Bringing Your Shelter Dog Home! by Guest Blogger Mollie Norville

dog training
by Mollie Norville of


Bringing Home a Dog from a Shelter

All that most people can see when entering a shelter is dozens of dogs in need of hugs, kisses, treats, and a pillow next to theirs on the bed. In reality, those things are at the bottom of the list on what dogs from shelters, or dogs from anywhere for that matter, truly need.

When dogs are living in a kennel environment, they are able to hear, smell, and see other dogs and humans all day without cessation but cannot approach them due to the barrier of their kennel door. This is completely unnatural, therefore causing stress to build up in the dogs’ brains and potentially causing an array of behavioral issues. Naturally, a dog would approach and greet other dogs and humans by sniffing and then possibly showing dominance or offering play. It is natural for dogs to be part of a pack, whether that pack consists of other dogs, humans, or a combination of the two. So, living separately yet just within reach of companionship literally can drive them insane. It’s no wonder that many dogs quickly develop separation anxiety once leaving the shelter. Here’s a guide to help navigate and, hopefully, ease the transition from shelter to home.

Dogs need exercise and discipline first, then affection. When picking up your new dog from the shelter, be very calm. Added excitement equals added anxiety. As soon as you leave the shelter, take the dog on a long walk, and I mean long walk. Two to three hours minimum. During this walk the dog must be kept walking at your side the entire time. This first walk establishes you as leader, dog as follower, and seals the bond between you and your dog. The walk also tires your dog, making it harder for him to feel any anxiety in his new home. *Note: If you have other dogs in the household, they need to be part of that walk as well and also kept at the side.* You want to establish yourself as leader not because you are the “all-powerful human,” but because when dogs are in a submissive state of mind, they are free of the responsibility of having to fend for themselves, making them calm, happy, and care-free. 

So, you get home from your long walk, now what? First, open the front door,  but make the dog wait outside until he is totally relaxed with no pressure on the leash, just standing (or sitting, or laying) outside the door. Then, you walk in first and invite him into your home. Second, loosen, but don’t just drop the leash; dogs need boundaries to feel most comfortable. Decide beforehand what the dog is and isn’t allowed to do, and set up those boundaries immediately. For example, if you don’t want him getting on the couch, as soon as he sets one paw on the couch give him a strong leash correction, and say, “No.” Also, never pull a dog through the house; let them completely check out one room before moving on to the next. Once your boundaries have been set, leave the leash on the dog for the next week or two to reinforce those boundaries as needed. Third, in order to help strengthen your bond with the dog, curb any possible food aggression, and start teaching some basic obedience, for the first month, feed your new dog every meal out of your hands. Use breakfast and dinner time as training time. Always have your dog earn his food. Along with earning food, have your dog earn your affection. Only give affection when the dog has done something you’ve asked. That can be as simple as standing in front of him until he sits and then petting or hugging. If you want your dog to sleep in bed with you, make him wait next to the bed for a few minutes while you get settled, and then pat the bed to invite him up. 

By following these guidelines, your dog will make a quick and full recovery from stressful shelter life, and the bond you create will be unbreakable. Next time you walk through a shelter, don’t see kennel after kennel of poor helpless creatures who just need your lap, instead, see misunderstood canines who simply need some loving structure in order to flourish. Be the leader your dog needs you to be.   good

One thought on “Bringing Your Shelter Dog Home! by Guest Blogger Mollie Norville”

  1. Pingback: Hey Guys! | ZenPup

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