Helping Your Adopted Dog Make the Homecoming Transition

Helping Your Adopted Dog Make the Homecoming Transition

In This Chapter

  • Puppy-proofing and buying supplies
  • Introducing your adopted dog to his new life
  • Spotting transitional problems that may require professional help
  • Stressing routine for a better-adjusted dog
  • Calming your puppy during socialization
  • Conditioning your puppy to accept people of all sizes, races, and genders
  • Introducing your puppy to wild animals, noises, and other interesting objects
  • Handling a pup’s wary or defensive response
Congratulations, you’ve found the dog for you! But wait . . . don’t bring him home just yet. You have some preparation work to do.

Fortunately, you can make a big difference in how well your new dog adjusts to his new surroundings by making use of a few targeted strategies. On his first day home, your new best friend may not believe that he’s finally in his forever home — and with his own cozy bed and shiny new food bowl and everything. He may be a bit nervous, even scared, when he first comes home with you, despite the fancy new collar and deluxe chew toys. Lucky for you, this chapter tells you exactly what to do to ensure that your new four-legged friend’s homecoming is a happy one.

Preparing Your Pad

If you don’t already have a dog, you need to do some pooch-proofing before you bring your new friend home — to keep your new dog and your old possessions safe. Pooch-proofing is important for exploring, chewing, mischievous puppies and for adult dogs who haven’t quite learned what is unacceptable in your home. These precautions are particularly important for dogs who never spent much time indoors until now. Although an adult dog may not even consider gnawing on the legs of the kitchen chair, eating your shoes, or rooting through the garbage, you won’t know for sure until you bring her home. Better to pooch-proof, just in case.
You also need some stuff to keep your dog healthy, well exercised, and amused. If you’re someone who likes shopping, this part of bringing home your new dog is fun.

Puppy-proofing first, even for adult dogs

Before bringing a dog into your home, you need to come to terms with the many things that a short four-legged animal can get into. Any dog in a new environment is bound to explore, and some dogs explore more — shall we say — enthusiastically than others. Puppies, in particular, explore the world with their noses and mouths, and that may mean chomping on choking hazards, chewing through electrical cords, and munching on your favorite possessions. Energetic puppies and older dogs unaccustomed to being inside also are at risk of falling, having things fall on them, and getting stuck in the strangest places. Some of these situations can be dangerous for the puppy, such as getting stuck inside a recliner or underneath a car in the garage.
Your home doesn’t have to be a house of hazards for your new dog. You just need to take some precautions first. On the other hand, just because you have a new dog doesn’t mean that you have to resort to installing vinyl flooring and covering all your furniture with sheets. You do, however, need to look around and eliminate potential hazards. Watch for the following when pooch-proofing:

Choking hazards: Look at all your floors. Do you find paper clips, bits of paper or string, rubber bands, or other objects a young puppy may find tempting enough to sample? Pick them up; they’re choking hazards.

Unsteady objects: What if you knocked the base of that side table with your wagging rear end? Would that lamp fall on your head? Can big puppy paws reach the edge of that coffee table and knock off all those breakable knickknacks? Either make those unsteady objects steady enough to withstand the onslaught of your new dog or move them.

Strangulation hazards: Does the dangling curtain fringe beckon, begging your pup to grab it with his teeth and give it a good shake? Are the mini-blind cords hanging within reach of dog necks? Find a way to remove these potential strangulation hazards from your dog’s reach by taping them down, tying them out of reach, or removing them altogether.

Electrocution hazards: Can you imagine what those sharp little puppy teeth can do to an electrical cord? Yep, you’re right. A puppy can bite through a cord in seconds, causing severe burns and electrocution. Make sure that you tape down cords or put them behind furniture so your puppy isn’t tempted by an electrocution hazard.

Tempting trash: Is the garbage can, with its luscious aromas, standing open for your dog to topple? The tempting trash from some garbage can really harm a who may be used to scrounging for meals. Some particularly hazardous examples are tasty but dangerous cooked bones that can splinter in your dog’s intestine, rotten food, and choking hazards such as milk bottle caps, used dental floss, and metal soft-drink tabs.

Poisons: Did you know that anything that can poison a human toddler can also poison a dog? Put safety locks on cabinets that are within the reach of your new dog, particularly the ones that contain poisonous household chemicals like cleaners, pest poisons, medications, and even toiletries like shampoo, lotion, and sunscreen. (For what to do if you suspect your dog has been poisoned, see Chapter Canine First Aid.)

Your prized possessions: Dogs love and need to chew on things. For puppies, chewing feels good during teething, and some mouthy breeds like Sporting breeds, Hounds, and Terriers chew throughout their lives. However, dogs don’t know that your child’s favorite stuffed bunny or expensive piece of sports equipment is any different than a fleece stuffed toy or rubber chewie. An adopted dog who never was taught the difference between dog toys and human things may have a hard time telling the difference, so put your prized possessions away!


Most puppy-proofing is a matter of common sense and can be essentially summarized in one Golden Rule of puppy proofing: If you don’t want your dog to chew it, put it out of reach.

A lot of dog owners discover this lesson the hard way. If you leave things like toys, clothes, slippers, new shoes, wallets, or plates of after-school snacks out where your dog can get at them, don’t blame your dog for thinking he can help himself. Only an impressively self-controlled canine can resist these things when nobody is watching. This threat is an excellent motivation for children to keep their rooms clean — or at least close their bedroom doors so the puppy can’t get in. Otherwise, they risk chewed up and ruined toys and laundry. Dogs especially love to chew holes in underwear and socks.

Avoiding poisons

Many items that are poisonous to humans are also poisonous to dogs, but dogs can react — sometimes severely — to substances that are completely benign for humans, such as chocolate and onions. The following foods, plants, medications, and poisons are particularly dangerous for dogs. Don’t let your dog ingest any of the following:

Chocolate: Dogs can react severely to both the caffeine and the theobromine in chocolate.

Raisins or grapes: Some dogs suffer acute kidney failure and death caused by these foods, even in small amounts.

Onions: Onions can cause severe anemia in some dogs.

Prescription and nonprescription medications for humans: Many human medications are very dangerous for pets. For example, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, can cause liver failure and the destruction of red blood cells (cats are even more sensitive to acetaminophen than dogs). It’s just a good idea to avoid giving your dog any medication intended for humans unless your vet has advised you to do so.

Antifreeze: A few drops of antifreeze can kill a dog. Unfortunately, antifreeze tastes and smells appealing to dogs, so watch for stains in your garage or driveway.

House and garden flowers, ferns, shrubs, and other plants: Check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s Web site, which lists many common plants that can be poisonous to pets. Find it at

Dog destruction doesn’t just apply to your furniture and wearables. It also applies to your food. Dogs of any age are incredibly clever when they smell something delicious. Adopted dogs may have spent some serious time scrounging for every piece of food they could find and going for long periods of time without any food at all before they came to live with you. These dogs can become extra clever at scoring tidbits, so you always have to be one step ahead of them. Don’t leave your dinner on any counter low enough to be within a dog’s lunging reach.


Supervision is a key element to puppy-proofing. Although you may not be used to keeping an eye out for what your puppy is doing at all times, doing so is essential for your dog’s safety, not to mention a crucial part of housetraining.

Gathering essential doggy accoutrements

Dogs get by perfectly well with only a few basics, but you may want to consider a few luxury items, too. Note: Chew toys are not luxury items; they’re a necessity, especially for puppies.

The basics

Dogs don’t require thousands of accessories, and you certainly don’t need to spend a fortune to equip your dog. However, to be able to manage and train your dog successfully, you need some basic tools that your friendly local pet store should be able to supply.

Identification tags: ID tags are the most important dog accessory you can buy. Engraved with your dog’s name and your address and phone number, an ID tag can be your dog’s ticket home if she ever gets lost. A pet tag is important even if your dog has a microchip implanted from the shelter or the vet. Anyone can find your dog when it strays, but that doesn’t mean anyone can or will take your dog to a shelter or vet to scan for the microchip. An identification tag on the collar makes finding the animal’s owner easy. Put it on your dog and never take it off. Check periodically that it’s still there — ID tags have a way of getting lost.

Buckle collar and 6-foot leash: Choose nylon or leather with a metal or plastic buckle, decorated or simple. For some small breeds or dogs who pull a lot, consider a harness in addition to a collar, but make sure that you still can include identification tags.

Crate or kennel: Choose a crate or kennel that is big enough for your adult dog. A crate is a plastic carrier with a wire front. Crates are sometimes called kennels, but kennel also refers to a wire cage. Your dog needs to be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably inside. If you have a puppy that will grow quite a bit, buy a crate or kennel to fit the dog’s adult size (if you know what it will be) and temporarily block off part of the crate to make it smaller. Otherwise, the puppy may use one end for a bed and the other end for a bathroom. The crate or kennel is absolutely essential for housetraining (see Chapter Housetraining 101 for more on housetraining) and general management, because it becomes your dog’s beloved den (see the section “Showing your dog to her den” later in this chapter), and she will love it even more than you do. If you travel a great deal, look for a crate or kennel that can be buckled into the backseat of your car or van.

Dog seat belt: No, this device is not a luxury, but rather an important safety item. If your dog’s kennel is too large to fit in the backseat or to buckle in, look for one of several different high-quality dog seat belts that attach to your car seat belt. Dog seat belts keep you and your pet safe in the car. When she’s wearing a seat belt, your dog can’t jump on you, distract you while you’re driving, or injure anyone else in the car in the case of an accident. With this device, you can all buckle up safely.

Food and water bowls: Metal and ceramic are easy to clean and unlikely to harbor bacteria, and they’re not tempting to chew.

A high-quality dog food: Check out Chapter The Scoop on Dog Food for more information about choosing a good food.

Assorted brushes, depending on your dog’s coat: A natural-bristle brush can be used for short- and medium-coated dogs, and wire-pin and slicker brushes work for long- or fluffy-coated dogs. Bristle brushes are good for regular maintenance brushing, while pin brushes are good for double-coated dogs because they brush down to the skin. Slicker brushes are great for pulling out excess undercoat during periods of heavy shedding.

Shampoo made just for dogs: You’ll also want conditioner for longcoated dogs.

A nail clipper made for dogs: This tool comes in sizes (the label says whether the clipper is for small, medium, or large dogs).

Pest-control products to prevent fleas, ticks, and heartworms: The best ones come from your veterinarian (for more on pest control, see Chapter The Scoop on Dog Food).

Chew toys: Puppies need to have acceptable things to chew so they don’t chew your things. Chew toys include hard rubber teethers and edible chew toys like rawhide, pig’s ears, hooves, and jerky treats.


Some vets advise against certain edible chew toys, like rawhide, for some dogs, because they can pose a choking hazard or upset a stomach. If you aren’t sure which edible toys are safe for your dog, talk to your vet.

Interactive toys for bonding time: Whether you throw a tennis ball or a Frisbee or play tug of war with a rope toy, be sure to get a few toys that you and your dog can play with together. These toys give you great ways to play with your dog in the doggy way that she enjoys.

Beyond the basics

Some doggy accoutrements are necessities for certain dogs and luxury items are for others. Dog litter boxes, ramps and stairs, and special grooming supplies are among the more common ones.
Dog litter boxes are good for pet owners who can’t easily take their little dogs outside, people with mobility issues, or pet owners who live in high-rise apartments in the city. Dog litter boxes are sized for different dogs and come with pelleted paper litter-box filler that absorbs moisture. When litter-box training your dog, you need to change the litter after each use. Another option is framed squares of sod or artificial turf so your dog gets the feel of going on the grass even while he’s inside.
Coat conditioner and coat spray are essential for long-coated dogs. A square of velvet or a chamois to polish short coats is a nice addition. Some dogs look better when washed with special shampoos made to brighten white coats, darken dark coats, or soothe sensitive skin. Dogs with allergies or fleas may need special shampoos that help them resolve their health issues. Some companies make lines of dog spa products with natural botanicals. You can even buy doggy cologne to keep your pooch sweet smelling.
Ramps and stairs are good for dogs with sensitive spines, like Dachshunds, or senior dogs with arthritis who have trouble jumping up and down from couches, beds, and cars. You can buy beautiful padded ramps and stairs for inside, or more utilitarian versions for cars and even for swimming pools and boats to help your little swimmer get out of the water more easily. This item may actually be an important safety device if you have a swimming pool and your dog can’t easily get out of it. In that case, consider it a must-have.

Welcoming Doggy Home

When the house is prepared and well stocked, you can load up your adopted dog into the car (don’t forget a dog seat belt or crate!), drive home, pull into the driveway, coax him out of the car, and then . . . wouldn’t it be nice if your new adopted dog bounded happily into the house, engaged in a quick game of fetch, sniffed and licked the family, and then curled up in his doggy bed for a nap, happy tail a-waggin’?
Even though such scenarios have been known to happen, they’re not common. The more likely reaction you can expect from your adopted dog is that she will be a little nervous, maybe a little scared, probably curious, and maybe so excited that she can hardly contain herself — literally. She may even experience a few more serious adjustment problems.


The trick to helping your dog make a smooth and quick transition to her new home is immediately establishing routines and sticking to them. Dogs pick up quickly on the rules of a new place, so the sooner they get that information from you, the sooner they can adjust to their new situations. Keep initial introductions calm and limited. Don’t mob your new dog with people, toys, games, treats, and attention all at once. Dogs react to the moods and actions of the people around them, so if you want a calm, relaxed dog, then try to act calm and relaxed. If you act anxious, worried, or excitable, your dog picks up on your cues. If your dog thinks you have the situation fully and confidently in hand, she can relax a little bit and not have to worry about trying to manage things herself.

In most cases, calm behavior and a comfortable routine win out, quickly sending your adopted dog the message that all is right with the world again.

Dog, meet potty spot

Taking care of business is the first thing to do when you get home with your adopted dog — and by “business,” we mean the business of housetraining. Regardless of your dog’s age, adults and puppies need to know where they are allowed to fulfill their, um . . . elimination requirements. Housetraining problems are among the chief reasons people give up their dogs to animal shelters, so managing this issue right from the start is super important.

Choosing a potty spot

Before bringing your new pet home, you need to know in advance where you want him to go. If you have a yard, great. But you also need to pick a spot in the yard that will be most convenient, a spot where people aren’t likely to walk through. Secluded locations are better than spots right near the sidewalk or street. Some dogs don’t care where they go, but others may feel vulnerable and don’t want to do their business with cars whizzing by on the other side of the fence or other dogs wandering past with their owners and barking.
If you want to paper-train or litter-box-train your pet, the spot where you place the receptacle must be ready to go before your new dog comes home. Place it in an area that’s away from high foot traffic and easy to clean, such as on a linoleum or tile floor and far from your dog’s sleeping area. Dogs don’t like to eliminate near where they sleep.

Telling your dog where to go

As soon as you get home, you may be tempted to take off your dog’s leash and let her explore the house. Wait! Don’t unclip that leash from that collar just yet. First, take your dog to the place where you want her to eliminate, either in the yard or in the area of the house you’ve chosen. Keeping that leash on, have your dog sniff, circle, and check out the spot, but stay where you are until she relieves herself. Although this process can take a long time, wait. If you know that your dog recently relieved herself and simply doesn’t need to go, skip to the next section about introducing your dog to her den. You can go back and try this step again and again. And again. You’ll find repetition of this step a worthwhile endeavor.

Rewarding a job well done

When your dog does go in the right spot, say hooray! Praise him, pet him, and call him a very good dog because he just did something very good. He went where you wanted him to go, and that’s a big step for a new dog in a new home. Make sure that he knows he has pleased you.
Then if you have a fenced yard, you can let him off the leash to explore on his own. If you don’t have a fence, lead him around the yard on the leash and let him sniff, check out the perimeter, and figure out what’s what. Finally, bring him in the house. Or if your dog’s potty spot is inside and you’re already in the house, you can give him a chance to explore the rest of the house now.

Showing your dog to her den

Now is the time to grab some treats, because you’re about to introduce your dog to her new best friend — aside from you, of course. Dogs are naturally den animals and like a safe place to call their own. One of your most powerful tools for helping your dog feel safe and comfortable in her new home is the dog den.
Whether you choose to use a plastic crate (see Figure 5-1), a wire kennel, or a portable wire enclosure — sometimes called an exercise pen or X-pen — your dog needs somewhere to feel safe. Crates and kennels with latching doors can help with housetraining and travel, but if your dog already is housetrained and not destructive, you may not need to latch the door just yet. If the kennel is all wire, cover it with a blanket, leaving only the front open. Dogs feel safest when they can rest without feeling the need to watch their backs. Your dog probably wants to be near you, so situate the den in a room where your dog can at least hear, if not see you, when she’s resting.
Figure 5-1: One good choice for a “den” is a plastic crate with solid sides and a door that opens and closes.
To attract your dog’s interest, make sure that the den is comfortable and soft, and then open the door. Get your dog’s attention with a treat, or lead her to the den by her leash. Then toss a few treats into the den and step back. Don’t force your dog to go inside the den, and don’t shut the door after her if she does go in on her own. Leave the den open so she can explore. If she goes in to get the treat, praise her, but stay back. Let her know her den is a safe spot, not jail, and that even you won’t grab at her while she’s in there. Talk softly and pleasantly to your dog as she explores her new den. Hide treats inside the den periodically so your dog gets the message that she is likely to find something delicious inside that safe, comfy spot.
And what if your dog doesn’t take to the den right away? Young puppies can quickly learn to accept the den but can endure being in it only a few minutes at a time at first. Even if your pup is whining and crying, don’t make a big deal about it, or you risk increasing her anxiety. Put her in the den, shut the door, stay nearby, talk casually but reassuringly to the dog, and then let her out again. Increase the amount of time your dog spends in the den just a few minutes at a time over a period of a few days. Pretty soon, your puppy will get used to the routine and recognize the den as something safe and predictable.
In the case of an older adopted dog who has neither been in a crate before nor had any bad experiences with the crate, not forcing the issue is an important attitude for you to take. Just leave the den door open and let your dog adjust at her own rate. If the dog is truly fearful of the crate, keep working to make the den an inviting place without putting any pressure on her.


If your dog’s first experiences with her den — and with the entire house and yard — are filled with positive associations like pleasant, calm interaction and plenty of yummy treats, you set the stage for a happy home.

You can let your dog rest in her den awhile or you can move on to introduce her to her new family, if she’s ready.

Introducing people

The more people your dog meets in a pleasant and positive environment, the better socialized he becomes. First of all, he needs to get to know you, his new favorite person. Next, he needs to meet the other people who live in your house. Finally, he needs to meet all kinds of other people, too.
Dogs who are familiar with many different people of different ages, sizes, hair types, colors, and mobilities become better judges of character than dogs who rarely see anyone beyond the people who live in the house. Dogs are social animals, and they find people fascinating. The more they know about the curious existence of their two-legged caretakers, the better they get along living in a human world. (The next section covers a lot more about socializing.)

Meeting the parents

Your dog first must get to know you and the other adults in your household. These introductions need to be positive, friendly, and not too overwhelming. Your dog is learning about you as you take her around the house and yard, showing her this new environment, but you also need to spend some time focusing on your dog on that first day:
  • Sitting on the floor with your dog
  • Letting your dog sniff you
  • Petting your dog
  • Talking to your dog
  • Showing your dog some toys
See what happens when you throw a ball for your dog. Will she chase it? Retrieve it? Or ignore it? Try to figure out what your dog likes and doesn’t like, what interests her or makes her nervous. The more you find out about your dog, the more she will also learn about you.
When introducing your dog to other adults, one person at a time is plenty for your dog to take in. Have your dog sniff and investigate the other adults in the house, and have the other adults give your adopted dog treats and gentle petting. Take cues from your dog. If she seems overwhelmed or nervous, take it slow, or save introductions for later. If she seems interested to meet everyone, give him that interaction time.

Lapping up the kid time

Kids love dogs and get pretty excited about a new dog in the house. Dogs love kids, too — most of the time. Before you’re completely familiar with your new adopted dog, however, prepare your child for how to interact with a new dog and carefully supervise all child-dog interactions. For that first introduction, clip on your dog’s leash.
Before bringing home an adopted dog, children need to know that this newest four-legged family member may be nervous, overly excited, or even scared. Loud, quick-moving children can intimidate a dog, especially one that isn’t familiar with children. Explain to your children that first impressions are important, and if the new dog’s first impression of them is one of fear, then the new dog may not want to play with the children. Children need to approach a new dog quietly, slowly, and with soft gentle voices.
Likewise, children need to play with a new dog (or any small dog or puppy) while sitting with her on the floor instead of trying to pick up the puppy and carry her around. Have the child sit, and then let the dog approach the child while the dog is on a leash held by a responsible adult. Keep control over the dog so she doesn’t jump on the child, and make sure that the child handles the dog gently. Depending on their age, you can let children feed the dog treats or offer her a new toy, but only under strict adult supervision. You don’t want your new dog bullying your child to get the treats. With your help, the child needs to be in control of when the dog gets the treat. This kind of positive first meeting sends a message to your dog that short little humans are just as nice and safe and rewarding as the taller ones. Your dog can become your child’s best buddy, but maintaining control over the situation is important so the relationship starts off on the right paw.


If your dog reacts too roughly or even fearfully or aggressively toward a child, take the matter seriously and don’t let child and dog interact unsupervised, ever, until the matter is fully resolved. Consult a professional trainer or behaviorist for advice. See Chapter Teaching Your Dog Manners for more information about handling behavior problems in adopted dogs. Take aggressive behavior seriously and tackle the problem immediately. Aggression doesn’t just go away on its own. Don’t risk any child’s safety.

Relying on friends to help socialize your dog: The welcome-home party

Even if you have a big family, meeting other people is important for your new dog. It can happen on walks through the neighborhood or trips in the car, but another great way to socialize your dog with all kinds of people is to have a dog party. Ask a variety of friends over for snacks and playtime with your new dog.
Throwing a party doesn’t mean that you just let your friends mob your adopted dog. Remember that all your dog’s initial interactions with people need to be calm and positive. Give your friends treats to give your dog. Have them approach her one at a time for petting and play. As everyone gives your dog focused and happy attention, your dog gets the impression that people are just great to be around and well worth pleasing.


Before socializing your dog, make sure that she doesn’t have any aggression issues, such as snapping to protect food, or fear issues, such as anxiety around certain kinds of people. Putting your dog in situations in which she feels nervous, cornered, or surrounded by too many people before she’s ready can actually make her more fearful or anxious. You’re the best judge for determining whether your dog is ready for this kind of stimulation and socialization. If you aren’t sure, try inviting friends over one at a time for awhile to find out how your dog reacts. And keep the treats coming.

Introducing other pets

Meeting the humans in the house is one thing; introducing other pets is something else. Some dogs get along just fine with other dogs, but others have issues with perceived competitors. Some dogs don’t think twice about cats, but others follow the cartoon stereotype and see cats as prey animals and great chase opportunities. Small animals and birds can look a lot like prey animals, too.
Some cats, in turn, are not accepting and are downright nasty about canines intruding on their happy homes. Your task: Carefully introduce your new dog to other pets in the household, to prevent conflict and to subvert potential tragedy. Doing so can take some time, and some animals don’t adjust to their new siblings for weeks or even months. Take it slow, be diplomatic, and supervise all interactions until everyone can be reliably trusted.

Dogs meet dog

Most dogs tend to relate to each other in a hierarchical system of leaders and followers, and most dogs tend to be at least somewhat territorial. If you already have a dog who’s used to being the only dog in the house, he probably will see another dog as an interloper and want to make darned sure that the new dog knows his place.
A new dog on new turf may defer to the previous resident dog. On the other hand, expect no guarantees of a conflict-free meeting. Dogs learn crucial dog-to-dog communication skills when they are still with their littermates between 3 and 6 weeks of age. Puppies who are deprived of this time together may not understand how to communicate well with other dogs. Like people, some dogs just tend to have stronger personalities and try to be the leader. If you put two such dogs together, you can have squabbles.
You can reduce the likelihood of a brawl by taking some or all of these steps:

– Adopt a female dog if you already have a male dog, or vice versa. Male and female dogs together are less likely to fight than dogs of the same gender. Spayed or neutered dogs get along better, too.

– Introduce the dogs first on neutral territory, such as at the shelter or the home of a friend.

– Remember that the first dog may see your home as his territory and feel threatened that another dog is on his turf. Supervise all interactions until the dogs accept each other.

– Be patient. Dogs may take a few hours to become fast friends, but some dogs may never get along very well. The relationship probably will improve with time, but it can take weeks or even months.

– Keep both dogs on their leashes, with each handled by a separate adult. You must be a strong presence and maintain control. When both dogs think a third party is in control of the situation, they may feel less anxious, fearful, or defensive.

– Let both dogs spend some extended time getting acquainted on either side of a baby gate (see Figure 5-2), screen door, or other barrier that neither is able to jump over. Doing so can help dogs gain interest in each other without the threat of one dog invading the other’s space.

– Give each dog his own space, his own den, and room to run away to in case of a confrontation. A brand-new kennel or crate isn’t automatically the resident dog’s property, so it gives the new dog a place to feel safe. Keep the door open so the new dog can go in whenever he needs a safe spot, but keep the resident dog out of the new dog’s den.

– Give both dogs plenty of attention and separate training time, especially your resident dog, who may be feeling neglected. Make sure he knows you aren’t replacing him!

– Take it slow. Not everybody wants a new sibling. Let both dogs take time getting to know each other, and supervise all interactions until they work out their new relationship.

Figure 5-2: A baby gate can help your new dog and your resident dog get acquainted.


If your two dogs get into a fight, don’t stick your hand in the middle, because you can get hurt doing so. Keep a squirt gun or a spray bottle filled with water handy and distract the dogs with a spritz — or make a loud noise, like shaking a can of pennies or pebbles. As soon as they stop fighting for a moment, separate them immediately and put each in his or her respective den or separate room to cool off.


If you can’t seem to resolve the issue, call a local dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement. A trainer can work with you and your dogs, giving you some strategies tailored for your individual situation.

Introducing kitty

Some dogs get along just great with cats. Honest! In many cases, though, dogs who aren’t raised with cats see them as something to chase. Conversely, dogs who are raised with cats may let their guards down in front of a claw-wielding whirlwind, so be careful in that case, too. A new puppy probably can learn to accept your cat as a member of the family. An adult dog who has lived with cats successfully before also will probably be okay.


A shelter or rescue worker may be able to provide information about the dog’s history. An adult dog who isn’t familiar with cats may pose a problem.

When introducing a dog and a cat, both need protection. Be sure that your cat’s claws are trimmed, to prevent serious injury to your dog, whose eyes are especially vulnerable. And make sure that your cat has safe places to escape if the dog attempts to give chase. Finally, supervise all interactions until you’re sure that both pets can be trusted.
Some people keep their dogs and cats separated, giving each one a separate level of the house or individual room, but doing so can be complicated and a slip-up can cause disaster. Regular obedience training can help you and your dog communicate so that your dog understands what is and is not allowed in your home — and that includes cat chasing. A few dogs never are able to live peacefully with cats. If that happens to you, you may need to consider returning your new pet to the shelter or rescue group in favor of a dog who does get along with cats. Naturally, returning to the shelter is stressful for the dog, so never rush into an adoption without a good chance that your new dog will fit into your home situation.

Small animals: Friends, not doggy snacks

Some dogs have strong instincts for chasing and killing small animals. Terriers, for example, have been bred for centuries to strengthen their instincts for going after vermin — that’s why they’re called ratters. If you have hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, ferrets, or rabbits as pets, your dog may feel a compulsion to get to them, so you must be extra careful to keep these small creatures safe. Introduce them carefully, or keep the small animal in a place where the dog won’t see it, and never leave small animals or birds alone with dogs, for the safety of both — a dog can kill a small bird, but to a small dog, a large parrot is a formidable foe. Make sure that bird cages are out of reach and inaccessible to your dog.


Your dog now has had a bathroom break (or two), seen his den, met the family and other pets, and done some power sniffing around his new digs. That’s a big day for a dog! Before you launch into a training session, a walk around the neighborhood, or any further family chaos, give your dog some downtime.
Remember that doggy den? Take your dog back to his special safe place, throw in some treats, and let him go inside. If he won’t, herd him gently inside and close the door. Praise him and talk gently and positively, and then without making a big deal about it, let him have a rest.
Your dog may whine, cry, or whimper pathetically, but never fear, you don’t have to leave him in there for hours. Instead, leave him in the den for 15 to 20 minutes. He may settle down and take a nap, or he may just watch you for awhile. If he seems nervous, you can stay in the same room, but don’t pay any attention to him. This time is specifically for your dog to be by himself, and your sympathetic attentions will only make him worry. Remind yourself that you aren’t ignoring your dog. You’re teaching him self-sufficiency and confidence, and you’re teaching him that when he is in his den, his time is his own and nobody will bother him.
After a short rest period, let your dog out of the den again. Then take him right back to that potty spot outside, on his leash, until he does his business. Then get on with whatever activities you have planned next. Repeat these short, positive, unemotional den-rest sessions throughout the day; your dog will quickly learn to appreciate and even look forward to them. Pretty soon, he may go on in there all by himself.
When night falls, tuck your dog into his den until morning, close the door to keep him safely inside, and prepare to endure a night or two of crying and whining. Your new puppy, or even an adult dog, may not understand at first that this is time for sleeping and that he can come out again in the morning, but after a few nights, he’ll get the routine. Remember how much dogs depend on routine? Young puppies probably need a bathroom break during the night, once or maybe twice, but don’t get up every time the puppy cries to commiserate. Send the message instead that this is how it works and everybody likes it that way. Soon your puppy will like it that way, too.
For adult dogs who truly resist the crate, set up a comfy bed beside yours so your dog knows that you’re nearby (be sure to close your bedroom door so the dog isn’t free to roam while you sleep). Your new adopted dog needs a sense of security, and night is one opportunity to reinforce that. The first few nights can be trying on any new pet owner, but just think of how the adopted dog feels. Most dogs adjust very quickly and sleep through the night sooner than a human baby would. Plan on a nap tomorrow, and be patient. In a week, chances are those nighttime woes will be a distant memory.

Socialization and civility in the puppy world

A puppy is hard-wired with a prime socialization window. During this window, between 8 to 12 weeks, her brain is developing and she’s receptive to new experiences. She’s constantly looking to you for your interpretation of these experiences. Now is the time to introduce her
to everything she will encounter throughout her life, from objects and people to noises and other animals.
Even though some of your early excursions may be restricted until your puppy is fully inoculated, make every effort to expose her to a variety of stimulants so that she’ll be more relaxed when she’s presented with something new. If your puppy is older than 12 weeks, don’t despair. Even though your puppy has passed her impression window, she’s still open to your example when she gets overwhelmed or excited. A noticeably defensive or wary reaction simply indicates that your puppy has no conscious memory of such an occurrence and isn’t sure how to act. In these circumstances, your reactions to both the situation and the puppy are important. Placating, soothing, or corrective responses actually intensify a puppy’s reactions by focusing attention on the inappropriate behavior.

Calming Your Puppy Based on Her Age


Puppies, like children, go through developmental stages, and each stage brings with it a new perspective. In the earliest stages, everything is new, and your puppy’s trust in you is innocent and faithful. As she ages, however, she’s prone to challenge and question your opinion while still being unsure of life’s variety. Maturing puppies, especially ones going through adolescence and puberty, have their own set of opinions and must be consistently persuaded to mind you. You’ll need a creative approach to socialization. 

Acclimating a young pup (8 to 12 weeks)


When he’s very young, your puppy will mirror your reaction in all new situations. If you’re nervous, he will be, too. If you get excited, uncomfortable, or edgy, he’ll follow suit. Expose your puppy to new experiences under controlled circumstances so you’ll be centered and prepared to deal with your puppy’s reaction.

Young puppies generally react to new situations in one of four ways:

Fearfully: Noted by a hesitant body posture, these puppies pull back or scurry to leave the environment. Often they scratch to be held or acknowledged.

Calmly: These pups are patiently observant and have a relaxed body posture and mild curiosity.

Actively: Because they’re very interactive, these puppies explore the new stimulation with gusto and may be hard to calm down or refocus.

Defensively: Puppies who act defensively may back up, hold still, or run forward. Or they may do all three maneuvers and bark or vocalize their feelings in some way. Their ears may be flattened against their heads, and they may hide behind your legs or try to climb up into your arms or lap.


Any attention given to a puppy reinforces his reaction, which is fine if and only if your puppy is reacting calmly. Other responses need redirecting. Read on to find out how.

Fear is a common response that shows your puppy doesn’t like to make interpretations alone. Because of your pup’s dependence, new situations demand your guidance and direction.


Don’t coddle your puppy if she has a fearful reaction, because your immediate attention indicates submission, not leadership. Your lowered body posture and high-pitched tone convey the message that you’re afraid, too. A better response on your part is to stand tall, either ignoring your puppy or kneeling at her side. Brace her by clipping your thumb under her collar and holding her in a sitting position. Above all else, though, you need to remain calm and assured: Your puppy will be impressed by your confidence.

A relaxed reaction is a good sign that your puppy will take everything in stride. Some puppies are so relaxed, however, that they don’t register the distraction you’re introducing, such as a uniformed police officer. If this scenario sounds familiar, use treats to bring your puppy’s attention to the situation at hand.
Many puppies love life — a lot. To them, new experiences hold endless possibilities. Even at a young age, passion emanates from everything they do. The goal in new situations and introductions isn’t to bring these pups out of their shells. Instead, the goal is to successfully contain their excitement. To displace their enthusiasm, use toys and the bracing technique.


An early defensive reaction (before 12 weeks) should be noted and taken seriously. If the tips in this book don’t lessen your puppy’s intensity, hire a professional. The onset of adolescence, with the release of adult hormones, will only intensify an aggressive response. Deal with such behavior immediately.

If your puppy has an intense reaction (one that’s fearful, overexcited, or defensive) to a new situation or person, determine her Red Zone: the distance from the stimulus where she can stand comfortably. Stand just outside this zone and handle your puppy calmly by using commands, toys, or treats to keep her focus.

Catching up an older pup (12 weeks and older)


A puppy past the critical socialization time may have a more pronounced reaction to new situations, especially if he has no similar experience in his memory bank. For example, an older puppy who hasn’t navigated a stairway or hardwood floor may be terrified at the prospect. How you handle such a situation determines his future attitude. A dog who is fearful of specific things will be more leery of new situations throughout his life.


Discover your puppy’s body language and take it very seriously. Focus on his eyes, body position, tail, and mouth. Even though he can’t talk in words, your puppy will tell you everything if you listen with your eyes. Check out Table 5-1 for guidance. 

Table 5-1                           Reading Your Puppy’s Body Language

Body Part
Squinting, darting, unfocused
Focused or shifting
Attentive, focused
Glaring, hard
Low, arched, pulled back and down
Shifting from forward to pulled back, approaching but then immediately avoiding the person
Comfortable posture, moving side to side
Pitched forward, stone still, tense
Tucked under belly, wagging low
Tucked under belly, arched slightly over back,  fluctuating between the two
Still, gently swinging above rump
High, wagging enthusiastically
Still above rump or arched above back in a tight, repetitive wag
Pulled back, often in a semismile
Terse, trembling
Panting, normal, may be parted in a vocalization
Tight, unflinching, may be parted in a growl or vocalization
Turn your “can’t do” puppy into a “can do” dog by being the example you want him to follow. When your puppy’s response is pronounced, stay very calm. Keep your eyes focused on the situation at hand (not on your puppy) and interact with the stimulus — be it a person, situation, or object — in the manner you want him to mirror.


If you look at your puppy, or even glance back at him, he may misconstrue your posture and visual confirmation as insecurity. For example, think of playing on a team: The captain wouldn’t shout a direction and then look to the players for confirmation. The same rules apply with your pup. When directing your puppy, stand confident and focus on the situation at hand.

Teaching Your Puppy to Be Accepting of All People


Regardless of your puppy’s age, three variables determine her ability to relate to others around her:

  • Breed influences
  • Socialization experience
  • Your example
Even though your puppy’s breed drives are predetermined, you can vastly shape the future through socialization and positive modeling.

Socializing your young puppy (8 to 12 weeks)

A young puppy will look to you to interpret everything in his life. How you interact with and greet people from all walks of life is his greatest example. Disciplinary issues evolve when too much excitement is present during greetings. These issues evolve because your puppy interprets this excitement as hyperactive play, and though it can be fun initially, it gets old fast.


A better plan is to actually have a plan. Expose and introduce your puppy to as many new people as time allows. You should follow the same routine whether the person is 9 or 90, in a tux or dressed down, uniformed, or in costume. The wider the variety, the better.

Mothers are right when they say good manners start at home. When greeting your puppy, be very casual. Even though you may be beside yourself with delight, stay calm and interact with your puppy only when he’s calm, too.


Condition your puppy to a leash and collar, and keep these items on him when meeting new people. Use them to guide him, as if you’re holding a young child’s hand. When possible, ask people to ignore any extreme reactions, from hyperactivity to fear or defensiveness. Simply put, when he reacts extremely, act as if your puppy isn’t even there. When applied for a few minutes, this approach will de-escalate any concern and will condition your puppy to look to and reflect your reaction.

After the new person is an established presence, which takes about one to five minutes, kneel down next to your puppy, brace him by clipping your thumb under him collar, and hold him in a sitting position (see Figure 5-3). Repeat “Say hello” as the person pats your puppy.

Figure 5-3: Bracing reassures your young puppy when meeting unfamiliar people.


If your puppy is fearful or tense, ask the person to shake a treat cup and treat him, to create a new and more positive outlook.

Shaping up older puppies

Is your older pup out of control or poorly conditioned to greeting new people? Don’t give it another thought. She may become hyper when the doorbell rings, react defensively to men in uniform, or act warily around toddlers, but you can reshape her focus with patience, ingenuity, and calm consistency.


When left unchecked, such behavior may result in a dog who’s permanently wary of children or defensive with the delivery man. Consider living with this erratic behavior for ten or more years — it won’t be fun. However, you have the power to reshape your future.

Remember the following three key points, regardless of her preestablished habits, when introducing your puppy to new situations and people:
  • Whoever is in front is in charge.
  • A confident and calm body posture conveys confidence and self-assurance.
  • A steady voice will be followed.


No matter what your puppy’s behavior is, it developed in large part because of your attention. Puppies repeat anything that ensures interaction — they don’t care whether it’s negative or positive interaction. If your pup is hyper, you likely tried to calm her by grabbing her fur, pushing her, or holding her. When a defensive or wary reaction results in a soothing and high-pitched “It’s okay,” the translation is that of mutual concern. What this puppy needs is a human example of confidence, which is conveyed with clear direction and a calm, upright body posture.

To resolve this greeting dilemma and recondition your pup, do the following:

– Create a greeting station in sight of, but at least 6 feet behind, the greeting door.

– Secure a short 2-foot leash to the area and repeat “Back” as you lead your puppy and attach her before opening the door.

– Ignore your puppy until she has fully calmed down.

Though it may be difficult to ignore her initial vocalizations and spasms, it won’t take long for her to discover that a relaxed posture gets immediate attention.
Encourage everyone in your home to respond in kind: No one gives the pup attention until she’s considerably calmer. You can leave a bone or toy at her greeting station to help her displace her excitement or frustration.


If your puppy is defensive or fearful, put a head collar on her. This head collar automatically relaxes your puppy because the weight placed over her nose and behind her head stimulates the same pressure points her mother would use to calm her. Chapter All the Right Stuff discusses collars in more detail.

Also, to help her become used to new situations and people, take your puppy out and socialize her with as many new people as you can find. Teach and use the directions “Let’s go,” “Stay,” “Down,” “Wait,” and “Back,” as described in several chapters of Book Training-Agility and Shows. These commands teach your pup the following:

Let’s go: Instructs your puppy to walk behind you and watch for your direction.

Stay: Stresses impulse control and focus. Precede this direction with a “Sit” or “Down” command.

Under: Directs your puppy to lie under your legs or under a table. These safe places reinforce that you’re her guardian and protector.

Wait: Instructs your puppy to stop in her tracks and look to you before proceeding.

Back: Directs your puppy to get behind you and reminds her that you’re in charge.


If your puppy is wary of a person, ask him to ignore the puppy and to avoid all eye contact. Eye contact is often interpreted as predatory or confrontational and will often intensify your puppy’s reaction.

Introducing your puppy to people of all shapes and sizes

Getting your puppy comfortable with life needs to start with introducing him to the variety of people he’ll meet in his lifetime. Each person has a unique look and smell. So that your puppy doesn’t mature into a dog who singles anyone out, you need to socialize him early on with the whole spectrum. Check out Table 5-2 for guidance.


The use of a creamy spread (such as peanut butter, tofu, cheese, or yogurt) encourages a gentle interaction. Infrequent use means that your puppy will be enamored with any situation that produces this delight.

Table 5-2                                       Meeting New People

Treat Location
“Gentle” and “Stay.”
Yes, if excitable.
Braced to prevent jumping.
On the floor, or put a creamy spread on the baby’s shoe.
Using a creamy spread on the baby’s shoe directs your puppy to this body part. Say “Ep, ep” to discourage facial interaction.
“Sit,” “Down,” “Back,” “Stay, “Gentle,” “Follow,” and “Say hello.”
Yes. Consider two so the child can direct if the dog is trustworthy.
Braced or “Back” behind your feet.
Ideally, the child gives the pup a treat. It can also be thrown if your puppy is wild or wary.
A creamy spread in a tube or on a long spoon can be extended to a calm puppy in a “Sit” or “Down” position. Teach your puppy a trick (see Book Training-Agility and Shows) to encourage a happy interaction.
Opposite sex
“Follow,” “Stay,” and “Say hello.”
Only as needed in public or if your puppy has an extreme reaction.
Braced or at your side if your puppy’s reaction is inappropriate.
The other person gives the treat unless your puppy is wary. Then the treat can be tossed or given by you close to the other person.
Be calm and comfortable, not unnaturally  excited or affectionate. Puppies sense feigned affection and find it odd and unconvincing.
“Back,” “Stay,” and “Under.”
Absolutely. Costumes are scary for puppies, and the leash gives you the ability to “hold your puppy’s hand.”
Braced in the “Stay” position. Kneel in front and hold him steadily. Don’t pet him until he’s calm.
Yes, initially.
Wear the costume yourself. Place it on the floor and surround it with treats. Allow your puppy to watch you put it on.
Unfamiliar ethnicities
“Back,” “Stay,” and “Say hello.”
In public and when unmanageable within the home. Otherwise, no.
Braced during a greeting. Use a ball or toy to encourage a normal response.
Yes, when meeting the person directly. Otherwise, no.
Dogs aren’t racist, but some will notice variations in skin color. Seek out different environments to expose your dog to.
Shapes and sizes
“Back,” “Stay,” “Follow,” and “Say hello.”
Use a dragging leash and hold the leash if your dog is startled or reactive.
Braced during a greeting. Use a ball or toy to encourage a normal response.
Yes, when meeting the person directly. Otherwise, no.
A trip to town will expose your pup to a variety of body shapes and sizes.
“Follow,” “Stay,” and “Say hello.”
Leash initially and always in public.
Walk by nonchalantly and say “Follow.” Brace if unsettled. Use “Stay” direction to stabilize reaction.
Use treats to encourage your
puppy’s focus on you when this person is present.
Wear a hat or costume if your dog is overtly reactive. Expose early and often, especially to delivery people.
Sporting Equipment
“Stay” and “Sniff it.”
Discover your puppy’s Red Zone (discussed earlier). Observe at a distance and gradually bring your puppy closer.
Use treats or a toy to encourage your puppy’s focus.
Lay the equipment on the floor and encourage your puppy to “Sniff it” as you explore together.
People holding equipment
“Stay” and “Sniff it.”
Yes, unless you’re holding the equipment.
Discover your puppy’s Red Zone (discussed earlier). Observe at a distance and gradually bring your puppy closer.
Use treats or a toy to encourage your puppy’s focus.
Lay the equipment on the floor or hold it yourself. When you see another person holding equipment, do treat exercises at a distance.

Conditioning Your Puppy to Life’s Surprises


Socializing your puppy to all of life’s surprises is just as important as training her during the first year. Though a puppy may do a four-star “Stay” in your living room, if she falls to pieces after you hit the road, you won’t be able to take her anywhere. And your puppy has so much more in store for her than a variety of different people. Exposing your puppy to all of life’s surprises will encourage calm acceptance and healthy curiosity to anything new the two of you may encounter.

Other animals

A 1-year-old Terrier-Whippet mix was rescued from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Not only was snow a new concept to her, but squirrels were riveting. Sweet and demure, she spun 180 degrees when facing the prospect of chasing a yard full of busy, gray tidbits. Three directions were needed for this pup: “Back,” “Sit-stay,” and “Wait.” Impulse control was the order of the day.


Whether your pup is young or old, he must learn impulse control when he notices other animals in his surroundings. When you notice a critter before your puppy does, instruct him by saying “Back” and guide him to your side. Then kneel down facing the critter and use the command “Sit-stay” to encourage your pup’s containment. If your puppy’s radar alerts first, however, you’ll notice it in his ears, which will be erect and riveted. He’ll orient himself toward the distraction. When he does, direct “Back” and kneel down to brace him. Finally, instruct “Stay.”

As your puppy’s impulse control matures, encourage him to follow you by using the “Follow” direction. You can discourage any interest with a quick tug of the leash. Praise and treat him for resisting the temptation.

Weather patterns

Your puppy’s first thunderstorm may be a memorable event. The best thing you can do is absolutely nothing. Emotional reassurance on your part will get misconstrued as mutual fear, and your puppy could quickly develop a phobic reaction to the situation. By staying calm, reading a book, or laying low, you’re setting an example of how to act in a storm. Also consider taping a storm and playing it at low levels during play or feeding until your puppy is conditioned to the sound.


If your puppy has already developed a fearful reaction to storms, fit her for a head collar and guide her on the lead through each storm, acting as though nothing is happening. When possible, stay on the ground floor, offering your puppy nothing more than a flavorful bone. Pay attention to her only when she’s relaxed. Her reactivity will improve in time. Speak to your veterinarian about medication if the lead training doesn’t work.

Some puppies don’t like going outside in the rain, and others don’t ever want to come in. Even though your puppy is unlikely to change her mind about the rain, you can try winning her over by leaving her inside as you play outside in the rain — but make sure that you play where she can watch. If you have no luck, it’s time to get a big golf umbrella and plan quick outings with your pup.


Snow and cold present another issue, especially for tiny or thin-coated breeds. When the temperature drops, your puppy’s muscles contract. This contraction includes your puppy’s bladder muscles, which makes elimination difficult, if not impossible. Consider a puppy coat and, dare we say it, booties, when faced with cold weather. If your puppy is small, consider teaching her to go on paper exclusively or in addition to eliminating outside. If you don’t like the papers inside your home, consider putting them in the hallway or garage and using them only when the weather’s bad.


You’re walking down the road, whistling and strolling happily along, when suddenly you notice three gigantic black garbage bags wafting in the wind. You visually assess the situation and are quickly done with the thought process. It’s not, however, so easy for your puppy. Puppies assess new objects with their noses and can’t emotionally settle until they’ve had a good sniff. Whenever possible, approach the situation like a grown dog. Doing so will provide a confident, assured example for your puppy to follow.
Let the leash go slack when safe and hold the end as you approach the object. Kneel or bend down to your puppy’s level and pretend to sniff the object confidently. Wait patiently as your puppy assesses your reaction. When he approaches, speak calmly, petting him and tucking him into your side when he’s comfortable.


If you can’t approach the object, simply kneel at your pup’s side and brace him as you remind him to “Stay” and then “Follow.”

Various noises


Included on a good list of important noises to socialize your puppy may be fireworks, trucks, construction noises, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, sirens, and a baby’s cries. Each time you approach a loud situation or set one up, kneel and brace your puppy. If she is startled, back up until she’s more at ease and then repeat the handling technique. When she can comfortably face the distraction, calmly instruct her to “Stay.” Gradually move closer, and eventually the instruction to “Follow” may be enough to assure her because she has integrated the noise into her stimulus memory bank.


If your puppy has a more startled reaction, or if your puppy is older and unfamiliar with a noise or situation, you need to craft your approach to limit the intensity. If your pup looks like she may attack or run from a distraction, she’s clearly in a state of panic. Retreat from the situation immediately and figure out your puppy’s Red Zone. Work on treat- and toy-based lessons, brace her, and gradually move closer to the distraction.


If a specific sound is unsettling to your puppy, tape-record it. Play it at gradually increasing volumes while your puppy is playing or eating. If she’s still startled by the noise, lower the volume and play it in a distant room.


You’ll have to wait until your puppy is inoculated to go on field trips. However, when your vet gives you the green light, go, go, go! Away from his home turf, surrounded by the unknown, your puppy will suddenly grow hyper with impulsive excitement, fearful, or defensive. Each reaction gives you the perfect opportunity to step in and direct him.
Regardless of your puppy’s response, use the directions “Let’s go,” “Stay,” and “Wait” as you navigate new places together. By doing so, your direction and posture says to your pup, “I’m the leader, follow me!”
In addition, bring a familiar bed or mat for your puppy to ride on in the car and to sit on when you expect him to be still. If you’re going to an outdoor restaurant, the vet, or school, bring his mat along and direct him to it. His mat will act like a security blanket, making him feel relieved, happy, and safe.

Quieting an excitable response

Freaking out with excitement is a common response to a new place for some puppies. Fit this type of pup with a head collar and brace her frequently. If she’s motivated by food, use it to focus her attention. Stay very calm and be the example you want her to follow. Brace her securely before people approach you.


You’ll have to work hard to teach this type of pup not to jump. If she rolls onto her belly during a greeting, say “Belly up” to encourage that response.

Correcting a fearful reaction

A fearful puppy needs a guardian and protector to step up and direct him: Here’s your curtain call. Avoid the temptation to bend and soothe your puppy. Instead, use a head collar to guide him — a neck collar can intensify fears because it may feel as if it’s choking him. Brace him when he’s most distressed, and stave off admirers until he’s more sure footed. When it’s time for introductions, bring yummy treats and be generous.

Chilling out a defensive reaction

A defensive puppy takes life a little too seriously. Socializing her is necessary to calm her intensity. Put a head collar on her and sit on the outskirts of a given activity or social setting. Teach your puppy the term “Back” to mean “Stay behind me because I’m in charge.” Repeat “Stay” when necessary, and remind her to “Follow.” Over time, your pup’s resolve will melt. Make a commitment now to socialize the paw off this puppy. Just remember that it may take many outings to mellow her caution to where she’ll become more pleasant to have around.
by Eve Adamson, Richard G. Beauchamp, Margaret H. Bonham, Stanley Coren, Miriam Fields-Babineau, Sarah Hodgson, Connie Isbell, Susan McCullough, Gina Spadafori, Jack and Wendy Volhard, Chris Walkowicz, M. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD