Loyal and lovable, dogs make exceptional friends and family pets, but there are a few things to consider before bringing one home. Whether you’re interested in a new puppy or a rescued dog of any age, below are some useful tips to help incorporate a new pet into the family:
Choose wisely—When selecting a dog for your family, remember that different breeds are known to exhibit specific traits. Animal trainer April Mackin explains: “Cocker spaniels, for example, tend to be sweet-natured, playful dogs that make great family pets, but being a sporting breed, regular exercise is especially important for them, so make sure those traits blend well with your family’s personality.”
Make a good first impression—When meeting your new dog, whether at a pound or a pet shop, give the animal a chance to get to know you. “A bad idea would be to overzealously hug the animal and smother it with kisses, as that could feel very invasive,” encourages Mackin. “Give him time to sniff and approach you, allowing him to warm up to you gradually.”
Prepare the home—Those first few days when a dog is introduced into your home are crucial for a successful transition into your life. To make his new environment welcoming and safe, set up protected areas like a crate or a zone that’s been contained by a baby gate. Be especially mindful of any areas your pup might get into in the backyard. Those new spring bulbs, for example, might be poisonous if eaten, and the fertilizer, even if organic, can be harmful to your pet if ingested.
Prepare the family—Discuss the training that needs to be put into your new pet’s first few months. One great way to start is to watch a classic puppy love film together such as “Lady and the Tramp,” just released in a brand-new Blu-ray and DVD Diamond Edition for home viewing. The film is family friendly, portrays many situations you’ll encounter with your new pet and can be paused while you discuss issues as they arise.
Set rules—Perhaps most important when training a new pet is to decide as a family what the rules will be for your dog and commit to being consistent with those rules. Mackin asks, “Is it okay for him to be on the sofa? If the answer is no, then be sure everyone knows this and agrees to follow this rule.” When training an animal, it’s important to be kind but also firm, even if the dog whines or begs. Setting and following rules will help your new pet understand what is expected and your pet will be happier knowing he is doing the right thing.
Schedule bathroom breaks—If dogs learn that they will be let out regularly, it’s easier for them to become house trained. They need to trust that you will take care of them and respond to their needs. “Praise your dog every time he goes potty outside at first,” says Mackin. “They want to please you, so they’ll pick up on this faster if they think it gets them rewarded. Rescue dogs may try to mark inside your home the first few days, but this behavior will diminish with gentle yet firm reminders. Puppies may require extra patience, as sometimes they simply can’t hold it.”
Make time for exercise—Mackin reminds: “Pets need regular exercise just like people and daily walks are a great way to accomplish this.” Be sure to use a leash for safety unless in an area safe from traffic or crowds.
Reward good dogs—When your dog successfully “does his business” outside, comes when called or just waits patiently at the door while you gather his leash, heap on the praise! “Your dog is looking to you for signals affirming good behavior,” says Mackin.
Be patient—Sometimes a dog may be distracted, tired or just need more time to learn a command. It’s important not to let out your frustration on the dog. “Keep training sessions short—two to three minutes—and if things aren’t going well, take a break and come back to it when you’re calm and both you and the dog can focus,” says Mackin. If you think you may need help, go to your local SPCA or vet and ask where they would recommend you go for some local dog training classes. - NAPSI