Learning to Enjoy New Shoes

Let's be honest, there are to types of shoe owners in this world.  Those of you like this guy, who sing and dance at the thought of putting your new shoes on:

And then there are people like myself that cringe at the idea of even shopping for new shoes....because really, the crack down the middle of your trusty Chacos isn't all the way to the surface yet!  Why not wear them for another few months until they really break?! After all, these Chacos have seen me through the loss of close family, meeting new friends, trialing in new sports, and the list goes on and on.

Now you and I know this can apply to our well known dog partners.  And yes, I did indeed just compare your closest companion to shoes (trust me, I truly mean it as the highest compliment.)  The dogs that have been to hell and back again with us.  Trialed in new venues, taught us a ton, and give us comfort when we step to the line.  I think there is nothing more difficult in our lives with dogs than allowing a retired dog to step back so the up and coming dog can start to step up.  

It really isn't that our new to us dogs are bad, wear us down, or even the extra training.  Rather, I think there is grief that goes along with this process.  Change can be really hard.  And learning to work with a new partner in a sport or in life can be challenging.  It's OK to struggle with this and acknowledge it.  No dog will ever be like the dog before them, or the dog we had built up in our head (talking to you new puppy owners!)

However, with the acknowledgement of this change, we need to step up too.  Then we can see the lovely dimensions our new to us dogs bring. These dogs will teach us brand new ways to learn together.  These dogs will improve our handling and teaching skills.  


Poe has taught me this in a very big way over the last year.  He is full to the brim of talent, speed, agility, and enthusiam for work.  However, he's different.  He's new to me and he is showing some gaps I've had in my prior teaching.  This is OK but not a comfortable process.  I will fully own that I've held myself back quite a bit this year out of sheer discomfort.  It's hard to adapt to a new dog, no matter how awesome they are!  Plus, we humans do tend to compare our newer dogs style to the dogs before them.  But, thankfully it is getting easier and easier to step into my new role as partner with him.  The more we play, the better we are together.  

So do grieve the loss of your comfort zone dog but do not dwell on that forever.  Instead, start to embrace the new relationship before you.  Get ready to start singing and dancing together.  Embrace those new shoes, because you don't know where they may take you!

Tips for Your New Puppy or Dog

Whether you've just brought a new puppy or dog home there are a few things you can do to make your transition together easier.  Here are 10 tips for an easy transition for your new addition:

10) Don't compare your new addition to a previous dog/puppy.  Even if they are the same breed.  Temperament, experience, genetics, and everything in between makes an individual.  So don't expect your new dog to act just like your previous one.

9) Let your new addition be themselves!  Watch, observe, see what your baseline-ground zero looks like.  What are they like in new environments, with new people, new surfaces, new objects, and similar things?  The better you understand your new addition the more successful you can make your outings and training sessions in the future!

8) Management, management, management!  Do not give your new addition full run of the house.  Start with a small area, with no carpet that can be destroyed, and make sure that your new addition is making good choices.  Then overtime, give them more space in the house.     

7) Crate train your new addition.  Crates are a great asset for any household.  And no, I don't think extended crating for over 4 hours at a time is OK.  However, I do think that crating is a great tool for management (because no one enjoys replacing carpet/couches/etc.)  If you plan to do dog sports and attend titling events, you will most likely need to have a dog that is good in a crate.

McCoy and his new brother Poe!

McCoy and his new brother Poe!

6) Take introductions to the other pets in your home slowly.  Do not throw your new dog into the pack with your others.  Take your time.  Plan to have several weeks where dogs are separate when you cannot supervise.  Take long walks with your dogs, giving them space as needed to be successful.  Supervise their interactions and be patient.  Making new friends takes time!

5) Do not make assumptions about your new addition's skill set.  Even if their breeder or rescue says they are good with other dogs, kids, people, and cats, make sure.  Take your time.  Do not assume this to be true.  There are always exceptions, even the biggest extroverts don't get along with everyone. 

4) Be prepared to teach your new addition new skills.  Even if they were house trained, good with recall, or a perfect loose leash walker, these skills may not translate to your home.  So be patient and have fun.  Dogs/puppies all learn at a different pace.  They need time to learn what your expectations are and how you work.

3) Have all the supplies you need before your new addition arrives.  Do you have:

  • Kongs
  • Bully Sticks
  • High value toys and toys that your dog can have anytime
  • Crate
  • Baby Gates
  • Exercise pens
  • Collar, tag, leash, harness, and long line
  • Food
  • and a lot of patience as you both transition into life together!

2) Play together, learn what your dogs loves, what they hate, and what they enjoy doing.  Every dog has a different drive, a different talent, and different favorite toy.  This stuff is where every handler/dog relationship starts.  

1) Enjoy your time together!  If you just brought a puppy home, you'll never get this time back again.  Our dogs age just as quickly.