Ways to help newly adopted dogs adapt to their new lives
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
When we lost our dog Harper in October, after losing Keeper in March, we were petless for the first time in decades. Our plan was to continue fostering kittens but wait a year or so before getting another dog so that we could travel more frequently and for longer periods.
That lasted all of two months. Four days before Christmas, we adopted Sparkles, a 10-year-old cavalier King Charles spaniel, who was being fostered in Los Angeles by a volunteer for Cavalier Rescue USA.
Sparkles is everything I love about adopting an adult or senior dog. She’s perfectly housetrained, has a nice personality, knows how to sit, comes immediately when her name is called, has nice manners in the house and is in excellent health for a dog her age, with a little help from the rescue group, which had her spayed and her teeth cleaned. She has a lot of energy and enjoys going for walks, but when I’m working, she’s happy to sack out on the sofa. (Read more of my feelings on senior dogs here: uexpress.com/pets/pet-connection/2014/11/10.)
As well as Sparkles has adjusted to living in our home, though, any such change is sure to be a little nerve-wracking for a dog who has been recently adopted. Our goal was to help her feel welcome and to provide guidance so she could easily learn the boundaries in this new place.
Shelters and rescues often advise adopters of the “rule of threes.” That is, it generally takes dogs three days to decompress as they transition from a shelter or foster home into their new home; three weeks to become used to the new routine and maybe start testing boundaries; and three months before they truly feel at home with their new family.
Spend those first three days introducing your new dog to the home and surrounding environment. On arrival, take them for a walk around the neighborhood so they can have a chance to potty and take in new sights, sounds and smells. Then calmly bring them into the house and walk them through it as well. Keep things low-key -- no kids jumping up and down and giving hugs, and no throng of neighbors all eager to meet the latest family member. Put all of that on hold for at least a couple of weeks so your dog has a chance to gradually settle into the new space. Just as if you were housetraining a puppy, take them out regularly until you learn their potty schedule. That minimizes the risks of any accidents in the house. Remember, your calm attitude will set the tone for your dog’s behavior.
Cavalier Rescue provided us with a handout noting that almost all dogs have some reaction to being rehomed. Usually minor and brief, these reactions typically fall into three broad categories: being initially clingy, barky or dependent; keeping to him- or herself and sleeping a lot for the first few days; or being more active or excitable than normal, possibly combined with housetraining accidents.
Sparkles has been on the clingy end of the spectrum, following us around -- especially if we go into the kitchen. The handout advises: “Keep in mind that the dog doesn’t know the rules of your house and doesn’t know you yet, so be gentle but matter-of-fact and consistent. Don’t inadvertently reinforce behaviors that you don’t want to see long-term, and praise good behavior that you want to see repeated.”
By the third week, your dog should be familiar with the household routine, and you’ll start to see more of their true personality emerge. Start working on any manners training they may need, continuing to use positive reinforcement, calm feedback (avoid angry responses) and praise when you like what they’re doing. That’s how they learn.
After three months, dogs generally feel comfortable and at home. Right now, we’ve had Sparkles less than a week, but we’re looking forward to getting to know her.
Tips, tricks to
keep cats safe
Q: We’re new to cats. What should we know about keeping ours safe?
A: We always hear that cats have nine lives, but my fellow veterinarians and I know that’s not true. Prevention is key. Here’s my best advice on keeping them safe and healthy.
Don’t let your cat roam outdoors. Free-roaming cats are at risk of getting lost or closed in a neighbor’s garage or shed; hit by a car crossing the street or run over in your driveway because you didn’t see them; attacked or killed by a coyote or a neighbor’s loose dog; or infection or disease from fighting with another cat. If you want them to experience the pleasures of being outdoors, build a catio (fearfreehappyhomes.com/catios-and-rabbitats-allow-safe-outdoor-fun-for-furry-friends).
Cats who have access to the garage may climb up into the car engine, lured by warmth and that interesting ticking sound made by metal components as they cool. Thump the hood every time before getting in the car and starting it to give a sleeping cat a chance to exit. This can also wake up a cat who’s sleeping underneath your car.
Inside the house, always check inside your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer before starting them. Cats love to get inside enclosed spaces, especially if they’re warm, like the dryer. I know of too many instances where people started these appliances without realizing their cat was inside.
Cats love toys with a lure dangling from a string. They’re great for providing a cat with exercise, but put them away when playtime is over. Cats often swallow strings, yarn, thread and the plastic ties around newspapers, to name just a few of the linear objects that can cause obstructions and require surgical intervention. Don’t leave out knitting, sewing or craft supplies that might look like playthings to your cat -- and face it, everything looks like a toy to a cat. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Tips on travel
-- If you’re moving cross-country, you may be wondering about the best way to transport your parrot. Fortunately, they can do well on road trips or in the air -- by plane, of course, not their own wing power. Avian veterinarian Brian Speer says the first thing you’ll need is a good carrier. Start with a high-impact plastic dog crate, and fit it with a secure perch that keeps your bird off the floor and facing the door. For a bird the size of, say, a cockatoo, choose a crate that would hold a small or medium-size dog. Get a health certificate from your veterinarian, even if you’re traveling by car. For air travel, check well in advance to make sure your bird will be allowed in the cabin. The airline may require that the carrier fit beneath the seat or limit reservations to quiet birds. In a car or plane, provide hydration by offering moisture-rich fruit, such as oranges or apples.
-- Antibiotics have saved countless lives, but they should be used with care. Not all antibiotics are the same. They each have target bacteria, and when used against the wrong bacteria, they don’t have any effect and bacterial resistance can develop, making infections difficult or impossible to fight. Against viral or fungal infections, antibiotics won’t help and can make the condition worse. Finally, improper use or overuse of antibiotics is an environmental hazard. When your pet is sick, see the veterinarian and get diagnostic tests that will allow targeted treatment that works.
-- We’re always entertained by books authored by veterinarians. Beyond James Herriot, here are some recent entries to that category: “The Battle Cry of a Siamese Kitten,” by Dr. Philipp Schott; “All Creatures Weird and Dangerous,” by Dr. Timm Otterson; and “My Patients Like Treats,” by Dr. Duncan MacVean. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.