• Barry KuKes

Talking About Pets: Time, patience and love

For the most part, bringing home a new pet is a very exciting time for you and your pet — but many pets suffer from anxiety when brought into a new environment. Similar to humans who start a new job or attend their first day of college on a huge and unfamiliar campus, a new home or apartment is foreign to the pet and they need time to adjust to their surroundings.

Too often, people hurry a dog or cat into liking their new home environment. Give your pet some time to adjust, to smell, to explore so they can become more comfortable at their own pace. This is especially true when there are other pets already in the home.

“They fight like cats and dogs!" is a common metaphor, and many times very true. Young, healthy cats are much faster than most dogs, so they can defend themselves from the overly aggressive canine if needed, but an older cat or a kitten can be in peril.

Take time when introducing the new pet to the current pets. It may take several weeks or even months for animals to accept each other, but don’t rush the process. If the pets do not adjust and live harmoniously after three months, some additional behavior training may be required.

Many years ago, I had a 6-year-old German shepherd mix and we decided to adopt a Cocker spaniel puppy. At first, they were fine together until one evening when the puppy decided to help himself to the older dog’s food dish while the older dog happened to be eating from it. The shepherd nipped the puppy and the puppy ran like the wind up the stairs yelping more out of fear than from being injured. He ran past several people and ended up jumping into my lap as he whimpered. He was fine, but he learned that day to never go by the larger dog when he is eating.

Like a child doing something that they shouldn’t and getting injured, animals learn by their mistakes as well. Of course, a pecking order will be established and the more dominate dog will take their position as pack leader, however the owner needs to maintain their position as the alpha dog. As long as your pets respect you and your authority, they will behave and get along much better.

There is a common believe of the 3-3-3 philosophy. The first three days the pet is in the home, the pet is anxious and not sure of their environment. They may be scared and act confused. They might not eat and may even have an accident in the home. This is not unusual and is temporary.

After three weeks, the pet is more at ease and feeling much better about their new home. The pet will be playing more, eating when fed, wanting treats, and asking for people to cuddle and stroke their head.

After three months, the pet will be completely at home and will accept the home as their own. They will have learned the daily routines, the rules of the home, the behavior signs of other animals in the home so as to coexist as peacefully as possible, and at last they will learn how to manipulate their owner so they can get whatever they want (sneaky pets)!

Many people adopt a dog or cat and return the animal to the shelter a week later. We hear comments like, “She’s not well-trained,” or “He is very protective of his food or toys,” etc. Pets need to be trained and they do not come with any guarantees. A positive outcome is based on how the owner treats and trains the animal. Without guidance from their owner, pets will act as they wish.

We see many animals go to home after home and be returned each time until they find their forever home. Their last owner will call and say, “I don’t know why previous owners said this dog was not good with other animals because he is perfect with our cat and he loves to play with the dog next door.” Sometimes it just takes the right family to love and train the pet for a successful outcome.

To put a twist on the famous JFK line, “Ask not what your pet can do for you; ask what you can do for your pet.” And remember, adopt, don’t shop.

Contact Barry KuKes, community outreach director for the Halifax Humane Society, at barryk@halifaxhumanesociety.org.

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