Anytime of year is a good time to welcome a new inquisitive canine family member into your home — whether it be a puppy or an adult dog. As a dog mom, I know firsthand how life enriching and meaningful the human-animal bond can be. Everyday I give thanks for the relationship my 10-pound mutt, Poncho, and I have.
As a certified professional dog trainer, I know that making your home as dog friendly as possible before your new family member arrives will create a smooth transition and reduce stress for everyone, including the dog. So for you pet-parents-to-be, here are a few simple tips to start things out on the right paw.
Health & Wellness: Prevention is key! Schedule a wellness exam for your dog to be sure he or she has been evaluated and is receiving all they need to maintain good health. This can’t be stressed enough especially if you have zero health history on your dog, which can often be the case when adopting from a shelter, finding a dog, or receiving one from a neighbor or friend. If your dog doesn’t need an exam, bring your dog in to the meet the vet staff, say “hi,” and get a treat. Your dog will have a very nice first impression of going to the vet.
Service Resources: What services will your new family member need? Veterinarian? Groomer? Dog training services? Dog walker? Petsitter? Start your research now. Ask friends and family. Check YELP and other Internet sources. Get references. As for those you’d hire, we feel interviewing two or three is a sensible approach. If possible, have your dog meet each provider as well, since your dog is the one who’ll be spending the most time with the person. Best to have all the information before you need the services.
Basic Beginnings: For sure you’ll need a collar with ID, as well as food, water bowl, walking harness and leash. For day-to-day needs, look to local pet supply stores, garage sales, thrift stores, friends cleaning out their garages (checking expiration dates on products) and, of course, the Internet.
Depending where you live, a license might be required as well. Check with your local animal services department. Microchips are optional, but quite handy; ask your vet for information regarding the insertion of a chip. If your dog came with a chip, the facility or person you got your dog from should be able to provide you with what you’ll need in order to update the contact information.
In case you haven’t noticed, pets are BIG business. There are thousands of pet products on the market nowadays. When it comes to toys, beds, treats, and games you can play with your dog, we suggest you test out a few you think your dog might like, at least until you get to know his or her preferences. Then you can go nuts and start “spoiling” them silly. (Guilty!)
Social Director Extraordinaire: Depending upon the age, breed, temperament, and likes and dislikes of your dog, you’ll want to plan activities that enrich your dog’s life — both physically and mentally. The following is a list of things you can do with your dog – most are budget-friendly.
- Neighborhood walks for fun and to show your dog his or her new neighborhood. Until your dog learns to stay with you and has a good recall, staying on leash is highly recommended. Plus, it might be the law. Bring treats to reward behaviors you like, and when introducing your dog to new people and other dogs.
- Field trips to places you frequent. Many dogs love car rides and running errands. Make sure your dog is kept safe while going for rides. Seat belts and car seats are easy to find, inexpensive and help protect your dog from injury.
- Meet-and-greets with friends and neighbors. Allow your dog to set the pace as to how quickly he or she wants to socialize. It might be overwhelming with all the new changes, so be patient. Remember to praise your dog for being well-mannered and brave!
- Dog training services. No matter your dog’s age or skill level, lessons with an emphasis on manners create enjoyable activities for having fun, learning new skills and enhancing your bond.
- Yard play. Playing games in your own home and yard — fetch, tug, hide ‘n’ seek, scavenger hunts or just chillin’ with each other and giving belly rubs — is quality time and enjoyable for everyone, and often the best part of the day.
Who’s on first?: No matter how many people will be caring for your dog, delegate responsibilities and how they’ll fit into your current schedule. Feeding, walking and exercise, potty outings, clean-up, vet appointments, grooming and training are just a few general responsibilities that make up your dog’s daily agenda. Make sure everyone knows the routine, his or her list of duties and that maintaining consistency is essential to your dog adapting and learning what you want.
Environmental Management: No matter the age of your new dog, he or she will need to learn about, and settle in to your environment. Puppies will require additional guidance on house-training, which includes rewarding desired behavior, tighter management and observation. Older dogs still need to be taught where the bathroom is, and get rewarded for using it. For a step-by-step plan on how you can house-train your dog, check out our free eBook.
Puppy- and dog-proofing your home: Take the time to section off off-limits areas, safely putting away those things you don’t want your dog to get to. As you learn more about each other, you can slowly increase your dog’s boundaries, allowing more freedom.
Sleeping arrangements: You’ll need to decide where your dog is and isn’t allowed to sleep. Will your dog slumber in his or her own bed? Crate? Your bed? Floor? Couch? There’s no right or wrong answer. Just make sure you’ve approved it, it’s safe and you’re able to monitor your pooch — at least initially, until you know his or her sleeping patterns.
Pet siblings: If this is a second dog or second pet, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to introduce your new dog to the seasoned residents. Allow each of them to set the pace on how fast they want to establish a relationship. Keep the vibe positive and easygoing, while at the same time safe. Read more tips on introducing a new dog to a resident dog.
Tracking down resources, gathering supplies, delegating responsibilities and establishing a dog-friendly environment are key components in setting you and your new canine companion up for success. We encourage new pooch parents to begin developing a plan of action to help your dog feel welcomed! This will make the adjustment easy on everyone, which leaves more time for fun and games (and belly rubs).
Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Based in Santa Barbara, California, Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt who knows a lot about human and canine behavior.
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