Leash (we recommend a 6' thick nylon or leather leash, NO retractable leashes)
Dog food (We recommend a grain-free brand for most pitbull-type dogs due to allergies, please check with us to find out if we're aware of any specific protein allergies. Brands we love: Natural Balance, Taste of the Wild, 4Health [Tractor Supply Company], Redford Naturals, Merrick)
Dog toys/chews (We recommend a Kong, natural chews like bully sticks/pig snouts/etc, antlers, rope toys, etc)
Wide-bottom bowls for food and water (stainless steel recommended for easy cleaning/sterlizing)
Sturdy crate (large enough for the dog to easily turn around in)
Foam pad for crate
Freedom Harness (available on Amazon.com)
Food puzzle toys (like the Kong Wobble or Seek-a-Treat)
Sensitive skin shampoo (most pitbull-type dogs have sensitive skin and have reactions to heavily perfumed soaps)
Junk towels/paper towels
Stain remover/odor remover (Nature's Miracle is a great product for "whoopsies")
Why a 2-Week Shutdown?
Remember how scary it was when you first moved to a new location or started a new school? Well, your new dog is feeling the same fear when joining your house, and he/she doesn't understand what's going on, who you are, what your routine is, or what the rules are.
We know you're excited to introduce your new dog to everyone and everything in your life, but taking your new family member to the pet store, to family and friends' houses, to the park, to pet events, and other really busy social events right after coming home can actually cause your pet to act out as they feel they need to control the situation because they don't trust you yet to do so. This can lead to unwanted behaviors like resource guarding, fear aggression, and chewing up your belonging (or in some cases, self-mutiliation).
The "2 weeks" portion of the "2-week shutdown" is flexible depending on your dog's individual needs. Some dogs may need a longer period, and some dogs may only need a week or two to settle into your house. We do feel that most dogs need at least 2 weeks to settle into a home, and a month or more to truly feel "at home" depending on their history.
2-Week Shutdown: The Basics
One of the main reasons we recommend having a crate for your dog, even if you don't plan to use it in the long-term, is to give your new friend a place where they feel safe. A crate is NEVER to be used as punishment. The crate should be located in your main living areas but off to the side so they can see/hear/smell your daily activities while still giving them a quiet space where they feel safe to figure things out.
After bringing your new dog home, it's time to give them a short tour of the primarily living areas in your home where they will be majority of the time. This gives them a sense of where they are and the first glimpse of your life. After 10-20 minutes, it's time for the crate to give them time to take in everything that has happened and everything they have learned thus far. Some dogs may cry at first, but this is a good time to give them crate-only toys and yummy treats (a kong with some xylitol-free peanut butter is a good option). Keep in mind, do NOT let the dog out of the crate if they bark or cry, this will only reinforce that crying/barking is a way to be let out!
Initially, keep the time out-of-crate time short to keep the interactions positive. We recommend 20-30 minutes at a time and then returning to the crate for 1-2 hours to "digest" the information they learned. Make sure to have chews and toys on-hand to keep them busy during their crate time.
Don't take your new dog on walks yet. Walks are full of stimulations (and squirrels), and there are too many variables you may encounter on a walk. You need to build trust FIRST with your dog before taking them into new situations. Exercise your dog in your yard with a long leash (20-30 ft) and spend the first couple of weeks just getting to know one another.
This is not a time period for intensive training. Definitely continue to reinforce training that the dog already knows and praise him/her lavishly, but don't introduce any new tricks until your new dog is comfortable with you and your family.
Don't take your dog to pet stores, dog parks, other people's homes, etc. These situations are full of stimulation, and you need to build your dog's trust that YOU will handle the situation so they don't have to. The vet is an exception to this. While all of our dogs leave Pitties & Kitties with their age-appropriate shots, spayed/neutered, and microchipped, we do recommend setting up a basic exam appointment with your vet so they have a "baseline" for your new dog and can recommend appropriate heartworm and flea & tick medication. If you don't have a current vet, please let us know and we can provide recommendations in your area.
Keep your new dog leashed at ALL times when they're not in their crate, even in the house or in a fully fenced-in yard. Why? First and foremost, it lets them know that you are the "keeper" of everything. While we don't believe in the "dominance theory" popularized by the media (as it has been proven to be ineffective and in some cases counteractive many, many times), we do feel it's important that your dog know you are the "leader" and that the pair of you are a team. Additionally, accidents do happen, even with fully house-trained dogs who don't yet know this is "home," but if the dog is on a leash, you'll know immediately if he/she needs to go outside. This also prevents unwanted chewing, counter-"surfing," or other behaviors you'd prefer they not engage in.
Don't allow your new dog and existing dogs/pets to interact right away. You'll want to do a proper introduction on neutral territory to get a feel for how they interact first. This is absolutely crucial during the first two weeks as this can be incredibly stressful to the new dog as well as your existing pets. Your current pets have no idea who this new "intruder" is, and your new dog doesn't know your routines and rules. Getting your new dog used to your routine first will make integration 1000x easier.
Remember, being off-leash is a privilege that your new dog earns by showing you that he/she can "tell" you when it's time to go outside and behaving according to your household's rules.
Training on Your Own: Zak George (Positive Training)