By Jim Tedford, Director of Pet Identification
One of the biggest threats to the human-animal bond involves unrealistic expectations on the part of pet owners. Too often, people assume that a newly adopted pet instinctively knows exactly what his new guardians expect. He should know the difference between Mom’s dressy shoes and his favorite chew toy. He should know that the carpeting is VERY different than the grass when it comes to potty breaks.
But, sadly, our animal companions rarely come to us pre-programmed to understand our expectations. Training is a key component of responsible pet ownership. And patience is another! Contrary to popular belief, our pets never act out of spite. The fact that the new dog ate your favorite shoes has more to do with opportunity and convenience than spite. Fido didn’t rifle through your closet looking for the designer labels…he just chewed on the most convenient shoe he could find!
Supervise your new pet
I would venture to guess that most parents would not allow their toddlers unsupervised access to the whole house. It is important to remember that our pets are very much like toddlers – curious and prone to trouble! New pets should be introduced into a household gradually and methodically. A crate can be your (and your pet’s) best friend. Whenever you cannot keep a close watch on your new pet, simply place him into his crate. He will feel more secure in his own personal “den” and you can rest assured he is staying out of trouble. A crate should not be used to excess, but can be a very valuable training tool.
Spend some time in training
If you’ve adopted a dog or puppy, enroll him in an obedience class right away. Not only will this teach both you and your new pet valuable lessons, it will give you an opportunity to bond and spend quality time together. And, it gives you an opportunity to establish yourself as the “alpha” in your newly formed “pack”.
Have the right toys handy
Make sure you provide your new pets with plenty of appropriate toys. Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs. Dogs will chew, especially during the puppy phase, so it is critical to give them something appropriate upon which to chew! Old shoes or knotted-up socks don’t work very well as they send the wrong message: “it’s OK to chew on shoes and socks!”
Establish a potty break routine
Frequent potty breaks are necessary, especially for puppies. They can only hold it for so long! Anticipate their needs, take them out every hour (or more frequently) and praise them like crazy when they go in the appropriate spot! Eventually you can work on identifying their signals that it’s time to go for a walk.
What about cats?
If you’ve adopted a cat or kitten, many of the same rules apply. Make sure they know the location of the litter boxes and that they have plenty of appropriate toys to keep them occupied. Scratching is a normal behavior, so make sure a proper scratching post is available and that your new cat is trained to use it. Otherwise, prepare to say goodbye to Dad’s easy chair and most of the door frames in your home!
Introducing them to their new best friend
Introducing new pets to those already present takes a bit of forethought and preparation, as well. Introductions should be made gradually and preferably on neutral turf away from the home. Keeping the new pet in a crate part of the time gives all pets a chance to get to know one another with a safety barrier between them. Keeping all dogs on leashes and under control can prevent initial territorial spats from getting out of hand. The key to assimilating a new pet into the household is patience. They will almost always work it out with a little time, effort and patience. Remember to keep expectations realistic and don’t get discouraged and give up too quickly. Our pets, like our children, are individuals and are not likely to like each other ALL the time!
Jim Tedford serves as Director of Pet Identification for PetSafe. Working on the front line of animal welfare for over 20 years, Jim has served as CEO for organizations in New York, Louisiana and Tennessee. Prior to joining PetSafe, Jim provided marketing and fundraising services to animal welfare organizations nationwide. Jim holds a degree in animal science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Jim and his wife Ann share their “empty nest” in the Smoky Mountains with adopted dogs Bodie, Sam, and Lila and a formerly homeless macaw, Gipper.