Preparing my house for a new adopted shelter dog
November 13, 2013 10:15 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to make my home "dog-proof" for the new 18-month-old dog I'm getting from a shelter? And what can I do to ease the trauma for him of moving to a completely new home?

I'll soon be getting home "George Clooney", a cheerful, handsome, 18-month-old Rottweiler-Labrador mix dog from a shelter. (Pictures here for the curious, a nice video here.)

This is the first time I've had a dog all by myself and I want to make sure my house is doggy-proofed. I'm particularly worried about electrical cables getting chewed by a stressed dog because there are a fair few of those around the house. I'm going to get an interiors makeover done in the next month, and I'm getting George only after that, so I can make changes now. (There will be new curtains, furniture, and paint.)

The second part of my question is about making the transition easy for him. He's been at the shelter since July with lots of other dogs (with whom he gets along very well) and I'm sure the moving process will be stressful for him. What can I do to help things along? I've already bought a mattress, Kong toys, squeaky toys, and a few other toys of various textures.
posted by madman to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'd get him a nice cosy crate. Dogs like places where they can get away and chill. Get some things from the shelter that he's familiar with so he has smells he's used to around him.

Look into doggie day care. He may enjoy hanging with other dogs and this is great for when you go to work. He'll be in a dog-rich environment and you can check in on him via webcam.

Do some obedience training with him. Even if he's trained, you want to enforce your relationship, as in, you da boss, he da dog.

This guy is going to need a ton of exercise. So a nice walkie in the morning and a longer walkie in the evening.

Get him out to the dog parks on weekends, so he can run with his dog-buddies.

Dogs, gotta love 'em.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:23 AM on November 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Refresh your memory about what a dog's "leave me alone" body language looks like. He may feel overwhelmed or tired as he settles in to his new home and it can be hard to resist your desire to cuddle/play/demand his attention.

Every dog is different but you can't go wrong by securing things like shoes and dirty laundry, which dogs like to chew because they smell like you. Make sure he has something it's OK to chew, like a beef bone or rope toy or antler (in the US we use deer and moose antlers, not sure what the local option would be for you) and offer it as a substitution if he starts chewing something he oughtn't.
posted by workerant at 10:32 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Damn, he does look like George Clooney!

The single best thing you can do with any new dog is to quickly establish a routine and stick to it. Get up at the same time every day, feedings at the same times each day, walks, your comings and goings as much as possible--everything. A dog who knows what to expect is less likely to face anxiety.

The second best thing you can do is to learn that, in general, a tired dog is a well behaved dog. A big adolescent dog like that is unlikely to be satisfied by two 30-minute walks per day. He will need to RUN off that energy quite often. If your dog is ever being "naughty," chances are high he's not getting enough physical stimulation in the form of exercise.

Third: mental stimulation in the form of training. Take a basic obedience class, then practice every day with him for like two 15-minute sessions to keep him thinking and to reinforce the bond between you and the hierarchy of you, then him.

He's so gorgeous. You're going to get compliments everywhere you go. Good luck!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:33 AM on November 13, 2013

Response by poster: Fortunately, I won't be living alone for long. My girlfriend will be moving in with me by February-March, 2014, and she's as excited as me to have George. We have agreed to split the dog maintenance duties. She does grooming; I do cooking and food. We split the walks. :)

Supplementary question: he currently weighs about 25 kg (55 lbs) which I think is underweight for either Labs or Rotties. He's 18 months old; does he still have any growing left to do?
posted by madman at 10:36 AM on November 13, 2013

Best answer: Awwwwwww, Mr. Clooney!

Squeeing aside, your situation seems pretty similar to what I went through in February when I adopted my three-year-old* lab mix.

Obviously everyone is different, but most of the dog-proofing I did turned out to be pointless because my particular dog didn't do the things I was worried about. For example I bought one of those plastic tubs with a lid for all my shoes: my dog does not care about shoes. I put away all my rugs on the off chance he wasn't housebroken: he came housebroken.

Another thing that surprised me was that dogs aren't like cats, who enjoy wreaking havoc for no particular reason. My dog doesn't chew cables, or knock things off surfaces, or pee on things out of spite. He mostly just wants to lie around the house and eat snacks.

However, there were problem areas I didn't anticipate. The first thing is that I wish I had gotten a crate for him from day one. I ended up getting one about a week after adopting him, but that would be the one dog-related item I wish I'd had in advance. The second thing is that my dog loves to steal food off the kitchen counter. On the off chance that George does this, I would look seriously at how often you leave food unattended on the kitchen counters and whether there's a way to cut back on that.

My dog has absolutely no impact on any interior design aspect of my house, aside from the fact that he sheds. As I said, he's not like a cat who lives to destroy things. That said, I wish I had factored my big shaggy dirt factory in before I bought all white linens when I moved into this apartment. All my sheets, my duvet, and the bath mat have dirty paw prints on them. So if you are buying new linens as part of your makeover, you might want to pick a color that doesn't show dirt.

You may also want to get a lidded trash can, if you don't have one already.

Re the transition. I'm going to tell you straight, because you're adopting a dog that is a similar mix to my dog, out of a shelter situation. Watch for separation anxiety. Read up on it now and start taking the recommendations to heart. Some people also swear by these pheromone plug-ins you can get, which comfort the dog by reminding it of its mother. None of those types of things worked for my dog after he already had full-blown psycho separation anxiety, but they might work for preventing its onset. If you're adopting from a boutique rescue sort of place or a nicer shelter, talk to the staff about separation anxiety in advance.

Consider what you will do if your dog has serious separation anxiety and can't be left alone all day while you're at work. My dog costs me almost nothing -- a sack of kibble a month, the occasional toy, a vet visit every now and then. Except that he can't be alone for any amount of time and is too big to go most places with me. This is something that would have given me serious pause if I'd anticipated it before adopting my dog. (Who I love and wouldn't give up for anything, but still, I spend more on dog daycare than I do on any expense other than rent.)

I was worried about so many potential dog behavioral problems, but had no idea about separation anxiety. Nine months later, it's basically the defining issue of my life.

*That said, 18 months is prime "doggy teenager" years, so YMMV I guess?
posted by Sara C. at 10:43 AM on November 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, I forgot the other weird thing my dog does that affects the interior of my home -- his favorite thing EVER is to lie down on top of clean laundry. You may want to get in the habit of folding and putting away your clothes ASAP, if your dog is anything like mine. I know it's just because they're warm from the dryer, smell like me, and make the perfect nest. But AAAUGGGGHHHH
posted by Sara C. at 10:45 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gosh - I so wish I had read Do Over Dogs to help make our dogs' adjustments smoother. Recommend it highly.

Our dog was in theory "house-trained" - but he had forgotten that training when he came home - so I recommend making sure to have lots of enzymatic cleaner ready to use. Dogwise has good books on house-training dogs who have forgotten.

Per "Do Over Dogs" (and many experienced trainers) - I wish we hadn't started introducing our dog to everyone in our family/friends. My sister followed the book's advice and her new dog's adjustment went much better. She let her new fellow adjust to his new life slowly & easily, meeting his needs (clear routine, exercise, fresh air, good food, play time, safe place to rest). She then slowly started introducing him to new people, new experiences, and new dogs. The trust built up in the interim, so he is very happy to do new things now. We overwhelmed our dogs by putting them near strangers & strange situations too often, so we had to play catch up.
posted by apennington at 11:17 AM on November 13, 2013

Re house training, my strategy when my dog first came home was to take him out every couple hours -- and timing it specifically around meals and sleeps -- until he went. I then set up and have stuck pretty firmly to a schedule: we go out in the morning, at around 6pm, and before bed.

Can't speak to the rottie aspect of the mix, but my lab mix is smart enough that this worked pretty well and he never had accidents indoors. He is also big enough that going three times a day is plenty.

The only difficult part of this early "are you housebroken or what?" thing was figuring out where he wanted to go and all his weird doggy bathroom quirks. Keep in mind that it may take a day or so until your dog is relaxed enough to go to the bathroom normally. I kept taking my poor dog on walks, hoping he'd pee, and he just WOULD NOT PEE. Which made me anxious because I just knew he'd pee in the house the second we got back inside (he didn't). Too much weirdness the first day or so, I guess. Also he didn't poop for ages and ages, either. So if this happens, don't worry too much.
posted by Sara C. at 11:35 AM on November 13, 2013

Re: the size question: I really question the lab part of his ancestry. Looks absolutely like he's got a husky or shiba inu on one side of the family (on noting that you're in India--Indian spitz maybe?) The tail and eyes are absolutely spitz-type. If it were shiba inu or Indian spitz, that would also account for the smaller size.
posted by drlith at 11:53 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

If the dog has been in a kennel for a little while he might not be great at housetraining or used to crating. Drliths suggestions about housetraining are great, things might take a little while to get into a routine, but the trick is to keep it a routine as much as possible, take him out every few hours or so and praise him like crazy when he pees or poops outside. If he's not used to crating you don't have to crate him, but until you are sure on his housetraining having safe area you can put him when you go out is probably best if only for easy clean ups. Laundries or bathrooms are usually used as they have easy to clean floors in case of accidents.

Give him a little bit to settle in, I've found it takes about 2 weeks for dogs to start feeling settled and their real personality to start coming out.

I'd recommend going to some sort of training classes after he's settled in (I prefer ones that use positive reinforcement), not only will it give you confidence in knowing how to deal with any issues that might pop up before they get too bad, it is great fun and a lovely way to bond with your dog. I am a big fan of agility classes.

One of our current dogs did chew an electric cable, luckily it only shocked him a little and he's never even thought about doing it again because of that. He was however a puppy and at the chewing everything stage, your guy looks a little older than that and might be past the worst of the chewing everything.

I know most rescues do neuter but if he doesn't come neutered/desexed I'd really recommend getting it done. One of the photos made it look like he still had all his boy parts so I thought I'd mention it. It really can help a lot with problems temperament wise with male dogs, besides stopping lots of babies and stopping the dogs from roaming.

He is a very handsome dog and totally deserves his name.
posted by wwax at 1:40 PM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If he's already getting along with his shelter pals (human and canine), and seems well-adjusted at the shelter (or at least not highly stressed), odds are that he will have an unremarkable transition to your house, where it's quiet, and there is someone there totally focused on him and him alone!

Some things I wish I had had handy when I've brought various rescue dogs home:

A good slip lead - A dog who might be nervous or uncertain at a new situation is more likely to bolt when you least expect it. A thick slip lead, held with your wrist through the loop and grasping the long part of the lead, will help prevent that. Don't rely on hooking a leash to the collar he was wearing when he came from the shelter, especially if it's the kind with a plastic bracket, rather then one that connects like a regular belt does. Shelters/rescues can't afford quality collars, so invest in a good one, but keep him on a slip lead until you're sure of him on walks.

If you're not sure of his potty habits:

Cheap towels
Save yourself the frantic running around and using up all your paper towels and just buy a bunch of cheap bath towels for mopping up pee. I bought brown and yellow ones to distinguish them from our regular bath towels. :-)

For washing the pee towels and other surfaces that have been peed upon.

Nature's Miracle
Enzymatic cleaner for breaking down pee smells, hopefully to deter further peeing in that spot.

As far as dog-proofing your house, you've gotten some good ideas. I just want to add that until you know for certain that he'll be house-trained in your house, keep him in one room, like the kitchen. Never let him in other parts of the house unsupervised until you are confident that he won't have an accident or get into something he shouldn't.

Until you know your new buddy well, be careful about things like suddenly raising your voice, or raising your hand in his direction, or moving your feet in his direction. Dogs who have been yelled at or hit or kicked will sometimes pee (or bite) out of sheer nervousness, even if you aren't yelling or hitting or kicking him.

Also, I'm no vet, but 55 lbs does seem a little light for a Rottie. But he could just be built that way. Don't overfeed, especially at first when it's so tempting to keep giving him treat after treat!

And be careful about the treats you do get for him.

Good luck, and thanks for adopting, not buying!
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:37 PM on November 13, 2013

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