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Preparing your household

Adding a new dog to a household is always a big deal. If you live alone then it's certainly easier to set boundaries and have a plan but it's still important to have decided what your boundaries are going to be before your dog comes home. When you have other dogs or multiple people in the house especially disabled individuals or children planning and preparation is vital for smoothly transitioning your new dog into the family.

Setting rules and expectations

One of the most common causes of dysregulated, confused and anxious puppies are inconsistent boundaries and handling. This means the whole household need to agree on a set of clear rules and boundaries for the dog and everyone needs to uphold those same boundaries for the dogs. Boundaries can be adjusted as a dog grows up but again, any adjustments need to happen as a household and certainly not implemented until your dog is a calm and confident household member who consistently sticks to the original boundaries. 

When determining your expectations and boundaries you need to:

  • consider the impact for all family members (do any of the boundaries such as no dogs on sofas have a significant negative impact on any family members, for example, family members who may not be able to get down to touch the puppy on the ground).
  • consider the impact on interaction with others and how you might need to adjust your expectations as a consequence (e.g. if you're happy for your dog to jump up at you for cuddles then you need to take practical steps to ensure they do not jump at people outside of your family 

Disability related considerations

  • When deciding on family rules (e.g. no jumping on beds, no paws up etc) consider the impact this may have across family members. If you never allow paws up or on beds then will all family members be able to interact with the dog when they have 4 paws on the floor? If not, can you add platforms or raised areas or have a specific sofa the dog is allowed on to allow everyone to bond. 
  • If you have family members who collapse, faint or have seizures one vital rule can be no playing while lying down and no 'body' playing (e.g. encouraging chasing hands, fist and mouthing play) as this can result in your dog harming the family member when they collapse thinking its a game. 
  • Have a plan for what happens to the dog during medical or distress events (such as seizures, meltdowns, self harm etc) to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both the dog and disabled person. If a dog is present during medical or distressing events we recommend you shower your dog in treats. 
  •   Consider how rules and boundaries are communicated to individuals with communication or understanding difficulties. That might mean using PECS, repetition - going over the rules several times a day in the lead up to the dog coming home and it might mean having a plan for keeping the dog safe and not scared during meltdowns (e.g. crate in multiple rooms so puppy can be quickly removed from the room, placed in crate and given a high value chew to keep them entertained and ensure your dog doesn't make a negative association. 

Children and dogs

All dogs are able to harm children but when they're puppies, without careful management your child will end up regularly getting jumped on, scratched and bitten. My top tips for preparing your children for a dog are:

  • Have a schedule for your dog and children  so your dog is resting in another space at high emotion or high child energy times of day (such as when they've just come home from school and when your child is eating. Explain/ show the schedule to your child so they're prepared that they won't be playing with their new dog 24/7.
  • Ensure rules about interaction are given in a format suitable for your child.
  • Practice gentle & correct handling  with a toy dog before your dog comes home.
  • Make a game out of practicing responses, for example every time you say 'puppy jumps up' ask the child to turn their back & cross their arms. 
  • Explain where puppy will do certain things and where the child will be when that happens (that can mean things like 'you will sleep in your bed in your bedroom as normal and the dog will sleep downstairs in their crate in the living room).
  • I highly recommend you never leave under 10 year olds unsupervised with dogs. 

Other dogs already in your household

No matter how confident and calm your dog is, introducing a new dog will time to get used to and, contrary to tradditional advice, it really isnt fair to throw your dogs together and let them just work it out for themselves. 

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