We are getting a dog! Advise needed.
June 13, 2013 3:44 AM   Subscribe

I have some questions about how to best bring a new dog into a new home.

My boyfriend and I decided we both wanted to get a dog, so after looking at shelters online, we finally went to one where we met this guy. He is a Yorkshire cross, which means he is larger than a typical Yorkie and, as you can see, he has an eye injury which he already had when he was brought to the shelter by people who found him wondering about in a parking lot next to their workplace. That's all we know about his previous life. He's been at the shelter for a bit over two weeks.

When we visited him last week, we took him for a long walk. When we first walked though the shelter almost all dogs were barking excitedly, some jumping up and looking for attention. Not this guy. He just stood in his enclosure sitting, looking up with his one functioning eye. So we decided to take him for a walk. At first he didn't want to walk at all, but quickly followed us after that brief hesitation. He walked very nicely, especially with my boyfriend holding the leash. With me, he sometimes jumped up in excitement, and nipped at my clothes a couple of times. We stopped when he did this, ignored him, and as soon as he stopped, carried on with the walk. Whenever we stopped because we just felt like it, he stopped as well, seemingly very chilled and relaxed. He seemed to enjoy affection, but not overly so - he only jumped up as we walked, never as we were petting him, for instance. Then again, we'd only just met... The people at the shelter told us he loves being carried, and that causes a big part of the jumping - ie, he will go back to chilled and relaxed once being held up. We never carried him, but we did have to handle him a couple of times when he got tangled in the leash, which he allowed in a very relaxed way. He behaved very well around other dogs, sniffing politely, I suppose saying his "hello"s and then moving on. Once we got back to the shelter, he got back into his enclosure just fine, no barking, just sitting in his bed and looking up. This is all we know about this fella. Other than he is super, super cute, of course. He has been snipped early this week, is microchipped and vaccinated. We will have to take him to a vet who specializes in ophthalmology to have his injured eye checked. That's ok with us.

Both my boyfriend and I have only had cats before, never a dog. We live in a one bedroom apartment in the center of Brussels, but we have a fenced backyard the same size as the interior of the apartment. We are relaxed people ourselves, and we enjoy going out as well as staying in and having an evening on the couch. We don't really know other people who have dogs, although I see a lot of them walking by. We are looking forward to adopting a dog, but there are many questions we have:

- This is the time to have someone tell us this is totally not the right dog for us. So is he? The people at the shelter weren't very forthcoming or inquisitive, they just seemed worried that we lived in an apartment (the shelter is in the country side of Belgium, where culturally people only live in apartments in the city when they are in college and their first few years of work life, after which they generally get a house near their parents and move back to the country; we are seen as "alternative" because we have not done this, nor do we intend to). They have since called to let us know they will let us adopt him, though!

- What equipment is required to have when you bring a dog home? I would like to know which are an absolute must and if we should be looking out for something specific. We do not want to crate him.

- What should we do on the day he comes home? How to introduce him to his new space and ourselves in the best way? The shelter is an hour drive away.

- My boyfriend works away from home full time, but I teach, so part of my work day is spent at home, sometimes with visits from students coming in for private lessons. This means we have to leave him alone sometimes for periods of about 6 hours, and that he will have to behave very politely when people are over. How to ease him into it?

- I would like to clicker train him. I have evidently never clicker trained a dog (or even clicked a clicker, ever). How quickly after he comes home with us can I start? I am willing to put in the time and effort, but I still wonder - is this overly ambitious of me, given how much more excited about me he seemed as compared to my boyfriend? I will add the dog seemed to have little interest in food, and totally rejected the treats they had at the shelter (which in his defense didn't look very appetizing). Books, dvd's and website recommendations are all welcome.

- We feel excited about adopting him, but also a bit anxious about it. Is this normal?
posted by neblina_matinal to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: To address your last point: yes, it is! Don't worry! A teacher of mine always used to say, "Being nervous means you care." I think if you were 100% confident that you were going to handle this dog no problems, that'd be a bad sign.

As far as what to have: I think some sort of bedding that is the dog's own (whether that's an expensive purpose-made dog bed, or just a nice pile of old clothes and linens to call his own) is important. My dog always preferred to be in the same room with me so her bed was in my living room. Depending on your dog's personality, he may prefer to have "his" space in a laundry room or something -- you'll have to keep an eye out.

Dog food, food and water bowls, maybe some treats and a couple of toys. Don't go overboard yet until you know what he likes and can handle. My dog loved stuffed animals but hated tug ropes (which I had bought a lot of, because my childhood dog was exactly the opposite). Certain treat types gave her bad gas or diarrhea, so I had to throw a lot away until I figured out what worked with her stomach. A leash and collar, or possibly a harness on a dog that small -- the rescue may be able to be specific or might send the right combination home with him.

When he comes home, I'd maybe let him come into your apartment, drop off any and all trappings, take off your shoes, let him sniff around and have some water, and then do you first "We're going for a walk!" routine. Put your shoes on, jingle the leash, do whatever "Walkies!" sort of verbal routine you hope to keep up. Then take him on a nice long walk. Tire him out. He'll probably already be sort of worn out from the stress of a new place and new owners, but a walk will make him a good kind of tired. My dog drank a LOT of water her first night at home, and The Internet told me that was a pretty normal stress reaction.

If he doesn't sleep the first night and just whines and freaks out, DON'T PANIC. My dog did this and I got no sleep. She freaked the hell out every time I left the apartment for the first two weeks I had her. I nearly considered returning her (we were in a probationary 2 week foster period before the adoption would become official). But I'm glad I stuck with her, because after that, we were BFFs and she was the most wonderful dog in the world. DON'T PANIC.

As to easing him into being home while you're at work... dogs are weird and vary widely. In my experience, after that first two weeks, my dog was 100% okay with me leaving all day for work. She knew I would get up, eat breakfast and read the internet, walk her, shower and dry my hair, put on clothes, leave, and then be back 8 or 9 hours later. If I went through that routine, as I left in the morning she'd curl up quietly on her bed with a toy, and when I came home she'd be happy to see me but it was very much "Oh right, you're back." But if, on a Saturday afternoon, I went out for 5 minutes to go to the corner store? She FREAKED OUT. Barked the entire time I would be gone. Would try to follow me out the door. Would jump on me in happiness when I came back, in that "I THOUGHT YOU'D NEVER COME BACK" sort of way. So it may not be so much that you'll be gone 6 hours at a stretch that will be the problem; your dog may adjust to that routine no problem. That's what I'd recommend -- get on a routine with this puppy ASAP.

As far as clicker training, given your lack of previous dog experience and not knowing many friends who have them, I might recommend hiring a trainer. The trainer will train you as much as they will help to train your dog. You'll learn a lot about dog psychology and behavior, and get your clicker training down to boot. That way you'll feel more confident with your dog, which he'll pick up on, and I think that will probably help strengthen your relationship.

Good luck and congrats on the pending adoption! Dogs are AWESOME.
posted by olinerd at 4:05 AM on June 13, 2013

The Battersea Dogs Home site has all sorts of material that will help. Your dog's biggest challenge will be the 6 hours of solitude. In my experience solitude is the biggest cause of unhappy and as a result badly behaved dogs.
posted by BenPens at 4:09 AM on June 13, 2013

I'm not sure if there are dog training classes where you are, but those can be a good thing to do because you both get training and get supervised time for your dog to socialize with other dogs, which can be very helpful.
posted by NoraReed at 4:11 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can absolutely adopt that dog, and you can absolutely clicker train. You can do this!

There are clicker websites out there that are very good: www.clickertraining.com is one I check whenever I have a question about how to handle a behavior. Another term you might want to google is 'force-free training'.

Having just gotten back into fostering after a long break, recent experiences have reminded me that it takes about two weeks for the dog to 'de-stress' and show you how adorable he can be when truly relaxed. This guy might go slower or faster, but expecting it to take about 2 weeks is a good baseline. So while I'd establish his walkies routine during that time, I might not expect much in the way of official 'training' beyond clicking/treating when he comes to you.

Personally, I would suggest that you reconsider the crate idea. My little catchphrase is "You wouldn't bring a toddler home without a crib . . ." (Ok, some societies would, but . . .) The fact of the matter is, much like parenting, there are going to be times when you're frustrated or the dog is frustrated and you need a safe place to put him -- a place where you (and he) know that he's not going to get into any trouble or hurt himself or anything else. Also, I feel it helps them de-stress when they can have a place of their own where nothing will happen to them. You put a blanket or bed in there and a toy or two, maybe feed him in there for a couple weeks -- it becomes more like his little treehouse than a cage. Lastly, it's possible he's not house-trained, in which case a crate is very useful for encouraging them to hold it, due to their natural desire not to void where they eat/sleep.

So, yeah -- I personally bring them home and they spend a week or so crated most of the time, watching to see that we're not bed people, we don't randomly hit things; learning that he can expect (and trust) that he'll go out at these times and eat at those times; learning that we randomly leave the house or return to the house and he's alone and it's all a very low-key common experience that requires no special preparation or apologies -- just coming to understand the routine of the house. It ends up feeling like an anti-climatic beginning, but he's had a lot of excitement lately so anti-climatic might not be so bad . . .
posted by MeiraV at 4:56 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you can get your hands on a copy of "The Other End of the Leash", by Patricia McConnell, do it! This is the best training book I have ever read, and will give you loads of practical advice, as well as the reasoning behind each technique or insight.

She also has a website which is http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/

Good luck with your new friend - he is adorable!
posted by PlantGoddess at 4:59 AM on June 13, 2013

Oh, he is adorable! Good on you for adopting a shelter pup.

It sounds to me like you have an ideal setup for a dog. Especially the fenced backyard. That will be so much more convenient than stairs or an elevator for those off-hours potty breaks. If you don't already have something, you might think up some way to have a small covered area outside he can get to if you let him out when it's raining.

I don't have much experience with very small dogs (= small bladders) but I don't think 6 hours away from home would be a problem, potty-wise. As far as separation anxiety, you'll have to see if it's an issue, and if it is, there are ways of dealing with it. I know you said you don't want to crate, but a lot of people recommend it as it is supposedly comforting to the dog.

Do you have any idea how he behaves around cats? That would be my only possible concern. Maybe the shelter could let you bring him home on a trial basis to test that out.

One more bit of advice: having had 5 rescue dogs in my life, don't be surprised if his personality changes quite a bit after coming home with you. Don't freak out! Routine, routine, routine is the key. And setting limits. He has to figure you out, and you have to figure him out, is all. And it may come as a bit of a shock after having cats, but dogs require SO much more attention. But are completely rewarding. Good luck!
posted by auntie maim at 7:01 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

How old is he? Does the shelter think he's house-trained? It's harder to house-train older dogs, but certainly possible. An older dog is likely to be calmer, but may also have bad habits. I adopted a 6 -8 yr old dog once; he was awesome, just wish we could have had him longer. I now have a terrier from a shelter, adopted at @ 1 yr old, and he is a fantastic dog.

Clicker-training or any training - take a course. It's really good to learn dog training from a professional.

The dog should have a designated place to hang out, and my dog needs to have a ratty blanket to chew on and nest in, though he's small, and mostly hangs out on the couch with me, and sleeps on my bed, which is fine with me. Whatever you allow at first, you're pretty much stuck with, so think about boundaries. The dog needs a designated place for food and water, and a chew toy and ball. Dogs vary a lot in toy preference. Some dogs really, really need to chew, others love to fetch a ball, etc.

Congratulations, he's cute and sounds like he has a good personality.
posted by theora55 at 7:14 AM on June 13, 2013

Best answer: Everyone else has offered great advice.

All you really need when your dog comes home is a collar and lead, some small dogs walk better on harnesses so that might be something to consider, a food and water bowl and a place to sleep. I've done an emergancy foster where the lead was a rope, the food bowl and old take out container and the bed a blanket in a laundry basket. So don't stress at all about what sorts to get and just get what appeals to you. I don't crate, I know it's a big thing in the US but don't know anyone in any other country I've visited that crates and all the pet dogs in those countries seem healthy and happy too. Though they are sure to be people that do so I think it's a cultural technique thing more than a dog training necessity so do what you think best their your dog will be happy either way.

Give your dog a couple of weeks to settle in before you start anything but basic training. Keep to a routine as much as possible during this time as your dog will spend the 2 weeks learning what to expect. I would go to dog training classes after that as I think they are a great way for dogs and owners to get confidence, and honestly the trainer will be training you more than the dog and they are fun thing to do. Clicker training is pretty easy and there are a lot of good books or YouTube videos out there a lot of the good ones have already been recommended by others.

With people coming over you will probably want to work on the "bed" command in that the dog goes to their bed when told to as it will make the dog feel secure and keep them out the way when people are over.

Be aware that the dog you see in the kennel may not be the dog you get after a few weeks at home, I had one dog that was a crazed ball of energy at the shelter turn into a couch potato that sleeps 23.5 hours a day once we got him home, and the quiet snugly one likes to run around the back yard all day patrolling for squirrels. Shelters can cause dogs to shut down a little through fear. It does sound like your guy has good manners though, because even in a high stress environment he let you handle him no worries and was happy to follow your lead.

The most important piece of advice I could give any dog owner is, if you see a problem occurring ask someone and ask soon, or even if you just have a question about something,anything. So many dog problems can be fixed if they are caught early before they become serious. So if you have the slightest question ask someone, your vet, a trainer, someone.

By the way what you did when the dog nipped was a very good response to the situation, which I think shows you guys are going to be great dog owners.
posted by wwax at 8:16 AM on June 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: - This is the time to have someone tell us this is totally not the right dog for us. So is he?

It's hard to say because you don't mention much else about your lifestyle except for living in an apartment, but two immediate thoughts come to mind. I don't think these are dealbreakers, and I think any dog is going to require compromise and hard work. The first is the fact that it's harder to housetrain a smaller dog. They have smaller bladders and need to be taken out much more frequently. Some small dogs are known to be difficult to train, in general. You'll probably have to expect some accidents at first. The second is that little terriers tend to be barky. Do you share walls or the floor with neighbors? Do they have pets? This can be a really touchy subject.

- What equipment is required to have when you bring a dog home? I would like to know which are an absolute must and if we should be looking out for something specific. We do not want to crate him.

You should definitely get a crate for him, even if you don't plan to train him stringently with the crate. Dogs like having a secure little den to hang out in, and it'll be a good thing to have exposed him to for all kinds of future occurrences. (Vet visits, boarding him, travel, etc.)

Other stuff: food, and bowls for food and water. a collar and leash. bedding materials, either for inside the crate or in an out of the way corner. a toy or two. some treats. Don't overbuy either food or treats, because not all dogs like everything. I bought a bag of treats my dog turned out to be indifferent to, so I'm glad I didn't stock up before I even got home. You may want to get poop bags if you'll be walking him on the street, and Nature's Remedy for the inevitable housetraining accidents.

- What should we do on the day he comes home? How to introduce him to his new space and ourselves in the best way? The shelter is an hour drive away.

It was harder than I thought to physically get my dog into the car at the shelter, then back out of the car and actually into my house. That said, I have a large dog that I can't just sling under my arm and walk up the stairs. After I actually got him into the house, I let him sniff around at everything and gave him lots of space to explore without feeling crowded. Then I spent some time getting set up, like figuring out how to put his harness on and fit it properly, giving him water in his new bowl, etc. We went for a lot of walks that day (the shelter implied that he wasn't housetrained), and practiced going up and down the stairs a lot. On our first walk, it turned out I hadn't fit his harness properly and he slipped out of it. There was some chasing, but it was fine considering the possibilities of a brand new dog in a new place with an owner who is still a stranger.

- My boyfriend works away from home full time, but I teach, so part of my work day is spent at home, sometimes with visits from students coming in for private lessons. This means we have to leave him alone sometimes for periods of about 6 hours, and that he will have to behave very politely when people are over. How to ease him into it?

I can't answer this question very well because I'm under the impression that I probably did it wrong, which might be how my dog ended up with separation anxiety. One thing I know is that you shouldn't make a big deal of leaving and coming home. Keep it low key and uneventful. You should plan to work up to leaving for longer and longer periods of time. Maybe try for 20 minutes the first time, then an hour, then two, etc. One thing I didn't realize with my dog is that the first few days, he wasn't really bonded to me at all and it didn't matter if I left him. Suddenly -- just in time for me to go back to work -- he started barking and carrying on when I left. This evolved into pretty severe separation anxiety out of nowhere. Four months later, I am still working with him on this. So I'd say that anything you can do to minimize the possibility of separation anxiety or anticipate it is a good thing.

- I would like to clicker train him. I have evidently never clicker trained a dog (or even clicked a clicker, ever). How quickly after he comes home with us can I start? I am willing to put in the time and effort, but I still wonder - is this overly ambitious of me, given how much more excited about me he seemed as compared to my boyfriend?

My dog took to clicker training very quickly. That said, different breeds are "trainable" to different degrees, and one of the reasons I picked my particular dog at the shelter is that he'd passed their Shelter School training program with flying colors. I wanted a dog I could train more than most other criteria. All of the above said, the nice thing about training is that it's really more of a "fun thing we do together" and "bonding activity" and "way for me to communicate with my dog" type of thing, and less of a "dog will explode if not exposed to clicker" type of thing. As long as you can get your dog not peeing in the house and maybe OK left alone for a few hours, the rest will come. Or maybe it won't come, and you'll always have a crazy dog with a mind of his own. C'est la vie. Nobody is going to die if your dog can't sit on command. I definitely recommend a training class down the road, especially if he turns out not to be excited about it right away.

On the treats front, DEFINITELY experiment with this. My dog doesn't really love the biscuit style treats. I mean, he'll eat them, and he's motivated enough that he'll happily do tricks for bits of kibble. But you might want to have some tiny cubes of meat or cheese at first. My dog loves bread, for some reason. You'll figure it out.

- We feel excited about adopting him, but also a bit anxious about it. Is this normal?

Yes! I felt completely anxious about my dog until at least the first two weeks had passed.
posted by Sara C. at 8:24 AM on June 13, 2013

The fact of the matter is, much like parenting, there are going to be times when you're frustrated or the dog is frustrated and you need a safe place to put him -- a place where you (and he) know that he's not going to get into any trouble or hurt himself or anything else.

Another thing about crates. It has recently dawned on me that I'm allowed to put my dog in his crate whenever I need him to not be underfoot. For instance he likes to jump on the bed when I'm trying to put clean sheets on it. Solution: crate time! (Before the bed jumping ever happens, and not as a punishment for jumping on the bed. Of course.) If I'm ordering a pizza and know he'll try to jump on the delivery guy, crate time! If I'm cooking something for dinner that's going to drive him crazy, he goes into the crate before I plate the food.
posted by Sara C. at 8:31 AM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yorkies are the BEST!! :-)

You're going to need a brush for his fur. If there's a groomer nearby, ask them what they use on long-haired dogs. Set aside some money in your dog budget for regular grooming. I was able to skip a grooming in the summer with my Silky Terrier by getting him trimmed really short at the beginning of the summer. But be careful about sun exposure!

Get some nail clippers. Be sure to get the kind for small dogs. Pro tip: Get him used to you handling his feet right away! Ask your vet (or the groomer) to show you good nail-trimming technique.

Get a doggie toothbrush and toothpaste and start using it on him daily. Again, ask your vet or groomer for tips. (Learn from my mistakes and save yourself the future expense of doggie dental work!) Don't use people toothpaste which isn't meant to be swallowed.

Once he's a little bit more settled in your place, start getting him used to not barking (or quieting on command) when the doorbell rings and when people come into his house.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2013

Best answer: Great advice so far from everyone, so I'll make mine short. I noticed someone suggested a Patricia McConnell book, other trainers works to check out, not only for training purposes, but for building a relationship with your new pup, and helping understand and resolve any problems that may pop up along the way, which there are sure to be some. Pat Miller is great and has a few books you can check out regarding positive based training. Suzanne Clothier is another, I am currently reading one of her books that I like entitled "Bones Would Rain from the Sky", she focuses a lot on the relationships that we have and build with our dogs. Also Karen Pryor, she is one of the big names in clicker training, and has several books as well. Most of these trainers I think has access on their websites to essays on specific issues etc that you can read as well. GOOD LUCK! Clicker training is great.
posted by Quincy at 10:57 AM on June 13, 2013

You should be aware that how dogs act at the shelter can be very different from how they act at home. Shelters are stressful environments. Some dogs react to that with a lot of barking and jumping (as you saw). Others can become so stressed that they shut down and don't react much - this could be the case with your dog. Would you still want the dog if he turns out to be hyper and barky?
posted by medusa at 11:19 AM on June 13, 2013

The one rule...the best rule I can give people is that everything is ALWAYS a training experience to a dog. Dogs are better at judging and understanding human body language than humans are. Remember Dogs look to us for guidance and rules even when we aren't dishing them out.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 12:20 PM on June 13, 2013

I favorited this comment by katemonster in this question posted by Sara C. posted in February. I hope she doesn't mind if I quote her here, but what really resonated with me about the comment was this:

The thing I was completely unprepared for when I got my first dog-I-was-in-charge-of (as opposed to dogs my parents got when I was a kid) was how needy and dependent my dog was, especially at first. She was an adult rescue who'd had a hard life; she would whimper if she couldn't see me and followed me everywhere. I had a minor freakout in the first week or so, convinced I would never go to the bathroom alone again.

Our dog came to us when he was 4 years old (he's 9 now), and he acted exactly like this for the first few weeks. I was so totally unprepared for this, and oh how stressful those few weeks were! But then, suddenly, he relaxed... I guess he realized that we weren't going to disappear on him (my grandmother was his former owner and she suddenly passed away) and finally accepted us as his new people. It will take some time before your dog settles in and becomes "your" dog, so give him time! Good luck, he's a cutie!
posted by misozaki at 4:21 PM on June 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

You've got lots of great advice above, so I'll just disagree with you on one thing--please get him a crate. Dogs love their crates, and if you ever need to confine him for ANY reason, he'll be in a place he knows and is comfortable in. Even if you never ever expect to shut the crate door, get him his own little hideout, where he can have a cozy rug, some toys, a chew, and a place to get out of the way of the vacuum, company, and general business of the day. My super duper busy cowdog's crate is her favorite place, other than under my feet. She knows it's a good place to chill, and she's always content there. 99% of the time she's in her crate, she hangs out there with the door open to freely come and go.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:35 PM on June 13, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you for the great answers, everyone! We got him about a week ago, and he's been behaving quite well. He does follow me around everywhere and is *so* excited to see us whenever we show up that I'm afraid he's going to have some sort of stroke... I hope he quiets down a bit in time.

By the way, his name is Shaggy :)
posted by neblina_matinal at 12:48 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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