Puppy SOS: First night with a new dog
April 26, 2018 6:45 PM   Subscribe

We adopted a four-month-old chihuahua mix this afternoon, and now she is hiding behind a bookcase. It’s a large, heavy bookcase, and can’t be moved without considerable unpacking and effort. Is there anything I can do tonight to lure her out, if only to go outside to the bathroom? Or should I accept that she’s going to live behind the bookcase?

In the car on the way home, she was dreamily calm (if farty) (so, maybe not as calm as she seemed) and we nestled and had lots of head scratching and curious sniffing. Then, as soon as we got home, she bolted for a large bookcase in the living room (pausing to poop on the floor, which is nbd and we very consciously were super calm about it) and that’s where she’s been for the past three hours.

My most pressing worry, besides the bathroom stuff, is that she will be home for about four hours tomorrow while my spouse and I are both at work. I was planning to take her on a walk in the morning, then make a cozy space for her in the downstairs half-bath (bigger than a crate, nothing to chew). Not knowing her yet, I really don’t want her to have the run of the place for half the day.

And also, I mean, we want to snuggle and play!! And stay hydrated and hygienic. We have no reason to believe she suffered trauma or bad treatment in the past, and she’s been cleared of medical concerns.

She did emerge to eat dinner, which I set just outside the bookcase. And she cautiously took a few treats from my hand. Then she backed away and started growling, so I gave her some space. With our other dog, and older male chihuahua, I did some tossing toys around and playing, and she showed a little interest but quickly retreated to the bookcase. The older dog and I are now sitting in an armchair just beside the bookcase, and I’m trying to just be calm and hang out and see if she will emerge.

Anything we can do tonight—any resources on the web, anecdotes, tips—would be welcome. And if I can get her to trust me enough to take a photo, I’ll post it in a comment because she is very VERY cute.
posted by witchen to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Put wet food out and note the locations as a measure of the little girl getting up her moments of bravery. Plan on a slow go and a few messes.
posted by Freedomboy at 7:01 PM on April 26, 2018 [6 favorites]

Maybe she's afraid of your other dog -- can he be in another room right now?
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:08 PM on April 26, 2018 [9 favorites]

tuna fish
posted by cda at 7:08 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Invest in some puppypads for behind the bookcase to ease cleaning of messes, take it slow.

Puppy will adjust.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:10 PM on April 26, 2018 [3 favorites]

On the one hand: American style fake cheese in individually wrapped slices. The individually wrapped part is of ultimate importance. HEB brand if you can get it, or Kraft.

On the other hand: accept it, that bookcase is her Chihuahuan desert territory now.
posted by Verba Volant at 7:15 PM on April 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

Sit close on the floor but not facing her. Let her check you out, smell you, and be close without feeling like you are attempting to interact. Give her a treat or two if she seems interested.

I would give her very small meals so she has to come to you to eat and interact a bit. Don't let her growl at you. Just a gentle "ugh uh" or what ever works for you. Hand feeding kibble without over doing affection might be good.
posted by beccaj at 7:15 PM on April 26, 2018 [4 favorites]

I would fret too much to leave her, so if it was me I'd make a pallet for myself on the floor and lay there, all night if necessary. Low lights, quiet (or white noise, if you've got a fan or something that might cover house/outside/street noises), watch TV or listen to podcasts or read a book or whatever, with the stinkiest treats you have. Getting down on her level is probably the number one thing.

Ideally you'll block off any other really difficult hiding places first, and your partner can maybe slip in and block off the bookcase when she comes out. Maybe give her a crate or blanket fort or cardboard box hidey-hole she can go to next.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:41 PM on April 26, 2018 [5 favorites]

I have had great success with laying bacon strips down in a trail, but that was for a much larger puppy. However, the principle may still apply? Can you make a food trail and keep other dogs away?
posted by corb at 7:50 PM on April 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

She's a good girl! She is just trying to adapt to new surroundings and stimulus (number of humans, other pets, the 24-hour routine.)
Sounds like you are giving her the gentle treatment, letting her see what life will be like. Limit stimulus (pet in an/other room) and get that routine established of feeding time and place, toileting, and quiet time.
She's a Chihuahua puppy. Plenty of play time over the years.
posted by TrishaU at 7:57 PM on April 26, 2018 [2 favorites]

Keep the other dog out of the room and make a box for her without the smells of the other dog - freshly washed towels inside laundry basket or plastic tub washed down with a dilution of vinegar and water or one of those enzyme sprays. Make a nest for yourself on one side of the bookshelf and put the new box on the other side. Make a trail of treats from her to the box and have some pieces of card or some big books or something else to block the bookshelf off next to you, that you will swoop in and place when she leaves. Meanwhile, your spouse makes the downstairs bathroom ready for puppy asap and keeps the other dog entertained. (Obviously you can switch these roles.) And oh, block off all the other hiding spots in the living room before settling down to wait.

Just wait there with your phone or laptop or whatever, don't stare at the puppy or try to get her attention or anything, make yourself unremarkable so she feels okay investigating the very yummy smelling treats. Swoop in and block off the bookshelf when she makes her way out, then scoop her up and deposit her in the new box (with all the treats) and pop that box in the downstairs bathroom. Make the whole thing as fast as possible so she only has a minute to freak out until she's in a calm new place to be left to chill for the next long while.
posted by Mizu at 8:10 PM on April 26, 2018 [18 favorites]

I would say leave her alone as much as possible. I'm not sure if I would recommend camping out by her hidey hole and lurking on her.

When we brought our chihuahua mix home (he'd been found as a stray by a friend), he spent the first 24 hours under my husband's desk. We placed some water nearby and gave him a crate and little bed if he wanted and otherwise ignored him. He spent the next few days alternating between hiding under the desk and rushing around the edges of the room with his tail between his legs. We mostly ignored him but did reward him if he approached us, with gentle words and pets.

As he became more comfortable and more social, we worked on giving treats for behavior we liked, like coming out when dog dinner was being prepared and so on.

You absolutely need to let this dog go at her own pace.
posted by Squeak Attack at 7:37 AM on April 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

Remember the two-week shutdown. Give her time.
posted by Nyx at 7:57 AM on April 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Don't let her growl at you. Just a gentle "ugh uh" or what ever works for you.

Respectfully, this is bad, dangerous advice. OP, please don't do this. Growling is a form of communication, not aggression. It's a dog's way of saying, "I'm uncomfortable/stressed/scared, please give me space." A dog that is taught not to growl is a dog that may one day snap or bite without warning. And when you reprimand a growl, however gently, you are telling your dog that her discomfort doesn't matter. That's not how healthy canine-human relationships are built.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:45 AM on April 27, 2018 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all very much!!!!! We’re doing a lot better. Here is the before, when she was behind the bookcase. Then here she is yesterday afternoon lounging and napping with me. She seems to be getting exponentially more comfortable with every passing hour—puppies are wild!
posted by witchen at 9:27 AM on April 28, 2018 [7 favorites]

Oh good! I'm so glad. I didn't post in the thread because so many others had said what I was going to say--it just takes time. She's adorable!

And yeah, puppies are a whole different ball of wax. Our previous dog before our current one was a senior dog when he died. Our new dog came to us when he was 5 months old, and WOW what a difference! Wild is right. They're so much fun though! Enjoy your pupper!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:06 AM on April 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

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