A recent over-night stay by my neighbor’s dog reminded me of what it’s like to introduce a new dog into your life. I knew Riley since she was a small handful of a puppy. She’s now a wonderfully-affectionate ball of fluff, and I adore her. I know her vocabulary, so I can control her activities – but she knows nothing about the routine in my home, making everything from going out to bedtime major challenges. The experience reminded me that I can expect a long period of adjustment the next time I give another dog a forever home.
The importance of the daily routine
No matter how well you’re getting along with a new dog, it takes six months to fully bond. One reason for this involves establishing a daily routine, which makes life easier for both of you. This is not scientific fact; it’s based totally on my own, somewhat limited experience.
In our twelve years together, I took for granted the routine Monty and I developed. We had a bedtime routine that worked every time, and he didn’t wake up again until I told him to wake up in the morning. I took him out according to a specific schedule, he knew not to bother me when I ate, and even treats happened at certain times. Of course, I’m not saying that everything in life has to be perfectly-choreographed. But a basic daily routine created a basic structure that made our life easy.
New canine visitors don’t know the routine
I knew Riley’s basic routine, even knowing that she would want to sleep in my room, but I guess it’s true that the devil is in the details. She dutifully followed me upstairs at bedtime. I even let her come up on my bed, but sleeping was another story. She must have walked miles, trying to find the perfect spot, and she certainly didn’t sleep until I woke her. She started washing my face at 7am to wake me up, and when I pulled a sheet over my shoulders, she gently pulled it back down because she needed it for her own comfort.
Anxiety is also part of the mix
Riley has been in my home many times. She has even stayed over before. But, taken out of her normal surroundings, she was naturally more anxious. She remained glued to me at all times and she was more … um … prolific in her bathroom habits than would be normal. An adopted dog does not immediately know this is his forever home. He will respond as Riley did until he feels more secure.
Establishing a routine is part of the fun – if you’re ready for it
This is why I recommend that one or more days with a “rent-a-dog” is a great experience for anyone who wants to adopt a new dog. It doesn’t matter if you want your first dog, a companion for your current dog (or cat), or think you’re ready to adopt after losing a long-time friend. A dog visit serves to remind you of what you can expect during the early days of your lives together.
Building that special bond is an amazing experience, but it doesn’t happen overnight. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of Riley’s visit. She’s welcome to come back any time for a visit. Still, I think I’ll wait a while before bringing another full-time dog into the house.