Having a pet for many people is like having another family member. We love our dogs because they're loving, sensitive, and often quite emotional. But for those same reasons, change can be very difficult for them.
But unlike human family members, dogs don't have the verbal capabilities for you to explain what's going on. So it's important that you help your furry family member transition in a way that makes sense to him or her.
You can learn tips for helping your dog deal with some of the most common changes that occur over a lifetime. These can help you to ease the pain of transition for both you and your canine companion.
Bringing Home a New Bundle of Joy
When you're preparing to have a new baby, a lot can happen for your dog. First, during pregnancy there can be a major shift in energy throughout the entire household.
The entire family may be feeling excited, nervous, and even a little fearful. Your dog will definitely pick up on that energy. And when you bring baby home, you'll be adding a new person to the household that becomes the center of attention.
This new baby smells different, makes funny noises, and is completely helpless. First, it's important that you try to stay calm during this transition period, though that can be admittedly difficult to do.
Be consistent with your dog and keep boundaries and limitations the same throughout pregnancy and bringing baby home. You also need to establish a boundary between your dog and your baby's room.
Make sure that you do this before you even bring the baby home. Teach your dog that the baby's room is off-limits. That said, you do want your dog to get used to the scent of your new baby.
One way you can do this is to bring items the baby has worn home before the baby comes home from the hospital. Let the dog sniff the items to get used to the smell.
When it's time to introduce baby to the new dog, it helps if your dog has been drained of excess energy and excitement. Give your pooch a long walk before you bring the baby inside so that he's likely to be calmer.
Before allowing the dog back in the house, make sure that he's calm. Then hold your baby in a very calm way and allow your dog to sniff without getting too close.
By keeping the baby at a distance, you're establishing boundaries. Make sure that you never leave your baby unattended with your dog – even the best dogs may inadvertently harm a very small infant.
At the same time, make sure to give your dog a lot of care including daily walking and keeping boundaries and routines. It's not necessary to add a lot of special toys or extra affection.
Those things can actually make your dog more excited and nervous. As your child gets older, she'll want to explore and it's important that you begin training her from an early age to be respectful of the dog.
Teach children not to pull on dogs or disturb them while sleeping or eating. Always supervise your children with your dog.
Introducing a New Furry Friend
When you're ready to add a new pet to your household, it can be a very exciting thing for your family. But your dog may or may not be as excited as you are to have a new housemate.
If you're bringing home a new dog, you don't want to just toss the two dogs into the same room and hope they like each other. There are some things you can do to make introductions go more smoothly.
For example, make sure that you introduce your dogs to each other in neutral territory. Going on a walk together around the block or even at a local park will work well.
Make sure that you have a person to handle each dog on a leash. Make sure that you are calm to begin with and don't put a lot of tension on the leash – you want both dogs to feel relaxed and calm.
And don't force the dogs to interact but instead let them go at their own pace. Dogs will naturally want to sniff each other to get acquainted. Watch both dogs to look for distress.
Both dogs should be relaxed and have open mouths. If one or both dogs gets stiff, growls, or bares their teeth you're likely to have aggression. At that point, separate the dogs and take a break before reintroducing.
Once you feel that the two dogs are relaxed and tolerating each other or are even friendly with each other, you can take them home together. At home, you can ease the transition by making sure that each dog has his own food and water bowl and toys.
You'll also want to keep the dogs separated (crate training works very well) when you're not home to supervise them. Be very patient because it can take dogs a few weeks to really settle in and feel at home.
When introducing a new cat, you'll have a different set of considerations. Cats, in particular, can become very stressed when entering a new home. Work with your dog before you bring a cat home on obedience and being calm.
If your dog is calm when the cat comes home, the cat will have less stress and will be less likely to have problems with the dog. When you bring the cat home, place him in a separate room with food, water, and a litter box.
Your dog and cat can become more familiar with each other's scents through the door. Then you can begin to introduce them in the same room keeping your dog on a leash.
Provide your dog and cat with their favorite treats when you introduce them, and keep the introduction brief. Eventually, you can leave the door open and let your cat roam.
Cats are very good at hiding when they feel threatened. Don't force your new cat to come out – give him time to get used to the surroundings. And continue to work with your dog on leaving the cat alone so that it can feel safe.
When you're not home, keep your dog and cat separated until you're sure that the two are comfortable with each other. Eventually your cat and dog may become the best of friends, but at the very least they'll learn to tolerate each other.
Adjusting to a Move
Moving is stressful for even the most organized families and that stressful energy can be passed on to your dog. Moving to a new environment really doesn't usually bother a dog.
Your dog is most concerned about being with you wherever you are. But your energy and stress can rub off on her. It can also be stressful for a dog to have a big change in routine and to travel for a long period of time.
There are a few things you can do, though, to ease this transition. First, try to keep your dog's schedule as regular as possible. That means feeding, playing, and exercising at the same times.
Taking that extra time out can make a big difference for her. Also, if you have a bed or crate that your dog really loves continue to provide that comfort for her. Your dog may feel much more relaxed having her bed in the back of the car or even traveling in her crate.
When you get to your new place, establish the areas where your pet will sleep and eat. Make sure she has some familiar toys and treats to help her settle in. By using the things you had at the previous home, your dog will settle in quickly.
As much as possible, watch your own energy levels. Your dog will be less stressed if you stay calm. It's pretty normal for a dog to skip a meal or two during the process of traveling and moving.
But once you get settled for a few days, most dogs are able to handle moves well. They're happy as long as you make the move, too.
When a Family Member Becomes Seriously Ill
When one of your family members becomes ill, it can have a big impact on the family dog. Dogs are very emotional and can sense illness in their owners. It's important that you don't ignore your dog during this time as it can create behavior problems later.
First of all, if at all possible keep your routine, boundaries, and rules the same as if everyone were healthy. Dogs need this type of structure in order to feel safe and to trust their owners.
When you take away the order, dogs can become anxious and afraid. It's not uncommon for dogs to sense weakness in their owners when they become ill and want to protect them.
While it may seem sweet for a dog to be protective, it can also be very dangerous. A dog on a leash that's protective can become aggressive and actually pull his owner too hard, causing injury.
Dogs that are being protective can also become aggressive toward other people and animals and try to keep them away from their owners. There are many cases of typically non-aggressive dogs becoming aggressive when their owner is ill and weak.
Even if you're ill, you can still be a strong leader for your dog. If you're not well enough to exercise your dog daily, try to get some help from a friend or family member to help your dog get daily exercise.
Whatever rules and boundaries were established when you were well should be kept in force during times of extended illness. Don't reinforce negative behaviors by using a calm and soothing voice.
Instead, be firm and strict and save the nice voice for when your dog is calm and doing the right thing. The main thing to remember is that you want your dog to feel secure.
Dogs like to be led by their owners and need to know the rules and boundaries so that they can feel safe.
Mourning a Human Loss
When a family member dies, it's obvious that everyone will feel grief. And that applies to dogs as well. Dogs can form intense bonds with their owners and feel devastated and sad when they go.
As a dog owner, it's important that you plan ahead for what will happen if you can no longer take care of your dog. Who will become your dog's new owner? Where will she go?
Planning ahead can make a smooth transition if the unthinkable happens. Having paperwork as part of your will that is specific about the dog can be very helpful. Just make sure that you get the possible future guardian of your dog to agree to take on this responsibility.
You can also prepare a future guardian by keeping important information prepared about your dog such as:
* Veterinarians' name and contact information
* Shot/health records
* Daily routine – times for waking, feeding, walking, etc.
* Brand of food
* Contact information for grooming and typical schedule of services
* Location of preferred boarding facility
* Preferred treats and toys
If you're the one left behind when someone dies and are taking care of the dog, it's important to that you provide support for this furry friend. Taking care of someone's beloved pet can be a great way to honor them after they pass.
Dogs will pick up on the energy of the household and certainly will be aware of grief and stress. At the same time, they can continue to feel safe if able to stick to a routine.
If you know the dog's routine do your best to stick to it and make transitions slowly if those times don't work for you. For example, if the dog normally wakes up at 6:00 A.M. to go outside, but you prefer sleeping later, start by moving it to 6:15 A.M. for a week.
Then you can go to 6:30 A.M. Continue in this manner until you've developed your preferred schedule. It's also good idea to visit a veterinarian to make sure the dog is physically healthy and ask any questions that you may have.
Taking care of a loved one's pet can be a great privilege and the loving companionship can also help ease some of your own grief.