Congratulations! You've adopted a dog and officially saved a life. Now What?
Bringing home your new family member:
Preparation and patience are key to building a happy relationship
The key to helping your new dog make a successful adjustment to your home is being prepared and being patient. It can take anywhere from two days to two months for you and your pet to adjust to each other. The following tips can help ensure a smooth transition.
Preparing your home
Prepare the things your dog will need in advance. You'll need a collar and leash, food and water bowls, and, of course, some toys. And don't forget to order an identification tag right away.
Establish house rules
Work out your dog-care regimen in advance among the human members of your household. Who will walk the dog first thing in the morning? Who will feed them at night? Will they be allowed on the couch, or won't he? Where will they rest at night? Are there any rooms in the house that are off-limits?
Plan the arrival
Try to arrange the arrival of your new dog for a weekend or when you can be home for a few days. Get to know each other and spend some quality time together. Don't forget the jealousy factor — make sure you don't neglect other pets and people in your household!
Prepare for housetraining
Assume your new dog is not housetrained and work from there. Be consistent, and maintain a routine. A little extra effort on your part to come home straight from work each day will pay off in easier, faster housetraining.
Ensure all pets are healthy
Animal shelters take in animals with widely varying backgrounds, some of whom have not been previously vaccinated. Inevitably, despite the best efforts of shelter workers, viruses can be spread and may occasionally go home with adopted animals. If you already have dogs or cats at home, make sure they are up-to-date on their shots and in good general health before introducing your new pet dog.
Take your new dog to the veterinarian within a week after adoption. There, they will receive a health check and any needed vaccinations. If your dog has not been spayed or neutered, make that appointment! There are already far too many homeless puppies and dogs; don't let your new pet add to the problem.
The first weeks
Give them a crate
A crate may look to you like the canine equivalent of a jail cell, but to your dog, who instinctively likes to den, it's a room of their own. It makes housetraining and obedience-training easier and saves your dog from the headache of being yelled at unnecessarily for problem behavior. Of course, you won't want to crate your dog all day or all night, or they will consider it a jail cell. Just a few hours a day should be sufficient.
The crate should not contain wire where their collar or paws can get caught, and should be roomy enough to allow your dog to stand up, turn around, and sit comfortably in normal posture.
If a crate isn't an option, consider some sort of confinement to a dog-proofed part of your home. A portion of the kitchen or family room can serve the purpose very well when sectioned off with a dog or baby gate.
Use training and discipline to create a happy home. Dogs need order. Let your pet know from the start who is the boss. When you catch them doing something they shouldn't, don't lose your cool. Stay calm, and let them know immediately, in a loud and disapproving voice, that they have misbehaved. Reward them with praise when they do well, too! Sign up for a local dog obedience class, and you'll learn what a joy it is to have a well-trained dog.
Let the games begin
Dogs need an active life. That means you should plan plenty of exercise and game time for your pet. Enjoy jogging or Frisbee? You can bet your dog will, too. If running around the park is too energetic for your taste, try throwing a ball or a stick, or just going for a long walk together. When you take a drive in the country or visit family and friends, bring your dog and a leash along.
Patience is key
Finally, remember to temper your expectations. Life with you is a different experience for your new companion, so give them time to adjust. You'll soon find out that you've made a friend for life. No one will ever greet you with as much enthusiasm or provide you with as much unqualified love and loyalty as your dog will. Be patient, and you will be amply rewarded.
Dogs: Positive reinforcement training
Just say yes to training your dog with treats and praise
Remember how happy you were if your parents gave you a dollar for every A on your report card? They made you want to do it again, right? That's positive reinforcement.
Dogs don't care about money. They care about praise … and food. Positive reinforcement training uses praise and/or treats to reward your dog for doing something you want him to do. Because the reward makes him more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog's behavior.
Rewarding your dog for good behavior sounds pretty simple, and it is! But to practice the technique effectively, you need to follow some basic guidelines.
Timing is Everything!
Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement.
· The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—or your pet may not associate it with the proper action. For example, if you have your dog sit but reward him after he's stood back up, he'll think he's being rewarded for standing up.
· Using a clicker to mark the correct behavior can improve your timing and also help your dog understand the connection between the correct behavior and the treat.
Dogs don't understand sentences. "Daisy, I want you to be a good girl and sit for me now" will likely earn you a blank stare.
Keep commands short and uncomplicated. The most commonly used dog commands are:
· watch me
· down (which means "lie down")
· off (which means "get off of me" or "get off the furniture")
· heel (which means "walk close to my side")
· leave it
Everyone in the family should use the same commands; otherwise, your dog may be confused. It might help to post a list of commands where everyone can become familiar with them.
Consistency also means always rewarding the desired behavior and never rewarding undesired behavior.
The good: Positive reinforcement is great for teaching your dog commands, and it's also a good way of reinforcing good behavior. You may have your dog sit:
· before letting him out the door (which helps prevent door-darting)
· before petting him (which helps prevent jumping on people)
· before feeding him (which helps teach him good meal-time manners).
Give him a pat or a "Good dog" for lying quietly by your feet, or slip a treat into a toy when he's chewing it instead of your shoe.
The bad: Be careful that you don't inadvertently use positive reinforcement to reward unwanted behaviors. For example, if you let your dog outside every time he barks at a noise in the neighborhood, you're giving him a reward (access to the yard) for behavior you want to discourage.
It can take time for your dog to learn certain behaviors. You may need to use a technique called "shaping," which means reinforcing something close to the desired response and then gradually requiring more from your dog before he gets the treat.
For example, if you're teaching your dog to "shake hands," you may initially reward him for lifting his paw off the ground, then for lifting it higher, then for touching your hand, then for letting you hold his paw, and finally, for actually "shaking hands" with you.
Positive reinforcement can include food treats, praise, petting, or a favorite toy or game. Since most dogs are highly food-motivated, food treats work especially well for training.
· A treat should be enticing and irresistible to your pet. Experiment a bit to see which treats work best for your pet.
· It should be a very small (pea-size or even smaller for little dogs), soft piece of food, so that he will immediately gulp it down and look to you for more. Don't give your dog something he has to chew or that breaks into bits and falls on the floor.
· Keep a variety of treats handy so your dog won't become bored getting the same treat every time. You can carry the treats in a pocket or fanny pack.
· Each time you use a food reward, you should couple it with a verbal reward (praise). Say something like, "Yes!" or "Good (insert command given)," in a positive, happy tone of voice. Then give your dog a treat.
If your dog isn't as motivated by food treats, a toy, petting, or brief play can be very effective rewards.
When your pet is learning a new behavior, reward him every time he does the behavior. This is called continuous reinforcement.
Once your pet has reliably learned the behavior, you want to switch to intermittent reinforcement, in which you continue with praise, but gradually reduce the number of times he receives a treat for doing the desired behavior.
· At first, reward him with the treat four out of every five times he does the behavior. Over time, reward him three out of five times, then two out of five times, and so on, until you're only rewarding him occasionally.
· Continue to praise him every time—although once your dog has learned the behavior, your praise can be less effusive, such as a quiet but positive, "Good sit."
· Use a variable schedule of reinforcement so that he doesn't catch on that he only has to respond every other time. Your pet will soon learn that if he keeps responding, eventually he'll get what he wants—your praise and an occasional treat.
Caution! Don't decrease the rewards too quickly. You don't want your dog to become frustrated.
By understanding positive reinforcement, you'll see that you're not forever bound to carry a pocketful of goodies. Your dog will soon be working for your verbal praise, because he wants to please you and knows that, occasionally, he'll get a treat, too.
It’s undeniable – We love our pets and for many of us, our dogs and cats are more than just pets – they’re family members. According to a 2011 study, as many as 62 percent of dog and cat owners let their animals sleep on the bed with them.
But your pet can also bring some unwanted guests. Companion animals like cats and dogs are susceptible to a number of intestinal parasites, commonly known as worms. Some of these parasites are zoonotic, meaning they can be transferred from animals to humans.
Here are five of the most common GI parasites in dogs and cats.
Hookworms. Hookworms are small, thin worms that attach to the wall of the small intestine and suck an animal’s blood. They are much more common in dogs than in cats. Dogs can contract hookworms in a number of ways – in utero, from the mother’s milk, from contact with feces contaminated with hookworm, or from ingesting hookworm eggs. Signs of hookworm infection include anemia (displayed by tiredness, reluctance to exercise, loss of appetite, or pale gums), diarrhea, weight loss, weakness, and blood in the feces. Hookworm is most life-threatening in puppies and young dogs, but chronic hookworm infestation is also very common in older dogs. Hookworms can also migrate to the lungs, causing fever, cough, and pneumonia-like symptoms.
Humans can contract hookworms through exposure (via bare feet or hands) to stool or ground where infective hookworm larvae are present. Hookworms can cause a skin reaction in people, but rarely migrate beyond the skin.
Roundworms. Roundworms infect the intestinal tract of both dogs and cats; in fact, most puppies and kittens are born with roundworm larvae already in their system. The parasite can also be transferred through the mother’s milk and through contact with infected feces. Roundworms can often be seen with the naked eye in pets’ vomit or stool, and active roundworm infestations will often give your pet a pot-bellied appearance. Other symptoms include diarrhea and poor growth in young animals.
Like hookworms, roundworms are passed to humans through skin contact with infected feces or soil. However, roundworms can migrate beyond the skin in humans, causing damage to the liver, eyes, and central nervous system.
Whipworms. Like hookworms, whipworms are more commonly found in dogs than in cats. They live in the animal’s large intestine and shed fewer eggs than other types of intestinal parasites so can be harder to detect from a stool sample. Dogs infected with whipworm often show no symptoms; however, animals with severe infestations suffer from chronic weight loss, diarrhea, and mucous-coated stool. Whipworms are extremely common for shelter dogs or dogs confined to kennels. The good news is that the risk of contracting whipworms from your dog or cat is very limited.
Tapeworms. Tapeworms are transferred via the fecal-oral route; animals most often contract tapeworms from ingesting fleas infested with tapeworm eggs. Tapeworms can grow to up to six inches in the animal’s intestines. The parasite sheds the terminal end of its tail; these segments are detected in the animal’s stool or attached to the fur under the animal’s tail. Symptoms of tapeworm infestation are often heard to detect and include general itchiness around the anal area, butt scooting, weight loss without loss of appetite or increased appetite without weight gain, and a distended abdomen.
Since swallowing a tapeworm egg is needed to become infected, tapeworms are generally not transferred to humans. However, when human infection does occur, it is seen most often in young children.
In humans, giardia presents with diarrhea, nausea, and cramping. However, the risk of contracting giardia from your pet is small; the type of giardia parasite found in pets is typically not the same as the type that infects people.
Keeping your pet, and yourself and your family, safe from these parasites requires routine testing and preventative measures. If you suspect your pet may have contracted worms or any other intestinal parasite, take them to the vet immediately. Your vet will obtain a fecal sample to detect any infestation and prescribe the proper treatment (typically a week-long course of liquid de-worming medication that will kill the worms, larvae, and eggs).
In terms of prevention, animal feces should be removed from litter boxes and yards regularly, and pet owners should wash their hands after contact with their animal. Children should be supervised to ensure proper handwashing technique. In addition, be aware that areas with heavier pet populations, like dog parks, can be hotbeds of infestation; your pet should be monitored closely after visits to these areas. Finally, animals adopted from shelters/rescues will often need to undergo de-worming treatment right off the bat.