in charge of your pup’s daily schedule and routine.  You should be initiating interaction with your pup, and his day should be predictable. Your pup should learn that you are consistent.  The main way to establish consistency is to follow through on commands. If you call your dog to come and he does not come right away – continue until he does.

A simple exercise to earn respect is to teach your pup to back off of objects to earn them. Begin with ‘Respect of Hands’ exercise. Place one treat in each fist and make hands accessible to pup, without offering it to pup. WAIT for pup to leave your hands alone, then reward by opening one hand to offer treat.  Pup will learn to investigate by smelling and then back off to earn the reward.

Establishing mental and physical exercise

 In addition to developing rules and rituals, and earning trust and respect, an exercise routine should be developed. Dogs need both mental and physical exercise; when you can combine the two, it leads to a good exhaustion in your pup. To combine mental with physical, you will need to master the walk. Having your pup walk on a loose leash beside you is the goal. Dividing the walk into parts can add diversity and mental stimulation as well. For instance, begin your walk inside by calming him as you leash. Practice respect going out the door. Give your pup a brief smelling time to potty. Walk your pup for a few minutes with the back and forth walk, then pull out a few treats and practice obedience commands (sit, down, stay), then a heel walk.

Remember, it is not how many blocks or miles you go with your pup, it is the time spent on leash training, respect, mental and physical exercise.

Along with the above guidelines, remember to have fun with your pup! Training should be fun! Add in tricks and commands with treats to the rules, rituals and exercise to develop the connection with your pup.  Combine obedience, behavior, rules and rituals to balance your pup and your relationship with your pup. Learn “2SpeakDog” and better understand your pup’s behavior to develop a well-balanced relationship for a peaceful, happy home!

A portion of this article can also be found online at Richmond Family Magazine.