An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
We’ve all heard it, but we don’t always apply it successfully to our own lives. However, prevention, often in the form of management, is a key aspect of training and behavior modification. This is especially important when we bring a new pet into our lives.
Of course, no new pet, whether 8-weeks-old or 8-years-old is a completely blank slate; but, when we bring a new pet into our homes, we are creating new relationships and setting new patterns for behavior. At this point, we have the opportunity to act to prevent many behaviors that can cause problems in the future.
One important step in this process is taking stock of the environment your new pet will be entering. Are there items a puppy or an anxious dog might chew? Expensive or irreplaceable items that might be knocked over or destroyed? For cats, is there an easily accessible litterbox that is not being used by any resident cat(s)? Move, remove, or rearrange these items before the new pet arrives home to help create an environment where the new pet can be successful.
If one or more pets is already living in the home, how will they be introduced? The best method of introduction will vary based on the animals involved.
New cats should be given their own room for at least a few days while they adjust to their environment. If the cat has been exposed to any cat colds or other viruses, this will also provide enough time for symptoms to show before resident cats are exposed.
Whenever possible, dogs should be introduced in a neutral location. Even if they get along, dogs should not be left together unsupervised in the early stages of their relationship. If problems develop, they may escalate before anyone gets home to interrupt.
You will also want to consider the schedules and expectations of the human residents of the home. People often elect to bring their new pet home at the beginning of a long weekend or when they otherwise have time off. This can provide a great opportunity to bond with the new pet, but the new pet will be stressed when everyone heads back to their regular routine. Establishing an approximation of your regular routine, including typical mealtimes and plenty of comings and goings, will help the new pet adjust.
There is a lot more to this topic, which I will explore in future posts, but feel free to post your suggestions in the comments!