If you have a dog, you probably remember your first day together. But if you plan to adopt Fido soon, you're likely waiting with eager anticipation. It's an exciting time for both of you.
The process of welcoming your new companion into your home can seem daunting. You don't know each other yet, but you're ready to accept him as a new family member.
Your new best friend needs the Welcome Waggin', too. Here are some helpful hints:
Nothing replaces TLC. There will be many times in the years ahead that Fido will be patient with you. Now is your time to be patient with him. Fido doesn't know what is expected of him. If he's a puppy, the whole world was new just a few months ago. If you show him that you are gentle, loving and caring, it will help develop a lifetime bond.
Food for thought. A sudden diet change can cause tummy upset. You certainly don't want this to happen in the first days Fido is home. If possible, ask the previous owners what they were feeding him and try to have the same. If no one knows Fido's former food, ask your veterinarian to recommend a gentle diet that is formulated to help avoid gastrointestinal upsets. You can easily transition to something else in a few weeks, if you prefer.
Healthy and happy. Have your dog examined by your veterinarian within a few days of adoption.
The veterinarian can identify health issues and discuss them with you. The medical team will make sure Fido is up-to-date on routine preventive care such as vaccines and heartworm testing. Be sure to bring a stool sample to that first visit. Fido should be checked for parasites inside and out. If any are found, they are usually much easier to control if your home hasn't already been infested for a long period of time.
Also, talk to your veterinary team about who they recommend for pet health insurance. There are some affordable and excellent plans available.
House rules. The "dos and don'ts" vary for all pet owners. Decide what they are in your home and be consistent from the start.
For example, if dogs aren't allowed on furniture, teach Fido that rule from the beginning. If you let him snuggle in your bed on the first night, he'll be confused when you try to stop the habit later.
Education is key to success. Your new dog wants to please you. But he has to be taught what's expected of him.
Basic obedience helps facilitate communication with each other. If you've trained dogs in the past, you may be able to do this yourself. Otherwise, consider doggie school. You'll have the double advantage of an experienced trainer and other pups for socializing.
Outdoor dangers. Do what you can to keep your new companion safe outside. A loose dog can get lost, stolen, or hit by a car. If you have an open yard, consider installing a fence. An invisible, electronic, underground wire fence is another alternative.
If there is no way to contain your dog on your property, only let him out on a leash.
Anxiety — know the signs. Does your new dog seem excessively distraught when you leave him alone? Maybe he has separation anxiety. Dogs that have been placed in new homes several times — especially in their young formative months — are at heightened risk for this disorder.
They have a deep fear that their new companion will abandon them, as their previous owners did. Fortunately, a lot can be done to alleviate this distress. The first step is to recognize the signs, and the second is to seek help. Talk to your veterinarian about a combination of drug therapy and behavior modification that can help.
Identification. Fido can't talk, so it's up to you to make sure you can be reunited if he is lost. Collars with identification tags are inexpensive and easy to read. Microchips are also inexpensive and can be easily implanted during an outpatient procedure at your veterinarian's office.
They are a permanent way for Fido to tell people who his owner is, even if the collar becomes lost.
Drill sergeant. Once Fido learns your routine, he'll make sure you stick to it. There's nothing like a dog to get you up for that early morning walk, even if it's a day you'd rather sleep in.
Fido will learn your work schedule and meal times, too. Embrace the structure and know that it enhances the bond with your new companion.
Relax and enjoy it. Introducing a new dog into your family is a brief, but exciting, time. Despite the few challenges that may come along, the overall experience is memorable and delightful.
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Dr. Heidi Bassler practices at Bassler Veterinary Hospital (www.BasslerVet.com). She hosts a radio show, "Your Pet's Health," every Sunday morning at 8:30 on AM-1450 WNBP. Do you have questions for Dr. Bassler? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.