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Preparing Your Dog for a New Family Member

  • Heidi

Setting Your Dog Up for Success

Pug peeking out from behind a chairIt can be exciting welcoming someone new into your household. But, whether it’s a baby or an adult, it can be a stressful time for your resident animals. Not only are there new sights, sounds, and smells for them to get used to, but new additions can also throw off your dog’s routine. Unfortunately, when dogs are stressed or afraid, it can lead to unwanted and even dangerous behavior.

These steps can help keep your dog comfortable and calm while they adjust to changes in their household.

Don’t Wait to Get Started

Before your new addition comes home with you, find ways to introduce your dog to them in advance. These strategies might include placing some of their items around your house and encouraging your dog to investigate them. Or, having your dog meet their new family member a few times before moving day. If you’re expecting a new baby, try playing recordings of babies gurgling, cooing, or crying to help expose your dog to these strange, new sounds. Throughout the introduction process, be sure to provide lots of treats, toys, and reassurance so that your dog associates the experiences with good things.

Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Body Language

It’s human nature to want everyone to get along. But, don’t rush it when introducing your dog to their new family member. Unfamiliar things can be scary for some dogs, especially children or medical items like canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. And, when scared or panicked, even the sweetest dog can lash out and bite. Handle introductions carefully and watch your dog for signs that they’re afraid or stressed. You should also supervise all interactions until you’re confident your dog is calm and comfortable.

Remember Your Basic Training

Adding a new member to your household always makes things busy, but don’t forget the importance of regular obedience training. Before your new family member moves in, work on foundation skills like “sit,” “down,” and “off.” Practicing these basic commands ensures your dog will do them reliably with someone new in the house. They also give your dog direction on how to respond to changes in their environment. Being confident in your dog’s obedience training is also incredibly helpful if you have someone moving in who is unsteady on their feet and could fall if jumped on. Once your new family member moves in, continue practicing these basic commands to help reinforce your dog’s good manners.

Be Patient

Don’t expect your dog to accept a new household resident overnight. While they adjust, be sure your dog has a safe and quiet space where they can retreat if they’re feeling stressed. Whenever possible, try to keep your dog’s schedule as normal as possible and avoid creating additional stress, like taking them to the vet or groomer. Be sensitive to your dog during this time and make sure to spend one-on-one time with them to help them cope with these household changes.

Remember, some dogs take longer than others to adjust to new family members. But, by being sensitive to your dog’s response, you can help make it a positive experience for everyone.

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