Helpful Tips to Help
Your Leo Adjust to Her New Home:
Leonbergers that are turned over to Leo Rescue Canada come from various
situations. They may be dogs that have
been surrendered because they didn't live up to their owner's
expectations. They may be dogs with
behavioural or health issues. Or
they may be dogs that have been abandoned, abused, or neglected. Whatever the reasons why the dog has been
recycled, it is important to understand that these dogs come with a
history, or to put it more bluntly - "baggage".
Because of that "baggage", if your new friend has a history of
being abused, neglected or battered in any way you'll want to change your
rules and standards for her.
Although it is true that any dog needs structure and rules, the
rescued dog needs more than that. In
fact, she's going to need more of everything, especially patience, love and
While each of us has certain standards of behaviour for our
pets, a dog that has been previously owned may not be able to live up to
yours, no matter how fair you may think those standards are. Something in her past, something you may
or may not know about, may eliminate the possibility of using a crate, for
example. There are some dogs that
will not tolerate confinement. Some
dogs may be destructive when left alone.
This isn't because they are bad dogs … usually this is because they
get flashbacks to their old life and are so afraid of being abandoned again
that they act out inappropriately.
You need to understand this and take time to learn how to reassure
your new dog in a way that lets her know she is yours to stay. With patience and love you will be able
to help her work through this.
Remember that the history of most rescued dogs is unknown so
it is very important that you are reasonable in your expectations of your
The chore of convincing the dog that the past is the past and
this is now will take time and cannot be done with words. The old saying "actions speak louder than
words" rings true.
Here are some
guidelines for helping your new Leo adjust well to her new home.
1. Prepare your home before the dog
arrives. The process is similar to
baby-proofing a house. Put away
anything that might be a choking hazard.
Tuck away your valuable and/or sentimental possessions just in case
there are some chewing issues to resolve.
Buy the appropriate supplies in terms of bedding or a crate (see
#2), a collar and a leash of relevant size and strength. Buy a leash that is no longer than 6 feet
in length to keep your dog close to you at all times when out and
about. A word of caution is
necessary here about retractable leashes.
Not only are the majority on the market insufficient to properly
restrain a dog the size of a Leo, if she manages to break free from your
grasp, the handle's weight and size may startle her and cause her to run
away in an effort to escape the clatter and noise of the handle hitting the
You may also want to buy some toys,
but be careful not to select small or even medium sized toys that may be
choking hazards to a large Leo's throat.
Larger dogs usually need larger, strong toys.
Consider getting baby gates or x-pens
if you plan to block off one or more rooms for an initial restricted area.
Make sure you have a couple of weeks
of food supply already bought (see #7) together with a selection of healthy
treats and water bowls.
Finally, if there are children in your
home, you should discuss potential issues and rules before the dog arrives
so that the children know how to act around the dog and so that you can
give clear direction to your new friend.
2. Buy and use a crate. Make sure you get a size that is large
enough for the dog to turn around and stand in comfortably. In most cases, a crate will offer
security to the dog that badly needs just that. Some dogs will do better with the crate
in the hub of the house – the den or the kitchen. Others need a quiet place. Some like a good view and even some
conversation while they rest. Others
need a towel draped over the crate or the comfort of a semi-closed-up,
airline-type crate rather than the all-wire models. This can be discovered only by trial and
If your new dog has trouble adjusting
to a crate, there are many excellent books available to teach you how to
teach her to accept and love her crate.
In some extreme cases, if your new dog has confinement issues, etc.,
a crate may not be deemed appropriate.
In these instances, it is strongly suggested that you consult a
qualified animal behaviourist for help on how to proceed. Your Rescue Coordinator will be able to
3. Set up a mat or crate in your bedroom so
that your dog gets seven or eight hours of bonding time at no cost to
you. Again, it's an important
message. You belong to me now … I
will take care of you.
4. Bonding with your new friend is
crucial. Spend quality 'alone time'
together every day, free of the distraction of other pets, kids, etc.
5. Explore with your new dog but don't be in
too much of a hurry to expose her to too much too soon. Take it slow and easy so that you don't
put her on sensory overload.
6. The Leo's majestic presence is one of the
reasons people are attracted to these wonderful dogs. For this reason, it is hardly surprising
that people often can't wait to show off their new friend. For many, this usually means taking their
new dog to an off leash park and allowing her to greet everyone and
everything you meet while out and about.
If you try to do these things with your rescued dog within the first
few days or weeks, you are almost guaranteed a recipe for disaster. Your Leo is going to need time to adjust
and feel secure around you and her new surroundings. Trying to introduce her to too much too
soon will set her up for failure, as it may trigger unpleasant memories
which force her to behave inappropriately.
Until your Leo is fully settled into
her new environment, we recommend not taking her on too many trips. Vet visits of course may be necessary, as
might be appointments with a trainer or groomer. But perhaps wait a couple of weeks, or
even months, before you take her to visit family or attend an event with a
7. Give your new pet the best diet you can
afford. She needs it to combat the
stress of change. Even if the change
is for the better, it will still cause stress at first, which can appear in
the form of diarrhea or loose stools.
If your Rescue Co-ordinator has
informed you of the type of food your dog has been eating most recently, it
is best to stay with that food for at least a couple of weeks. If you wish to make changes, slowly introduce
the new food into her diet once she starts to settle in.
8. Grooming time isn't just for getting rid
of knots and mats. Grooming her
relaxes both of you. It's another
quiet way of getting the message across – I love you, kid. You're here to stay. Grooming is a nice ending to a walk, a
training session or a hectic day.
9. If your dog isn't suffering from any
mobility or breathing issues, take some long, quiet walks together. Get to know her away from home. Go
someplace quiet and pretty. Sit for
a while and just "chill" somewhere peaceful without distractions. You'll both love it.
10. Be patient when training your new dog. Remember, she may not understand what you
expect from her. You need to be
consistent but gentle in letting her know the new ground rules. Working with a qualified positive
reinforcement trainer is highly recommended and will help your dog learn
what is expected from her in a loving, structured way.
11. If there are children in the house, even if
your new dog is used to being around kids, it is important to remember that
the kids are going to need training so they know how to behave
appropriately with their new family member.
Young children can inadvertently hurt an animal which can result in
disastrous consequences for everyone concerned. A good rule of thumb to remember is to
never leave a young child and dog, especially one that has been rescued,
12. Please take precautions if there are other
animals in your house. Slowly
introduce your new dog to other pets – one at a time. Opening the front door to let the new dog
explore on her own is not a good approach.
Keep her on leash when you first walk her through the door. You may want to limit her to just one or
two rooms for her first few days.
You should likely keep other pets in a separate area of the house
during this initial period.
To introduce her to any other dogs you
might have, consider letting the dogs meet at a neutral location – perhaps
at a local park in a very quiet area.
A friend or family member could bring one of your dogs to the park,
and you casually "meet up" with them with your new arrival. Watch to see how they react to each other
from a distance. Don't force them to
have a direct encounter. You want to
make sure their first meeting is a friendly and positive event. Walk them back home together. Watch to see if your 'first dog' is
willing to invite your new friend in.
If you need more help with how to introduce an additional pet into
your household, please check the internet or contact your Rescue Coordinator who will be able to recommend some excellent resources and
Your Rescue Coordinator will also be available to help
discuss behavioural issues and to answer any questions that may arise
during the trial period.