Follow the recommended guidelines for keeping your dog confined to ensure good housetraining and alone time training. This will give you time to dog-proof your home. Pay attention to the following list of common hazards.
List of recommended dog training classes in the Bay Area, updated periodically. Last update: February 17, 2020.
Download our list of great books about dog behavior, from practical how-to guides on specific issues to scholarly tomes on the origins and evolution of domestic dogs.
Adding a new dog to a home with a resident dog can be great fun and offers both your family and your dog extra companionship. However, dogs need time to build relationships. The more quarrel-free you can keep the early stages of the sibling relationship the stronger it will be—and yet quarrels can still easily happen. That’s why it’s crucial to proceed slowly, even if it seems as though the dogs are getting along without any problems.
Preparation is half the battle. Before you bring your new dog home, be sure to:
Go shopping for supplies. Your new dog needs his own water and food bowl, dog bed, and dog toys. Don’t expect him to share, not until he has known his sibling for a long time.
Set the stage. Pick up all toys, chews, bones, food bowls, and the resident dog’s favorite items. When dogs are creating a relationship these items may cause rivalry. (They can be introduced after a couple of weeks.)
Provide each dog with private space. Give your new dog his own confinement area. Furnish a spare room, crate, or dog-proofed enclosed area with his food, water, toys, and bed. The resident dog is not allowed in this area.
First meeting. The first introduction should happen on neutral ground outside your house and yard, for example on a neighborhood street or in a park. Allow the two dogs to sniff each other briefly—two to three seconds—then call them away and praise them with treats. Next, take a short walk in the neighborhood and let them play off leash if appropriate.
Inside the house. The first time the two dogs are inside your house together, keep them both on leash and keep the introduction short, around five minutes.
The length of this phase varies from one “sibling pair” to another. Carefully watch both dogs’ body language for clues before you increase their time together. Until then, follow these guidelines:
Down is a great way to teach your dog impulse control and to make your life easier. A dog lying down can’t jump, surf counters, knock over trash cans, or steal your shoes. A dog that masters a well-trained down is much easier to take out in public and to other people’s houses.
Your dog needs to know how to sit on command.
Step 1. First, stand in front of your dog, facing her. Ask her to sit, then click and treat. Next, hold a treat within an inch of her nose using a flat hand with your fingers pointing toward your dog (this becomes the hand signal). Lure your dog into the down position by bringing your hand down toward the floor between her legs. Move slowly, so your dog’s nose follows and she doesn’t lose interest.
Step 2. When your dog’s elbows hit the ground, she will probably sink into the down position. If so, click (or say “yes!”) and release the treat. If her elbows hit the ground but her rear has gone up, move your hand away from her like you’re tracing a line on the floor. As soon as she is in the down position, click and release the treat.
Step 3. Step back so your dog has to stand up to follow you and repeat the exercise. Get a sit, then lure a down position again. Do this 15 or 20 times until she easily follows the lure into a down position.
Step 4. Now, get rid of the treat as a lure. Face your dog and hold your hand (without the treat) in front of your dog in the same hand signal as before. If your dog lies down, click and treat her with the other hand. Repeat this step several times in different places around the house.
Step 5. Now it’s time to add the verbal cue. Face your dog, say “down,” and give the hand signal. When your dog lies down, click and treat her. Keep practicing this step until your dog gets it right nine out of ten trials using the verbal cue and hand signal.
Step 6. Now try without the hand signal. Say “down” and if your dog lies down, click and treat. If your dog needs a little guidance, show her your hand and indicate the downward movement. Keep practicing until your dog reliably lies down when given the verbal cue.
Step 7. When your dog is consistently lying down in response to the verbal cue, you can begin to practice in more distracting areas, such as your yard, a quiet neighborhood street, or someone else’s house. Eventually, your dog will be able to lie down on cue at the park or the local café. Also increase the length of time your dog stays in the down position before giving the treat.
Step 8. When your dog is consistently lying down in more distracting areas, you can begin to use the treats only intermittently. Now only fast downs will earn your dog a treat, whereas a slow response gets her a pat on the head and a “good dog!” Also be sure to use “life rewards” to strengthen your dog’s response. Ask for a down before throwing a ball, opening a door for her to go outside, allowing her onto the couch, etc.
Does your dog whine, bark, growl, or lunge when he sees another dog while he’s on his leash? This unpleasant but common behavioral problem in dogs can be caused by barrier frustration. From nature’s side, dogs are strongly motivated to greet one another, and on leash, they can’t always do that.
Barrier frustration is intense frustration on the dog’s part at the inability to express normal canine body language and/or interact with other dogs. The restrictive barrier is the leash in this case, but can also be something like a window, fence, or gate. In essence, the dog’s frustration has amplified to a point where he can’t help his reaction.
Though leash aggression can look vicious, it disappears when the leash comes off and the dog meets other dogs off leash. If your dog shows aggression toward other dogs when meeting off leash, then that is serious aggression. See Dog-Dog Aggression: Off Leash.
Stay calm. Use a happy tone when approaching on-leash dogs—stay calm, but aware. Be prepared to move away quickly if needed (duck behind a car or cross the street) from the other dog. Keep the leash loose if possible. If you seem tense or uneasy and tighten the leash, your dog will sense your uneasiness and may respond by pulling and barking.
Use a humane training collar. A head halter such as the Gentle Leader or Halti or a front buckle harness such as an easy walk harness makes on-leash management much easier and doesn’t hurt your dog. Choke, pinch, and shock collars, on the other hand, are designed punishment tools causing pain and discomfort. The dog might stop barking because it hurts, but the pain won’t decrease his frustration. In fact, keep in mind that the association with pain can cause or worsen the aggression.
Play the “Find it” game. Have a handful of yummy treats, tell your dog, “find it,” and throw a treat in front of him. Continue to say, “find it,” and throw treats until you are safely past the other dog. This exercise distracts your dog from other dogs by keeping him focused on treats. Instead of staring at the other dog, your dog’s eyes will be searching for treats. Eventually your dog will associate the sight of other dogs with yummy food.
Feed your dog at night. Make it a habit to only feed your dog after you’re inside for the evening. That way, you’ll always go on leashed walks with a slightly hungry dog who is much more motivated to focus on you and the goodies in your treat bag.
Take a class. We offer reward-based behavior modification classes, called Reactive Rover, for dogs that are leash reactive. Sign up on our website.
If you can’t take a class and your own efforts aren’t successful, contact SF SPCA’s board-certified veterinary behavior specialist. Don’t live in the Bay Area? Search locally for a veterinary behavior specialist (Dip ACVB), a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT).
Teaching your dog to drop something on command means you will be able to get dangerous or unauthorized items away from her without problems or aggression. This comes in handy with everything from chicken bones to shards of plastic or glass, bits of toys, or your remote control—all detrimental things that a dog might scarf down or chew on.
Note: If your dog ever aggressively guards items (growls, bares her teeth, barks, snaps, or lunges if you try to take things from her), talk to our behavior department before you work on this command.
Step 1. When your dog has something in her mouth she would be likely to let go of (e.g. a tennis ball that you will throw for her), offer her a treat. As she releases the ball to get the treat say “drop it!” (or “release” or “give,” if you prefer, just choose one command and stick with it). Then let your dog get the ball again.
Step 2. Repeat this sequence (offer treat; say command; dog drops; give treat) several times over several training sessions or days. Begin to practice with other toys your dog is allowed to play with.
Step 3. As your dog begins to understand that you will trade a treat for whatever she has in her mouth, start to give the command first, then offer the treat or use the ball as a reward and toss it as she releases the object. The sequence now becomes: Say “drop it!”, your dog releases the object, and then you give her a reward (treat or toy). Again, it helps to practice this with toys you can then throw for your dog or play with for a minute. Getting the treat and the toy back is doubly rewarding.
Step 4. Begin to phase out the reward after your dog is getting “drop it” right every time, i.e. she should release things without first being promised a food reward. If she drops a toy, the reward can now simply be that you will toss the toy or pick it up and play tug with her. If she drops something very special and valuable, like a chicken bone she found on the street, then you should have a food treat to give her. You should think of trading a lower value item with a higher value item.
Some aggression may be a normal, adaptive behavior in virtually all animal species and domestic dogs are no exception. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to minimize both the frequency and intensity of dog-dog aggression.
Dogs can be bullies, protective about toys or food, or socially uncomfortable, and any of these issues can make for regular excitement at the dog park. Dogs don’t automatically get along with every dog they meet, just like we don’t get along with every single person we come across.
Most importantly, keep in mind that dog parks don’t suit every dog. Many dogs thrive on social time with other dogs, but some need their personal space and that’s okay, too. If that’s your dog, bypass the dog park and instead use hiking trails, beaches, or other less-crowded spaces for your dog’s exercise.
Be honest with yourself: is your dog truly a good dog park candidate? Is he socially versed and friendly with dogs of all sizes, breeds, and temperament, and loves to play and wrestle?
Not sure if your dog is right for the dog park? Here’s what to look out for:
Bullying behavior includes jumping on top of, pinning down, or continually chasing and nipping other dogs. If your dog usually plays well but seems to target certain dogs for bullying, give him a time-out whenever it happens. I.e. leash him up for a couple of minutes or, if he does it again, take him home.
Protectiveness of toys. If your dog fights over toys, you can manage the problem with good situational awareness. Actively supervise your dog’s playtime and look out for balls or Frisbees so you can call him away from those.
Social discomfort. If your dog is socially uncomfortable, he can possibly learn to love the dog park with carefully planned exposure. Take your dog there at times when you know it will be less crowded and keep the sessions short. If your dog ever seems uncomfortable or scared, engage him in some solitary play with a toy and leave the park when he is happy.
If the behavior in any of these situations continues despite your careful supervision and active management, or your dog gets into serious fights or inflicts real damage, he’s obviously not a good dog park candidate.
A crate is a terrific investment for a number of reasons. A crate can help you with:
House-training: Prompts your dog to hold it when unsupervised.
Chew training: Stops your dog from chewing anything except legitimate chew toys.
Settling: Teaches your dog to settle down when alone and inactive.
Kenneling: Your dog may need to stay in a crate during travel or a hospital visit.
First, you need to give your dog a chance to get used to the crate. You can’t just throw him in there and hope he adjusts; that would be traumatic for most dogs. The crate should be a comfy, safe place he loves to spend time in. Here’s how to make your dog feel great about his crate:
When your dog is happily going into the crate on command, it’s time to move on to Phase 3.
DO: Leave without any fanfare; return home without any fanfare.
DO: Tire your dog out with vigorous exercise and training before longer absences.
DON’T: Use the crate in your day-to-day-life until you have conditioned your dog to the crate slowly and thoroughly.
DON’T: Use the crate for punishment time outs.
If your dog is going to the bathroom in his crate:
If you can’t get your dog to stop soiling his crate, call us for pointers.
To expedite the adoption process, please complete the cat or dog adoption form and bring a printed copy with you to the SF SPCA Adoption Center (Hours & Location). This helps us better understand what sort of pet you’re looking for so we can guide you every step of the way! Please bring a valid photo ID and verification that you are allowed to have a pet where you currently live.
First, we’ll meet with you to find out more about you and your pet preferences and answer your questions. Our goal is to help you find the pet that best fits your lifestyle and living situation so we want to make sure you have a realistic understanding of the time and resources necessary to provide training, medical treatment, and proper care for your new pet. This can take time so please allow at least one hour for the adoption process.
Once we have a good understanding of your living situation and the type of pet you’re interested in, we’ll make introductions and let you spend some quality time getting to know each other to see if there’s a love connection. It’s important that all household members take part in this important decision so please make sure everyone is present (including any resident dogs if you’re considering adding a new pooch to your pack).
Once love happens, we’ll complete the paperwork, review all the SF SPCA adoption benefits, provide information on any known medical or behavioral issues, and share tips to make the transition a success for both you and your new pet.
We consider you and your new furry friend a part of the SF SPCA family so please reach out with questions ― and be sure to share your adoption stories and pet photos at sfspca.org/stories
Don’t forget to schedule your first free health exam at the SF SPCA Veterinary Hospital within three days of adopting.