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5 Common Mistakes

Adapted from a post by The Local Bark, Rancho Cordova, CA Original full length post can be found here.

Everyone loves a new dog, especially a rescue dog! But many of them are returned to shelters within just a few weeks. Some statistics say as many as 20%. Why is this? How can things go from happy to - pardon our French - crappy so quickly? Trainers from The Local Bark recently selected four dogs from the Sacramento County Animal Shelter to foster, train and place in forever homes. And even though they’re professional trainers and this should all be easy peasy lemon squeezy, they were reminded at how easy it would be to fall prey to the common mistakes well-meaning adopters make when bringing home a new dog. Keep reading, because these mistakes are NOT what you think.


Common Mistake #1 - A dog fresh out of the shelter needs the comforts of a couch to feel welcome, right? Wrong.

The last thing Elsa needs is a plethora of choices in the furniture department. Elsa needs direction. What starts out as self-inviting to the couch can lead to other pushy and undesirable behaviors like jumping on people, becoming “guardy” of valuable spaces like couches or beds, and more. Remember we don’t know anything about Elsa’s true behavior and tendencies. And we won’t for quite a few weeks.

Common Mistake #2 - A dog coming from the cooped-up confines of the shelter needs freedom and free reign to “get to know” her new home, right?


Elsa needs boundaries. Too much freedom can be overwhelming to new dogs. And you know what dogs tend to do when they’re overwhelmed in a new environment? Pee. Even the housebroken ones.

Common Mistake #3 - Not starting and keeping up some kind of daily exercise routine with your new dog.

One thing that makes combating Common Mistake #2 (enforcing boundaries) a little easier is a regular exercise routine.

Common Mistake #4: Allowing free access to possessions, aka “spoiling” with lots of high-value toys and treats with no rules about access to them.

Big mistake.

This is one of the most serious problems we trainers deal with in our small-dog clients: resource or possession guarding. Many new adopters feel like the quickest way to their new dog’s heart is through “stuff”. This includes access to high-value places, like the couch, or your lap, with no rules.

Common mistake #5: “Spoiling” aka allowing invasion of personal space and excessive affection. A dog from the shelter likely had a horrible, abusive life and needs love and affection to flourish, correct?


Olaf was driving Kristin crazy because he attached himself to her hip. She couldn’t move without him tripping her. He didn’t “know” how to NOT try and become one with whoever was closest to him. And it was not coming from a happy place. It was coming from a place of insecurity and fear.

Let’s review. Most of the common mistakes well-meaning adopters make when bringing home their new dogs have to do with lack of boundaries and structure. We cannot stress the importance of starting your relationship with your new dog with these things in mind. It takes a few months to start getting to know a new dog. Put in the management up front to avoid the pitfalls that lead to so many dogs being returned to the shelter.

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