“Start as you mean to go on” is sound advice for many different aspects of life, and never is this truer than when you bring a new dog or puppy into your home for the first time! There is of course a fine line to walk between making the dog feel welcome, secure and happy with you and inadvertently setting up bad habits, so it is important to have a clear idea of how you are going to go about things, and start doing this from the get-go!
Setting the boundaries for your new dog or puppy shouldn’t be undertaken on the fly, and you should have a good idea about what those boundaries are going to be, and how you are going to enforce them, before you even bring the dog or puppy home. This requires a little bit of forethought and prior planning, and in some cases, setting yourself up with equipment and “rules” beforehand.
Read on to learn more about how to set boundaries for a new dog or puppy when you bring them home.
You should of course make sure that your home is all ready to receive your dog before you bring them home, and this means making your plans about what is and is not allowed, getting all of the family on board with them, and making your physical preparations. Dog-proof your house to ensure that it is safe, and suss out where you are going to feed your dog, place their bed, and what doors they will use to go out to go to the toilet.
If you have had a dog previously, it is entirely possible that you might want to assign different rules to your new dog than to the dog you owned before. Try to eradicate any signs of the prior dog from the home, such as by having your carpets cleaned and starting afresh with all new bedding, bowls and equipment, both to allow your new dog a fresh start, and to keep them from smelling the presence of another dog.
Make sure that your garden or yard is fenced in securely to keep your dog contained, and block off any areas that you do not wish your dog to access, such as flowerbeds, or part of the garden. The same process can be undertaken within the home; for instance, if you wish to keep your dog from going upstairs or keeping them out of certain rooms, either install baby gates, or get into a routine of keeping those doors closes before you bring your dog home.
When you first welcome your dog into their new home, keep them on the lead and show them around calmly and slowly. This will enable you to direct where your dog goes, and offer them a feeling of security by having a guided introduction, as well as getting them into a pattern of where in the home is part of their territory, and what areas they are not taken into. If your new dog attempts to go into one of the areas they are not permitted to, gently pull them back and recall them, and tell them “no” if they persist.
Ensure that any parts of the home that you have designated as dog-free zones are already closed off to your dog, either physically with a closed door, or with a baby gate. This will help to reinforce the impression to your dog that these parts of the house are not theirs, and they will not establish their scent within these areas. Over time, you should be able to remove physical barriers, and rely on your dog to keep out with minimal correction.
If you intend to allow your dog into rooms where there are places that they cannot go; for instance, the lounge, but not the sofa, make it clear to your dog from the outset that these places are not for them! Immediately remove them from furniture they climb onto that is not their, showing them an alternative place for them to go. Never break the rule or fail to enforce it, as this will lead to blurred boundaries and confusion for your dog, at what is already a time of upheaval for them.
It is important to be totally consistent with your dog, and firm but fair. Your dog will not come into your home instinctively knowing the rules of their new living situation, and it is totally up to you to instil these rules into their minds. This can only be achieved if you do not bend the rules or blur the boundaries, and every time you do this, not only will you be back to stage one, but will confuse and stress out your dog. It is much easier to set boundaries from the outset than to try to change them later on- so start as you mean to go on, and stick to it!