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Choosing and Getting a Pet - A Guide to Success

By Robin Tierney

NOTE: The content on this website cannot be used in connection with any profit-seeking activity due to agreements with the writers, editors and sources contributing to the content. These articles may NOT be reproduced in any form without author permission. To contact the author, email Robin at Tierneydog@yahoo.com.


* Questions to Ask Before Getting a Pet
* Selecting the Right Pet
* Shelter Dog Adoption
* Supplies
* Setting Home Rules
* Plan for a Successful Homecoming
* Helping the Pet and Family Adjust
* More Tips for Homes with Children
* Links to More Information

Questions to Ask Before Getting a Pet

Dogs and cats are living, feeling beings with needs and emotions. They're a big responsibility requiring time, patience, work and money. They need your care every day, no matter how busy you are. Make sure this is the right time in your life to adopt a pet before you start looking - and ask yourself the following questions suggested by the AKC and animal behavior specialists:

* Have I read extensively about breeds and breed mixes? And about housebreaking, training, behavioral problems and daily care of a pet? Knowlege is key to success.

* Why do I want a pet? If the children are begging for a pet...you just moved to a bigger place...or you're lonely...these alone are not good reasons to get a pet. Make sure you are ready for the daily effort and the lifelong commitment.

* Is everyone in my home ready to have a dog join the family and live with us for the dog's lifetime? Very young children often cannot control themselves around pets, or may be frightened of dogs. Can you depend on your children not to pester a dog and not to let a pet escape out the door? Will you be able to watch the dog at all times when children visit your home? A tip: It can help to pet-sit a reliable dog of a family member or trusted friend to see how your family members respond to the presence and responsibility of having a pet.

* Is now the right time to have a pet? Are you just starting a family - with stressful adjustments ahead? Are you beginning a new job that could mean late hours, frequent travel or relocation? Wait until your life is more stable and under control.

* Does my lifestyle match the pet that I desire? If you cannot commit to vigorous daily exercise, avoid getting a young dog or dogs of active breeds. Kids in your home? Don't get a herding breed with a tendency to nip or a reactive "protection" dog...and avoid puppies too. Instead, consider mature, calm animals whose personalities are known. Also remember that a small pet can feel pretty big when behavior problems arise. Come to terms with the size, energy level and temperament you can handle, and match your choice to your lifestyle and living situation.

* Do I have the right environment for the chosen animal? Do you have enough room, in the home and outside, to meet a particular dog's exercise needs? Is the yard fenced in? If you live in an apartment or condo, where can the dog be walked? Will your apartment neighbors complain about barking and romping? Also keep in mind that a fearful pet may be a poor match for a congested, noisy city.

* Do I have time for a pet? Your pet can't take care of himself. Complete care is required on a daily basis, and dogs require training. Do you have the time to housebreak and obedience-train a puppy, or train a kitten to use a litter box? Can you adapt your schedule to allow for obedience training and teaching the dog good house manners so that he can become a good companion? Delay choosing and getting a pet until you're sure you have time each day.

* Who will take the pet out for exercise and pottying at least four times a day? Chores should be discussed and assigned before adoption.

* How many hours of the day will the pet be left alone? Is this too long for a dog to hold his urine? If so, are you prepared to have a petsitter or pet walker come by each day? If considering a puppy, will you be able to arrange for someone reliable to take the pup out every 4 hours or so to become housebroken?

* Where will the animal be kept when no one is home? A crate is advised for use during the transition period to help in housetraining, particularly for young dogs. And a safe, pet-proof room is advised for any animal.

* Can I afford a pet? You'll need to budget for daily care items such as food, brushes, leashes, ID tags and toys, plus crates (highly recommended for any dog you adopt), beds, litter boxes, pet carriers...petsitters or boarding at times you travel without the pet...and ongoing expenses for vet care and grooming. Put aside money to cover medicines, heartworm preventive, flea control products and major medical emergencies. If you're adopting a young or active pet, expect to pay for the replacement of a few shoes, cushions and valuables now and then.

* Do I have the patience for a pet? Behavioral problems come with the territory, so you'll want to read about ways to avoid and solve problems and practice obedience training. Prepare for challenges from muddy paw prints to furniture scratches, fleas to accidents on the carpet, fur on rugs and couches, and a few destroyed shoes and other personal items. Time, patience and training can help you eventually solve most problems, but ask yourself if you're honestly ready for the challenges of having a pet.

* Can I make sure my dog gets regular interaction with people? This is important for socializing a dog. He needs supervised, positive exposure to other people of various ages and backgrounds. He also needs enough exposure to other animals so that he is at least reasonably calm and controllable when passing them on the street. Socialization is needed from the start; it cannot be postponed, or you will likely have problems when going out in public with your dog or when having guests to your house.

* How big the dog will grow? How active the dog will be? That cute little puppy may well grow into a large, rambunctious dog.

* Do I have a good veterinarian and puppy kindergarten class or obedience trainer lined up? Don't wait until you have an immediate need for help. Obedience training will help you instill good behavior from the start. And puppy kindergarten is ideal for socializing young canines.

* What will happen to my pet when I travel, or if something happens to me? Pet owners need to plan for those times when they're unable to care for their pets. Before getting a pet, make sure you can find a good petsitter or boarding kennel. Make plans with friends and family in case you are stuck at work for extra hours, or in case of an accident. Remember, a companion animal is totally dependent upon you.

* What if I have to move? Shelters nationwide euthanize hundreds of pets daily for this very reason. Take the effort to find a new home that allows pets. Save money in advance so you can afford pet deposits. There are resources for locating pet-friendly rentals.

* Does anyone in the home have allergies? What will you do to make sure allergies do not interfere with your ability to keep the pet? If anyone in the home is prone to allergic reactions, it's wise to consult an allergy specialist in advance.

* Is my child driving the decision to get a pet? Counsels Mary Jane Checchi, author of "Are You the Pet For Me?": "A wise decision will take into account your feelings and wishes and those of your children, but it also will be based on realistic expectations of your children's ability to help you care for a pet, careful planning, an understanding of what it takes to care for a pet, and a matching of your family's lifestyle and resources to a pet's needs.... The simple fact is that kids are kids: When they are young enough to be at home most of the time, they are too young to take care of a pet. When they are old enough to assume this responsibility, they are developing interests and friendships outside the home and probably won't be around enough to follow through."

* Will I listen to animal adoption volunteers and breed specialists with an open mind? Learning sometimes involves information that may be new or even disappointing (such as hearing that a trait of the breed you like may not mesh with your lifestyle or family, or that you might need to invest in a crate for housebreaking a pup or a fully fenced yard for exercising a Dalmatian). It won't help you to shoot the messenger, when the volunteer or breeder is just being honest about exercise needs, size and energy level at maturity, grooming requirements, suitability for interacting with small children, and other realities related to a breed or individual animal.

* Will I be a responsible owner? Make sure you can give a pet a long, healthy life in your home.

After determining the kind of dog you want, attend dog and adoption shows, talk to owners of breeds under consideration, check out websites and books, and seek out only responsible breeders if you're set on buying an animal, or adopt from a breed rescue group, mixed breed rescue or shelter. Make your decisions based on reason, not emotion.

Selecting the Right Pet

Some studies show that fewer than half of family dogs live out their lives with their original owners. Sadly, millions of pets enter shelters across our nation every year, so many due to no fault of their own. By making the right choice, properly preparing for having a pet and investing in socializing an adopted dog, you can avoid adding to the grim game of musical homes.

The desire to combine the selection of a pet with saving an unwanted animal is a wonderful goal. So proceed with knowledge and patience. First, ask yourself the questions in the preceding section...then follow these tips:

* Start off on the right foot and ensure a better relationship by taking the time to find the right animal to realistically match your needs and lifestyle.

* A purebred appearance does not mean that the animal is mentally or physically superior to a mixed breed dog. Honestly assess each dog's capacity to become a loving member of your family. Mixed breed dogs are equally likely to be lovable and are truly unique.

* Do you have a busy schedule or long hours? Puppies and young dogs require lots of time and attention. Puppies can hold their bladders only 4 or 5 hours. Young dogs and even older dogs of active breeds require substantial exercise every day, or behavioral problems will arise. A more mature, calmer dog is a better choice for busy people.

* Have children? Select an adult dog who is already well socialized with children of that age. Good books for parents to read include "Are You the Pet For Me?" by Mary Jane Checchi and "Childproofing Your Dog: A Complete Guide to Preparing Your Dog for the Children in Your Life" by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson.

* Do you have children under age 12? Getting a dog can be as hard as adding another child to your household. And a puppy is usually more difficult and time-consuming than is a mature dog. Many families find that with the demands of raising children and social activities, they don't have time to housebreak or train a puppy. And soon, the little puppy becomes a big dog jumping on children and guests, begging for attention, even getting into trouble. Most families should consider a more mature dog whose size and temperament is known. A dog who seems happy, active, likes to be touched, and is not sensitive to handling and noise is typically a good choice for homes with children.

* Obedience training is recommended for every household member, so everyone is practicing the same techniques (consistent practice is the key to training).

* Want a puppy? Too many people let their motherly instincts drown out better sense. Puppies are usually more time-consuming to manage and train than are mature dogs. A puppy is not forever: no matter how cute, all puppies grow up, and grow quickly. A cute, sweet little puppy can become a rambunctious and difficult dog if not given consistent, effective obedience training. Being good with children is highly dependent on the breed, temperament and practicing good obedience training. If you have a busy household, a puppy is not the best choice. Puppies require more supervision and training, especially for discouraging common behavior such as jumping, chewing and nipping.

* What size dog is right for you? If you have children in the home, tiny breeds are a poor choice, since children can accidentally hurt the dog, and many small breeds are naturally wary of children (and many quite willing to bite). Choose a dog with whom your children can safely play. Furthermore, size does not indicate energy level. Some small, boisterous terriers seem to take up more room and time than a large calm dog. If you live in an apartment or condo, look for a reasonably quiet dog - and practice techniques for avoiding separation anxiety from day one. When left alone, a dog with separation anxiety will often howl and bark, as well as destroy things out of fear.

* What about fur? Regardless of size, certain breeds require more grooming.

* If you have allergies, prepare yourself before getting a dog. It is estimated that nearly one-third of the 55 million Americans with allergies are allergic to their own pets. While some folks assume that a dog who sheds less will be easier on allergies, the allergic reactions are triggered by a protein found in pet saliva, dander and urine. Many people with allergies do fine with their dogs, but it helps to keep the house clean using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, keep pets off your bed, use dander neutralizers on the fur, and to wash hands after petting the dog. High quality HEPA air filtration machine are also recommended.

In addition, some enzyme preparations available from pet supply stores and online merchants can be rubbed on the dog's fur to help neutralize dander. Taking these preemptive steps may allow the adopter to keep the dog in the bedroom - which is a good move for bonding and socialization, since dogs are pack animals.

* Get familiar with your local animal control laws...and realize that things have changed since the olden days. While Lassie ran off-leash at the farm, modern-day life in the city and suburbs makes it necessary to always walk a dog on-leash...for the safety of everyone. And considering how many pets get hurt in or taken from their own fenced yards, dogs need to be supervised when outdoors.

* Think carefully before getting a pet, especially if you may be going through a change such as a move, career change, marriage, new baby or going off to college. Sadly, many people adopt without realistically considering the time, effort, expense and long-term involvement of having a pet. Keep in mind that most colleges do not permit pets in campus housing, and it can be very hard to find a rental that allows pets.

When visiting shelters, adoption fairs or breeders:

* Avoid snap judgments. Do not be swayed by emotion or cuteness. Plan to make several trips to the shelter before you find an animal who is the right choice for you.

* When you handle the animal, make sure a shelter worker or volunteer assists you. Watch how the animal reacts to the worker. Look for any signs that the animal is hand-shy or skittish. Beware of taking an aggressive dog.

* Ask lots of questions about the animals who interest you.

* Test for temperament, such as by rattling your keys lightly near the pup and rolling him gently on his back. You'll find good guidance in several of the books about choosing a dog in the book list noted at the end of this tipsheet. However, do not judge solely on the basis of such tests, especially with a pup or with a dog who has not yet had the advantage of a caretaker who socialized him. Responses may vary depending on when the pup last napped or ate or played with littermates, or how many new faces the dog has seen. Also weigh the opinion of folks who have spent time with the pup or dog.

* For many people, the safest animal to select is one who seems comfortable in noisy as well as quiet areas.

* Realistically assess your capabilities before taking an animal that has a major physical or behavioral problem. Contact your veterinarian or a canine behaviorist for advice.

* Never buy from pet shops or backyard breeders. See the link at the end for details.

* Expect an application process, which may include an interview, application form, veterinary reference check and home visit. Animal welfare groups and shelters take the time to conduct these steps in order to make good matches and to assess the readiness of adoption applicants. After all, the goal is a successful, lifetime placement. Pets are abandoned and returned to shelters too often due to people who truly wanted the animal but were not fully prepared to follow through.

Right before you adopt:

* Rub an old shirt or towel on the surfaces of the shelter enclosure to pick up familiar scents, then reunite the dog with the item when you bring her home.

* Plan to get help in advance in case the animal has trouble adjusting to your home. Line up a good canine behaviorist. If your local shelter offers counseling or training programs, take advantage of those resources.

* Even if you encounter no significant transition problems, sign up for basic obedience classes. And get and read books about dog behavior and care. This will help you prevent problems and help the dog become a well-behaved member of the family.

* Remember that the most important factors to success are how well you educate yourself before getting a dog - and how well you educate the dog afterwards.

* Above all, remember: adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment. If you are not sure you can make that commitment yet, a good way to enjoy time with animals is to volunteer at your local humane society or shelter.

Adopting from Shelters

This section is adapted from "Adopting a Shelter Dog" by Gary Wilkes. For his complete article, see http://animalnewsnetwork.org/canine/adopting.shtml.

Many adopters place too much emphasis on emotional appeal and too little on research and preparation. Starting with knowledge and realistic expectations is key.

* Where do the animals come from?
Shelter animals come as the result of random breeding, puppy mills and sometimes even individual breeders. The pet shop puppy that sold for $800 at Christmas could easily be at the local animal shelter by Memorial Day. The litters of mixed breed pups that flood shelters each year are the result of the same back yard breedings that are listed in the newspaper. The breeds at a shelter usually run the gamut and reflect canine preferences of the local community. There are usually dogs of all ages.

* Why did the dogs wind up at the shelter?
Dogs are often surrendered to a shelter for behavioral reasons. Usually, the "problems" are correctable with common and commonsense training. For example, many owners who give up dogs because the dogs were not housetrained should have realized it was the owner's responsibility to train the dog. Others are surrendered because the owners did not want the daily responsibility of caring for a pet and/or because they felt they could not handle the other problems in their lives, so the dog was the first to go. Some folks give up dogs after they grow out of the cute puppy stage, get bigger and stronger, and require more food, training and vet care. In some cases, pets are relinquished because the owner had a serious accident, moved into a health care facility/nursing home, became terminally ill, or died.

It is a good idea to quiz shelter workers who have handled the dog to find out any information about the dog's temperament.

Typically with stray dogs, you will have to wait for several days to adopt a stray, to give the owner a chance to reclaim their pet. Owner released dogs are the property of the shelter and may be adopted immediately. Owner released animals often have a more complete history than strays. You may be able to find out if the animal has any medical problems, special dietary needs or even obedience training.

* Have they been abused?
A common assumption is that an animal who appears fearful, in a shelter, is one who had experienced abusive treatment in a former home. For many dogs this is an incorrect assumption. It is far more likely that the sudden confinement in a kennel is the real culprit. These dogs are frightened by the unusual nature of the experience rather than any particular history of abuse. Dogs that have been exclusively around humans may be terrified by being surrounded by other dogs. Once the animal is away from the kennel area it may display normal behavior. It is always a good idea to try to examine the animal in a relatively quiet setting before you make a decision. Many shelters have "get acquainted" areas that are more intimate than a cement run amidst barking dogs.

* Are they healthy?
Every animal in every shelter has been exposed to disease, either just prior to, or once it arrives. Regardless of the efforts of the staff, an animal could possibly get sick. While there is always the potential for a problem, it is dependent upon how the particular shelter practices good sanitation procedures and vaccination of their animals. It is a good idea to take your adopted pet to your own vet soon after adoption.

Supplies To Get Before Homecoming

Some supplies to have before bringing a dog home:

* I.D. tag with your address and phone number. A dog should wear this at all times.

* Fitted collar (buckle is better than adjustable). Its key function is to hold the I.D. tag.

* Leash. Choose one that's comfortable on your hands. Choose a 4- or 6-foot. Retractable leashes are unreliable for active and strong dogs.

* Head harness, training collar, Martingale collar or neck/chest harness. Use one for walking the dog. To prevent injury, do not keep chain collars on the dog except for walking.

* Crate (the folding wire type is most convenient) and/or baby gates. Choose a safe, secure place to confine the dog when you cannot watch him for the first few days or weeks until you can allow freer roam. Confine the dog in a family area, such as a family room or kitchen. Never leave a dog in a damp, darker or cold lonely basement; this leads to housebreaking and behavioral problems. Never in a garage, where many dangers lurk. And do not leave a dog outside unattended for safety reasons.

Avoid confining a dog longer than he can hold his bladder. Let a dog relieve himself before leaving the dog home alone or otherwise confined. See crate training and related tips on the internet.

* Bowls for water and food.

* Comb and brush.

* Dog bed.

* Decent pet food. The better the food, the healthier the dog. Some people even feed simple, home-made diets.

* Safe toys such as Kongs. Note: avoid rawhide bones, pig-hooves or other treats over which some dogs may fight with another pet or a child (sometimes a dog will try to guard a highly coveted treat from adult owners).

* Pet urine clean up products. Realize that potty accidents will most likely occur the first few days or weeks.

* Note: in most regions of the United States, monthly heartworm preventive pills are recommended. Get them from your veterinarian.

How to Set Home Rules

* Before bringing a dog home, work out doggie duties in advance with the other members of your household. Stress that pet ownership is a ongoing commitment, and not something one does only when it's convenient.

Decide: Who will walk the dog...exercise the dog...feed the dog...and when? Set up a schedule for walking, relieving and feeding the dog. Everyone must abide by the schedule, which is critical during the first few weeks for housetraining success.

Designate one adult in the home as the primary caretaker so that the pet's needs do not become lost in the shuffle of busy schedules. On the other hand, be realistic in your expectations. Children should be assigned only manageable, age-appropriate, "light" duties...and if a spouse or roommate is not reliable, you will need to pick up the slack. The major tasks of caring for and walking a dog are adult-level responsibilities. Besides, children walking dogs without direct adult supervision has led to many accidents and lost dogs.

* Determine as a family which areas of the house are off-limits. And where will the pet eat...sleep...and potty?

* Decide whether the dog be allowed on furniture. Many canine specialists advise not to allow a dog on furniture, at least not until the dog has begun obedience training and the people in the home have established themselves as leaders of the pack. When a dominant dog sleeps on the people's beds, the dog may consider herself equal or greater in leadership than the humans in the house. A tip for keeping pets off furniture: place aluminum foil or bubble-wrap on seats. Most dogs and cats do not like the sound or feeling of these materials. Give the pet an enticing alternative in the form of his own comfy pet bed near the people-furniture.

* Convey the importance of keeping shoes, clothing, toys, knick-knacks, snacks and any potentially hazardous items out of the pet's reach.

* Especially if you have more than one pet, instruct adults and children not to toss treats or toys on the floor, and instead teach the new dog to gently take the item from your hand only when you give the dog the OK to do so.

* If you have more than one pet in the home, you may have to feed the new dog separately and eliminate the chances of pets fighting over food (or stealing from the cat's bowl).

* It can't be stressed enough: no matter where you obtain your dog, no matter what the breed, do not leave young children and dogs alone together without direct adult supervision.

* Make sure everyone agrees upon the house rules for canines and abides by them, or else dog may end up confused, spoiled or troubled. If you and your family (wisely) agree not to give the dog table scraps or let the dog jump on visitors, stick to the plan and inform visitors as well.

* Arrange to take and practice obedience training together, using a positive reinforcement-based approach. Start this right after getting the pet so that he will learn good behavior before he has the chance to learn bad behavior. Make sure everyone in the household practices the same approaches, uses consistent verbal language and abides by the home rules for the pet. Otherwise, the pet will be confused and delayed in learning what behaviors you desire.

By the way, in addition to the many excellent dog training and behavior books now available for adults, there are several very good ones for younger and older children. See the book list link below.

* Discuss with all household members that it will take everyone's help to teach the new dog good manners. For example, most people, young and old, accidentally encourage pups to jump on people by rewarding the jumping pup with attention. Some children and visitors even deliberately invite the dog to jump up. Teach everyone to ignore and leave the pup when he tries to jump up. Dogs do "what works." They want attention, so give positive attention only to desirable behaviors that you want the dog to repeat. Have everyone teach the dog that if he sits, he'll get positive attention and praise.

Plan for a Successful Homecoming

If you have other dogs, arrange the homecoming so that your other dogs can meet the new dog on neutral territory. If you have cats, make sure your cats have a safe haven to escape from the dog. Keep the leash on the dog indoors for the first hours or days (only when you're with him), and give an immediate, firm leash correction if the dog attempts to threaten the cats or engage in other undesirable behavior. To avoid other pets becoming jealous, be sure to pay attention to them too. For detailed guidance, see tipsheets about introducing new dogs to resident animals.

Plan for a calm homecoming in a controlled environment. Donít have guests or neighbors over to greet your new dog the first few dayd; this will be overwhelming and distracting.
Limit visitors and excitement until the dog gets used to his new home and family.

Schedule your time so you can introduce the new dog to his potty place, the yard, the house, his crate, as well as all household members. Also start implementing your schedule for feeding and taking the pup or dog out to potty on the first day to help him learn the routine in his new home. Remember, this may well be the first time he will be introduced to a routine.

To avoid triggering separation anxiety, resist the urge to spend every minute of the first day or weekend with the dog. Instead, practice putting the dog in the crate or pet-proofed room, leaving awhile, and returning. Gradually increase the duration from a few seconds, to a few minutes, to a hour and then longer. Use the break to run to the store or do errands. This will help the dog learn that is natural for his new people to leave the house, and that he can depend on them to return. By not caving in every time he whines and wimpers, he'll soon realize that protesting does not work...and that he doesn't have to fear being alone. Of course, give him the chance to relieve himself before practicing these techniques, since it's not reasonable to expect a new dog to know to "hold it" until you return. First, he needs to learn a routine and that you will actually return in time.

Take the dog out every hour, and when he potties, praise and reward with a tidbit and short play session.

Be prepared to clean up housebreaking accidents. Even a housebroken dog is likely to have a few accidents due to the major change in his environment and life. Expect leg lifts indoors particularly if the dog is not neutered or was recently neutered.

Start day one by teaching your dog appropriate behavior through consistent, positive reinforcement.

Helping the Dog (and Family) Adjust

* Bring your pet home at a quiet time...not during a holiday celebration or in the midst of a move or other event affecting or disrupting the household. The new pet will require lots of attention to help him assimilate, feel secure and begin to learn good house manners.

* Begin your pet care routine the first day. Pets thrive on routine, so this will help to calm the newcomer and smooth her assimilation into your family's schedule.

* Family member status. Treat your dog as a member of the family, an indoor resident. Don't leave a dog outside unattended, since he can eventually learn to escape the yard or someone can harm or take him. It's not worth the risk.

* Leadership. Help the dog learn who's leader in the house and that all humans in the house rank above the dog. Canines are pack animals who need to know the home hierarchy and who is leader of the pack. If the human doesn't act as the "alpha," the dog will be confused and may try to take charge himself. From the start, teach your dog that you are the leader of the pack, that you are worthy of respect, and that he can depend on you for guidance and protection (not the other way around). Teach your dog to respect other humans, and help others (especially children) learn how to earn the dog's trust. See the Dog Tipsheet about Leadership.

* Socialization and training essentials. Like children, dogs depend on adults to teach them good behavior. Remember that dogs need order to feel secure. They depend on routine.

When the dog engages in something unacceptable, nip that in the bud immediately. Warn him in a loud, disapproving voice - Ah-AH-AHH! or NO! (Some trainers note that dogs get immune to the overused sound of "no!") If the dog is on leash, give a quick leash correction, but do not choke the dog or keep the training collar in a choke-hold. Then immediately instruct him to do something good, such as "sit". Praise him verbally, and with a toy or food treat if you have access to one, as soon as he obeys. It is always a good idea to substitute a positive behavior for a negative one. It is easier and more effective for the dog to "learn to do something desirable" than to "stop doing something undesirable."

Reward the dog for good behavior. "Rover, good boy!" and a pat on the head or neck rub. Give him ample, regular opportunities to "do good." Teach the dog commands such as "sit" and "stay" and "down" ... then practice them frequently so your dog can earn your praise. Many dog trainers and owners practice the "no free lunch" approach - they have the dog perform a simple act of obedience before giving him a treat or his meal.

Remember: many dogs have not had the opportunity to be socialized yet. Their baggage may include unacceptable behaviors you must watch for, and then retrain with the help of books and professionals.

* Attention. Help your dog learn to earn your attention through good behavior. You can use attention, play, feeding and walks as rewards for good behavior. For example, have your dog sit before you pet him and before you put his food bowl on the floor.

* Earn treats. Teach the dog do something positive first, such as "sit", so that he can learn self-control and the idea of earning a treat. At the same time, teach the dog not to grab treats or toys out of people's hands.

* Punishment does not work. Realize that your new dog is not trying to be bad or spiteful; she just has not yet learned acceptable behavior. She'll depend on you to help her learn. Also realize that it is ineffective to scold or punish a dog for a mishap that happened just minutes before, since their capacity to remember is similar to a toddler's. They won't understand why you're mad. Do not yell, and never hit a dog. Instead, supervise your new dog, and teach her using consistent, positive reinforcement, which some trainers call CPR.

* Unwanted jumping and other attention-seeking behaviors. The best move is often to ignore the dog. After all, he craves attention. Teach him that to get what he wants, he needs to engage in good behavior.

* Misguided human moves. Do not let people shower your dog with misguided forms of affection. For example, many dogs perceive hugs threatening. And it is never a good idea for people to stick their faces in a dog's face. Kids and adults should keep their heads above the dog and avoid threatening or confusing body language.

* Exercise. Plan plenty of play time for your dog, every day. Go for long walks; go jogging (on-leash of course). Find an enclosed area to play ball. A well-exercised dog is happier, healthier, and far less prone to behavioral problems. Avoid tug-o-war, rough-house or other games that encourage aggression and teach your dog to challenge you.

* Time out. If you have guests, or active children, monitor the dog to make sure he's not getting too tired or nervous. Sometimes, dogs signal "enough" by nipping, so try to not let things reach that point. If the dog seems like he wants a rest, let him relax alone.

* Housebreaking. Even a dog considered housebroken can have accidents. Learning effective, humane techniques is NOT hard - and taking the time to read about housetraining in advance will pay off by speeding up the housebreaking process.

Many trainers now recommend crate training for effective housebreaking. The dog is confined in a wire crate, kept in a well-lighted family area, for short periods of time. This technique utilizes a dog's instinct to avoiding messing in his den. He'll try to hold it until you let him out and take him to an approved potty spot (use the same area at the beginning to convey the message). Remember that puppies can't hold it for more than a few hours, so work up gradually. Do not crate a dog for more than 5 hours at a time.

* Avoiding destruction and accidents. Realize that chewing and digging are normal behaviors for a dog. It is the owner's responsibility to redirect the dog to acceptable alternatives for getting out his energy and stress. Remember: a dog cannot do damage if you don't allow this to happen. Watch your new dog carefully. And when you cannot supervise the dog, keep her in a kitchen, in a crate or other secure area, with safe chew toys to keep her occupied.

* Shedding and dander. Expect that a new dog may throw off more dander and shed hair than usual due to anxiety. Things will normalize with time and a good healthy diet.

* Avoiding aggression. Never encourage rough or wild behavior...and don't let your children or visitors encourage such behavior or other bad habits. To avoid bites, do not place your face near the dog's face. Act prudently and cautiously, especially before you have begun obedience training, taught the dog acceptable behavior, and established yourself and other humans in the home as higher in the hierarchy. In other words, until you've earned the dog's respect. Tell everyone in your home to abide by this advice.

Also, do not let a dog guard hallways, bedrooms or beds. Remember, the people are the leaders and should kindly but firmly guide the dog to good and obedient behavior.

Multiple dogs: When a newly adopted dog and resident dog play together, interrupt them from time to time to get their attention, and as soon as they look at you, reward and praise. This teaches and reminds them that you are the leader. Also, remember that aggression can quickly escalate if they are left unchecked.

* Safety. Remove dangerous objects from a dog's reach. And warn all family members and visitors not to let your pet out the door.

* Minimize opportunities for destruction. Don't leave a new dog to roam unattened. Instruct all household members and guests to put clothing (especially shoes) away in closets. By avoiding problems, you will have fewer problems to solve.

* Patience. Give the dog time to get used to his new surroundings and his new people. Realize she will probably be more reserved the first few days, and then go through a more rambunctious phase during which she tests and pushes the boundaries.

* Fearful behavior. Especially if subjected to physical or verbal abuse in the past, your new dog may show fearful responses. Identify the triggers, such as a raised hand or loud voice.

* Spaying and neutering. There are so many advantages to this simple, one-time surgical procedures. For example, neutered dogs display less territorial aggression and neutered cats spray less. Sterilized animals are also less susceptible to certain types of cancer and other diseases.

* Attend puppy kindergarten or obedience classes...ones in which rely on the power of positive reinforcement instead of force-based methods. Have everyone in the household attend - and practice what they learn.

More Tips for Homes with Children

* Involving the kids. While this is a good idea, one of the biggest mistakes parents make is assuming that children can and will help with chores. In reality, it is a parent (usually the mother) who ends up with most of the work. So, make only age-appropriate assignments. For example, allow a young child to help brush the dog. But do not entrust a young child with walking a dog, since the child can get hurt and the dog can escape. A "tween" can clean the litterbox, but nail-clipping is best left to an adult. Before "teaching kids responsibility," demonstrate responsibility to them.

* Supervising kids and dogs. The chief cause of dogs biting children is lack of adult supervision. Even a well-behaved pet is capable of biting or scratching if he is surprised or hurt. Bear in mind that most young children, and some older ones, aren't mature enough to grasp concepts such as safe interactions. So it's no wonder half of all bites to children under four are inflicted by their own pets. Explains Mary Jane Checchi: Virtually every movement a toddler makes toward a dog can be viewed as threatening by the dog: waving hands and arms in front of a dog's face, grabbing, pulling, flailing, whacking, poking. Because the dog can't say, "Cut it out!" or call for help, the dog might snap or bite if it feels trapped and cannot get away from the child. So always have a responsible adult supervise when kids and pets are together.

* Educate children about pet care and kind treatment.

* It's easier to wait until your child is at least six before bringing a dog or puppy into the family, advises Checchi. Most children ages 6 and older are able to abide by simple rules about how to treat, and how not to treat, a dog. Whatever age your child is, the quality of his or her relationship with the family dog will depend largely on how well you teach your child and your dog to treat each other with respect.

* Puppies and kittens appeal to children, as well as to the motherly instincts of adults. But one advantage to selecting an adult dog, mixed or purebred, is that its personality is already developed and therefore a known quantity.

The Key to a Happy Relationship: Commitment!

The keys to success are consistency - and commitment. Be committed in helping your dog adjust and in integrating him into the family. Realize this living being is counting on you...that nobody is perfect...and that adjustment and training take time. Sign up for obedience training from the start.

Enter pet ownership as a lifetime commitment. Don't get a dog until you're sure you have the resources and time to care for this animal for the rest of his or her life. In return, you will be rewarded with unconditional love.

Links to More Information

To plan for success, read as much as possible about dog behavior and care. Suggested articles follow. Be prepared to invest time in teaching your new companion good behavior and take time to build a strong relationship.

Before Getting a Pet
http://www.paw-rescue.org/before.html
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_ShelterDogAdoption.php

Helping Kids Prepare for a New Dog
http://loveyourdog.com/anewdog.html
http://loveyourdog.com/books.html

More Tips for Helping a New Dog Adjust To Your Home
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_ShelterDogAdjust.html

Understanding the Bewildered New Dog's Point of View
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Transition.html

How to Be Leader of the Pack
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Leader2.html

Bringing Your New Dog Home Online Handbook
http://www.paw-rescue.org/dog_guide.php

Kid's Guide to Dog Care
http://loveyourdog.com

Great Books for Adults and Kids
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Books.php

Breeders and Pet Shops
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_breedersandpetshops.php
http://www.hua.org/weblinks/puppymillwish.html

Pets as Gifts
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_giftpet.php

Research about Pet Relinquishment
http://www.petpopulation.org

Senior Dog Adoptions
http://www.srdogs.com

Mixed Breed Dogs
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_MixedBreeds.php

Safety Tipsheets
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_HouseholdSafety.php
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_FoodAndKitchenSafety.php
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_FirstAid.php

Housetraining
Click on Housetraining.

Crate Training
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Crate.php
http://www.ddfl.org/behavior/cratetraining.htm
http://dogmanners.com/crate.html
http://www.canismajor.com/dog/crate1.html
http://www.canismajor.com/dog/crate2.html
http://www.inch.com/~dogs/cratetraining.html
http://www.perfectpaws.com/crt.html

Temperament Testing
http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Temperament.php

Dogs and Kids; Introducing New Dogs to Other Pets; Housetraining and Socializing Puppies
See the various Tipsheets on these and other related topics via http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/dog_tips.html

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For more Dog Tips and other information about pet
care, adoption and the work PAW does, visit our
website at:  www.paw-rescue.org

Partnership for Animal Welfare
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768

Last Updated: June 23, 2013 (LET) PawSupport