Friday, July 26, 2013

Helping a withdrawn dog acclimate to your home

Sometimes I get requests about helping a dog acclimate to her new home. This is particularly important for dogs that have come from large-scale breeding facilities, but it can also be used for any dogs that tend to withdraw from human contact, cower, crawl under furniture, avert their eyes, engage in lip licking when in the presence of humans, etc.  

First things first: Make sure you take your time. Don't expect the dog to start liking you immediately, even if you do share high-value treats. 

Second, approach your training sessions with a quiet sense of humor. Sometimes working with a dog that doesn't want to be around you can be frustrating. If allow yourself to relax and smile while you're training, chances are good that you won't send the withdrawn dog conflicting messages.  

I also recommend:

1. Giving her time to acclimate without too much interference from you,
2. Keeping your household quiet--with as few outside visitors as possible at the outset,
    (I recommend a 2-week shutdown when bringing new dogs into the home.)
3. Allowing her a place to retreat to for a couple of days, a small, quiet room with a crate in it,
4. Bringing her into your living space gradually, and
    (Typically, I use an x-pen/puppy pen with her "safe" items in it and place it in a room with activity so she can observe me without having to interact.)
5. Praising her calmly and quietly when she does interact, possibly using treats.
There's more, of course, but this is a start.

To increase her confidence around the members of your household, you might want to have them randomly drop small treats and kibble when she's in their vicinity. That is, of course, if she's willing to take treats.

If not, take a deep breath, roll your shoulders, and give yourself and your dog a break. You can always try again later. 

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