Our furry family members bring joy and lifelong memories with them. However, adopting a new dog can be very challenging when her quirks, attitudes and behaviors are unexpected—and more importantly unplanned for. Whether you are adopting a puppy or an older dog, very often, some basic training for the pets—and the humans—can smooth out the adjustment bumps and ease the stress for everyone.
This blog post will focus specifically on dog behavior; we’ll address cats in the future with tips from WestVet’s own feline specialist Hazel Carney.
For advice on dog behavior issues, we turned to local dog behavior specialist, Julie Anderson, (pictured right) owner of Bad Behavior/Good Dog. Anderson, who is certified member of the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP), has worked with more than 250 dogs. She says one of the biggest mistakes people make when adopting a pet, is assuming that the dog will just merge right into their family life and that some planning and precautions can help problems before they arise.
Our family learned this lesson this fall after the passing of our long-time terrier mix. We had adopted Pepper from an animal shelter more than 11 years ago and during our time together, we had settled into a good routine. We had also forgotten our first year together while we were guiding her behavior and heavily training.
In October we adopted another dog – also a shelter terrier mix— and were surprised that while these two dogs shared similar breeds, temperament, and age, our new dog, KC, needed much more hands-on guidance and training to settle in to our family. We have had several surprising moments (finding her on the kitchen table having just wolfed down a plate of cinnamon rolls – Pepper wouldn’t have dreamed of doing that!) and some sweet moments (she will initiate play by dropping toys at our feet) and we continue to fine tune our routine and boundaries to keep KC (and our desserts) safe. It’s an ongoing process, but with we are seeing results!
Anderson says a common mistake we dog lovers make is humanizing our pets. No matter how bonded we are to these beloved furry family members, they are not human and have natural canine instincts.
“When we assume the pet thinks like we do, we unjustly blame them for very normal animal behaviors,” said Anderson. “For instance, if you are teaching a dog to come and it works several times, but then one time your dog does not come, too often, people think the dog is being stubborn. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, ‘he knows better,’ when in reality, your command may have had too much emotion in it, or been said with body language that simply confuses the dog and prevents him from responding in the way you think they should.”
“When working with dogs and pets, always remember to be very patient and celebrate each little success.”
So if your new dog has taken over your life, left a few surprises on the carpet, or is jumping, nipping, or excessively barking, never fear! The old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new trick,” just isn’t true. Anderson says that all of us, humans and dogs, continue to learn throughout life and sometimes, getting some extra help is the catalyst to help us turn things around. “That is what professionals like me are here for, to teach, encourage and support both you and your pet.” Anderson said, “Training should be fun for both the two and four-legged creatures, it should be a very rewarding experience for everyone.”
For pet owners with young families, you can certainly involve your children in training, too. “Kids can and should help with training. I get them involved in the feeding—that is the best way to establish a healthy bond,” Anderson said, “Teach your child how to have your dog sit for his food.”
In addition, you can find books and videos at your local library. Most important, don’t give up! Putting in time to train your dog is well worth the investment!