How to Pick and Introduce a New Dog to Your Family

Picking the right dog for you and your family can be a challenging task, but there are a few simple steps to follow that will greatly increase the chance of a perfect match.

To succeed at dog ownership there must be unity in the pack. If you want a dog but your wife doesn't the dog will be stuck in the middle and trust me, he will know he is not totally wanted in the home.

Once the family has agreed to get a dog a you want to sit down and make sure everyone knows what it means to be a responsible pet owner. Giving him daily exercise, cleaning up after him and making sure he gets good training and vet care are essential. Love is not going to take him out at 3:00 in the morning, you are, so really make sure your family knows the details.

Once you are ready to pick a dog there are some things you can do to help the process:

Step 1 - Asses your families overall energy level and be honest. Do you spend weekends camping and hiking or is movie night on the couch more your speed. Dogs come in 4 energy levels - low, medium, high and very high. The trick is to pick a dog whose energy is equal to or lower than yours. I know a puppy sounds like a good idea but think it through.

Step 2 - Rescues and shelters have every type and age of dog there is. Enter the breed you want and the area you live along with “rescue” in google and several should pop up. There is usually a description and if the dog is in a foster home there may be a detailed behavioral description about how the dog gets along with kids, cats, and other dogs. Mutts rule!

Step 3 - Learning how to assess the energy of the dogs you have selected is important in picking the right dog for you.  I meet all new dogs with Cesar's mantra of no touch, no talk, no eye contact.  This allows the dogs to meet in their natural way. 

  • How the dog moves is a good tell of their energy.  Dogs who can't stop moving and/or dogs who are very jumpy and excited are going to be your high to very high energy dogs.  Quick body usually equals a quick, excited mind. These dogs do best in active homes that can provide lots of exercise.  When high energy dogs don't get enough exercise they can become bored and issues usually follow boredom.  
  • Dogs who calmly keep their distance from you on first meeting are actually being respectful and that is a great start.  It may look like they don't "like" you but in reality they often make the best companions because they are respectful from the start.  
  • Dogs who are in a retreat state or nervous state of mind need very calm/mellow/patient owners who have the time and willingness to help the dogs become more confident.  High energy Type A personalities can easily become frustrated with dogs like this and that makes the dogs even more insecure.

Step 4 - Take your time and meet lots of dogs. Once you have found “the one” the best thing is to set up a foster to adopt situation to see how the fit works out.

Once you have picked out the right dog you should follow these steps to introduce him to your home and family:

  1. Its best to take the dog for a very long walk, run or bike ride before you take the dog inside your home (check out walking tips from the classroom section). This will burn the nervous/pent up energy from the shelter and it can help create trust in you.  
  2. After the walk you should bring him inside on a leash and immediately take him out to the bathroom spot.  If he goes you should give a bit of praise and then walk him around your yard on a leash.  
  3. Next, take him inside (still on a leash) and walk him around your living room and then put him in a covered crate or laundry room, give him food and water and ignore him.  
  4. In a couple of hours you should take him back out for another walk, then take him in the yard again and then back in the crate.  Repeat this for a couple of days. 

The reason for this step is to let the dog unwind and decompress. Think about it from his point of view: He is put in a car with a new group of excited people who are oohhing and aahhhing in his face. Now he is taken into a home he has never smelled and more people show up and grab at him for some more oohhing and aahhing. What a overwhelming message to send a dog who you just met, and who has yet to learn he can trust you.

Keep it mellow for the first few days and he will tell you how he feels about his new home. If he is relaxed and enjoys interacting with the family great, if he seems uncertain or unsure thats okay too, he just needs more time to adjust. Take your time and be patient, this is a life long commitment.