Following are simple ways to help your Lab adjust to his or her new home.
Teach, Don’t Blame
Labs are eager to please their owners when they understand the rules. It is your job to communicate clear rules in a way your Lab can understand. Be sensitive to the fact that in your Lab’s previous home he may have been encouraged to sit on the sofa, beg for food, jump up for attention, or play roughly. If these behaviors are not permitted in your home, teach your Lab the correct behavior rather than blaming him for not knowing.
Be kind and patient. Labs need repetition and consistency to learn. Instruct him in a positive way and reward him for good behavior with treats and a happy voice. Corrections for inappropriate behavior should be used sparingly. Labs can be sensitive; often a calm but firm verbal reprimand is enough.
Teach key words that elicit certain behaviors. Along with the basics of sit, stay, and come, it is helpful to teach words like off, give, trade, and leave it. We strongly recommend attending obedience classes, even if your Lab comes with training. You will find it a fun and rewarding way to bond with your new family member, and no dog is ever too old to learn.
As your Lab settles in and starts to learn the rules in his new home, he will get more comfortable. The transition time for each Lab is different, taking from a few weeks to a few months. Labs deal with change and stress in different ways. Some will be overly active, while others may be clingy or a bit depressed by the loss of family and surroundings. Some Labs just take it in stride.
No matter what your Lab’s reaction, remember to go slowly. Start teaching the new rules from day one, and be respectful of the difficulty of being dropped into a different world.
It will take time for your Lab to bond with you. Children must be supervised closely when with your new Lab and contact should be limited during this time. Keep the environment quiet for the first few days and allow your Lab to get comfortable before meeting your friends and the neighborhood.
Set Realistic Expectations
Be realistic about your expectations during the transition period. Don’t assume that your Lab will be able to cope with all the changes in his life without a problem or two. Set up precautionary measures when he is alone in the house, when he first meets new children, and when around unfamiliar dogs.
Stress may cause your Lab to drink an excessive amount of water his first week, which can lead to “accidents.” Observe water intake and take your Lab out more often during this time. Be consistent about which door he uses, so he can begin to let you know when he needs to go out.
Getting your new Lab to come when called takes practice and must always be a positive experience. (Food rewards combined with praise work well.) Remember not to let him off leash except in very safe areas that are far from cars, and only when you have complete control.