Book excerpt: Bringing your new dog home
In this excerpt from Chapter 6 of Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog, Cesar walks us through the process of bringing a new dog or puppy home for the first time.
Homeward bound: Meeting your human pack
You’ve located the perfect dog with the right energy for your family and lifestyle. You’ve researched the breed, decided you can handle any special needs, and have everyone in the household ready to take on the role of Pack Leader. You go through the adoption process, including microchipping and spaying or neutering, and today is the big day — time to bring home your new dog.
This is the point in the process when many people make the biggest mistake, frequently out of excitement over having a new family member. They drive home, bring the dog out of the car and to the front door, throw the door open, take off the leash, and let the dog loose to explore her new home . . . and the poor dog has no idea what’s going on or where she is. It may look like she’s excitedly investigating as she runs from room to room, sniffing everywhere, but she isn’t. You’ve just thrown her into a completely alien environment with no direction, and these early associations are going to stick. The place is unfamiliar, it smells different, and there doesn’t seem to be any way out. If you have previously had pets in the house, it will smell like them, and your new dog will be uncertain about invading someone else’s territory.
So let’s back up from the front door and back to the car, and back to the shelter. Before you even bring the dog to the car, take her on an energetic walk. This will help use up the pent-up energy from being in the shelter. Once you are in the car, stop a few blocks from home and take your dog on another walk, this time to your doorstep. This allows her to get used to the smells and sights of the new neighborhood, and to begin to feel confident about being there. She will also get to know you and your energy, and you will begin to establish trust.
Finally, when you arrive home, it’s not time to let your new dog go bounding inside yet. Lead her to whichever door you enter through, and then make her sit, waiting until she shows calm, submissive energy. When you open the door, you and the family must enter first. Only then, invite your new dog in, but keep her on the lead for now — and make sure that everyone practices “No Touch, No Talk, No Eye Contact.”
The idea is that you slowly introduce your new dog to her new place, one room at a time, and you should begin with the room where she will find her food and water, making her wait until you have gone through the door and invited her in. Have her sit while you get her food and water ready. After she has eaten, she should be even more relaxed. Now you can give her the tour of the rest of the house, avoiding rooms you do not want her to enter.
As with that first room, make her wait at the threshold to every room until you invite her in. Keeping her on the lead, let her sniff and explore each new place before leading her to the next. What you are doing with this process is telling the dog, “This is my territory. I own it, but I am allowing you in.” It will help build your dog’s respect for what is yours from the beginning.
Once you have completed the tour, it will be time for your new dog to meet each of the human members of the pack, one at a time. Let her smell them first, and don’t allow anyone to show affection until the new dog comes to them. Pack leaders do not go to their followers; their followers come to them.