Two Week Acclimation Period
A Guide to Introducing a New Dog to Your Home
Congratulations on adopting your new dog! It is exciting to save a dog’s life and welcome him into your home. We hope that your new addition will be with you for a long time and enhance your life. Adopting a dog is a big commitment and an important decision. To give your dog the best opportunity to succeed in his new home, we recommend giving him time to decompress from the stressful situations that he may have experienced before becoming a part of your family. Many rescued dogs have not had an ideal start in life; many have spent time in a shelter, have been bounced around, or have not had all of their needs met. As a result, your new dog may be stressed by moving into another home, so we recommend giving him two weeks to adjust to your family and his new environment.
We suggest two weeks because it is a period that is familiar to most dogs. When a dog is born it is supposed to spend its first two weeks in a whelping box: a pen that is designed to keep puppies safely contained and protected from the elements. It is crucial that the puppy is safe during these first two weeks of life because his eyes aren’t open yet (they open between 7 and 14 days after birth) and is therefore dependent on his mother and the whelping box for protection. It is in this environment of safety that the puppy starts the journey into his new world.
In the same way, we would like your dog to start the journey of his new life in a safe and predictable environment. While it is understandable to want to take your new dog everywhere with you and introduce him to dogs and people, it is most likely confusing and stressful for him. By controlling his environment and limiting his exposure to outside stressors, you give him time to get accustomed to his new life in a safe, slow way. Also, by restricting his interactions to his new family, he gets to learn his new home, the relationships that exist within it, and where he fits in: he starts to look to you for guidance rather than having to figure it out on his own. Consequently, you will have a dog that is less nervous and more confident.
The following are our suggestions on how to implement a two-week acclimation period so that your dog has a smooth transition and the best chance of succeeding in his new home:
- Have a crate set up in a room by itself (if possible) so that when you bring your new dog home the first thing you do is take him to his crate. The crate is your dog’s safe place, and his place to sleep and decompress.
- During the acclimation period, if your dog is not in his crate he should be on leash with you holding the leash (including when he is inside). By having him on leash when he is not in the crate, you are able to control him. If he has off-leash privileges right away, it’s more likely that he will develop bad habits. However, if you keep him on leash for the two-week acclimation period, you can teach and enforce the rules of his new home (no jumping on guests or the counters, for example). It is easier to give a dog freedom after he understands what is expected of him than to fix bad behaviors after they have been established.
- When your dog is out of the crate, his time should be spent on structured walks, exercise, and training. Teach your dog to sit, stay, lie down, and to come when called. After a productive training session, put your dog back in the crate for at least 90 minutes so he can process what he has learned.
- Resist the temptation to spoil your dog and dote on him until he has earned it. Let him come to you instead of forcing affection on him.
- If you have another dog, do not introduce them until the two-week acclimation is over.
- Think of the two-week acclimation period as a way to create a new beginning for your dog. If done properly, it will give him time to get accustomed to his new family and home at his own pace, it will establish you as the leader, and it will lower his stress and anxiety. It is, therefore, one of the best things you can do for your new dog’s current and future well-being. When you are tempted to give in, remember that the acclimation period is temporary but the results will be long lasting.
Need further assistance with a pet displaying unfavorable behaviors? BARCS is here to help! Please email us here for more help with a training or behavior-related issue with your pet.