Reality bites, but rules are rules
IT'S ALL too easy to start off by spoiling a foster dog or one adopted from a shelter or rescue group. Who wouldn't want to give him a little special treatment after the upset of losing his family?
Think again. Free run of the house, lots of treats and no demands are a good recipe for trouble and can make it difficult for him to fit in as a new family member. The following tips will help you set up your new dog for success:
* Housetraining. Even dogs who are already housetrained may be anxious and forget their manners in a new place. I was concerned about a new dog lifting his leg in the house. Treating him as if he were a puppy ensured that he had only one incident of urinating where he shouldn't. Here's what to do:
1. Take him outside to potty on leash on a regular schedule and praise him when he performs.
2. When you can't pay close attention to him, confine him to a crate, exercise pen or room with an easily cleanable floor.
3. If you take him outside to potty and he doesn't do anything, put him into his crate and then take him back out later.
* Set rules. Our dog was very comfortable jumping onto the sofa and chairs. Fortunately for him, that's OK in our house, but a couple of chairs are off-limits to dogs. When he jumped on them, I gave an immediate "Off" command and directed him to the sofa. If your house rules call for dogs to keep four on the floor, establish that from the beginning. No "just this once" or "just while he's getting settled in." Dogs don't get the concept of "sometimes." If you find him on the furniture, say "Off" and indicate what you want with a pointed finger or sweeping motion of your arm. If necessary, lure him with a treat to an alternate spot, such as a dog bed or blanket on the floor. Praise and reward him when he's on it. Repeat as needed, always using a neutral and matter-of-fact tone. There's no need to sound angry.
* Ban begging. A couple of techniques can help to deter this habit, or at least make it less annoying: Feed your dog before the family eats so he has no reason to beg. At mealtime, send the dog to his crate or dog bed using a neutral, matter-of-fact voice. Repeat as needed, making sure that the kids and your spouse aren't slipping him their Brussels sprouts when you're not looking. Use the same technique in the kitchen when you are preparing meals. There's nothing wrong with the dog being in the kitchen while you cook, but he should be in a corner, out of the way.
To recap: Be firm and consistent, show him what you want instead of scolding him for what you don't want, and offer praise and rewards when he does things you like.
As you come to know him and he becomes familiar with the house routine, you can gradually give him more freedom to make himself at home.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter @DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter @kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter @MikkelBecker.