New dog? No worries!

Thursday March 31st, 2011

There's nothing easy about those first few weeks at home with your new dog except--maybe--knowing you're not alone. If that's not enough, here are suggestions for coping with a few of the challenges most common to new owners. (Good luck!)

Your dog barks and cries when left alone.

Best guess: He's insecure
Solution: Give him some kibble-stuffed chew toys and then practice leaving and returning for short periods. Keep the whole affair matter of fact and unemotional--no gushy five-minute explanations about where you're going, how much you wuv him, or why this hurts you more than him--and he's likely to learn you'll always come back. (See separation anxiety.)

Your dog throws up and develops diarrhea.

Best guess: Anxiety and/or a change in diet
Solution: Keep the first few days at home low-key but structured, following a reliable walk-eat-play routine. Find out what he's been used to eating, try to feed him the same, and gradually switch over to the dog food of your choice. If the vomiting or diarrhea is severe or doesn't go away quickly, see a vet.

You're up half the night listening to your dog whine and cry in his crate.

Best guess: Scared and alone in a strange place, face it--he's a bit freaked out.
Solution: Make him feel he's part of his new pack by keeping the crate in your bedroom at night. Try "hiding" a treat or two under his blanket. And make sure he gets plenty of exercise--soon he'll beg to crawl into that crate at night.

In the time it takes you to answer the doorbell or check your email, your dog chews the TV remote, the couch cushions, and your favorite running shoes.

Best guess: You've adopted a chewing fiend and/or he's nervous
Solution: Until he settles into his new home, confine your new dog to a crate or gated-off, puppy-proofed area. Also, give him lots of chewtoys stuffed with kibbleand treats to work out all his chewing urges. And lock away the Bubble Yum.

You take your dog off-leash and he disappears.

Best guess: Your house isn't "home" yet to your dog
Solution: There's no real solution here, only prevention. Keep your dog on leash when you're outside, make sure your backyard is securely fenced, and work on "come" in the safety of your house or yard. And of course, have your dog microchipped and fitted with the proper tags (it's nearly impossible to have him memorize your phone number).

You wonder if you did the right thing getting a dog--particularly this dog.

Best guess: You're adjusting to a new responsibility
Solution: Don't stress--it's quite common to have some doubts in the beginning (especially if he howls each time he hears a cell phone with chirping bird ringtone). Just hang in there. Chances are, you'll soon wonder how you ever survived your boring dog-deprived former life.