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  • Richard Chan

How did l settle in a new place with my dog?

Q: When l move to a new house/city, how can l help my dog to settle? A: Imagine a pack of animals which migrates from one place to another constantly. What is there to keep them from freaking out when they arrive in a new envirniment? Leadership and structure — The familiar routine and their trust and confidence in their leader. Very often, l hear people telling me how their dogs have changed for the worse after a move — The dog was fine in the old house but after a relocation, the dog has somehow became more anxious, reactive, and even aggressive. What it really comes down to is a drastic change in structure and a lack of trust and confidence in the owner which has been greatly amplified by all the unfamiliarities. When l moved into my new house, it was located in another city and was very different. It was much bigger, with a swimming pool that the dogs have never seen before, located in a very different neighborhood. At the time, l had a few clients’ dogs l was training that had moved with us to the new place as well. The move lasted a whole day. It was quite chaotic and everyone was exhausted. How did l help the dogs to settle in the new place? I did nothing. I mean l really didn’t do anything different from what l was doing before the move. l just kept the same structure and carried on my days with the same routine as far as the dogs were concerned. I did not let them sniff every corner of the new house. I did not introduce them to the neighbors. l did not let them meet or sniff the barking dogs next to my house. I did not let them roam all over the place on the street so they could “smell other dogs.” I did not let them say hi to other dogs on the street... I basically did the exact same thing l was doing before the move, that was it. They all settled very well. In a matter of days, they all acted like they had been living here forever. They did not care about the dog who barked a lot behind my house, or the dog who like to looked at them on the other side of the fence, or the people who came to introduce themselves. It is because although the new place was unfamiliar to them, they knew their structures and they knew me — these two things remained constant as l never allowed them to change. As l carried on the same structure, this familiar structure (daily routine) was serving as a bridge to ease them into the unfamiliar new environment smoothly. In a few days time, even though l did not make any special effort to “introduce” them, they became quite familiar and comfortable in the new house and the streets naturally. They saw the new people and their dogs daily and even though l never “introduce” them, they became familiar with them and proceed to ignore them. Instead of focusing on the unfamiliarities, l focused on the familiarities, and so did they. Engagement training is about being everything to your dog. When you are everything to your dog, it should not really matter where you are as your dog will still find you the most interesting, desirable, and relevant being so he will be most content, comfortable, confident, and relaxed around you. When l meet a new client’s dog, the first thing l work on is engagement. Once l have that relationship, the dog will love staying with me, working with me, and listening to me. My house is supposed to be a new unfamiliar environment for the dog, my dogs are supposed to be new unfamiliar dogs to this dog — but none of those would really matter all that much to this new dog once l become the dog’s most relevant focal point. When a dog has a focal point, the rest of the world will become less relevant by comparison. This also applies to introducing a new puppy to a home. Instead of working on meeting everyone else, l always work on meeting me — showing the dog how to rest in me. Why would a dog be freaked out by something irrelevant when he enjoys the company of something very relevant? Why would a dog worry so much about his new environment when he really enjoys working with his human regardless of where he may be? That is why structure is so important. That is why being relevant to your dog is so important. That is why teaching your dog to engage in you is so important. That is why working on you, focusing on what you can control, is the key. Instead of focusing on the chaos, focus on yourself. Work on being the peaceful and unchanging focal point to your dog. Once you are everything to your dog, you are the everlasting constant, the compass, the map, the light house — and your dog will find reassurance and comfort under your guidance — you could be flying across two continents to a completely different country that speaks an entirely different language, as long as you remain unchanging to your dog, your dog should remain the same. 


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