Open Paw Program

While at Animal Friends, your dog benefited from training techniques developed by the revolutionary, humane, and nationally-esteemed Open Paw shelter program. Animal Friends is proud to support the Open Paw, which builds lifelong positive relationships with pets. Animal Friends hopes you will use the following advice from the Open Paw manual to help introduce your new dog to your home. For more information, visit and

The First Two Weeks With Your New Dog

Congratulations on the new addition to your family! Your new dog will be a wonderful companion for years to come. It is important to recognize that first impressions are often lasting ones. If you follow these simple guidelines, your dog’s transition into your home will be a piece of cake for you and your new best friend.

1. Teach your new dog the rules of your house from the beginning. In the words of Dr. Ian Dunbar, “If you want your dog to follow the rules of the house, by all means do not keep them a secret.” When your dog first gets home, he or she may be a little confused and unsure of the new living situation. Even though your home is undoubtedly more comfortable than the shelter, it is different, and different can be stressful. It is important to remember that dogs do not speak our language and will best understand your expectations through training and management. Training and management should begin the very moment your new dog arrives in your home.

Your instinct may be to give your new friend a few days to unwind and adjust before imposing rules and restrictions. Wile you may mean well, this time delaying training has the potential to be both frustrating and damaging. Right from the very first day, it is crucial to convey your expectations to the dog and to establish an errorless training system. If you do this, your dog can succeed in learning house rules right from the beginning. If you change the house rules a few days after your dog has arrived, he will not understand why things have changed. Your dog may have already formed new habits and will have a difficult time adjusting to yet another set of expectations. It is much more efficient to teach your dog everything you would like him of her to know from the outset.

2. Try not to overwhelm your new dog with too much activity during this initial adjustment period (individual dog’s adjustment period will vary). It is very exciting to adopt a new family member. Of course you want to introduce her to all of your friends and family and of course you want to take your new pal everywhere! All this excitement however could be exceptionally stressful for your dog. Please keep in mind that even in the best of shelters your dog’s world was probably limited to a handful of environments and activities. It is best for your dog to spend the first couple of weeks quietly settling in and getting to know you.

Limit introductions to just a few visitors, and preferably only one or two at a time. If your dog has time to become familiar with you and your home surroundings, she will be more confident when setting out on adventures beyond your immediate neighborhood.

3. Keep your new dog confined or supervised at all times. This is the best way to keep your new friend (and house!) out of trouble when you are unable to monitor his actions. Your dog requires a dog-proof, safe place: a “doggie den”–the equivalent of a toddler’s playpen–where he can rest and chew appropriate items in your absence. There are many options for your “doggie den,” but a crate or small room in your house is ideal. However, you may also choose an outside kennel run. Initially you must be around to gently redirect your dog when he chooses an inappropriate activity. If you are vigilant about supervising our dog and showing him what you expect, your dog will learn to settle down quietly, to chew only appropriate chew toys and eventually to become trustworthy in your absence.

Remember: always try to build good habits, because good habits are as hard to break as bad ones.

Open Paw Program Do’s and Don’ts

Follow these guidelines for at least the first two weeks with your new dog. Please remember some dogs will take longer to adjust so please be patient.

DO immediately show your dog to his/her appropriate toilet area.

DO take your dog to the designated toilet area once an hour, every hour, on leash (except overnight). Allow supervised free time only after he relieves himself in the appropriate area. If your dog does not go to the bathroom on one of these trips, confine him to his “doggie den” OR keep him on leash and supervised, until the next scheduled potty break.

DO confine your dog to a “doggie den” whenever you are physically (or mentally!) absent. Such as when you are at work, paying bills, talking on the phone, sleeping, etc.

DO feed your dog out of a hollow Kong or other chew toy stuffed with kibble and snacks throughout the day, especially when she in her “doggie den” or when you are busy. Also use part of your dog’s daily ration while on walks, during training or when meeting new people.

DO provide plenty of appropriate chew toys to keep your dog busy and prevent chewing “casualties” in your home and yard. Redirect any chewing “mistakes” by directing your dog to an acceptable alternative. This will also help establish an appropriate chewing habit for the lifetime of your dog.

DO introduce your dog to new people and other pets gradually so as not to overwhelm him. Use kibble and treats to help form a positive association to new people. Be sure he has access to his “den” in case he needs a break from all the activity.

DO enroll in a basic obedience class right away! This will help you to understand how to better communicate with your dog in a way she will understand.

DO look for a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT) that uses dog-friendly training methods. Contact or call 1-800-PET-DOGS to find a trainer in your area.

DON’T allow your dog free run of the entire house right away, or else your new friend may learn all sorts of bad habits. First take the time to teach him good habits.

DON’T take your dog off-leash in public until you have successfully completed an obedience class.