Updated: Apr 20
Adopting a Balkan Underdog is a very special and rewarding experience that will fill you heart and home with warmth. Maybe you are waiting for your new dog to travel, or maybe they've already arrived but you want to make sure that your BU pup has the best experience on arrival. Also take a look at our short video on settling in your new BU dog.
In this article, our behaviourist has put together an indispensable guide to settling in your new BU dog. This can be a powerful bonding experience, and we ask that you stay home with them for the first two weeks of
your dogs arrival to help them settle in. They would have travelled a long way- and for some dogs, the move is a major shift in terms of lifestyle, weather, smells and even languages!
First and foremost, accept and understand what has just come into your household. Most of these dogs are very quiet and non - reactive – they are shut down.
For many rescue dogs, being shy and fearful helped them survive. No wonder then that when they come into a house they look for a safe place to hide while they observe what’s happening around them, and it's worth bearing in mind that many haven't been in a house before. During this time they really don’t want to be cuddled, and for some, the last time someone had hold of them it wasn’t a nice experience.
Sometimes they won’t feed from a bowl, and for some, at some point they were fed from a bowl and trapped. You might find that they will only feed off the floor, as this is what they were used to. If this happens, let them feed off the floor initially and don’t crowd them, they didn’t have an audience before. You can leave some really tasty chicken bits in a bowl near the food on the floor, they will soon find it and realise over time that the bowl is a good thing.
They will take a few WEEKS to decompress and feel more at ease so take it very slowly. If your dog is sat still then toss a piece of chicken or sausage near to where they are. Be mindful not to look at them as this might make them anxious, but you can quietly say ‘good dog’ when they take it. Small steps will get bigger as time goes on. Don’t expect them to rush to you for fuss, you have to earn their trust and that takes time.
Read their body language
Please learn to read body language, watch some YouTube videos and learn. Watch out for a quick lip lick as you approach – ‘I’m not comfortable with this’ is what he is saying. Keep on approaching and he will look away or turn his head away – ‘are you deaf? Please leave me alone’. If you continue he will try to walk away and if he can’t you leave him no option but to defend himself by a growl or snap. Has anyone seen a snappy Chihuahua when it is held? This behaviour has been inadvertently trained by people not reading the dog and pushing it over threshold and it only takes one panic snap that resulted in the person jumping back for the dog to learn that that works!
Let the dog come out when he feels comfortable and reward every little thing with a tossed treat. Slowly get the treats closer to you and then offer one while you look away. Trust will be built slowly. Telling them off for anything is pointless as it doesn’t teach the dog what you DO want and serves only to worry the dog because you are unpredictable in his eyes.
Establish a good relationship with your dog. This is how.
1. Ditch the bowl. Measure out his daily ration and place in several small containers around the house. Every time he looks at you or interacts with you give him a piece or two. Watch what he is doing and reward everything that you like. This will have you looking for good instead of concentrating on any ‘bad’ behaviour to nag at!
2. When he gives you lots of attention pick up the lead and wait for him to come over to clip it on. Don’t chase him round. As you clip on the lead give him a treat. You can also reward him for standing still when you take it off. Tell him ‘Lead on’ and ‘Lead off’ each time so that you can reward calm behaviour.
3. Approach the door, drop a few treats on the floor near the door, open the door and drop a few treats just outside the door. He will be picking up the treats as you open the door instead of barging through it and then stopping to pick up the outside ones. Do this each time you leave and you will have a much calmer dog to start your walk with.
4. Now walk a couple of steps and stop, when he looks at you give a treat. A few more steps and repeat. If you keep stopping and he gets something each time he will soon be watching your every move and getting rewarded for it.
5. Remember you are competing with the environment so you need to be very interesting to keep his focus. Every few metres stop and call him to you, the beginnings of recall training. If you play tug with him inside the house and he enjoys it then take it with you and when you call him to you have a game of tug instead of treat.
6. Please allow him to be a dog when walking. This is for his benefit more than yours. It gives him chance to read his pee mails and leave some as well. He needs to explore the environment and sniff. Sniffing is a calming action so if he starts to get anxious toss a handful of treats on the floor for him to find. This will calm him down.
Enjoy your time together and be interested in what he finds interesting.
Have a great time!