Dog's Eye View: Part 1 — Meet Maxwell SMART

A personal story of adoption

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Often when a new client calls, they have adopted a rescue dog. For the purpose of this article, I’ll categorize rescues as all dogs coming into families from rescue or shelters.

Laura Tyler

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.

Dog's Eye View

This weekly column about dog training publishes on Fridays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

The decision to adopt a dog and give him a new chance in life never should be taken lightly. Most often, there is an immediate attraction to a particular dog that compels us to open our home. And sometimes, it’s the story attached to the dog that pulls our heartstrings.

Whatever the reason, we have to plan on a life-changing experience for the foreseeable future, until that animal adapts to our household and we adapt to the new dog.

My first recommendation to families is to agree on a management plan. Teaching begins the moment you meet. When that new dog enters your home, he’s already starting to learn about what makes you tick. We must consider the needs of this new companion and set up the home to accommodate and safely integrate this dog into the family and our lifestyle.

My friend Sandra Kruczek has written a wonderful article called “The Foreign Exchange Student,” where she describes how the transition a foreign exchange student experiences might compare with our newly adopted family member. Customs, etiquette, language barriers, diet, etc., all affect the settling-in time required to help this new addition feel safe and comfortable. It’s a great read and will be published as a column this month in the Steamboat Today.

Enter Maxwell SMART

My husband and I became aware of a small dog in need of a new family. We talked about it and set up our criteria for bringing this new dog into our home. The only information we had was that he was given up because he was not potty trained. At 2 1/2 years old, this certainly could have been accomplished with proper management and a reliable feeding schedule. We were to be this dog’s third home.

Our first criterion to consider would be how well this dog might match up with our resident dog. If she was the least bit scared or he came onto her as a bully, that would be that.

Our dog Skippy generally gets along and “enjoys” the company of social, stable little dogs. She took one look at Max and did a play bow, sniffed him and let him sniff her back. The tails that were tucked came up wagging. So the first meeting went quite well.

Our second criterion was that my husband and I agree about a management schedule. That part was easy. Kennel crate in the bedroom, one in the living room and one in each vehicle. We really believe in teaching all our dogs to feel safe in a kennel crate.

We started this process right away. No such thing as a “honeymoon” or settling-in period when teaching a new dog. That’s how bad habits start.

Helping little Max learn that outside is where you use the bathroom only would be accomplished by doing some remedial puppy training and using a kennel crate to limit options. The best way to accomplish potty training is by going outside with the dog and reinforcing outside, on the spot, with praise and treats. You have to be there to reinforce the right thing.

Look for Part 2 in the new life of Maxwell SMART to be published next week in the Steamboat Today.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25-plus years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.

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