Dogs are completely “in the moment” creatures, with no separation between mind and body. By studying the way they move and honoring their innate wildness, we can help restore their natural function: to be happy, social, and loyal companions. 

 “I studied (in Vermont) with Kevin Behan, the creator of Natural Dog Training, for almost seven years,” Twitchell explained.  “I’ve been working in this movement-based style of training, which taps into dogs’ natural drives, since 2011.

“It’s the same way that working dogs are trained, except we apply it to pet dogs.”

We asked Twitchell for tips on introducing a new dog to the home.

Have a cozy crate set up in a quiet area of the home. This is especially helpful for puppies and rescues. If they become stressed, they can retreat to the crate.

If you’re bringing in a second dog, take the dogs for a walk together, and walk head-to-tail to let them sniff each other. A head-to-head introduction can be stressful.

The best way is if one dog sniffs the other dog’s backside. Doing that gives them a lot of biological information. It’s emotionally grounding, and can even be pleasurable for the dog being sniffed. When they’ve sniffed and can parallel-walk together, that’s ideal.

At home, if they do get stressed, they can retreat to the crate. Let them do their thing; don’t try to engineer. If that isn’t working, put up a baby gate. Separating spaces helps them get used to having another dog in the home.

Provide a dog bed.  If you don’t want the dog on furniture, train him to his “place,” using lots of treats. That way you can keep the house clean and save the furniture.

Puppies know only what they experience. If they’ve never been on a couch, they don’t feel the need to be there. But once they’ve been “invited,” it’s very difficult to tell them that’s not their place.

I’m breaking that rule with my own dogs! (Sophie, Freya and Eva.) But if I were to start over, I would train a puppy to go to his crate to sleep, so he wouldn’t even try to get up on the bed.

Keep dogs’ nails clipped. I use nail clippers, but you can also use a dremel rotary tool. I’ve noticed that bamboo seems the most scratch-resistant flooring wood.

Leah Twitchell, a Readfield native who owns and operates Portland-based Canine Movement Lab, relaxes with Sophie, one of her three dogs. Photo by Jennifer Grace, jengracephotography.com

Outside, fence off part of your yard where your dog can have his own place to dig and hang out. This protects the nicer parts of the yard and landscaping, and gives him a space where he can chill out and just be a dog.

It’s really important to let dogs express their natural behavior, and part of that is digging. Last summer, when it was in the 90s, Sophie dug herself a den underneath the deck.

Let your dog settle in for a few weeks before going on big adventures, leaving him at a kennel, or engaging in other activities that might be disruptive to the routine you’ve worked to establish.

Overall, the most important thing is to allow the dog to acclimate to the home without being overstimulated.  Keep interactions calm and soothing. When you come into the house, they’ll get excited, but don’t do anything to increase  that stimulation.

Indoors is for quiet time: the dog in his den, decompressing, relaxing.


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