Making the first day
as easy as possible

The name of the game is “minimize stress.”

Get as much equipment as you can set up ahead of time. This avoids unnecessary trips and having to leave your pup alone on the first day.

Find out (when possible) what food she’s been eating, and lay in a supply. Even if you plan on changing it, keep the food the same for the first two weeks or so. Going to a new home is stressful enough; no need to add more with a food change. (Hint: If you don’t know the food, mix half well-cooked, long-cooking white rice with the new food. This will help minimize stomach upset.)

Limit visitors. When possible, keep things quiet for the first few days. Let her explore (under close supervision). Stay calm yourself. Now is not the time to rev her up with wild play. Now is the time to watch, help, encourage, redirect, and reward.

Distract rather than correct. Your new pup will pick things up, jump up, attempt to chew, and otherwise be a puppy. When she does these things—distract her. Call her to you happily, offer an interesting toy. If she scampers about too quickly, let her drag a leash on a flat collar so you can get hold of her easily. (Please see “Introducing the Collar and Lead” on page 56.)

Some pups (especially toys) get spooked by people trying to pick them up at first (wouldn’t you?), so instead get as small as you can—on the floor, on a chair, squatting—and call her to you. Lure her with a treat or a toy if need be. Then stroke her calmly before scooping her up—one hand under her chest, one under her rear.

Do not lift her up under (or by) her front legs, as this can hurt a pup and cause her to avoid you.

Limit children to your own. Have them sit on the floor when they want to interact. Do not allow them to pick up the pup, because if she squirms out of their eager hands, she can get hurt. Like children, pups can get overtired and wound up. If you see this (sudden wild mouthing and shoe grabbing are typical signs), it’s time for a nap.

Expect normal puppy behavior. All pups nip, yip, pee, poop, chew, dig, get stuck behind and under things, annoy the cats, steal food from children’s hands, and race around like mad demon dogs once or twice a day. That is perfectly normal puppy behavior. Normal does not mean acceptable, normal means that she isn’t retarded, aggressive, or crazy.

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The more hectic your home, the more important it is for everyone to have a safe place to take a break. Your new canine will need a retreat from your child’s attentions and demands. Any retreat your dog makes should be absolutely respected. It is your dog’s primary way of saying, “I’ve had enough for now.” If you do not respect your dog’s need for a break, you may force him to state his case more forcefully.

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To An Older Dog

Ideally, introductions are best done on neutral territory. Maybe a friend would let it happen at her apartment. If not, have both animals on lead and under control or separated by a gate. If you use a crate, you can bring the pup in crated and allow the adult dog to sniff through the gate. If it is a wire crate, covering it and setting it on a chair or in a corner can keep the pup from being surrounded.

As the adult approaches the crate, praise him warmly and set a calm, happy tone. How they interact will give you an idea about how to proceed. If it is all tail wagging, wait for things to calm down a bit and then let them out together. Things should be fine.

If, however, the adult is stiff, with his hair standing up, continue to set a calm, happy tone. Give him some time to relax. Many dogs will get past the initial tension if given a few minutes. If he isn’t relaxing, you can play the “you get treats near the crate” game to help him focus on something else, but I would not let the pup out with the adult yet. If possible, use a gate to allow the pup some freedom to explore but enough protection from getting mugged. Any nonaggressive interest from the adult toward the pup should be rewarded.

If the pup screams and tries to hide, ignore this, too. Often this is tension related, and given a few minutes the pup will calm down and his natural curiosity will take over.

It is important that you have confinement areas for both dogs. They can share a crate by having one in while the other is out, otherwise you’ll need two crates or a crate and a baby gate. This will allow you to separate the two when things get rowdy, you get tired, or one of them is injured or ill. Perhaps even more important, you’ll be able to give one at a time your undivided (and uninterrupted) attention for training or just some private time with you.

Most introductions are harder on the nervous humans than on the dogs, but if you have doubts, here are a few wise words from someone with plenty of experience.

“I do best with the ‘separate but together’ approach. When I bring in a new one, they live in the same apartment as all the others but are always kept separate, behind baby gates, one crated and one loose. When the new dog first arrives, all the dogs get excited about the presence of the stranger. After two weeks they are all used to each other, and actually putting them together is anticlimactic; they often ignore each other and are unlikely to squabble.”

—LINDA TRADER, National Rescue Coordinator, Boston Terrier Club of America

Cat

The secrets to introducing a new dog or pup to a cat is to make sure the cat has good hiding places he can get to easily and keeping the dog under control. “Under control” means on lead so no chasing is possible. Crate training your dog (or using baby gates that the cat can get over but your dog can’t) will allow your cat to keep well away from your dog.

A simple game you can play with your new pup/dog is called “cat=treats.” Whenever the cat is in view, give your dog treats. If you are generous with this, your dog will soon want the cat to be around, which is a good place to start. (You can play the same game with your cat if he’ll take treats, and this will help reinforce that the dog is a good addition to the family.)

As your dog begins to like this game, you can start requiring her to sit calmly before the treat or even lie down. You can walk toward the cat, then back away and call your dog to you, rewarding her with treats and praise when she arrives. This will start building a strong “come” command as well as teach her how to “leave it” when you say so.

Cats frequently take great offense to having a dog in their home. They may hid and/or hiss at the dog for weeks. This is normal, and as long as they get dog-free time (when your dog is crated at night, for example), everything should settle in with time. 

Other Pets 

Most other pets will be smaller (birds, rodents, fish) and will require your protection from your new dog more than anything else. The best approach is to limit access to the rooms holding your smaller pets when you can’t watch the dog or confine the dog away from those animals using gates or a crate.

Playing the “pet=treats” game with them can have the same calming effect as it does when played near a cat (as described above).

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Many dogs love to snack on cat poop. It helps if you keep the cat box spotless, but that won’t totally control this. We suggest keeping the box and the dog separated. For a large dog, use a covered box turned toward the wall or a large hook-and-eye latch to prevent the dog from getting into the room that holds the box. If you have a small dog, putting the box in the bathtub or using a baby gate can control canine access. Since this is such an astonishingly disgusting habit, it is well worth applying a little ingenuity to prevent it.

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Treating your dogs as equals can cause them to fight. In the world of canines, every individual is either in front of or behind everyone else. If you treat your dogs as equals, you are basically saying, “I have no opinion about your order, you guys work it out.” To prevent aggression, treat your older dog as number one. Feed him first, greet him first, pet him first, give him treats first, let him out of his crate first . . . you get the idea. Dogs don’t mind being second, they only mind not knowing where they stand.

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Dogs can add so much to family life. They have been and continue to be the constant companions of children everywhere. The more change happens in the rest of our lives, the more important the unconditional love and predictable presence of a dog can be in a child’s life.

Our book Childproofing Your Dog is devoted to having a wonderful experience with your kids and your dog together. If we are to give you one hint about making it all work, it is this. Don’t allow a child to do to a dog what you would not allow done to a younger child.

Taken to heart, this eliminates dog harassment such as chasing, sitting on, pulling ears, hitting with toys, and other things we routinely hear about. It also encourages supervision, the only real way to know exactly what is going on between child and dog.

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