Bringing Home a Shelter Dog and How to Avoid Common Mistakes

Most people can agree that bringing home a dog from a shelter is one of the best and most heartwarming experiences. You’ve helped rescue a dog and save his life. You’ve provided a homeless animal with a loving home and family. But what isn’t often discussed is how somewhere around 20% of shelter dogs are returned within the first month of coming home to a new family. Why is this? In part, it is often due to a few easy mistakes that new pet owners make when bringing home a new dog. Here are some tips to make the transition as smooth (and happy) as possible.

New home. New Rules. It’s easy to think that because your new pooch has been living in a shelter, you should allow her as much freedom as possible as she adjusts to her new life. But in actuality, it’s quite the opposite. Even the very first time your new dog enters your home is crucial. This is the moment when she looks to you to let her know what is going to be expected of her. If you simply unleash her and let her run wild, you may be sending a message to her that says ‘Here, go crazy! Do whatever you want.’ This is the time when you will be letting her know what the ground rules are. And believe it or not, dogs thrive in an environment that has clear boundaries.

Consider taking a walk. Before you even enter your home, perhaps take a walk around your block first. Get to know your new dog. Establish some of your first steps of being her leader. Not only will a short walk give her some time to calm down and work out some pent up excitement, but it will help show her that you are in charge. This time will give her some comfort as she also gets to know you.

Don’t be in a rush to unleash. Keep your dog leashed. Do not open the front door and let her run right in and begin running around. This is the time when her senses are on overload with all the new sights and smells. She’s anxious and nervous and wondering what is going to happen next. Assert your leadership by making her wait outside the front door. Even better if you can tell her to sit and wait. Whatever you do, make sure she waits to be invited in. Try to do this same thing as you explore the house with her leashed by your side. It may feel most natural to let her run free, sniffing and exploring her new home, but this is the time when she needs boundaries the most. Strong leadership and rules will give her a feeling of calm and control that will make her feel most secure.

Show her where her things are. Be sure to give her a tour of all of her things as well. Show her the water and food bowls. Introduce her to her bed. Show her where her basket of toys are. This will show her where the things that she’s allowed to play with are. Her bed is her safe place. A place that is only hers. She’ll know these are her toys to play with and that she’s not to chew up other things. She may not immediately wish to lay down or play with her toys, but this will help establish those boundaries.

Be calm. It may feel like now is the time to be excited and play with your new dog, but in actuality, now is the time to radiate calm energy. Keep her leashed for a while. Keep her by your side for a while as you go about typical activities. You are not only showing her that you are in charge, but you’re giving her comfort by keeping her with you at all times. Taking her outside frequently to go potty will help her learn where she’s supposed to go. If there are other family members in the home, remind them to also be calm. As the day goes on, you’ll find the right time to take off the leash and give her a little more room to roam. But maintain your leadership and her boundaries.

How to Encourage Positive Behavior in Your Dog

Did you know that positive reinforcement can be one of the most effective ways of training your dog? It can be an easy habit to always scold your dog when he misbehaves, but in actuality, focusing more on rewarding good behavior can have a much greater impact. Here are a few tips to help encourage great behavior from your pooch!

Always reward immediately

Part of the idea of positive reinforcement is to give your dog immediate positive attention as soon as they do what you want. That way, he will feel encouraged to do it again. Praise him, talk to him happily with excitement, and give him lots of pets. And of course, when appropriate, reward with a training treat.

Ignore bad behavior

One of the other pieces of the puzzle is to reward good behavior, but ignore the behavior you don’t want. Dogs crave attention from you, and if doing a certain behavior results in you ignoring him, he’ll quickly learn to do the things that you respond to instead.

Make it a game

Have fun with your dog. Remember, your excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. Your dog will pick up on it and will want to play with you. You and your pooch can engage in fun exercise and activities together, while you’re training him simultaneously.

Keep it short and sweet

A dog’s attention span is not super long – so if you make your training sessions too lengthy, he’ll likely lose focus and you’ll both get frustrated. Instead, keep it fun and short. Be excited to work with him and stay calm and focused yourself. That way you’ll both be able to spend some quality time together while you work on the training.

Be patient

Don’t forget, learning new things isn’t easy for anyone, so be patient with your little guy! He’s doing the best he can and only wants to please you. So be sure to give him lots of encouragement when he makes the right choices, but also show him love and forgiveness when he makes mistakes. It won’t take long at all for him to start figuring out what it is that you’re wanting!

Stay consistent!

Positive reinforcement isn’t just for training sessions. You need to be using it regularly, every single day, throughout the day, every time he does what you ask. Example, if you ask him to come, and he comes right to you on the first command, that deserves a big scratch behind the ear and a “good boy!” If you ask him to stay by the door instead of bolting, and he does, don’t forget to praise him! It’s these little things that will really help reinforce his good behavior and will keep everything fresh in his mind!

House Training Your New Puppy

A new puppy in the house is an exciting time! Full of wiggles and squishy puppy goodness. But it also can be a bit of a challenging time for new owners as they navigate the first training phases. One of the toughest and time consuming is the house training step. But don’t worry, as long as you’re consistent and patient, most dogs can be easily house trained.

Remember That It Takes Time

One of the first things to keep in mind as you begin the house training process is that it takes time, so be patient! Some puppies can be trained within 4-6 months, but others can take up to a year. The key is to never, ever give up and always be consistent! The more you stick to your routine, the faster your puppy will become trained to only go potty outside. If it feels like it’s taking forever, or that he just doesn’t seem to be learning fast enough, don’t fret. Every pup is different and he will get there!

The Nights Will Be Long At First

Be prepared to get up at least a couple times a night for the first few weeks. Typically, by 16 weeks, your puppy should be sleeping through the night. But this can vary by puppy. Some begin sleeping through the night much earlier. No matter how long it takes, it’s important to get up and let him go outside to go potty when he needs to. This will help reinforce the house training. However, be sure to very simply get up, take him outside, let him potty, and then bring him right back inside again and put him back to bed. If you’re crate training, take him directly back to his crate and put him back away. It’s important not to pet him or play with him or do anything that might make him want to get up during the night for anything other than going to the bathroom. You want to teach him that if he whines during the night, he will only be let outside to go potty, and that is it. This will encourage him to sleep.

Watch Him Closely During the Day

Keep a close eye on him at all times as he’s hanging out around the house. Take him outside every little bit and give him a command like, “Let’s go potty!” or “Outside!” or “Potty!”. Right at first, you might have to take him outside as often as every 15 minutes. Then every 20 minutes. Then every 30 minutes. As your pup gets the hang of it, you’ll be able to stretch it further and further out. But be sure to follow his cues and if it looks like he’s sniffing for a place to go to the bathroom, take him outside right away. And don’t forget to praise him each and every time he goes to the bathroom outside!

If You’re Crate Training

If you’re going to train your new pup to sleep in a crate, use this as a potty training tool. Keep him in his crate at night and only take him out of it when he needs to use the bathroom. Work on training him to go to his crate when you say “crate” or “kennel” or “go to your bed”. Give him a treat every time he goes to his crate and praise him. It can take some time for him to get used to using their crate so stick with it and work on keeping it a positive experience for him. Also, keeping him in his crate when you’re not able to keep an eye on him will really help with house training. He won’t want to go potty where he sleeps, so it’s a great tool for teaching him to hold it until he goes outside!

When You’re Ready to Use a Pet Door

As soon as you feel like your pup is ready to start learning how to use the pet door, just as you did with the other steps, be patient and go at your dog’s pace. Hold the flaps open at first so that he can get used to using the pet door before the flaps actually rest on his back. Reward him with a treat and lots of praise every time he goes through it. Don’t forget to use commands with the pet door as well so that he can associate it with going outside to use the restroom. Say this like, “Outside,” “Potty,” or “Tinkle,”

With a little time and patience, your pup is going to be house trained in no time! Remember, this stage won’t last forever so take your time getting Fido trained to use the bathroom outside, and you’ll be really glad you took the extra time to get it right.

How to Train Your Dog to Use a Pet Door

The purchase of your brand new pet door is an exciting time for both you and your pooch. You’ll both get a new sense of freedom as he gains access to the outdoors anytime he needs it – without having to beg at the door for you to let him out! No longer having to cross his legs as he waits for you to return home so that he can relieve himself! For many people, getting a pet door is quite simply a game-changer. But the question that most have when they first have their new pet door installed is: how do you teach your dog to use it?

Teaching your pup to use his new pet door is easier than you think! Just like any other training you do with your dog, pet door training just takes a little bit of patience and encouragement. Depending on how timid your dog is, some can take a bit longer to be trained. We’ve outlined a few simple steps to help you through the process.

Don’t force him

Allow Fido to grow accustomed to it. Depending on your dog’s personality, just having a new object in the house could put him off. Let him smell it, investigate, and get used to it. If he’s particularly hesitant, sit on the floor beside the pet door and let him come to you. Touch the pet door, move the flaps, slide the security cover up and down a few times. Let him get used to the sounds and appearance. Show him there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Get the treats ready

This is usually easier if you have two people. Have one person standing on the inside of the pet door, and another person standing outside. Have some treats ready! Hold the flaps up on the pet door so that your dog can walk freely through without having to push or touch the flaps. Start calling for your dog to come through the pet door. Clap and whistle and encourage him to go through. Once on the other side, praise him and give him a treat. Do this over and over until he looks very comfortable going through the pet door without any hesitation.

Let the flaps down

After your pooch is comfortable with going through the pet door while you hold up the flaps, slowly begin to lower them down onto his back as he goes through. Do this little by little, allowing your dog to bear more and more of the weight of the flaps until you are no longer holding any of it. Once he gets used to feeling the flaps on his back, pushing them open won’t take as much effort.

Final step

Now that your pup has mastered going through the pet door with you laying the flaps on his back as he goes through, it’s time to let him learn to push the flaps open on his own. Stand on the opposite side of the pet door that your dog is on, and begin calling him. Don’t forget to have those treats handy! Encourage him and praise him as he gets the courage to try something new and push the flaps open all by himself.

Trust us, as soon as he gets the hang of it, there will be no stopping him!

For more training information and step by step pictures, visit Hale Pet Door.

January is National Train Your Dog Month

Why is January National Train Your Dog Month? Well, when the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) enacted the Train Your Dog campaign back in 2010, no other month seemed more appropriate than January. Why? Because of all the dogs that are purchased or given as gifts during the holidays! January is often the time when there is a sharp influx of brand new dog owners – many of them seeking guidance for training their dogs. But unfortunately, that also means there is an increase of dogs being surrendered at dog shelters.

People often have the best intentions when buying or adopting a dog, but when reality sets in with the little pup, sometimes they’re just not prepared for it. Handling a new dog (especially puppies) can be a daunting task that comes with many challenges that owners are simply not able to handle. Problems with destruction, house training, and many other behavior issues may arise and overwhelm new pet parents and leads to owners feeling like they have no choice but to put their new pets up for adoption because they don’t know what to do.

Which is where National Train Your Dog Month comes into play. The hope is to spread awareness to new pet parents about the importance of proper training for their new dogs. Investing the time, energy, and money into training can create a happy and healthy environment for not only your pet, but for the entire family as well. Dogs thrive in the security of proper training – and it’s not only the dog that receives this training. Human family members need it just as much. Once you learn what you’re supposed to be doing when interacting with your dog, it’ll help form those strong, healthy bonds.

Be sure to take the time to find a trainer that’s a good fit for your family. Do your research to make sure you find a reputable one that has the proper credentials. Talk to your friends and find out who they’ve used and trust. Read reviews. Look for trainers that have proved themselves to know what they’re doing and have a good reputation. Ask if you can sit in on a couple of training sessions and see for yourself if they’re what you’re looking for. Don’t forget to pay close attention to how they interact with the dogs – do the dogs seem happy, well trained, and healthy? Is the trainer covering all the topics you’re interested in? Do you feel like you will benefit from what they have to offer? Are they willing to answer questions and take the time to make sure all their clients are comfortable with the material covered? If so, they might be the trainer for you! However, if you’re not feeling comfortable with them, keep looking. Nothing is more important than creating a good foundation with your dog than the training.

In case you’re wondering, training is not just for puppies! If you’re looking into adopting an older dog, it’s still just as important. Whether your dog has received training in the past, and you’re looking for a bit of a refresher for you both, or your new bud seems to be lacking all manners entirely, dog training is a great tool to strengthen your relationship and build trust and structure. Your dog will appreciate knowing what is expected of him and understanding his or her boundaries.

Happy training!