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.
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.
Introducing the Dogs
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.
Building the Relationship
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:
Keep all dog play and socializing positive and brief. That way, you avoid over-stimulation or quarrels that may erupt during overly rough or extended play.
Feed dogs in separate areas, completely closed off from one another.
Spend time with each dog individually.
Keep the dogs separate when you can’t supervise their interactions.
Always supervise dogs when around family members, toys, or sleeping spots.
Praise the dogs in a cheerful voice for having positive interactions.
Interrupt any growling or bullying behavior, separate the bully to a different area for a few minutes, and then try again.
Most dogs enjoy walks. Walk your dogs together, so they learn that good things happen when they are together.
Don’t give chews, rawhides, or bones when your dogs are together. The dogs should enjoy these fun chews but only when they are separated. After several weeks without squabbles, you can try, but always supervise.
Never use your hands or body to intervene during a dog quarrel. Use your voice, a loud noise, or water to stop the fight. If the dogs do not stop, use a chair or other large object to insert between them, or pull them apart by the rear legs or tail. To learn more about how to safely break up a dog fight, see our handout Separating Fighting Dogs.
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.
What You Need
A crate large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around in—but no larger. Otherwise he might be tempted to use one end as a bathroom and the other as a bed.
A fluffy crate pad or blanket to make the crate comfortable.
A high-traffic area such as the kitchen in which to place the crate.
Yummy treats, toys, and a KONG® for stuffing with meals and snacks.
How to Train It
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:
Phase 1: The first day
Begin crate training the day you bring home your new dog. At times when your dog isn’t looking, drop a few treats into the crate. Don’t point them out to him; let him discover the goodies on his own.
Feed your dog his meal in the crate using a stuffed KONG. Use heavy string to tie it to the back of the crate, so your dog has to eat it in there. Continue feeding your dog all his meals in the crate until he’s fully crate trained.
Phase 2: The next few days
Start teaching your dog to enter the crate on command. Say “into bed” or “into the crate,” throw in a treat, and then praise as your dog goes in and eats the treat. Repeat this many times.
Next, switch the order around: First say ‘into bed,’ then wait for your dog to go in before throwing the treat. Don’t give the command twice and don’t crack and throw the treat in. If he doesn’t go in, end the training session.
Try another session a little later. Still withhold the reward until your dog goes in on his own. When he does (hang in there; they all go in eventually), give him a double reward and do a few more reps.
When your dog is happily going into the crate on command, it’s time to move on to Phase 3.
Phase 3: Closing the Door
Give your dog the command to enter the crate. This time, close the door and feed him treats through the grate for a minute or two before opening the door. Do this several times.
Then practice walking around the crate and around the room while your dog is locked inside. Occasionally, throw him a treat. After a couple of minutes, open the door and let him out.
Now we add duration. Stuff a KONG with something extra-special and put on a favorite movie. Set the crate up next to the couch. Tell your dog to go into the crate. When he does, give him the KONG, close the crate door, and start the movie. Leave the room a few times, but come back within a minute or so. Ignore any noise or tantrums from your dog. At the end of the movie, if your dog is quiet and settled in the crate, open the door. Don’t let your dog out when pawing the door or barking. When you do open the door, don’t rush; have him sit then let him exit.
Several times throughout the day, tell him to get right back in for a treat or two without closing the door.
Spend a few days practicing locking your dog in the crate while you’re at home, going about your usual business. Ignore any noise and provide interesting chew toys each time. When your dog is going in without fuss and no longer whines or barks, you can start leaving the house.
Phase 4: Leaving the House
In the first session, leave the house many times over for 1 to 10 seconds.
Over the next few sessions, gradually extend the time you’re gone. Go from 1 minute to 5 minutes to 10, 15, 30, 1 hour, then 2, 3, and 4 hours. Throw in short absences (5 to 60 seconds) to mix it up.
Do’s and Don’ts
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:
Review how long you leave your dog in the crate–it might be longer than he can hold.
Take out the crate pad or blanket. The absorbent material might be prompting him to go.
Keep both your dog and the crate scrupulously clean.
Take your dog to the vet for a medical checkup.
If you can’t get your dog to stop soiling his crate, call us for pointers.
If you have a video camera or webcam, use it to monitor your dog’s comfort level while in the crate. Look out for signs of discomfort, such as prolonged pawing or chewing.
Track your success with longer and longer absences, making sure no problems are arising.
If at any point your dog is hurting himself in the crate by trying to escape don’t use a crate.
A crate is a terrific investment for a number of reasons. A crate can help you with:
House-training: Teaches your puppy to keep the home clean. Chew training: Stops your puppy from chewing anything except legitimate chew toys. Settling: Encourages your puppy to settle down when he’s alone. Kenneling: Your puppy may need to stay in a crate during travel or a hospital visit.
Get a crate large enough for your puppy to stand up, lie down, and turn around in—but no larger. Otherwise, he might be tempted to use one end as a bathroom and the other as a bed.
Before you start using the crate, give your puppy a chance to get used to it. Don’t just throw him in there and hope he adjusts; that would be traumatic. The crate needs to be a comfy, safe place your puppy loves to spend time in. Here’s how to get him used to it:
Phase 1: The first day
Throw tiny, yummy treats into the crate. When your puppy goes in to get them, praise him.
When your puppy is happily venturing into the crate, begin practicing closing the door for a few seconds while treating him through the opening. Then let him right back out. Repeat the exercise many times, building up to 10 seconds.
Phase 2: The next few days
Repeat exercise two from above. Then stuff a puppy KONG® with extra-special goodies. Put the KONG in the crate and close the door behind your puppy as he goes to eat it. Go about your business in the house, then let your puppy back out after five minutes. Do this without any fanfare whatsoever.
Repeat the exercise several times in the next couple of days using a yummy chew bone. Vary the absences from one to 20 minutes. Ignore your puppy if he whines or barks; always wait to let him out until he has been quiet for at least a few seconds.
Phase 3: leaving the house
Leave your puppy in the crate with something gourmet in his KONG, and then leave the house for brief errands such as collecting your mail or watering the garden.
Over the next few sessions, gradually extend the duration of your absences. Go from one minute to five minutes to 10, 15, or 30 minutes, depending on your puppy’s age (see below). Don’t just build your absences upward, though; also throw in some shorter ones.
A time guide to crating puppies:
8–10 weeks up to one hour
11–12 weeks up to two hours
13–16 weeks up to three hours
Over four months up to four hours
Never leave dogs at any age in the crate longer than three to four hours at a time, except for bedtime.
Do you have a bundle of joy on the way? Congratulations! Introducing a newborn baby into your home is a big change for the entire family, including the family dog. However, a baby on the way shouldn’t mean an eviction notice for your dog. With preparation and a few good management strategies, babies and pets can be a successful combination.
Here are some guidelines for a safe, smooth introduction, and the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
Before Baby: Pregnancy Months 1–3
Enroll in a reward-based dog training class that teaches humane techniques. This will refresh your dog’s obedience behaviors and manners, and teach him new, useful behaviors. We offer a specialized training class for expecting and new parents, as well as a wide range of beginner to advanced classes.
If your dog has an existing behavior problem, you need to address this with behavior modification and management. We have a referral list of trainers available for private in-home consultations. This is also the time to visit your vet for a complete medical checkup and to make sure your dog is current on vaccinations, deworming, and otherwise healthy. If you haven’t already done so, spay or neuter your pet.
Before Baby: Pregnancy Months 3–5
Prepare a comfortable confinement area or crate for your dog inside your home. Your dog may be stressed or confused by all the day- and night-time activities and he may be more relaxed in a quiet resting area. This is also a good time to introduce baby gates as threshold barriers.
Introduce baby sounds (CDs are available online) and practice holding a baby-sized doll in your arms. You need to get used to doing many things with only one arm, as the baby will be in the other, so it’s good to practice now.
Walk the dog with baby equipment, such as a baby carrier (front-of-chest carrier) and/or stroller. Remember to reward with tasty treats often during this preparation time. You want to build a positive association with all these changes.
Before Baby: Pregnancy Months 5–7
Introduce a change in schedule to your dog’s daily routine, randomly and slowly. Practice varied time in his confinement area with a KONG® or another stimulating puzzle toy. This will make quiet-time training fun. If the expectant mother is the primary dog walker or caretaker, it’s time to introduce a new walker or caretaker. This can be a spouse, partner, friend, or professional dog walker. We have a referral list of dog walking services and pet sitters.
Don’t overlook car safety. Your dog will need to be confined to a specific area of the car by a barrier or crate. This ensures a safe ride for both baby and dog.
Before Baby: Pregnancy Months 7–9
Introduce the baby room and baby furniture around the house so your dog can get used to his changing home environment. Use a baby gate if your dog won’t be allowed into baby’s room. Practice Sit, Stay, and Leave It around the baby’s furniture and baby equipment.
Simulate baby-feeding time, either in your bed or nursing chair. During this time, your dog should be on his bed, in his confinement area, or crate. While nursing, you will need to be calm and focused on the baby, so remember to give the dog a KONG or other puzzle toy during this quiet time.
Make preparations for your dog to be cared for while you are at the hospital. Arrange for a person who can pick up the dog from your home or stay in the home with your dog. Make sure this person has a set of your house keys in case you’re already at the hospital but the dog is at home.
After Baby: Months 1–3
While Mom is in the hospital, a spouse, partner, or friend can bring home some newborn items (such as a blanket or clothing) to introduce to the dog. Your dog may spend a day or two with a friend or sitter so you can settle in with baby. You can also enlist extra help when you arrive home from the hospital. You can say hello to your dog and spend some time with him while someone is caring for baby.
Newborn care can be overwhelming for new parents. Help around the house, with childcare or dog care can be a relief and help reduce stress. Remember to keep soiled diapers in a tightly closed container.
Your dog’s exercise routine should stay consistent. If possible, increase his exercise activity for the next several weeks. A well-exercised dog is calmer and more relaxed. Be sure to enlist the help you need to keep your dog’s routine as constant as possible.
Make all introductions to your newborn short and positive, using rewards liberally. You want to build a positive association with the newborn and all the exciting changes in your family.
After Baby: Months 4–7
Your newborn is now a baby and is changing daily. The baby will play in a playpen, roll around on the ground with toys, and start to move around much more. Your baby will squeal, laugh, and cry in frustration. Manage and supervise diligently! Again, rewards for your dog during this time are very important.
This is a good time for family and dog outings, either for walks or rides in the car. It is important to include the baby in activities that the dog will find enjoyable such as fun family outings.
After Baby: Months 7–12
Babies and toddlers are often the most difficult to manage around dogs. They are crawling, pulling themselves up on objects, and beginning to walk. They become explorers, intrigued by their tactile, oral, and visual senses. They grab, pull, bite, and have raw determination.
Babies should never be allowed to climb on, crawl on, or startle your dog. Babies and toddlers don’t have complete control of motor skills, so they may inadvertently throw or hit a dog with a hard toy. Toddlers are not expert walkers and may trip and fall on or near the dog, another reason for strict supervision.
Supervise all interactions between your baby and your dog. Keep the interactions enjoyable for both and use a baby gate or dog area to separate baby and dog the rest of the time.
You should now begin to model appropriate behavior with dogs. Show your baby how to gently pet your dog, and praise both for a successful interaction. You will be teaching this for many years to come. Remember that babies and toddlers are too young to understand boundaries and must be kept away from your dog’s safe area, crate, and feeding bowls.
The most important thing you can do to safeguard your baby and your dog is to always supervise. Never leave your baby alone with your dog, even when the baby is in a crib, bassinet, high chair, playpen, rocker/bouncer, swing, doorway jumper, bathtub, baby carrier, car seat, or stroller.
Don’t ask baby sitters to be responsible for both baby and dog. When you leave your baby with a sitter, keep your dog in a secure confinement area.
A Final Word
The success of child-dog relationships depends on constant parent/adult supervision, management, and the teaching and modeling of appropriate behavior for interactions. Make these principles part of your family life and everyone wins.
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Ready To Adopt?
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.
Find the perfect match.
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.
Meet and greet.
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).
Make it official.
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.
Stay in touch.
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.