This toolkit will help you and your new dog get off to a great start!
Adopting is so rewarding!
The Amigos de 4 Patas team is here to support you as you and your dog adjust to each other:
An individual assigned to you to support you throughout the adoption process including follow up.
The individual who originally rescued and fostered the dog in La Paz. The word “rescatista” means rescuer in Spanish. This person was responsible for rehabilitating the dog including bringing the dog to the clinic for care, bringing the dog to training events, socialization, etc. They are often consulted concerning potential adopters to help in finalizing adoptions.
This is YOU! The person who adopted the dog for life. We always encourage professional training to help you and your dog get off on the right foot together.
Your dog is new to you and does not yet know you are his/her new family. We highly recommend the following until your dog and you bond and the dog knows s/he is home with you:
- Use a slip leash to keep the dog from escaping and always supervise him/her when outdoors unless in your own secured fenced yard.
- Use positive reinforcement and treats to reward your dog for good behavior.
- Dogs love crates, so if you opt to crate train your dog leave the door open so s/he can go in whenever they feel tired to the need to “escape” to their own space.
Read the Tips for the first 30 days post – it is short, simple and invaluable.
Your dog may have come with a small supply of food so it is important to slowly introduce new food to your foster dog by mixing a small amount of the old food with the new food. Because food can be confiscated by customs officials at either border, this may not be possible – but we will tell you the brand and type of food the dog has been eating. If a veterinarian prescribes a particular diet for medical reasons, Baja Dogs will pay for this.
Some dogs get diarrhea from a change in diet. If this happens, feed them cooked rice mixed with cottage cheese (2 to 1 ratio) for a day or two. Or you may try adding canned pumpkin puree to their meals: 2 teaspoons (for a small dog) or 2 tablespoons (for a large dog). Then reintroduce the dry kibble.
Create a consistent schedule for feeding your dog. Feed at the same times every day. Create a separate space for your dog to eat so they will feel comfortable. If you have other dogs at home, feed your new dog in a separate room and close the door – this will help prevent any arguments over food.
If your dog is experiencing hot spots (red patches of hairless skin), it may be due to food allergies. Contact your Veterinarian about this for a recommendation. Always remember to provide plenty of fresh water!
After being approved for adoption, but before you bring your new dog home, we suggest you prepare yourself, your family, and your home for your new canine companion:
Planning where you will keep your dog before it enters your home will make the entire process easier for everyone. When you first bring a new dog home, you’ll want to confine it to a single room, such as a kitchen or family room. This room should not be an isolated room, but a room where you spend a large part of your day or evening, as dogs are pack animals and want to be with you. This room is especially important when you’re at work or away from the house, as it will be a new environment in which the dog will need time to become familiar and comfortable. Use a baby gate to block off the entrances to other rooms. By keeping the dog in one room, you’re helping prevent “accidents” that may occur because of stress or adjusting to your routine. (Even a house-trained dog might have an accident or two during this adjustment period.) For dogs that are not housetrained, keeping them confined to one room will help start this important training as you must be able to monitor their activities. We also recommend you use a crate in this room, particularly for times when you are away from the house.
- Avoid placing your dog around other strange dogs unless you have first socialized them. Always supervise your dog when it is with your existing dogs.
- Avoid allowing your dog outdoors unless supervised by an adult until it is familiar with you and its new home.
- Never leave your dog in a hot car. Dogs don’t sweat like humans do to cool to themselves off so they are at a higher chance of heat stroke and this can be fatal.
Walk into the room in which you plan to confine your dog, and ask yourself:
- Is there room for the crate (dog’s safe place)?
- Is there quick access to the outside for bathroom breaks?
- Is there anything that can be chewed, such as drapes, a couch or rugs?
- Are there exposed electrical wires?
- Is there anywhere the dog can hide?
- Will you be able to get the dog out if hidden?
- Are there coffee tables with objects that can be knocked off by a wagging tail?
- Are there plants in the room? If so, check the list of toxic plants in this guide.
- Where will I set up the crate once all hazards are removed?
- Is the crate in a quiet, low-traffic area of the room?
- Is there a blanket in the crate to train your foster dog that this is his/her bed?
The safest way to transport your dog, is in a secure crate in the back of a SUV or station wagon. The crate should be secured so that it doesn’t tip over or move around. Another option is to use a grill between the back of the vehicle and the back seat. If you have a sedan, then you may be able to secure a crate on the back seat. It is always a good idea to put a blanket down under your crate or in the back section of your vehicle, so that if your dog becomes car sick, or has an accident, the blanket will protect your seats and carpet.
If you can’t fit a crate into your vehicle, your dog is safest in the back seat. Use either a special harness for your dog that hooks on to a seat belt, or a leash that attaches to the seat belt.
You might need a few treats to encourage your dog to jump into the car. If you can get a dog to put his front paws up, then you can lift his back end by supporting his hindquarters (as if he were sitting on your crossed arms). If you need to completely lift your dog, the best way is by putting one arm behind his hind legs and one arm in front of his front legs – essentially a scoop. Another way is to have one arm just behind his front legs, and one hand behind his hind legs. This way the dog’s weight is being supported in the same general area of its legs. Keep in mind, most dogs don’t really like to be lifted. Remember to always keep a handle on his/her leash.
Now that you’re home with your dog, you should start a regular routine so your dog can begin to adjust to your household. During this adjustment period, please keep stimulation to a minimum. Find a quiet route to walk or run your foster dog (depending on energy level) to familiarize him with his new environment. This also helps start the bonding between you and your dog.
Some recommendations include:
- For the first 7-14 days (could be more or less) your dog should lay low while he tries to figure out just what this new situation is. Avoid overwhelming the dog with too many introductions, being crowded with a lot of people, etc. Just try to spend quality time one-on-one with the dog.
- The most important thing to do during this initial transition time is to clearly, but in a NON-confrontational manner, establish the household rules. As well, take care not to “indulge” your dog’s timid, tentative or fearful behavior; we understand how tempting this may be as many of our rescues have come from less than ideal situations, but in the long run it does not benefit the dog.
- Be alert and make the introductions gradually and calmly. Your resident dog(s) may be extremely territorial in the home.
- If possible, go for a walk around your neighborhood with all of the dogs and a handler for each one. Walk the dogs side by side on leashes and allow them to sniff one another and become familiar with each other in neutral territory.
- Give your own resident dog(s) LOTS of love and praise.
- Leave leashes on the dogs when you are in the home, so that you can get immediate control if needed. You may only need to do this for a short time.
- Talk normally. Letting the dogs know that you are fine; they are fine; everything is fine!
- Be patient and go slowly with your new dog as he/she may have been through a stressful surgery, abusive situation or a lot of recent changes.
- Don’t leave your new dog unattended with your resident dog. Even if they seem to get along well in your presence, you should separate the dogs when you leave your house until you are certain that everyone is fine together. If you do leave your dogs alone together, be sure to always remove all toys, food and chews, and start slowly.
- Holding the leash too tensely as dogs may react with defensiveness.
- Leaving toys and chews around the house. This can cause resource guarding which can escalate very quickly.
- Remove all toys and chews before you arrive home with your new dog.
- Feeding your new dog with your resident dog. It’s best to separate them initially, and to supervise always.
- Over-stimulating your new dog with introductions to many people or your neighbors’ dogs before your new dog has time to adjust.
Before you introduce your new dog to your cat, you may wish to wait a few days until you have confirmed or instilled basic obedience in your new dog. You will need to have your dog under control and know which behaviors are appropriate when interacting with a cat. Allow your dog to settle down and get to know your surroundings first before you start introductions to unfamiliar animals.
Introducing a cat to a dog is similar to introducing dogs to one another. Take your time and create a stress-free environment. Begin by keeping your cat in a different room. Allow the dog to become comfortable in his own room. Once the dog is comfortable, let him explore the rest of the house for short periods each day while the cat is in another room. This will allow them to pick up each other’s scent.
After a few days, allow the two to meet but keep the dog on a leash. Observe their interactions – a dog that is showing overt aggression, such as snarling, growling, baring teeth, etc., will probably never accept a cat. The cat and dog should be separated by baby gates or kept in separate rooms. If all is reasonably calm so far, walk the dog around the room on leash, but don’t let go of the leash in case the dog decides to chase the cat. On leash interactions give the cat the opportunity to approach the dog if they choose, or to find a route of escape.
During the first few meetings, the cat and dog will probably not interact face to face. A dog is a predatory animal. It’s a natural instinct for a dog to want to chase a cat. Assume the dog will chase the cat so you are prepared. Never allow the dog to intimidate the cat by barking or chasing. Each time the dog acts inappropriately (barking), let him know these behaviors are unacceptable; try using a verbal interrupter, like “Oops” to get their attention and redirect their energy. On the other hand, if the cat bops the dog on the nose as a warning, that’s a good sign and should not be discouraged.
When they set up boundaries between themselves, they are beginning to establish a working relationship. Let them interact with the dog on leash for about 30 minutes, then return the cat back to its safe haven and bring the dog to its dog crate or bed. Give the dog a treat and lots of praise. Increase the amount of time they are together a little each visit. It’s important to be patient and encouraging in their interactions. If you’re relaxed, they will be more at ease.
Always praise friendly behavior profusely. Don’t rush the introduction or force them to interact more than either is willing. Pressing them to accept each other will only slow down the adjustment process. When the cat and dog seem to be getting used to each other, let the dog go, but keep his leash attached to his collar. Let him drag it around the house as he wanders, that way you can control him at any time. The cat will probably hide at first. You should use your best judgment as to when they can begin supervised sessions with the dog off-leash.
Your dog should be exercised every day, rain or shine. Most dogs will need at least two 30+ minute walks a day to release excess energy. If your dog is an adolescent, you may need to step up the activity level to include regular runs/hikes/or brisk walks. A dog that is exercised regularly will tend to sleep when you are not at home – and a sleeping dog cannot do undesirable things, such as bark, chew, etc. Even a 10-week-old puppy that plays inside or in a yard needs numerous daily walks as part of the socialization process.
When walking your new dog, leave an appropriate and safe distance between your dog and any other dog you meet. This keeps handlers and dogs safe from possible conflicts and also reduces the transmission of diseases. You will need to be extra diligent because many dog owners seem to encourage their dogs to “greet” every dog they encounter out on a walk. This nose-to-nose greeting is particularly stressful for many dogs.
One simple way to avoid an oncoming dog walker is to just cross the street, or start to walk in a wide semi-circle around them. Most people recognize that this is a sign that you don’t want your dogs to meet. If this isn’t possible, just announce to the oncoming walker that you are walking a a newly adopted dog, and you would prefer that the dogs don’t greet each other at this time. If you do have an on-leash reactive dog, there are some easy ways to maintain and/or add distance between you and another dog.
Sometimes you must broadcast this loudly if their dog is off-leash or on a retractable leash. Keeping your dog to your side (rather than at the end of the leash) and creating a “body block” with your own body is also helpful. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid another dog, so just stay calm, walk between your dog and the oncoming dog and move past quickly. Also try talking to your dog, “Fido, keep with me” and giving them treats as you pass an oncoming dog will help keep their attention on you, not on the other dog. Retractable leashes when walking or running your dog are difficult to control and they can easily tangle or break.
A leader in a dog pack is not the biggest dog, not the meanest dog and not necessarily the oldest dog. It is the one who controls the resources! Within a pack of dogs, strong canine leaders rarely use physical means to control other dogs; this is true in both wild and domesticated dogs. Humans can apply this concept of hierarchy by controlling all the resources in the home and doling them out contingent upon desirable behavior.
Positive, rewards based training is the way to go. Increasing your dog’s obedience skills has many benefits. Some basic obedience cues that your dog should already know are: sit, down, come, crate/bed, stay, heel, and an attention cue such as “watch me.” In many cases, the dog will know some of these commands in Spanish and these are included in the Adopter’s handbook you will be getting. Learning basic commands are very helpful in managing any dog. If you have a dog that does not like other dogs, these cues will be helpful on walks as well. For example, a dog that can heal nicely and that has been taught to “watch” you has less likelihood of making eye contact with another dog and getting aroused.
Using force, such as alpha-rolls, can exacerbate an already potentially dangerous situation. Second, using force does not teach the dog what you WANT him to do; only what you don’t want him to do. Force based methods can often temporarily suppress undesirable behaviors, but under certain stressors, when a dog feels threatened and has no other options, he may resort to aggression to remove the unpleasant stimulus or to escape the situation.
Positive training methods, on the other hand, are very unlikely to yield such undesirable and unsafe results. Using positive training methods can in fact, increase the likelihood of your dog wanting to respond correctly, increase your dog’s motivation to work, and they are fun for you and the dog!
- Short 5 minute training sessions 4-6 times a day is more effective than one long session.
- Dogs need and respond to positive rewards when learning new behaviors. Remember, most behaviors that we want are boring to a dog, so it’s important to make it more interesting to them. A positive reward is a tasty treat, or a game of fetch, or anything that your dog enjoys.
- You provide the guidance and information he needs to succeed and build his confidence. Always praise your dog when he is doing something good.
- Be consistent with your terminology and routine. Your dog will become confused if you let them steal your socks sometimes, but not others.
- Start small and easy and slowly build from there. Most people jump too quickly into advanced environments (outside on a walk, etc.), so make sure you start inside in a safe and quiet location.
- Use “Oops” or “Ah-Ah” instead of the word “no.” Use sparingly; if it is overused then your dog will no longer respond. It is better if you ask your dog to do a behavior that you do like.
- Be patient and calm. Dogs respond to your tone of voice and facial expressions as well as your emotions. Dogs can read your body language quickly. Don’t try to fake your emotions, as your dog will know.
Be patient with your dog. Even house trained adult dogs will make mistakes. If there are smells in your house from another dog or cat, some dogs may “mark” out their territory. This action should be re-directed immediately with a calm “Oops” and escort him outside where he can finish. You will then want to use some odor neutralizer (like Nature’s Miracle) on the areas where the dog “marked” to insure he will not smell and mark that area again. You can begin to house train a puppy at 8 weeks of age. Even if you bring home an adult dog that is housebroken, you will want to follow these guidelines until your dog adjusts to his new situation and to your schedule.
- Determine where you want your dog to eliminate – it could be the backyard, side yard or an indoor substrate such as a Pup Head, litter system or one you have designed.
- When you have determined where he should do his business, take him to the same place every time, and tell him to “do his business.” Take him out when he wakes up, after he eats or drinks, after a play session, or at least every 2 hours. Puppies should go out every 45 minutes until you learn their pattern. Stand with him for 5 minutes. If he eliminates, reward him (with treats, praise, a favorite game and your own special happy dance). If he doesn’t go in 5 minutes, take him back inside and try every 15 minutes until he goes. Every time he goes, make sure you reward him!
- Supervise the puppy closely while you’re inside. If he starts to sniff the floor, or even squats to go, interrupt with a calm “Oops”, scoop him up quickly and take him to the approved spot and praise when he finishes.
- If he goes in the house while you’re not paying attention, don’t correct him – it’s not his fault. Clean it up and go back to your schedule. Use an odor neutralizer (like Nature’s Miracle) to get rid of the smell. Never put the dog’s face in his mess, or yell at him, he won’t understand you, and you will only be teaching him to fear you.
In many cases, your dog will already be crate trained. But should you need to do crate training, following is an excellent guide:
- Crates provide safe havens and dens for dogs. They calm them and can help prevent destructive chewing, barking and house training mistakes. Puppies should not be crated for more hours than they are months old, plus one. For example, a 4-month-old should not be crated longer than 5 hours. How long an adult dog can be crated will depend on many factors. For example, if your dog was left outside, it has never been required to hold it for any period of time. It will take time for this dog to learn to hold it and you will need to start slowly. Older dogs and dogs with some medical conditions may only be able to successfully hold it for short periods of time.
- Rigorous exercise should be given before and after any long periods in the crate, and good chew toys should be in the crate at all times. You may want to crate your new dog for the first few nights in your bedroom—most of them feel more secure in their crate and it protects your house from accidents.
- Crates should never be used as a means of punishment for your dog. If used for punishing, the dog will learn to avoid going in the crate. Crates are not to be used for keeping puppies under 6 months out of mischief all day either. Crates should be thought of as dog playrooms – just like child playrooms, with games and toys. It should be a place dogs like to be and feel safe and secure when they are there.
- Place the crate (with a blanket inside) in a central part of your home. Introduce your dog to the crate after a good walk, when he’s tired and sleepy. Keep all chew toys in the crate so that he can go in and out as he pleases, selecting toys to play with. Feed your dog in the crate with the door open. If the dog hesitates going in, place the bowl inside the door so their head is in and their body is outside.
- If your dog still refuses to go near the crate, put the smelliest, tastiest wet food (or a steak!) in the crate and shut the door. Let the dog hang outside the crate for a while, smelling the food inside. Soon he should beg you to let him in!
- Now that the dog is familiar and willing to go near the crate, throw some of his favorite treats in the crate. Let him go in and get them and come right out again. Do this exercise three or four times. Then, throw more treats in and let him go in and get them. When he is in, shut the door and give him another treat through the door. Then let him out and ignore him for 3 minutes. Then, put some more treats in the crate, let him go in, shut the door and feed him 5 bits of treats through the door, and then let him out and ignore him for 5 minutes.
- Next time, place treats, peanut butter, freeze-dried liver or frozen food and honey in a Kong , so it is time-consuming to get the food out of the ball, and put the Kong in the crate. After your dog has gone in, shut the door and talk to him in a calm voice. If your dog starts to whine or cry, don’t talk to him or you will reward the whining/crying/ barking behavior. The foster dog must be quiet for a few minutes before you let him out.
- Gradually increase the time in the crate until the dog can spend 3-4 hours there. We recommend leaving a radio (soothing music or talk radio) or TV (mellow stations: educational, art, food) on while the dog is in the crate and alone in the house. Rotate the dog’s toys from day to day so he doesn’t become bored of them. Don’t put papers in the crate – the dog will instinctively not go to the bathroom where he sleeps/lives. Instead, put a blanket in his crate to enforce the fact that this is his cozy home.
- To help your dog get accustomed to the crate, place his favorite bed inside it and place it in your bedroom. For a puppy, you can try placing a warm hot water bottle wrapped in a towel next to him. Warmth makes puppies sleepy. Make sure the sides of bedding are tucked in firmly so the puppies don’t get lost or suffocated in a fold of the bedding. Be wary of dog crates during hot weather – a dog may want to lie on the cool floor of instead of the crate. Make sure the crate is not in direct sun.
Some dogs will have specific needs regarding behavior, training or socializing. Your Adoption Coordinator will advise you if your dog has a behavior problem that may require your help, such as an abused or fearful dog who needs socializing or confidence building with other dogs or people.
Many of the behaviors that we find problematic, such as barking, whining, digging, chewing, scavenging and hunting other animals are really just normal dog behaviors and can be explained as “dogs truly being dogs.” But we should keep in mind that these behavioral “problems” are not necessarily abnormal or unusual. The easiest way to coexist with our canine companions is to provide more appropriate (aka human accepted) outlets for these behaviors.
- Attention seeking
- Garbage hunting
- Leash pulling
- Greeting manners
- Destructive chewing
- Puppy nipping and rough play
- Submissive and/or excitement urination
- Urine marking behavior
- Separation anxiety
- Resource guarding
- Prey drive
- Is my dog getting enough exercise?
- Is s/he being left alone for long periods of time?
- Does s/he have interesting toys to keep his mind engaged and stimulated?
- Is s/he getting enough attention and playtime?
- Am I reinforcing bad behavior? Some examples include verbally scolding a dog when they are seeking attention or engaging the dog when he uses bad manners to get you to play.
- Does my dog have a safe place that is dog-proofed with appropriate chew toys, or am I leaving my own belongings within reach?
- Am I providing specific outlets based on his natural instincts and drives?
You should also talk with your trainer about any behavior issues. Punishment is rarely effective in resolving behavior problems. Punishment will not address the cause of the behavior, and in fact it may worsen any behavior that’s motivated by fear or anxiety. Punishment may also cause anxiety in dogs that aren’t currently fearful. Never discipline your dog after the fact. People often believe their dog makes this connection because he runs and hides or “looks guilty.” But dogs display submissive postures like cowering, running away, or hiding when they feel threatened by an angry tone of voice, body posture, or facial expression. Your dog doesn’t know what he’s done wrong; he only knows that you’re upset. Punishment after the fact will not only fail to eliminate the undesirable behavior, but may provoke other undesirable behaviors, too.
Your dog may not display any signs of illness until quite ill. Therefore, it’s up to you to observe your dog closely each day. Call your veterinarian if you see abnormal behavior; unusual discharges from the eyes, nose or other body openings, abnormal lumps, limping, difficulty getting up or down, loss of appetite or abnormal waste elimination.
Diarrhea can be caused by several factors, including stress, change of diet, poor diet, eating garbage, parasites and viruses. The dog’s intestinal system may be upset particularly after transport and arriving to your new home. If your dog has diarrhea and has no other symptoms, rule out change of diet by feeding your dog 2 cups of cooked rice mixed with one cup of cottage cheese for a day or two, and then reintroduce dry kibble. Provide plenty of fresh water since diarrhea can cause dehydration. To check for dehydration, pull the skin up over the shoulder blades. If it snaps back quickly, the dog is not dehydrated. If the skin goes down slowly, then the dog is dehydrated and needs fluids. Dehydration can kill a puppy so call your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is dehydrated. In an emergency, take your dog directly to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Your dog’s vaccines will be current and the dog will have been dewormed. Rabies vaccines are given to dogs at 3 months of age. Nevertheless, it is good to take a fecal sample to your vet shortly after your dog arrives.
A normal temperature for dogs and puppies is 101 to 102.5 degrees fahrenheit or 38.3 to 39.2 degrees celcius. Any temperature below 100 degrees fahrenheit (38 celcius) or above 103 (39 celcius) is a problem. Call your veterinarian immediately. If a puppy has a temperature below 100 degrees (38 celcius), place him on a heating pad turned to low and cover him with a towel immediately. If the dog’s temperature is 103 degrees (39 celcius) or higher, and the puppy has been on a heating pad, remove him from the pad immediately.