Imagine handing out treats and name tags at the front door of your home for your new dog and your resident pets. Imagine happy munches and friendly woofs (and/or meows) as they blend and bond instantly and forever.
Then blink twice and remember that you are living in the world of reality and not in an ideal parallel universe. But armed with a set of realistic expectations, your reality may ultimately be just as ideal.
Introducing your new dog to the pets already in your home is a process. To succeed, you must start with a plan and a promise – to yourself -- to be patient. The process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (and in extreme cases, a few months).
To improve your chances of a happy blending of old and new, choose a dog as close as possible in temperament and activity level to the pets you already have. Dogs and cats are creatures of habit, and most dislike any disruptions in their daily lives and routines.
Some dogs are naturally more relaxed and more social than others. Some are more territorial and don't enjoy sharing at all. Unhappy with the arrival of a newcomer, they may demonstrate their disapproval by fighting with the perceived “intruder” or by marking.
Allow your new dog to adjust to you and to his new surroundings by keeping him in a separate room with his bed, food, water and toys for several days. Spend as much quality, comforting time with your new arrival as possible.
Maintain your other pets’ regular routines – from feeding and pottying to exercising, playing and together times – to reassure them that nothing has changed.
Since smells are of utmost importance to animals, get them used to each other’s scent as soon as possible. One way is through that most reliable standby: food. Feed your resident pets and your new dog on either side of the door to his room, encouraging them to associate something pleasurable with one another’s smell.
Once this has been successfully accomplished, walk your new dog slowly through your home, room by room, allowing him to become familiar with its sights, sounds and smells. Keep your other pets behind the closed door of his room to allow your new dog a sense of safety and privacy, while promoting a further exchange of scents between them. Repeat this several times a day for a few days.
Next, use two doorstoppers to keep the door to your new dog’s room propped open just enough for all of the animals to see each other. Repeat this several times a day for a few days. BUT remember! Every time you leave your home, leave your new dog in his room with the door closed.
Hopefully, when you’re ready to make the “formal” introductions, your patience and your animals’ pre-preparations will have paid off. And they will not only recognize, but also start to accept one another by what they see and smell.
Armed with the tastiest treats and most tempting toys, you can expect sniffing, approaching and walking away. Reward good behavior with praise and treats, but discourage bad behavior by promptly separating the offending parties and gently, but firmly correcting them.
Once again, patience is key. This too is a process, which may take time until the blending is successful, and your family is calmly and contentedly one.
If, however, certain problems persist, speak to your vet or consult a recommended animal behaviorist.
Be an informed adopter and make your new dog’s entry into your world as pleasurable as possible.
If this is your first dog, establish yourself with a vet or register your new dog with your established vet. Then apply for the appropriate licenses, etc., required in your area.
Remember that a dog’s true personality may not reveal itself for several weeks. Therefore, these first few weeks require an atmosphere of calm and patience, not anger or punishment.
Knowing your new dog’s established schedules for meals, pottying, walking and exercise beforehand are essential to maintaining his sense of continuity.
Once you arrive home, bring your new dog to his designated pottying place.
Spend time letting your new dog get accustomed to the place, and if he potties, reward him with praise and a treat.
Repeat this (whether your dog potties or not) to reinforce it, but be prepared for accidents. Even a housebroken dog will be nervous in, and curious about, new surroundings.
Your new dog may also pant or pace excessively, suffer from stomach upsets or have no appetite at all due to the sudden changes in his life.
Give your new dog the same food that he ate before.
After 30 minutes, remove the food whether it’s been eaten or not. Do not allow your new dog to “graze.”
(If you want to switch brands, wait a week. Begin by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days. Then add half new to half old for several more days, followed by one part old to three parts new until it’s all new food and the transition is complete).
Learn the commands your new dog already knows and don’t attempt to teach him any new ones for awhile.
Walk your new dog slowly through your home allowing him plenty of time to sniff around and become familiar with all of its sights and smells.
If needed, teach your new dog proper house manners from the start -- calmly and patiently. Reward good behavior with praise and treats for positive reinforcement.
Introduce your new dog to the other members of your household one by one. Unless you know that the dog enjoys approaching new people, instruct everyone to sit, silent and still, on a couch or chair and ignore him.
Allow your new dog to approach them, sniffing, whether it takes several seconds or several minutes. Only when he is relaxed should they begin to pet him lightly and gently.
Children in particular should be closely supervised to ensure that they follow these same guidelines.
Show your new dog where’s he’s to sleep (begin with a crate and progress to a doggy bed) and place a few treats around the area as added incentives.
Give your new dog some quiet, alone time to get used to his space while you remain in the room for reassurance.
For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your new dog, allowing him to settle in comfortably while you become familiar with his likes and dislikes, quirks and habits.
Begin the routine you want to establish (according to your own lifestyle) for your new dog’s pottying, eating, walking, playing and alone times, and maintain it -- calmly but firmly.
Initial resistance is to be expected, but remain firm – without impatience or anger – while your new dog gradually becomes accustomed to his new schedule.
To make the process as pleasant and reassuring as possible, spend quality time with your new dog, stroking him or brushing his coat, while talking gently and soothingly to strengthen the bond and trust between you.
If you want to change your new dog’s name, begin by saying his new name and giving him an especially good treat (chicken works well) or a belly rub. This will teach your new dog to love the sound and respond to it. Repeating this numerous times a day will speed up the process.
Limit your new dog’s activities to your home, potty and exercise areas, keeping away from neighbors and other dogs, public places and dog parks.
Invite a relative or friend over to meet your new dog. Hand them treats and tell them to be calm and gentle in their approach unless your new dog calmly approaches them first.
Gradually accustom your new dog to being alone by leaving your home briefly then returning, repeating this several times over a period of a day or two and gradually increasing the alone time from a few minutes to a half hour to an hour. This way he won’t feel abandoned. When you return, walk in calmly and don’t fuss over your dog until he’s settled down.
If your new dog whines or cries, don’t cuddle or console him. It only reinforces this “bad” behavior. Instead, praise him for good behaviors such as resting quietly in his crate or chewing contentedly on a toy. And treats always work wonders.
Slowly begin introducing your new dog to your neighbors and other dogs, closely monitoring his reactions, especially towards the dogs.
Bring your new dog to the vet to introduce them to each other, address any health or behavioral concerns, and get a new rabies certificate. For any behavioral issues you can’t resolve on your own, ask your vet for the name of a trained animal behaviorist.
Remember: making your new dog the newest member of your family is a process, and consistency is the key.
Your reward? A loving, loyal and happy companion, and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve saved this precious pup’s life.
A puppy-proofed home is a pet-safe home whatever the age of your new dog. Before those front paws cross your threshold for the first time, your home must be a health zone, not a hazard zone.
Begin the process of pet-proofing by walking through your home, room by room, searching methodically for things a dog might climb, knock over or pull down, and either secure, remove or store them. Keep all trashcans behind closed and latched doors and wastebaskets (covered if possible) out of sight. Ensure that all heating/air vents have covers. Snap specially designed plastic caps over electrical outlets. Tie electrical cords together and tuck them out of reach.
Install childproof latches to keep inquisitive paws from prying open cabinet doors in kitchens and bathrooms, and always keep the toilet lids closed. In bedrooms, keep all medications, lotions and cosmetics off accessible surfaces such as bedside tables. Store collections – from buttons, bottle caps and coins to matchboxes, marbles and potpourri – on high shelves, while keeping breakables on low surfaces to an absolute minimum.
Most chemicals are hazardous to dogs and should be replaced, wherever possible, with natural, non-toxic products. A partial list of toxic chemicals includes: antifreeze, bleach, drain cleaner, household cleaners and detergents, glue, nail polish and polish remover, paint, varnish and sealants, pesticides and rat poison.
Many indoor plants, however pretty, can prove poisonous to a dog. Since dogs are, by nature, explorers – not to mention lickers and chewers – protecting them from harm is essential. A partial list of such indoor plants includes: aloe, amaryllis, asparagus fern, azalea and rhododendron, chrysanthemum, corn plant, cyclamen, Dieffenbachia, elephant ear, jade plant, kalanchoe, lilies, peace lily, philodendron, pothos, Sago palm, schefflera and yew.
Seemingly harmless “people” food can potentially be lethal to dogs. A partial list of these includes: alcohol, avocado, chocolate, caffeinated items, fruit pits and seeds, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, and all products containing the artificial sweetener, Xylitol.
Although prevention is the key to your new dog’s well being, accidents can and do happen. The truly protective pet parents are prepared pet parents and know to keep a list of vital numbers handy:
24-hour veterinary emergency clinic
ASPCA Poison Control: 1-888-426-4435
Pet Poison Help Line: 1-800-213-6680
Hopefully, these are numbers you’ll never use. And as long as you remain vigilant, both you and your new best friend can rest, assured.
Being an informed owner means being a dog’s best friend. On the other hand, being an uninformed one can often lead to a life of misery, even death, for “man’s” best friend.
Consider the alarming number of dogs being abandoned and abused, surrendered and, all too often, euthanized in this country. Unfortunately, one of the greatest contributing factors is the failure of too many well-meaning, potential dog owners to educate themselves fully BEFORE adding a dog to their household.
The educated ones would know to thoroughly familiarize themselves with the breed they’re considering, including the breed’s physical description and personality; trainability and exercise requirements; health issues, and general care and grooming.
They would know there’s no such thing as TOO much information. The more informed they are, the more informed their ultimate decision.
They would know to choose a breed that fits in with their particular lifestyle, needs and expectations. Several examples: no high-shedding dogs in a home of allergy sufferers; no hyperactive, high-energy dogs in a small apartment; no dogs who can’t get along with cats or other family pets, and no dogs who need constant companionship if no one is home during the day.
They would know that, whatever the breed, raising a dog from puppy hood is like raising a child -- a full time responsibility.
They would know that puppies must be housetrained promptly and socialized early in order for them to mature into well-behaved and friendly dogs with good bite inhibition.
They would know to always be consistent, that discipline does NOT mean punishment, and that love, in and of itself, does NOT conquer all.
They would also know that certified trainers and supervised puppy classes can be of crucial assistance to them in raising calm and balanced dogs if they can’t manage on their own.
The flip side of this equation: the uninformed and the uneducated. The ones who, ruled by their hearts and not their heads, choose poorly from the start. The ones who, sadly and all too frequently, raise dogs who are untrained, ill mannered and often dangerous.
These are the dogs who, over time, will prove too much for their ill-equipped and increasingly frustrated owners to handle. These are the dogs who will ultimately be abandoned in empty lots or left by the side of the road. These are the dogs who will be dumped in secret outside of a local pound or shelter or, if they’re lucky, surrendered in person to a local rescue organization.
These are the dogs who will be adopted – and probably returned – by unsuspecting people intent on doing the right thing by not buying a dog from a pet store or an unscrupulous breeder. These are the dogs who, more than likely, will be euthanized due to overcrowded shelters or because of their people-biting or dog-aggressive behaviors.
These are the unfortunate innocents who will pay with their lives for their owners’ unfortunate ignorance. Thereby perpetuating an all-too-familiar and vicious cycle. And the only way to break that cycle is to turn every potential pet parent into an educated pet parent.
Ignorance never was, or ever will be, an acceptable excuse.
The problem of dog overpopulation is a global one and requires a solution on a global scale. But like every journey that begins with a single step, this particular journey must begin with every dog owner in every town and every city in the country. Those conscientious owners who act responsibly by spaying and neutering their cherished family pets.
Spaying (removing the ovaries and uterus of a female dog) and neutering (removing the testicles of a male dog) are simple procedures, rarely requiring so much as an overnight stay in a veterinary clinic. Because half of all litters are unplanned, and because puppies can conceive puppies of their own, spaying and neutering them before the age of 6 months can help break this cycle.
According to SPAY USA, an unspayed female dog, her unneutered mate and their offspring (if none are spayed or neutered) result in the births of a staggering 12,288 puppies in just 5 years.
The inevitable outcome? Hundreds of thousands of dogs being euthanized through no fault of their own. Why? Because they are the tragic, but avoidable, result of over breeding and overpopulation. Why? Because there are too few shelters to house them and too few homes to either foster or adopt them. Why? Because there are still too many dog owners unwilling to spay and neuter their pets.
The positive effects of spaying and neutering far outweigh the negatives. Females spayed before their first heat are much less likely to develop mammary cancer than those left intact. Early spaying is also their best protection against conditions like pyometritis, a potentially fatal bacterial infection of the uterus, as well as ovarian and uterine cancers. Early neutering of males protects them against testicular cancer, and helps curb both aggression and other undesirable behaviors. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions, 70 to 76 percent of reported dog bite incidents are caused by intact males.
For years, reputable rescue groups have been spaying and neutering the animals in their care before even putting them up for adoption. More recently, in an effort to address at least part of this ongoing problem, various organizations -- large and small, urban and rural, public and private -- have been springing up across the country. From the SPCA to local humane societies, spay/neuter clinics are opening and operating. Mobile spay/neuter clinics are reaching out to those unable to reach them. Many rescue groups now offer their own Spay Neuter Incentive Programs (SNIP), which provide assistance to low income households.
Imagine if there were more regional, local and mobile spay/neuter clinics. More Spay Neuter Incentive Programs. Imagine entire communities across the country, where every pet owner took personal responsibility for spaying and neutering their pets. Imagine what we, as part of the global community, could accomplish then.
Why Foster a Dog?
“Fostering a dog is not a lifetime commitment, it is a commitment to saving a life.”
This is the watchword of rescue groups everywhere.
To foster a dog is, quite simply, to save that dog’s life. A foster home provides that same dog with a safe, temporary place of refuge until he is ultimately placed in a permanent, adoptive home.
Most rescues rely solely on a network of dedicated, volunteer foster homes, and could not survive without them. And rescues NEVER have enough foster homes.
Why? Because there are more dogs in need than there are foster homes available to meet that need.
There are many benefits to fostering, many pleasant surprises and many unexpected rewards. Foster parents, past and present, describe it as one of the most memorable and gratifying experiences of their lives.
Fostering is both a way of enriching the lives of the dogs and people involved, and a constructive way for people to give back to their communities. Fostered dogs can provide hours of entertainment and love for their humans, and provide valuable life lessons for adults and children alike.
By taking a deserving dog into their homes, fosters increase that dog’s chances of being adopted. Foster families have the time and the ability to transform their foster dog, through one-on-one contact, exercise and training, into a pet any person or family would be proud to call their own.
Fostering provides a needy dog with a stable environment, coupled with love, attention and affection. While the foster family provides the food, the rescue usually provides everything else, including payment of all medical costs to ensure the dog’s ongoing health and wellbeing.
Fosters are the essential eyes and ears of rescue. By spending every day with their foster dog, fosters will learn all they can about his particular personality. They will be able to identify any behavioral issues that need to be addressed, then work on addressing them.
If fosters already have a dog – either their own or another foster -- in residence, all the better. The more animals their foster dog meets, the more socialized he will become, the more easily he will handle stress, and the more relaxed he will be around strangers. And it’s a simple matter to add another warm, furry body to their own dog’s daily walks, meal and potty schedules.
For those who have never owned a dog, fostering provides them with the unique opportunity of seeing if they themselves are suited for permanent pet parenthood.
But fostering a dog is NOT a form of trial adoption for that particular dog. There is even a term for it: foster failure. The most successful fosters are those who, despite being emotionally invested, know that they are a stepping stone towards their foster dog’s future. And that as one successfully fostered dog leaves their home, another needy and deserving dog is waiting to enter it.
Ultimately, then, fostering a dog saves not just one life, but two.
Sadder words were never spoken.
Because an errand meant to take that proverbial minute is 60 seconds too long when a dog is left unattended in a hot car.
Because, even on mild summer days, with a car parked in the shade and the windows cracked, the INSIDE temperature can rapidly reach dangerous levels.
Because a car acts like a greenhouse, trapping and magnifying the sun’s strength and heat. Both the air and upholstery temperature can rise so rapidly that a dog can’t cool down.
Because a dog’s normal body temperature is about 102° F. Raise it briefly by only two degrees, and heat exhaustion, brain damage, even death may occur.
Because, unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat. They can only cool themselves by panting and releasing heat through their paws.
Despite repeated warnings in the media, flyers distributed by animal welfare groups, and word of mouth, countless animals still die needlessly each year from heatstroke. Despite the axiom that one person can’t make a difference, in this type of situation, one person can make ALL the difference. And that person may be YOU.
If you see a dog in distress inside a car parked on the street or in a parking lot, note the make and model of the car, as well as its license plate number. Call the police, your local SPCA branch, Humane Society or animal control immediately.
Watch the dog for the more obvious signs of heatstroke: exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting); an anxious or staring expression; restlessness; excessive salivation, tremors and vomiting. While waiting for help, you may – wherever possible, but being mindful of the possible legal ramifications – choose to act on your own.
If a window is opened or a door unlocked, extricate the dog cautiously and carefully -- either alone or with assistance. Then, get him into an air-conditioned car or nearby building. Otherwise, lay him down in a cool, shady place. Wet him with cool water, but never apply ice to his body. Fan him vigorously to speed the evaporation process, which, in turn, will cool the blood and reduce his temperature. Give him cool water to drink or even ice cream to lick.
Hopefully, by now, help will have arrived, and you may have saved some neglectful owner’s pet.
A gentle reminder: don’t YOU become that same neglectful owner.
Remember there’s no such thing as ”just for a minute.“
Picture yourself on a sweltering summer day in a long winter coat. Are you hot yet? Are you itchy or thirsty? Are you desperately searching for shade?
Now picture your dogs on that same summer day. And you’ll have some idea of how THEY feel.
Protecting them from the hot sun, hot air and hot ground is essential to keeping them safe outside. All it requires is common sense and some advance planning.
Here are some suggestions:
For dogs with particularly thick or heavy coats, have a groomer lightly trim them back.
Guard against sunburn by applying either a child’s SPF 45 sun block or a specially formulated animal sunscreen to the tips of your dog’s ears, the nose and the belly.
Whether on a porch, patio or lawn, create a shaded area using planters or shrubbery.
Set up a makeshift canopy using a blanket draped across two chairs.
Limit your dog’s outdoor exercise.
Take your walks early in the morning or when the sun is setting. If the day’s particularly hot and humid, forego your walks altogether.
Turn on a garden sprinkler and let your dog run through it or fill a specially constructed doggy pool with water for him to lie in or splash about in.
Keep your dog’s water bowl filled, cool, and free of floating debris.
Avoid hot asphalt, which can quickly burn the pads of your dog’s paws. Place the back of your hand on the sidewalk or road pavement. If you can’t keep your hand there for seven seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog.
Wherever possible, walk your dog on the grass instead.
NEVER leave your dog unattended in the car. Whether in the shade with the windows cracked or with the motor running and the air conditioning on, your car can become a deathtrap within minutes.
Watch your dog for signs of heat exhaustion. Because dogs don’t sweat, their only way of cooling down is by panting or releasing heat through their paws.
Warning signs of heat exhaustion include exaggerated panting, excessive salivation, a vacant expression, restlessness or listlessness, trembling, and skin that’s hot to the touch.
If your dog is exhibiting any of these signs, get him into the shade as quickly as possible. Give him cool water to drink and either hose him down, cover him with cool, damp cloths or put him in a bathtub filled with cool water.
If your dog’s condition worsens, seek immediate medical attention.
To be a responsible pet owner is to be an informed pet owner.
The list of safety rules may seem long, but the hot days of summer are even longer.
The Many Why’s of Rescue
Why adopt a rescue puppy or dog? Why not buy one from an ad on the Internet or from a pet store? Why not buy one from a breeder? There are many reasons -- all of them humane.
The growth of the Internet has spurred the growth of ads selling pets. But it also provides anonymity to a more insidious growth: that of puppy mills and so-called “backyard” breeders. It helps them avoid accountability when they sell unhealthy or mistreated pets to unsuspecting, over-eager buyers. And it only serves to confirm the axiom: “buyer beware.”
Each time a dog is bought from an ad on the Internet, a homeless dog is left without a home.
Many pet stores rely on both puppy mills and “backyard” breeders. Like the Internet, they rely on impulse buying. A child ogles a playful puppy through a pane of glass, and that old song, “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?” begins. Few parents can refuse the insistent “Please! Please! Please!” of their children.
Each time a puppy is bought from a pet store, a surrendered dog languishes in a shelter.
There may be thousands of legitimate breeders throughout the country but there are just as many unscrupulous ones. There are no laws regulating who can and cannot breed. There are no inspections of their facilities. Even a certificate from a recognized kennel club means only that the breeder has “agreed” to its code of ethics. A piece of paper is simply that: a piece of paper.
Each time a dog is bought from an unscrupulous breeder, an abandoned dog moves closer to death in a pound.
Why, then, adopt a rescue dog?
There are tens of thousands of healthy, happy and balanced dogs available from thousands of rescue organizations across the country. Contrary to popular belief, they include purebreds as well as crossbreeds and mixed breeds. And for people intent on a specific breed, there are rescue groups devoted exclusively to a single breed of dog.
Adopting a rescue dog is saving that dog’s life. Rescue organizations are usually the last refuge for abandoned and abused dogs, surrendered and senior dogs. They are often a dog’s only escape from a puppy mill, shelter or pound. These rescued dogs are placed in loving and experienced, volunteer foster homes, where they are socialized with people and other animals.
They are spayed or neutered, de-wormed, updated on all of their vaccinations and micro-chipped. They receive whatever veterinary care they need, and are either trained or re-trained before being put up for adoption. And everything is included in the rescue’s modest adoption fees.
It is said that saving a dog makes that dog doubly grateful. By extension, then, anyone who saves a dog will be doubly blessed.
What better reasons could there be to adopt?