First Day With New Dog | Pupford

May 16th, 2023

Filed under New Puppies

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It's finally here... your first day with a new dog! He might be a puppy, or she might be a rescue dog... either way, hooray!!

If you're like me, the two words you would probably use to describe your feelings are terrified and ecstatic.

In this article, we interviewed certified trainer Traci Madson CPDT-KA.

She has over 20 years of experience with new puppies, foster dogs, and rescue dogs from some of the most difficult of backgrounds/histories.

Simply put, she knows exactly what to do on your first day with a new dog!

Related Reading: How to Introduce a New Puppy to Your Dog

Audio Podcast of First Day With Puppy

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Video Podcast of First Day With Puppy

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Recap of First Day Home with Dog

Here are some main takeaways if you're preparing to bring home a new dog!

  • The first few hours to days (minimum) should be just for your dog to acclimate. Don't worry about behaviors, training (except potty training), etc. Just let your dog soak in their new surroundings.
  • The only "training" to do the first couple of days is potty training. Set a specific schedule and stick to it. For most dogs, you should take your new dog out every 30-45 minutes.
  • If you have other dogs in your home, have your new dog meet on neutral ground. This can help avoid territoriality and resource guarding.
  • The first training, once your dog is acclimated, is to work on basic focus behaviors, name recognition and impulse control (like sitting for their food).
  • Above all, focus on your relationship in those first few days and weeks! Do things to improve your bond like playtime, walks, mental exercise (Traci recommends Snuffle Mats), and other things to help your dog gain confidence and feel comfortable!

Remember, stay patient and understand that each dog learns at a different pace!

Related Reading: How to Train a Rescue Dog

Full Transcription of Episode

Devin Stagg (00:06):
Hello and welcome to The Perfect Pup Podcast. My name is Devin and I am very excited today to have Traci Madson back on. We've had her on a couple of times. This is actually our second time recording this episode because I lost it the first time. That's how life goes, but thanks so much, Traci for not only doing this interview once but a second time.

Traci Madson (00:27):
Oh, my pleasure.

Devin Stagg (00:28):
So for those of you who haven't met, Traci, you've maybe seen her in the Facebook community. She has taught a few of the courses that are in the Pupford Academy. She has been a dog trainer for what, over two decades, right Traci?

Traci Madson (00:42):

Devin Stagg (00:42):
With a strong emphasis on rescue dogs, especially those that have been in really poor situations where maybe they were abused or abandoned or those types of things. And so the topic that we're going to talk about today is right up Traci's alley. It's about bringing home your dog for the first time, what you do those first couple of days, even those first few hours, whether it's a puppy or a rescue dog that's older, these principles will apply for any dog that you're bringing into your home for the first time. So I'm really, really excited to get through this topic with Traci. So thanks again and again, thanks for the patience on me losing the recording. I guess technology sometimes just gets the best of us.

Traci Madson (01:26):
Oh yeah. Me more than you, most of the time.

Devin Stagg (01:29):
Well, it happened. All right, here we go. Round two then on this episode. Let's get right to it. So when you first bring home a dog, whether it's a rescue or a puppy or one that you're fostering, what do you do in those first couple hours? The very first moments that you're bringing your dog home? How do you approach it?

Traci Madson (01:48):
Well, the first thing I do is just let them acclimate and let them sniff their environment. It depends on if there's other pets. So probably if it's a rescue they've done a meet and greet before, but if you're bringing home a new puppy, if there's other dogs in the house, introduce them outside, not inside. And then I just let the dog explore and learn their new environment. Really, the only first training aspect that I start right off the bat is potty training. So depending on the dog, sometimes I will have a leash on them so I can keep them with me. So if they start to sniff or act like they're going to go potty and a lot of dogs will potty more if they're nervous. So right off the bat, I take them out. I show them where the back door is. I have a dog door, so I start teaching them how to use the dog door. And I start potty training right off the bat. But other than that, I give them a couple hours and sometimes a couple of days to acclimate.

Devin Stagg (02:56):
So I want to go back to the point you made of, if you have another dog in the home, you usually try and have the meet, not inside the house. Some people might be wondering why would you do that.

Traci Madson (03:07):
Well, you want to meet as much on neutral territory as you can. So if I bring a dog home for board and train, or if I'm fostering, I will always introduce the dog outside. And because I know my dogs, I know that they're okay meeting in the yard, but if you're introducing two adult dogs, I recommend going for a walk together just on leash. They're still going to be sniffing and gathering all kinds of information, but I just go for a walk on neutral grounds. And a lot of times with rescue dogs, we will have already done that at the rescue anyway. But even if you have an adult dog and you're bringing home a puppy, it's a good idea to just go for a walk, let them get used to each other on neutral ground. And the reason for that is so that there's no resource guarding or territorial.

Traci Madson (04:01):
The more that you can set the dog up for success. And if you have multiple dogs, I will bring one dog out at a time, and because I don't want my three dogs rushing out and overwhelming a new dog, I will do one at a time. And then if all goes well, then I let them all play together.

Related Reading: How to Train Multiple Dogs

Devin Stagg (04:24):
I love that. I think it's important to, like you said, do as much as we can to set our dogs up for success. So on that point, you were saying you give them a few hours, definitely at least a few hours to just acclimate and smell. And depending on the dog situation, maybe a couple of days. At what point do you say, "Okay, I'm going to start getting into a training schedule."

Traci Madson (04:54):
Really with every dog, I will start with setting up a structure and predictability because dogs like that. It's when they're left to their own they make up the rules as they go. So it's really important to set up that structure. So we start with this is when you're fed and this is the spot you're fed because I
feed puppies & dogs in a certain spot and then we'll do walks, we'll do training, and every dog that I bring home from the board and train learns how to do crate training and with puppies, I'll start really easy with them and just start teaching them their name with the clicker. So are clicking when they focus on me on their own and then I teach a cue with that and then cue that. So if I have a small puppy, like seven to 16 weeks, I start out with easy stuff.

Traci Madson (05:55):
So just name recognition, focusing on me, potty training, crate training. If it's an older dog, then we might start with sit for your food, just so that they learn predictability and they learn this is what I do every time. And they learn to predict when their food's coming, when their training session's coming, when their walk's coming, things like that.

Devin Stagg (06:17):
I like that. And I think that principle of predictability, we're talking about it in the sense of when your dog first comes home, but I think that's so important forever really, right?

Traci Madson (06:28):

Devin Stagg (06:28):
You're saying dogs, they like the predictability. They like being able to know what's going to happen. And it's part of the 30 Day Perfect Pup Course. We have a little printout for those of you who are in the course that our listeners that has just a loose schedule of, this is when you put them in the crate, this is when you take them out to the bathroom, play time, feeding times, all of those things. And I think the more that you can do that as a pup parent, the more important it is, so after-

Traci Madson (06:54):
And it will-

Devin Stagg (06:55):
Yeah, go ahead.

Traci Madson (06:56):
Oh, sorry. It will help with potty training too. If you get on a schedule, like taking your puppy out first thing in the morning, half hour after eating, after a nap, things like that and you just get in that structure and dogs learn to predict things, then it's going to help in all aspects.

Devin Stagg (07:13):
I like it. So after you've gone through the basic ones and maybe I'll look more at puppies first and then we'll talk about rescue. So with the puppy once you do the name recognition and the more basic stuff, maybe with their first few days, at what point do you start going into more complex behaviors or does it just depend on the dog's learning speed? Or how do you usually approach that?

Traci Madson (07:40):
Learning is the behavior of one. So I take each dog as an individual, so it depends, but let's just say we have a well balanced puppy. Because the socialization aspect is so critical for those seven to 16 week old puppies, I'm going to start with socialization. So different floor surfaces, different sounds. I have apps on my iPad and I'll introduce sound slowly, where I live we have thunderstorms and lots of fireworks. So I start desensitizing them to those kinds of sounds like cars going by, cows, horses, things like that. So it might just be on a walk, but I'll start pairing like, "Oh, look, there's a cow, here's a tree." So things that are novel to your environment, I start to socialize the puppy too, because more dogs are really pushed to shelter due to behavioral issues that stem from not being properly socialized.

Related Reading: How to Desensitize a Dog to Fireworks

Traci Madson (08:43):
So that's why I have a big emphasis on socialization. Like different floor surfaces, I'll toss treats onto plastic and have the dog walk on the plastic to get the treat. Then like I said sounds, I'm always really careful with other dogs because during that time you don't want your dog to have a bad experience with another dog, but they do need to have good experiences. So puppy social, puppy play time, things like that will do. And then I start with easy behaviors, like sit for your food, wait to go out the door, and then I just pretty much teach them this is what your routine is going to be. I always put in enrichment, whether it's a rescue dog, adult dog, or puppy, we start doing snuffle mat, nose work, problem solving toys because a little bit of stress for puppies is actually good, the use stress is good for them and so we want them to figure out easy things for the young puppies. And then that helps them gain confidence, then they're very well balanced adult dogs.

Devin Stagg (09:52):
I love that. Those are great ideas. So when you were talking about maybe your dog gaining confidence, so let's talk about the flip side of if you bring a rescue home and they're really struggling to acclimate, I know you've had plenty of firsthand experiences with that. How do you approach that when you take those few days and your dog really just seems to still be, they're either shy or nervous or having lots of potty issues, how do you approach those situations?

Traci Madson (10:21):
A lot of behaviors come from learning history, genetics, things like that. So we have to take that into account and since we don't know a lot of rescue dogs' backgrounds, sometimes we know they don't come from good situations, but it's really important to take your time and never force a shy or fearful dog to do something that they're not comfortable doing. So I take it really slow with those guys. It might be just going for walks at first and letting them... So the first thing that I do with those kinds of dogs is develop a trust and a bond between the dog and I, so that might just be feeding, going for walks, doing fun games like nose work, snuffle mat, things like that. Because if the dog can get over the fear with you and then they're more likely to trust you, then it's going to be easier.

Traci Madson (11:19):
Sometimes it is baby steps with some of these feral dogs are really shy fearful dogs. In fact, I'm working with a couple through Pupford with the one-on-one training and they have a very, very shy, fearful dog. And it's a very slow process, but it's so rewarding. I went through it with Halle, which is how I got into training. But learning never to push them beyond what they're comfortable with and always giving them the agency to say, "Nope, I am not comfortable with that," and then allowing them to opt out if they want to, because if they know they have a choice, then they're more willing to try again and trust that you're not going to force them to do something. So with a rescue dog, sometimes it's going to be a lot slower. And then I'll just start with potty training, crate training, building trust, building confidence, things like that.

Devin Stagg (12:14):
I love that. And one point to the listeners as well, Traci is referring to rescues, shy and fearful dogs, but that principle of not asking your dog to do more than they're able to, or not getting on your own timeline. I think that's one of the biggest mistakes that I made as a first time pet parent. When I got my puppy, Sonny was that I had this mindset of, "Okay, I'm going to teach her this by X date," or, "Oh, she's five months old, she should be able to do this by now." Or, "Why is this still an issue?" And when you look back, those were all timelines and expectations that I set that it doesn't matter what we want as humans. Obviously we have goals we're working towards with our dogs, but our expectations, they're really not relevant. It's up to the dog to let us know how things are going to work in a sense.

Traci Madson (13:07):
Yes. And each dog is an individual. They have different, like I said, genetics, learning history, and so we really have to train the dog in front of us. And I was going through the same thing with Jade because I've had two other service dogs that were amazing and Jade's brand new. I've only had her for a year and I'm kind of expecting her to be like the other two. So really just focusing on the dog and not comparing. Unless you're first time puppy parent, you've probably had an amazing dog before and it's important not to compare your new dog with your former dog.

Devin Stagg (13:43):
A hundred percent. Agreed. So one last question that I want to put out there for you and this is going less on, okay, this is what to do with your dog when you first bring them home. But what is your maybe not main, but what's one big piece of advice that you have for the human on those first few days, maybe what their expectations are be, or how to handle stressful situations because we all know little puppy's probably going to pee on your brand new jacket or rip up your shoes or something. So what's a piece of advice that you'd give to new puppy parents, whether it's a puppy or a rescue for those first couple of days, couple of weeks of being a pup parent?

Traci Madson (14:23):
So the biggest advice, and I can say this because I'm not this person, but to have patience and surprisingly, I have a lot more patience with dogs than I do humans, but being very, very patient. And I think from all of the posts that I read and try to answer on Facebook, one of the biggest pieces of advice that I always try to give people is just to have patience because especially if you have a puppy it's like bringing a newborn baby home and even with a new rescue or an adult dog, some people expect their dogs to perform on a high school or college level when their dog is still basically in preschool. And so really being patient, but then along with that, if you are frustrated, give yourself a break and say it's okay to walk away and train another day.

Traci Madson (15:15):
I've had to do that hundreds of times where it's just like, I'm frustrated. And if you're frustrated, your animal is going to feed off of that and they're going to be frustrated. So it's best to just say, "Okay, we're just going to take a break and don't get mad at the dog. Don't get mad at yourself and just try again another day." And I have found time and time again that when I do take that break, give my dog a break, we go back another day and it works beautifully.

Devin Stagg (15:41):
I love that. Super powerful. I think these are awesome, awesome ideas. Awesome tips for whether it's your first time being a pup parent or you're just
bringing home a second dog. I really, really thinkt hat these principles and again, I think so much in dog training, the more I learned about it, the more I talk with you Traci, it's about principles. It's like you said, here's the principles of what we want to do with the first few days and what we maybe want to accomplish but each dog is unique just like us as humans. We all learn at different rates. We all learn differently. Some of us are visual learners. Some of us like to read things, but taking that patience, having the mindset of, "I'm going to stick with my dog no matter what, so let's work through those challenges." I love it.

Traci Madson (16:29):
My very first ever dog trainer when I got my first real search and rescue dog, and I was so excited to get in the [inaudible 00:16:37] and scent work and tracking and all that, and my dog came from Canada and our trainer said, "Now Traci, for the first week, I don't want you to do anything other than feed and walk your dog and bond. I want you to go for hikes. I want you both to walk, feed your dog, get him on a schedule." I'm like, "What? I can't start scent work?" He goes, "No, you've got to build a bond. So for the first week, I don't even want you to come to training. All you're going to do is hike, walk and feed your dog." And that's what we did for the first week. But he turned out to be an amazing dog so it was very worth it.

Devin Stagg (17:12):
Awesome. I love that. I love that additional tip there. So for you listeners, I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you are feeling frustrated, if you're feeling overwhelmed, you're not alone. It is difficult. Raising a dog, especially from puppy hood or a rescue, it is super, super tough. So stay patient, be consistent, and again, focus on that relationship with your dog and treating them in the sense that help them learn how you would want to learn. You don't like teachers that yell at you all the time. You don't like teachers that get mad at you for every mistake. You like teachers that are patient with you, explain things to you and help you along the way. So do that for your dog and I think you'll be golden. So thank you again, Traci for coming on. And if you guys love hearing Traci's advice like I do, make sure you are in the private Facebook group, you can search Pupford's 30 Day Perfect Pup.

Devin Stagg (18:10):
And there's a group on Facebook. Traci is in there at least once a week doing lives. It's usually on Wednesday evenings and it's a great place to get questions answered. You can also set up one-on-one sessions, virtual sessions with Traci through Pupford if you are needing just that extra bit of help. I know that we've had a lot of pup parents who've had great experiences with that. So thank you again Traci for coming on. I really do appreciate it, especially going the second time on the same topic.

Traci Madson (18:37):
Yeah, I think it was better the second time.

Devin Stagg (18:39):
I agreed. And no one will know, right?

Traci Madson (18:41):

Devin Stagg (18:42):
They don't even know maybe what that first run was like. Thanks again for listening everybody. If you haven't already, please subscribe wherever you're watching/listening. Leave us a review, leave us some feedback. We listen to all of it and we tweak episodes based on your feedback. So thank you again so much for listening and we will see you on the next episode.


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