What To Expect The First 3 Weeks
Our Labs may have come to Brookline from owners who had to re-home their Labs due to unavoidable changes in circumstances or they may have recently been in an animal shelter for an extended period of time before coming into one of our volunteer foster homes. Every Lab’s personality is different as are their coping abilities. While we try to accurately assess each Lab’s personality and obedience level, transitional stress can play a significant role in how they behave in your home during the first days and weeks of the pre-adoptive period.
We offer the following guidelines in the hope that they may help you to smoothly transition your new Lab to your home. Of course, if you have specific questions or need additional guidance, don’t hesitate to contact your Brookline volunteer.
- Treat your new Lab like a puppy – no matter how old – and prepare your home as though you were bringing a puppy into it. Pick up items that might present a chewing temptation, keep counters cleared and trash cans covered. Put clothing (clean and dirty) out of the Lab’s reach. If you have children, encourage them to keep their toys picked up. Don’t leave anything of value lying in a place where your Lab may be able to access it until you have a better idea of whether your new Lab likes to chew or steal things.
- Your new Lab will likely be stressed when he or she first arrives at your home. Remember to be patient and take it slowly. Give your Lab time to get to know you, your family, any other pets you may have, your home, and your routine. You should expect to see some signs of stress, which may include panting, pacing, barking, excessive chewing, shedding, drinking large quantities of water (which means more frequent potty breaks), difficulty settling (especially at night), housebreaking accidents, and gastric upset (vomiting, diarrhea or loose stools). These signs of stress should lessen or disappear as your Lab becomes more comfortable in your home. Don’t be afraid to initially keep your new addition separated from family members or any resident dog(s) you may have if your Lab is showing excessive signs of stress.
- Try to maintain the Lab’s previous schedule as much as possible at first. If the Lab sleeps in a crate, allow him or her to continue to do so, even if you don’t intend to crate your Lab once you’ve finalized the adoption. The crate is your Lab’s security – his or her safe spot – taking it away all at once will only add to your Lab’s stress.
- Limit your new Lab’s exposure to people, places, and other animals for a minimum of the first 3 to 5 days. After that, and once you have a better understanding of your Lab’s personality and obedience level, you may begin to SLOWLY introduce your new Lab to other people, places and animals.
- Keep to the house rules from day one. Don’t allow your new Lab to “get away” with anything that you don’t want your Lab to be doing in a month. If you don’t allow dogs on your furniture and your new Lab is accustomed to sleeping on the sofa, correct his or her behavior, gently but firmly, from the beginning. Be patient and keep in mind that it may take some time for him or her to learn the new house rules.
- Be consistent with rules and training commands. If there is more than one human in the house, make sure you’re using the same commands with your new Lab. One of you shouldn’t be using “DOWN” while the other of you is using “OFF.” This will confuse the dog and slow down the learning process.
- If your dog hasn’t had a lot of exercise on a regular basis and you lead a very active lifestyle, slowly work your dog up to your level. No one, human or dog, starts out running 5 miles a day without training. You also will need to consider your Lab’s age, health, weight and size as well as outdoor temperatures to determine whether he or she is suited to running or might be better suited to a less stressful form of exercise.
WHEN THERE ARE RESIDENT DOGS
At the introduction, your new Lab and your resident dog(s) will have an opportunity to be introduced, with the help of a Brookline volunteer. Before bringing your new Lab home, we encourage you to read “New Dog, New Home” available here. It’s important that you give your new Lab and your resident dog(s) adequate time to acclimate to the change. We hope you will find the following suggestions helpful.
- Keep the new Lab and your resident dog(s) separated initially for a minimum of at least 3-5 days. Allow sniffing between the dogs to take place over or through a baby gate or cracked door before any “fur-to-fur” contact takes place indoors.
- Allow each of the dogs one-on-one time with you alone. Your new Lab will need to know that he or she should look to you for attention and affection. Your resident dog will need reassurance that you haven’t forsaken him or her. Allow your new Lab time to explore the house and your yard without being tailed by your resident dog.
- Once the dogs are allowed to have fur-to-fur access to each other, do not leave them unsupervised for any length of time. If you must be away from home, separate them.
- Make an effort to engage the dogs in an activity together where the focus is not on each other. Walks are very good for this. The focus is on sniffing out their surroundings rather than sniffing out each other.
- Do not allow the dogs to compete for anything. Do not play fetch with two dogs and only one tennis ball. Even if one of the dogs isn’t a “retriever,” as such, competition to possess the ball can lead to an unpleasant altercation. It is also advisable to put away all toys, especially rawhide treats and bones, until the dogs are comfortable with each other.
- Do not place crates or dog beds in close proximity at first. Wait to see how much “personal space” is required by each dog. Also, refrain from feeding the dogs in close quarters until they are used to eating with another dog in the same room.
- Dogs will establish or re-establish their hierarchy. Usually one will emerge as the dominant dog. This has nothing to do with sex, altered status, size or age. Once the new dog is feeling comfortable, there may be a “struggle” to be the top dog. Let the dogs work it out. Only the dogs can decide who will be higher up in the pecking order. If things get physical, go back to separating the dogs for a time and then gradually re-introduce them.
WHEN THERE ARE RESIDENT CATS
If you have a resident cat, you will need to take special precautions to carefully introduce your new Lab to your resident cat(s). The following guidelines were excerpted from “New Dog, New Home”, the full text of which is available here.
- You will need a more controlled environment to introduce your Lab to a new feline friend.
- Keep your Lab on leash and have him or her meet the cat where the cat cannot run away and hide. You may need to hold or even leash your cat during these introductions. Being a Lab, he or she will most likely only want to chase the cat if it runs, but occasionally, a stronger prey drive may make the Lab more cat aggressive. Again, firmly correct your Lab and don’t unleash him or her around your cat until you feel comfortable with their interaction.
- Praise your new Lab for positive interactions with the cat or for ignoring the cat. Chances are, once the cat can leave your “meeting room,” you will not see it for several days or even weeks until your cat is ready to accept your new Lab! Your cat also may take a liking to sleeping on tall tables and perches until it feels comfortable around your new Lab.
- Be prepared for there to be some litter box accidents, as cats can be even more routine oriented and angry when their world is changed.
- You may need to rethink how you feed your cat so that your new Lab will not get into your cat’s food.