We have all heard the term ‘The Honeymoon Period’ used to describe the first, deliriously happy months of a relationship. Everyone is on their best behavior and feeling giddy and optimistic about the future. Unfortunately, this time of what seems to be limitless joy usually comes to an end.
A similar, albeit usually much shorter, honeymoon period is often experienced by new pet parents. Although, unlike people in a new relationship, I don’t think the dog or puppy is on it’s best behavior with the understanding that they are about to start a new, hopefully long term relationship. Instead, many dogs are in a state of severe adjustment to what is a whole new world. A new environment, sights, sounds, people and possibly other animals can result in a dog sort of shutting down a bit (or a lot!) as they absorb all of this new information and try to figure out their place in the world. This is analagous to a person being plopped down in a new country. It would seem understandable that they might take a few days or weeks to quietly observe and figure things out.
Many people end up calling a dog trainer for help only after weeks or months have passed with their new dog in their home. At first they put off calling because there doesn’t seem to be a need. Their new dog is fairly calm, passive, and quiet. But, as the dog becomes adjusted and more comfortable their true personality shines through. With it often comes a list of what, to their new family anyway, seem to be new behaviors (this could be excessive barking, inappropriate chewing, growling when food or toys are taken away).
The behaviors aren’t really new to the dog, they are just new to the dog in it’s new home. When these behaviors start to show themselves, people are often caught off guard. As a result, they may at first assume that these things are just one or two time mistakes and the dog will go back to his or her ‘normal’ behavior soon without intervention on their part.
But, as the dog begins to engage in what their new family considers to be inappropriate behaviors on a more frequent basis, frustration rears it’s ugly head. The dog is surely frustrated, since he or she clearly doesn’t understand what is expected and is probably getting reprimanded, and the dog’s new family is frustrated as they may not be equipped to manage the situation and help their dog learn what is expected.
In a perfect world, everyone who is about to bring a dog into their family would read one or two great, positive training books prior to their dogs arrival. Options are my Barron’s Bible of Dog Training or Dog-Friendly Dog Training, and just about every book by Dr. Ian Dunbar, Teoti Anderson, and Karen Pryor. They would also find a great trainer to work with in person.
If they do luck out and find the dog they have adopted is not in need of intense training, a lesson or group class will still be beneficial. For most people, having an expert on hand just prior to or immediately following their new dog’s arrival home is a superb way to help prevent or quickly manage and control any potential problems. Doing so means the real honeymoon period, that is a lifelong relationship with a dog who is as calm, confident, happy and well-mannered as possible (due to being taught what is expected rather than being allowed to develop inappropriate habits) can begin asap.