-Rita Viel, West Paw Export Manager & Dog Behaviorist
In the current situation with the COVID 19, where people have to stay at home and / or work from home for several weeks we should have enough time to think about adopting a dog in our families. And yes there are many dogs in the shelters who love to get a new home, so this is a great idea.
Same for deciding to take a young puppy in your family. The comings weeks you do have enough time to stay together with your new dog. But also ask yourself how your family situation is after these weeks, when life returns to normal and you have to go back to work / school.
In general responsible dog ownership is very important. Whether we are in a situation like nowadays with the COVID 19 situation where we are more at home, but also for the future when everything is back to normal.
Deciding to adopt a dog is a long term decision. Nowadays a dog can live easily for 10 – 12 years minimum. And that means also being a responsible pet parent for your dog for as long as your dog lives. Therefore please think about your family situation in the future. Maybe you have enough time now, but do you have enough time for your dog in the future as well.
If you teach your dog to stay alone at home in a good way it won’t be a problem to leave your dog at home for a few hours (preferable no longer than 4 – 5 hours maximum), but dogs are focussed on humans and prefer to stay together. That means leaving them alone at home too often and/or too long will make them sad which can result in behaviour that you don’t like, but certainly isn’t good for the welfare of your dog.
Ask yourself also the question whether you do have enough time to walk, play and just be around with your dog when everything is going back to normal. If you can resolutely say YES on that question, then it is absolutely the right time to adopt a dog now.
First you have to create a bond with your dog (for an older dog this takes approx. 4 – 5 weeks). Secondly you need to get used to each other and third you need to teach the dog to stay alone step by step in the weeks that you are around. Don’t start with teaching the dog to stay alone within the first 2 weeks you have your dog. Most important is to create confidence and trust. Certainly with a dog from a shelter. These dogs do have a history already and they need time to get used to their new family to get trust. This will take several weeks and in some cases some months or longer.
Choose also the dog that fits the best in your family situation and your daily activities. If your family is active, both indoor and outdoor, preferably choose a breed or mix that enjoys these activities. If you aren’t that active, no problem, but choose then also a breed/mix that doesn’t need that. Also when you do have (small) children at home, check up front what could be the best breed/mix to live together with children before you decide to adopt a dog. Not every dog likes children and besides that realize that a dog also needs attention and quality time from their owner separately. Check if you can give your dog this time to avoid any behavioural problems in the future.
If you have decided to adopt a dog (whether it is a young puppy or an adult dog), then enjoy. Focus first on creating a bond together and give your dog time and space to get used to their new home. Give the dog time to sniff around, rest and manage your home by taking away dangerous stuff. Advise. Sit on the same level as you dog on the floor and go through the house to see what a dog will see. Think about electricity, shoes, plants, children toys etc. Take it away temporarily to avoid any damages in the beginning.
Slowly after 1 week you can start to get used to the crate if you want to use this for staying alone. This has to go step by step. Don’t close the door for at least the first 1 – 2 weeks, but give nice treats of food in the crate (with keeping the door open). For some dogs it will take even longer. Don’t hesitate to wait a little longer.
If you don’t want to use a crate you can copy this also for a dedicated room / area where you want to keep the dog if you aren’t at home. Most important is that this area should be a nice place for the dog where they feel comfortable. So don’t place the crate or the room that you use in an area where people have to walk a lot. Place a crate in a quiet corner of the room.
To create a bond with your dog, you can play on a regular base with your dog. Some ideas:
- Tugging toys together (with the Bumi, Zwig or skamp), but invite your dog. Don’t push and if he doesn’t want to play a tugging game in the beginning, realize that the dog (if you have a dog from a shelter) maybe has negative experience with tugging games or he/she never learned how to do that. Take all the time your dog need to get used to it.
- Retrieving (Jive, Boz, Zisc): Some dogs love that, but do it only a few time in order to get your dog not over excited. This could lead to too much stress.
Treat toys (Tux, Toppl, Qwizl): Give the dog their own space (for instance in their crate or at their dog bed). Be aware that no one should disturb the dog while they are enjoying a treat toy. Teach this also step by step. Most important is that your dog has success all the time. If they know how this works, you can also use this when you start teaching your dog to stay alone.
Don’t forget to give your dog some time to rest, so they can process all the incentives of the day.
Adopting a dog is a long term decision. If you realize that, then it is certainly a great time to take a dog and invest valuable time in creating a bond and in the education of your new dog.