A Dog’s New Home

Any dog in a new environment is going to display behaviour that isn’t necessarily typical to that dog.

People in a new environment do much the same thing, when we think about it. In a new school we watch to work out who the bullies are and in a new workplace we expend real effort trying to determine who to trust to give us the correct answers to our inevitable questions.

A dog will wonder if anyone in the house will try to steal his food; hurt him physically; tease him and whether the ‘teasing’ is a misguided game or whether there’s malice behind it. He hasn’t joined a family but a new ‘pack’ and he needs to work out where his place is.

As a result he may guard his food and display signs of aggression if you reach for it; cower, hide or show aggression if someone moves towards him too quickly for comfort; lower his tail when teased; bark a warning when he feels threatened.

You may be disappointed to find that the dog you were told is house-trained has peed on your carpet, but he will have given some sign that he needs to go out before giving up in desperation. It’s up to you to learn, by asking, how he signals this need before you bring him home.

It can take any time between 8 weeks and 6 months for a dog to completely settle into a new environment. Much will depend on his previous experiences, but progress will also be slower if the dynamics of his new environment keep changing. This could mean anything from rearranging furniture, having guests to stay or irregular weekend parties, dinners or barbecues.

Some of his behaviour adjustment will also be affected by his breed. If you have chosen a companion dog and he bonds with the person who spends most time at home his progress will be faster than if he bonds with the person who spends the least amount of time at home.

Finally, barking. Dogs bark as a way of communicating, but excessive barking can be a nuisance not only within the home but because it can be a source of irritation for neighbours. The problem with barking is that there are a number of different reasons why a dog barks and each requires a different approach to adjust the behaviour.

A dog may bark because:

  • He’s excited.
  • He’s seen or heard something unusual.
  • He is seeking attention.
  • He has identified ‘stranger danger’ near your home (such as a delivery man).
  • He is answering other dogs (which you may not have heard) in the area.
  • He is bored or lonely.
  • He’s afraid of something.

A lot of people try to address a barking problem in isolation, but I’ve found that the majority of excessive barkers will improve as they go through obedience training. A trained dog develops a better idea of what is expected from him and the psychological security from that knowledge means that a dog is less unsure about his world.

A trained dog is also likely to be more easily brought into a state where he realises that his barking (in that particular instance) is unnecessary. Eventually he will remember past instances and begin to react with more moderation.
Nothing with dogs is instantly ‘fixed’ and a dog in a new home has a great deal to learn. He won’t learn without your guidance.

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