Today, as I enjoyed my usual 3 mile walk in nature with my dog, I reflected on the eventful past two months. I have been between jobs and this time at home has been an amazing gift for me. It has not only given me cherished time with our two year old son but has also given me time to work on personal goals and to spend valuable time with our new dog, Joey. I have had the time to develop an incredible bond with him. It has given me the time necessary to train him and to help him to develop into a well balanced, well behaved family member.
This made me reflect on the one or two times that I have brought a new dog into the household when It was much more stressful than this. For me it was usually times when I brought a foster dog home when I was their last hope. One in particular is our dog Brody. I brought him home at a busy, stressful time in our lives and we already had 3 dogs and 3 cats. Brody was an 8 month old puppy with no previous training and severe separation anxiety . He had also just suffered severe injuries from being hit by a car. He required bandage changes daily on both front legs for 4 months and needed to be carried everywhere. And he was a big dog. So, needless to say he added stress to our lives for awhile. He also ate about 7 or 8 TV remote controls, a chair and a couple of rugs. However, we trugged along and eventually came out at the end with a wonderful pet and friend whom is still a treasured part of our family today.
As I think back to this stressful time I consider, “How could I have made that time with Brody less stressful and more joyful for both of us?”
So, I came up with 10 ways to build the foundation of the bond between you and your new dog;
1- Do your research before adopting a new dog. Make sure you pick the right type of dog for you and your family. Know what caring for this dog will entail and make sure that you are ready for the financial, emotional and time commitment. This includes training, veterinary care, grooming, nutrition, exercise, love and attention.
2-Make sure that you are adopting a dog at the right time in your life. Unfortunately, in order to save lives we don’t always have this opportunity. However, if possible consider timing.
3- Schedule time to spend on training and playing with your new dog when you first bring him home. Either take off of work or block off your first couple of weekends to put some time into him. This time at the beginning is going to make life so much better for you both.
4- Be consistent and diligent when setting boundaries. If you do not want him on the couch then never allow him on the couch. If you don’t want him begging at the dinner table then train him to lie on his bed during meals. If he is not house trained then you must watch him like a hawk and be consistent about walking him every 2-3 hours until he is trained.
5-Join a weekly obedience class. It is a scheduled time when your dog receives all of your attention. This also builds your dog’s confidence, helps to socialize him and the bonus-he gets trained!
6- Avoid disasters. Take temptation out of his way. Do not leave him unsupervised in your house until he is completely trained and trustworthy. For example, don’t leave him alone in a room with access to TV remote controls eight times!!. Use the crate not only as a training device but also as a den where he can find comfort. In Brody’s case it took us awhile to find a crate that he could not break out of..
7-Provide plenty of toys and stimulation for him. Show him that it is ok to play with the kong but not ok to steal your socks. If he has plenty of his own toys he is less likely to go seeking your stuff.
8- Take time each day to “BE” with your dog. Even if it is only 10 minutes. Lay on the floor with him, cuddle him, talk to him and be grateful for him. This not only adds to your happiness but builds the bond between the two of you.
9-Get involved in dog activities with him such as agility, obedience, flyball, dog parks, herding, tracking, or animal assisted therapy.
10-Enjoy your new dog! Bring him along for activities that you enjoy such as long walks in nature, hiking, going to the beach, kayaking , swimming etc.
Having a dog by my side through my life has brought me joy, opportunity and companionship. Time spent with my dog has become my meditation. The time when I do my best thinking. Having the presence of his heartbeat is both comforting and reassuring . It is peace, it is love, it is happiness…
So, during times when you feel that your dog may be bringing more stress than joy to your life please take it as a signal that you are not connecting with your dog and need to do something differently. It’s usually not the dog that is making the mistake but his human guardian whom needs some training.
In my next blog I will go into detail on picking the right type of dog for you and your family