When a new dog enters the family, there is a transition period for everyone involved: the new pet, the existing family pets and the humans in the household. While some transitions are smoother than others, it is important to allow the new family member time to adjust and learn the ropes of his new home.
In addition to the rewards of pet ownership come a lifetime of responsibilities: daily care and exercise, vet visits and yearly vaccinations, training and many years of commitment.
The first several weeks can be especially tough if the proper preparations are not made. A new pet cannot be expected to walk in the door knowing the rules and routines and obeying from the outset. The average time frame for adjustment is about three weeks; it can take longer. Unfortunately, most new pet owners do not consider this adjustment period, and as a result, the dog is returned to the shelter before he has had time to acclimate and settle in.
A common mistake new dog owners make is not setting boundaries and giving the new dog too much freedom too soon. A new dog, whether a puppy or adult, should be crated in the beginning. This is to protect the house from the dog and the dog from the house.
Puppies may need some house training, and the crate is a good tool to facilitate this training. Crates also promote routine, and dogs are creatures of routine. The crate should be used as his den, or safe place, not a punishment. Give treats in the crate or special chew toys to show a positive correlation with the crate.
Expect potty accidents in the beginning. Even if the dog is coming from a previous home where he was house-trained, the new environment may make him nervous, and accidents are understandable.
If there are existing pets in the home, the introduction should be slow and in a neutral setting, such as a park, so that the existing dog does not become territorial. Both should be on leashes and allowed to investigate each other at their own pace. Most shelters and rescues will encourage a meet-and-greet to make sure the dogs are compatible prior to the new dog going home. The new dog and existing dogs should not be left alone unattended until it is determined that everyone is going to get along.
If there are children in the home, make sure boundaries are put in place. Young children like to pull ears and tails, and this is not acceptable for a pet at any time and may cause a dog to bite in fear. Pets need to be protected from children just as children need to be protected from pets. Therefore, children should never be left unsupervised with a new pet. The breed does not matter; a poodle can bite, too!
ADOPTION EVENT: Animal Rescue New Orleans will have adoptable dogs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Palmer Park Arts Market, South Claiborne and South Carrollton avenues, New Orleans. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SECOND-CHANCE SUNDAYS: Every Sunday in May, the Louisiana SPCA will reduce the adoption fee of all cats and dogs 6 months and older by 50 percent. Adoption hours on Sundays are from noon to 4 p.m. The Louisiana SPCA is at 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd., New Orleans, and its phone number is (504) 368-5191.
DINING FOR A CAUSE: Every Wednesday in May, Zea Café, 1655 Hickory Ave., Harahan, will donate a portion of your bill to Animal Rescue New Orleans when patrons mention ARNO.
SPAY/NEUTER DISCOUNTS: The Louisiana SPCA Community Clinic is offering $20.15 spay/neuter surgeries through August for all pets residing in Orleans Parish. In addition, microchips will be available at a reduced fee of $10 in conjunction with a spay/neuter surgery or wellness visit, and trap-neuter-release for feral cats will be reduced to $10. Call (504) 363-1333 or visit la-spca.org/communityclinic.
LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact information to email@example.com. In Jefferson Parish, email firstname.lastname@example.org and bbourgeois @jeffparish.net, and in St. Bernard Parish, email email@example.com.
Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at animalrescuecolumn@ gmail.com, www.animal rescueneworleans.org or call its recorded information line at (504) 571-1900.