|Introducing a New Dog
Author: Ms. Pat Sullivan
We're Getting a Dog for the Kids
Kids and dogs, puppies and kids,
all those cute images from dog food commercials and camera ads and old "Lassie"
reruns. Ahh, the power of myth!
Yes, it seems quite natural to
think that children and dogs go together. I've heard it said hundreds of times that
"we're thinking of getting a dog for the kids." For many prospective dog
owners, it seems logical to assume that the dog will entertain the children, teach them a
sense of responsibility, and be a willing and affectionate companion.
Well, if you're still in that
starry-eyed thinking stage, stay there until the idea matures into the realization that
you're bringing another living being into your home, and that this new family member
deserves an unconditional and lifetime commitment. Be aware also that not every dog
is an entertainer, a teacher, or even a willing companion. And to top it off, just
like people, the new dog or puppy may take an instant dislike to one or all of your
Still with me?
Great! It could very well be that getting a dog or puppy "for the kids"
will still turn out to be the best thing you could do for your family. But
understanding your dog's needs and your children's limitations is the key to getting off
to a good start. Understand also that expecting a new dog to fill a void in a
child's life caused by divorce or the death of a parent is expecting too much from a
While some people are
instinctively good with animals, most are not. I have a gut feeling that the
ones who are "good" with dogs somehow learned from the generation before them
just how to live with a dog. Mom and Dad were probably there to supervise the
interaction between dog and child from the start, and served as good role models in caring
and coping with the new canine member of the family.
Similarly, you must anticipate
doing the same for your children if this venture is to succeed. Assuming that you've
done all the right things in searching for the kind of dog you want - reading up on
breeds, visiting litters, talking with owners, etc. - and have picked out the dog of your
dreams, bringing him home is the first important step in the process.
Bring the animal home when
there's not a lot of commotion going on (Christmas, Easter, birthdays are not a good time
for this!) Pick a time when you have a weekend at least or a few days off to spend
lots of time with the kids and the dog. Start a feeding and exercise schedule for
the dog, and stick with it. It isn't as important who does the chores for the dog as
the fact that they get done with consistency. It may help to write the schedule
down, stick it on the refrigerator door and check things off when the jobs are done.
Show your children how to play
with the new dog. (We throw the ball 'for' the dog, and not 'at' the dog,
Junior"). Dogs have very sharp hearing, and so keep the youthful squealing and
yelling to a minimum. Show them how to pet the dog - easily, gently, with no
tugging, scratching or pulling hair. Step in and stop the child who puts a
"bone-crusher" hug on the new pet.
Teach your toddler that dog food
is not human food, and to leave the dog dishes alone! Fido can get quite upset about
competition from Junior at his food bowl, and ugly feelings can develop. Teach all
your children not to hand-feed the dog. It's not good for the dog's diet, and it's
certainly not appropriate and possibly dangerous if your toddler tries to mimic this on
his own. Also, it might result in your dog being fed Play-Doh when you're not
Remember, if you have very small
children and decide to buy a very small, cute puppy, in six months Junior will still be
about 25 pounds. Rover, on the other hand, could weigh upwards of sixty pounds, all
wrapped up in a wiggly, rambunctious package that can make your toddler's first steps an
If you are truly committed to
getting a dog for the family, keep in mind these three rules:
consider the demands of caring for a new pet while taking care of small children,
and decide whether this is the right time for you to take on this extra responsibility.
all dog-and-child interactions so that both children and pet are protected.
by example, and learn how to care for the dog. Let your children learn from
a good role model.
Your Puppies New Home
Houses are made for people - not
dogs - and so one of the first steps you need to take when you bring the puppy home to
meet the rest of the family is to "puppy-proof"
your house. Doing this
beforehand can save a lot of frustration with your young canine.
Puppies are forever running into
and over things, and your crystal, glass and ceramic knickknacks will be no
exception. Electrical cords and scatter rugs are, from the puppy's perspective,
wonderful teething opportunities. Carpets feel like the grass outside, only better,
so why bother to go out to relieve himself?
If you plan to spend your time
training and bonding with your pup instead of patching up one disaster after another, then
pick up, put away, or restrict the pup's access to carpeting, doo-dads and hanging cords
Plan from Day #1 where the dog
will and will not be permitted to go, and don't deviate from it. As a general rule,
keep the dog off the sofa, chairs and beds unless you make a commitment to a lot of extra
cleaning and refurnishing. Don't blame the dog! He would never have curled up
on the sofa if someone hadn't either coaxed him or decided not to correct him. Mind
you, I'm not saying it's wrong to let your dog on the bed or sofa - that's where mine
stay! But on a muddy day, I know I'll have a lot of extra work both before and after
they come into the house.
Before your puppy comes home you
should have acquired a "crate" or, at the very least, a portable gate to fence
off a portion of the house for the puppy. You should crate the puppy whenever
you cannot supervise his activities.
Some people will look at a
standard dog crate made of metal or plastic and erroneously assume it's cruel to confine a
dog to a small space. In fact, getting your puppy accustomed to a crate has many benefits
for both of you. First, it give a dog a sense of enclosed shelter and security,
which it would seek in the wild. (Many an adult dog still retreats to the relative
peace and safety of his open crate when the house is full of noisy visitors.)
Second, it keeps a young dog from getting into unforeseen trouble when you're not
around. And third, it is a tremendous aid in housebreaking.
It is not, however, an instant
housebreaking solution. While it's generally true that a dog will not soil the place
where he sleeps, it can take a while for a puppy to catch on to that idea. For that
reason, for house training a puppy I prefer a plastic crate with nothing but the puppy in
it - no toys, food or blankets. The plastic cleans up easily, and contains the mess
until I can get to it.
As puppies and cleaning are
synonymous, so are puppies and staining. If you're a finicky housekeeper, prepare
yourself for extra work. For
help in dealing with assorted stains and disasters, a
very good book to read is Pet Clean Up Made Easy, by Don Aslett. It contains
excellent suggestions for preventing , cleaning and controlling any animal mess.
House Breaking and Other Fun
Once you've arrived home with
your puppy from the breeder or the pound, your first lessons will commence almost
immediately if this is to be a house dog. Of course, I'm talking about housebreaking
or getting your dog to use the great outdoors for his bathroom rather than your brand new
But first, a few things to keep
in mind. One is that a seven-week-old puppy already has established
behavior patterns, and as far as the puppy is concerned, nothing is
"wrong" in his eyes. Another is that it is easier to get a puppy or dog to
"do" something than to "stop doing" or "not do"
something. And the longer you are unsuccessful at trying to stop a particular
behavior, the more likely it is that you will have to resort to more severe methods of
So from the very start, while
dog training consists of both positive and negative (reward the good and reprimand the
bad) aspects, it is to everyone's benefit to stress the positive side.
When your puppy first arrives at
his new home and needs to relieve himself, convenience is going to be his only
concern. If it is easier for him to relieve himself inside the house when he feels
the urge, then he will take the easy way out.
I like to think that most situations and solutions in dog training have three elements - philosophy, method, and
technique. Let's apply this to housebreaking. Your "philosophy" is
to have a (relatively) clean house despite the arrival of an exuberant, messy puppy.
The "method", therefore, is to know the signs of when your puppy is about to
eliminate - crouching and straining after play, after eating and drinking, or upon
waking. "Technique" comes into play here by getting him outside at the
right time by walking him, kenneling him or even quickly carrying him.
Our training is only limited by
two things - how faithful we are at carrying out our part of this dynamic, and realizing
that the puppy part of the team really doesn't care about the outcome! Remember, the
dog cares only about convenience at this point, so getting him to relieve himself to your
satisfaction depends on how good you are at being in the right place at the right time.
However, when you verbally
praise him for a job well done or even give him a tiny treat, you increase is desire to
cooperate. Repetition with no mistakes is the key to teaching your dog.
Now, for the flip side of the
coin. From the dog's perspective, relieving himself in the house is not a
"wrong" behavior. So to avoid these frustrating accidents (that is, only
from your perspective!), then make sure he is contained when you are unable to observe
him. A "crate, " which we have discussed earlier, is wonderful since dogs
hesitate to soil the place where they sleep, and even if they have an accident, then the
mess is confined to a smaller area.
Another possibility is to attach
your puppy to a six or eight foot leash and keep him with you as you go about your daily
chores. If, despite your best intentions, he makes a mistake (remember, by your
standards and not his!), then a firm shake on the nape of the neck coupled with a forceful
"No!" and immediate removal outside should work.
Common complaints by dog owners
often run along the lines that the new puppy barks too much, doesn't come when called,
pulls on the leash, and bites. All of these behaviors, of course, are things a puppy
more or less does naturally, depending on his temperament. We know that some breeds
are more vocal than others, more aggressive, more exuberant, more high strung. There
are variations in temperament and noise, too, even among pups in the same litter.
To train a pup to
stop unwanted barking, start as soon as you get him by making a forceful correction when
he barks, every time he barks. Give him a sharp shake or a flat-handed slap under
the jaw with a verbal correction of "quiet," "no" or
"out" Once your dog has reached six or seven months, if his barking is
still out of control and creates a serious problem, it may be necessary to escalate to the
use of an electronic "bark collar."
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