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Thursday, 01 March 2012 09:26

More New Dog Tips


PART I: ARE YOU READY?   MAKING THE COMMITMENT

Someone walking on the beach bent over and picked up a starfish, throwing it back into the ocean. As the “rescuer” bent over and gently picked up another starfish, her companion asked, “ What does it matter? There are so many!” The rescuer looked down at the next starfish resting in her hand, tossed it back to it’s home in the ocean and answered, “It matters to THIS one!”

When a dog comes into the Parma Animal Shelter, it’s usually by way of our warden, Julie.  Julie  has found dogs running around our neighborhoods – dazed and confused. Frantically, they search for their familiar home and family. Sometimes they’ve been hit by a car. Sometimes a neighbor takes responsibility not taken by an owner and calls Sam to report a dog that isn’t being cared for or worse.

Where do they all come from? Where’s their owner/family? At the Parma Animal Shelter, when a new dog is brought in by Julie, there is a three day waiting period for the owner to claim their dog. “Will their family come for them?,” the dog and our volunteers wonder. Some do – many don’t, for whatever reason.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, 8-12 MILLION dogs and cats enter shelters in our country every year. The Parma Animal Shelter see their “fair share.” That’s not even counting the ones that are “rescued” spontaneously by people like you and me who scoop them up off the street and make them a home.

Odds are, their original owners started out believing they would love and care for the animal for life. (Or at least we like to think so). Several things could have led to the animal becoming homeless. Often, volunteers of PAS see these homeless animals due to unrealistic human expectations, lack of knowledge involving care and training of the dog, the death of the owner, the family moving, pet allergies, and on and on. Sometimes, the reason is beyond the comprehension of pet lovers!

So – ARE YOU REALLY READY FOR THE COMMITMENT?

Take our quick & simple test below. Take it for yourself, your family, and the hopeful pup that you’d like to bring home with you.

It does matter to this one dog (like the starfish).  She will grow to trust you and depend on you.  Make sure that you’re ready:

 

QUESTION #1: ARE YOU ALLOWED TO HAVE A DOG WHERE YOU LIVE?

If your answer is “no” or “not sure” do not pass Go, do not pick out a dog! You don’t have to give up completely. But there are steps you need to take first before even attempting to adopt the dog: If you rent, and there is a No Pet Policy, discuss the policy with your landlord. Learn what their reason is for the policy. It’s likely that you’ll get some graphic stories about the family that let their dog urinate all over the new carpet the landlord installed. Or the cat  lady that smuggled in 22 cats into her 1 bedroom apartment. Or the guy that let his St. Bernard leave landmines all over the apartment complex, etc. ad nauseam. As you probably know – this stuff does happen (if you don’t – see Part I introduction again!)

But if you’re committed to being a responsible trustworthy pet owner, ask the landlord:

What if it’s a dog 20 pounds or less?

What if I pay a pet deposit?

What if I agree to a regular inspection of my apartment?

If you come to an agreement  with your landlord get it in writing!

If you’re not sure if you can have a pet please don’t plot to smuggle the dog (or even cat) into your dwelling and your heart. The PAS and all other shelters already have plenty of confused, heartbroken pets we’re tending to as a result of these failed “plots.” Just don’t do it!

If you’ve made it this far then you’re ready for questions #2.

 

QUESTION #2: DO YOU HAVE ROOM FOR A DOG?

You have a home, townhouse, or apartment in which pets are allowed since you either own it or have an agreement in writing with your landlord. But how much space do you have? Room inside for the dog to stretch and play a little? A space or room that the dog can make her den?

“We had no idea she’d get SO big – we just can’t keep her,” is a common enough heard explanation for dogs turned into shelters. (More about expected size of dog in Part II – Profiling Your Pet)

Dogs are amazingly adaptable. But be realistic. Will there be enough room for you, your family, other pets (if you have any), and the new dog to be comfortable?

What’s your yard like? It is fenced? Although this doesn’t guarantee your dog’s safety (gates get left open; some dogs do jump over fences) it can help to give your pooch a place to do their business and to play. Please know that there is no such thing as “an outdoor dog.” You need to be physically present with your dog as much as possible when they are outside. This will prevent all sorts of mishaps like the dog getting lost, taunting from someone on the other side of the fence, digging from boredom either under the fence or in your favorite spring bulbs.

How much time do you plan to leave her outside?  Learn that dogs nee companionship and socialization and to be part of the pack (See Parts II and VIII) If you meet her basic needs (later in this section) you’ll receive unconditional love and reward in return. Plan to spend time with your dog – even when she’s outside.

 

QUESTION #3: JUST HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE?

Realistically plan for:

Ø      An adjustment period in which your dog will need extra time and attention from you. (6-12 weeks)

About seven years ago I picked up a stray pure white cat begging at a Dunkin Donuts in Lakewood. He was wild – not feral – but definitely tough. At home I already had a spunky/sweet miniature dachshund, and 2 well-adjusted female stray cats that I had rescued in prior events. I took the new white one to the vet for the obligatory checkup, de-worming, and  de-fleaing routine then brought him home. For the next 5-6 months we all experienced night terrors from the white cat named Beevis. As a street smart cat, he was used to prowling at night. With no street available, the dog, 2 female felines and I became his prey. Night after night we endured pouncing, meowing, and pacing with no end in sight. Sleep deprived and ready to find Beevis a new “street” to live on, I called my vet. The vet tech soothed me. “He’ll come around,” she reassured. “The other cats will teach him the schedule.” I didn’t tell her that they were packing their pounce treats and fluffy beds ready to move out. Well, we stuck it out. It took about 6 months for Beevis to acclimate. Today, he’s one of the funniest cats that I know – personality plus. He’s become affectionate and even trusting. He’s been worth it.

Back to how much time you have:

Ø      Trips to the vet. Even though the PAS ensure that your new dog has been vet checked it’s advised that you take her straight to YOUR vet from the shelter. Especially if you have other pets – it’s best to have your vet give her a good looking over to make sure that nothing is developing. It’s also important that they get acquainted before any emergency crops us (and since dogs are living creatures – emergencies do come up). It’s also a good time for you to experience her response to the visit to your vet. Some do fine – some will come in and leave “under protest” shall we say.

And by the way – are you willing to whisk her off to the vet on a holiday because she got into your chocolate cake Yule log or found the kids Halloween candy? Of course, we all know that dogs shouldn’t have chocolate, but they’re living creatures and accidents happen. I’ve taken an informal survey of pet owners and found that most of us have visited the emergency vet clinics during at least one joyous holiday!

Ø      Are you able to keep to a regular routine? Of course, most of us work for a living – if for no other reason than to keep our pets in the lifestyle they’ve grown accustomed to! But, especially during the first 6-12 weeks of your new dog’s homecoming, it’s important to stick to as regular a routine as possible. Feeding, doing their business, sleeping, and walks should be close to the same time everyday. This will help a lot in her adjustment, sense of security, and avoiding the behavior issues covered in Part IV and VIII. If you can’t get home on time, do you have someone (spouse, older teenager  ( you already know not to put this responsibility on young kids), neighbor) as your backup?

Ø      Will you have time for bathing and grooming? The time needed of course depends somewhat on the type of dog that you want. But even shorthaired breeds need regular baths with flea shampoo, cleaning their ears, and clipping their toe nails, and an extra kiss and biscuit for being so good.

Ø      Do you plan on taking her to an obedience class? Please do. Experienced shelter workers believe that many dogs are abandoned due to behavior issues. Paws down – experts cite obedience training as your best tool for preventing and even correcting behavior issues. Learn more in Parts III, VI, and VIII.

If you’ve already been through obedience training with another dog – good for you! Consider taking your new dog to establish the bond between you and/or to brush up on your skills. At the minimum, plan 10-30 minutes a day on humane, consistent training. Remember “It matters to THIS one.”

Another lesson from the Rookie – We adopted Peaches, a fox hound/ terrier mix from another shelter before finding PAS. We pretty much did all the wrong things. And she’s still with us and VERY loved. Her settling in period has taken the better part of a year in which she ruled the roost. No counter or table was off limits as far as she was concerned. The cats were to be chased with unabandoned glee while 2 rookie humans chased her around the hardwood floors, knocking over lots of nice stuff in the process. Beautiful clean sliding glass doors must have been installed for her squirrel watching entertainment and they were so fun and easy to leap up 3-4 feet with nose prints to let the squirrels know Peaches was boss! Play time with 3 different balls, an old sock, and an  unlimited supply of rawhide bones should be any time Peaches felt the need. Obviously…we were out of control! Then I started volunteering at PAS. I got interested again in why dogs do the things they do. I started asking lots of questions. I started reading some good humane books and magazines on dog training.  I was reminded of the pack order for dogs, how to earn respect from them, and how to establish a well behaved dog.

Then one morning, after throwing 2 balls, an old sock and a slimed up rawhide bone on command for Peaches, it hit me ---- she had us trained!! For the last month we’ve started practicing the appropriate training and establishing my husband and myself as Pack Leaders. Already – Peaches is better behaved and believe it or not, happier and more affectionate. She’s beginning to learn her order in the pack.


QUESTION #4: CAN YOU AFFORD A DOG?

The list below itemizes the most common expenses for owning a dog. By the way, dog’s live on an average of 10-15 years:

Dog Food                                            $10-40 per month

Snacks                                                 $  5       per month

Dog Bed                                              $10-50 or an old blanket

First Vet Check Up                                $50-100 mostly defrayed by vet check from PAS

Supplies:          Water bowl                    $3

Food dish                       $3

Leash                           $10

Collar                           $5-20

Id tag                           $4-10

Chew toys                   $5-10

Brush                           $5-10

Dog license                                           $15

Grooming (optional for some)              $10-50

Obedience Training                             $25-150 depending on group class/individual and level of instructor

Annual Vet Check Up                         $30-50

Illness                                                  $50 and up

Spay/Neuter                                        Thank you to PAS ($50-200)

Teeth Cleaning                                     $100 (depends on size of dog)

Vacations                                             Pet sitter/care

 

QUESTION #5: WHO’S IN YOUR “PACK” FAMILY?

How does your spouse or significant other feel about getting a dog? If you live alone you’re free and clear on this one.

Do you have kids? Have they been around dogs? If not, we suggest that you have them visit a friend that has a dog someday for several hours. This will circumvent a few other causes for homeless dogs: allergies, “my kids are terrified of the dog”, or “the dog plays too rough with the kids.”

Plan to spend time training your new dog how to play with kids. Young kids and a new dog need to be supervised. They’ll be learning their boundaries with one another. And you want to be the one to establish those boundaries. No tug of war games with the dog that can promote dominance in the dog or encourages “play nipping.” For the kids, no tugging on doggie’s ears, nose, tail or paws. And especially, until you are established as Pack Leader, kids should be taught to leave doggie alone while eating, chewing toys or bones, and sleeping. Any new dog, especially a shelter dog, may be struggling to establish their territory and sense of security/status. (See Part II – Alpha Primer) Eating, “boning,” and sleeping are of intense interest at this time to your new dog. Don’t mess!

Do you have an older person living with you? How much  contact will they have with the dog? What are their expectations? It’s now been scientifically proven what many of us already knew – pets help us feel better. They can lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. So a pup could be just the prescription for an older person. But discuss it before bringing the dog home. Is it ok to have a boisterous lab or retriever puppy? Or would a calm, older lap dog be a better fit?

How about other pets? Do you have other dogs? Have they been around other canines? Have they had other dogs visit them in your yard and home? How did they handle it?

Animals amaze us everyday in their ability to adapt. But know going into it what to expect during the adjustment period. (See Part V and VIII).

How about cats? If you have dogs and cat(s) already this may help. Just remember that each dog, and their interaction with other animals, will be different. Dogs bred to “go to ground” or hunt small animals tend to need more direction from you around cats, rabbits, rodents, etc. (See Part IX Basic Training).

QUESTION #6: CAN YOU GIVE THE LOVE AND ATTENTION THIS DOG DESERVES?

Dogs are not disposable. Your promise to this dog will need to last at least 10-15 years. And we know that you will be blessed with lots of fun, love, and companionship in “dogs years.” It’s a lot to promise – and you’ll get even more in return!

So, one more time: Are you willing:

  • To clean her up at 5 am in the dark after she’s been skunked?
  • Rush her to the vet because she’s vomiting every hour?
  • Find a pet sitter because of that business trip to Fargo?
  • Take her to obedience class even though you’re tired from a hassled day at work (and didn’t sleep last night since she’s still settling in and whined most of the night)?

SUMMARY

At the Parma Animal Shelter, our placement officers will ask you questions like these above. You will also be required to bring your whole “pack family” including other dogs to meet your prospective adoptee before the adoption is approved. You need to plan for this when selecting your lucky dog.


 UNDERSTANDING A DOG'S BASIC NEEDS

According to canine experts, dogs have 6 basic needs:

Dogs identify more by scent than site. Dogs’ sense of smell is at least 1,000 times more acute than ours. No wonder they wrinkle their nose and sneeze at human foibles like cigarette smoke and carpet freshener. Allow your dog time to investigate things with her nose that you see clearly with your sight.

Dogs hear sounds from four times farther away than we do. If your dog pricks her ears in a certain direction – trust her. She hears something that you may not hear. Keep this in mind when she’s not listening to you – the volume of your voice is probably NOT the problem! Some dogs like collies and shepherds are more sensitive to sound than other breeds. These sometimes are the dogs that cower under the bed during a thunderstorm or quickly retreat to their quiet den when you’re having a big party. We need to be sensitive to their sound sensitivity.

Dogs need social contact. That’s why you know not to leave her in the yard by herself for hours. As your dog adjusts to your normal life make a point to include her in as many activities as possible (except things like running errands in the car when the temperature is 70 degrees+) She needs ongoing love and inclusion for her to feel a part of the pack family. She’ll love, amuse, and protect you in return.

Dogs need security or a sense of safety. This is another need from their origin with the wolf pack. Much of the hierarchy in their world is structured to provide security. Expect your newly adopted shelter dog to be a bit shell-shocked on her security needs. She just came from a place in which humans were knocking themselves out to provide food, shelter, and love. But even a shelter like PAS cannot possibly replace the consistency and sense of security of having her own loving pack family. Be patient with her. Be supportive.

 Dogs need to maintain their bodies. This one may be self evident but since she’s not living out on the prairie with her wolf pack you’re almost entirely responsible for her physical well-being. She will depend on you. You certainly will provide food and clean water. Make sure to meet her drive to hunt for her own food too. Play with her. Chase games (except if your cat is involved) are loved by all dogs, especially hounds and terriers. Retrieving games aren’t just for Goldens. Almost all dogs will instinctively chase a toy that you throw for them. Many will naturally bring it back to you (just as they would for alpha dog in the pack). What fun! And don’t forget the squeaky toys – it’s a great “prey” for your dog. One caution, some dogs (like my dachshund) will NOT quit on a squeaky toy until they capture the squeak unit itself. He will shred any fur, cloth or rubber until he reaches his goal. Make sure you stay with your dog during these sessions and if she’s like my dachshund these toys are off limits. One last benefit for you --- playing these games with your dog can shed adult years right off of your overstressed brain. You may get over yourself and find yourself laughing and letting go of the days woes. Enjoy!!

Contributed by Lora Toporowski

 

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Parma, Ohio 44134

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Last Updated on Thursday, 03 May 2012 02:23
 

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