Get Your Home and Family Ready for a New Dog

So you're getting ready to bring home your new puppy -- congrats! Before Fido saunters through your door, be sure to read these 10 tips, which will help you to ensure a smooth transition to a harmonious, pet-loving home!

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1. Check Health of Current Pets

If you already have dogs or cats at home, make sure they are up-to-date on all of their shots before your introduce your new puppy.

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2. Establish Your House Rules Ahead of Time

The Human Society advises pet owners to determine your dog-care regimen before your dog arrives. Here are a few questions you and your family will want to consider in advance.

  • Who will take the dog out in the morning?
  • Who will feed the dog in the morning and at night?
  • When will the dog get exercise and with whom?  
  • Where will the puppy sleep at night?
  • Are there any places in the house that are off-limits to the dog?

3. Desensitize Dogs to Babies

When you're indoctrinating your dog to a baby, Amy Rosenthal, owner of Minneapolis-based Metro Dogs Daycare & Boarding tells her clients to allow the dog to smell a swaddling blanket with the child's odors on it. This trick (known as "desensitization" in the pet world) will introduce your pup to the new smell before he actually meets the newborn. You can even wrap the swaddling blanket around a baby doll for your dog to sniff.

4. Meet Older Children Outside

If you have older children at home, consider introducing them to your new dog outside –- American Humane Association recommends talking your new dog for walk in the park. Have the child help you walk the dog until the excitement of a new puppy has worn off a bit. You should also look to see that your new dog is adjusting to your child's presence. Feel free to bring treats along to reward your new pup for good behavior! If the weather isn't ideal for an outdoor play date, you can stage the meet-and-greet indoors -– just select a large, open room and be sure to keep your dog on a leash.

5. Dog Training is Essential

Training is key to creating a harmonious environment for your family and your pup. The trick is to understand how to communicate with your puppy. According to the ASPCA, dogs learn through immediate consequences of their behavior, and it's the nature of these consequences that establishes how the pup will behave in the future. This is why positive reinforcement works so well. If a particular behavior results in something gratifying -- like food, praise, a belly rub, or playtime -- your dog will do that behavior more often. If a behavior results in an unpleasant outcome -- like being ignored or deprived of things she finds rewarding -- your dog will do that behavior less often.

6. Don't Punish Warning Signs

According to the American Humane Association, you should never punish your dog for displays of negative behavior such as growling or hissing during any interaction with your baby, child, or baby doll (when desensitizing your dog). This seems counterintuitive, but your pet is trying to tell you that he is uncomfortable. This type of communication is normal and natural. You don't want to teach your pet that giving signals is a bad thing. If you do catch your puppy doing something she shouldn't, stay calm. Let her know right away, in a loud and stern voice, that she has misbehaved. If your dog's behavior is aggressive, contact a professional trainer or behaviorist.

7. Get a Crate

Yes, a crate sort of looks likes a jail cell. But your dog, who instinctively likes to den, will not think of it that way -- it's his own personal space. The Humane Society assures pet owners that crates make housetraining easier and they'll save your dog from being constantly yelled at for problematic behavior. Of course, you don't want to leave your pup cooped up all day long, but a few, regular hours a day is fine.

8. Keep Your Dog off Furniture

To ensure the safety of your pet and children, it's best for you to keep dogs off all beds and furniture. Untrained dogs might jump up on your couch or your child's bed and accidentally cause injury. You can't expect an untrained dog to understand that it shouldn't jump up on furniture when your baby is there. To play it safe, enforce a "no pets on furniture" rule from the beginning.  

9. Stay Active

Your energetic puppy needs an active life! As a general rule, dog owners should see that their pet gets some form of exercise for 30 minutes to 2 hours daily. Of course, your dog's physical needs will be different depending on the breed. For example, bulldogs require less exercise than golden retrievers. Be sure to schedule routine walks or play dates to ensure that your puppy is getting the exercise she needs. Not only is exercise great for your pet's health, it will also prevent your pup from turning to destructive behaviors like chewing, digging and scratching.

10. Be Patient

Give your canine companion time to adjust! Life with your family is going to be much different, so be reasonable when you set your expectations. Be patient and you'll have a happy home with a loving pet in no time!

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