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Lizzies tips for adopting a pet this summer
Summer in almost here! School will soon be out, and the fun begins!!
Orange County Pet Adoption: Is your family planning to add a new member to your household this summer?
At this time of year at IVS we see many new pets and their new pet owners! More and more of our clients are choosing to adopt a pet and rescue a pet from shelters and rescue organizations. We get lots of questions about how to make sure that pets with unknown medical histories get the special support they need to adjust to their new family and new environment.
According to Staci Lemke, our Senior Technician/ RVT and Dr. Elizabeth Morse, patience, love, and time are the key components to pet adoption success stories. Keep in mind that my friends that have been rescued did not choose their circumstances and may be skittish and untrusting until they get to know their new owners.
At IVS we have learned a lot about pets that need special attention due to abandonment or hard times in their first life. For dog owners we like to train our clients how to encourage new canine behaviors with toys, treats, and food for these special new pets. For new feline owners we like to spend time emphasizing the creation of a secluded and quiet environment designed to make a new cat feel safe. Once our felines are comfortable they will begin to explore their new surroundings and want to get to know their new pet owners.
Are you interested in a great pet adoption event in your neighborhood? Check out the Irvine Animal Care Centers June 7, 2015 Super Pet Adoption Event! Our expert staff will be on site, Sunday June 7th, with our special event booth to answer questions, or insert a pet microchip for a very reasonable price, with all proceeds going to the IACC.
If you miss the event make sure you like our Facebook page! Each week we feature pets for adoption from the shelter with great tips on their personalities!! Please visit our website page on the ‘Third Chance’ program and enjoy some heartwarming success stories about our clients that have adopted from the shelter.
My final comments this month: Keep IVS in mind when you adopt because we offer a free exam for every pet adopted or rescued!
Love and kisses from me, Lizzie!
Helping Your Rescued Dog Adjust!
By Staci Lemke, RVT, CPDT-KA
Owner of Manners for Mutts, Puppy Class Trainer at IVS
Rescue dogs have often found themselves looking for new homes through no fault of their own. Separations of the family, death, or not having time for them are common causes. Often people will feel sorry for a rescue dog and may start by taking a week off work to help it settle in, taking it for enjoyable walks and playing games. While this is a fantastic idea, it needs to be done in a structured way. It is far better to start as you mean to go on, and get the dog use to living with you on a regular day to day basis. Do not fall into the trap of feeling sorry for the dog because it was a rescue and trying to make up for its past life, we just cannot do this. Your rescue dog now has a wonderful future in a new and loving home.
To have a good relationship with your dog based on love, respect and understanding, you need to build on this gradually. I like to use food, toys, love and attention to enhance and build this relationship because these are things dogs enjoy and need in life.
Most dog’s love food, but if they get it for doing nothing, then that’s what it will mean to them – nothing. If you use the food you feed your dog to reward new behaviors, then he is earning this food, just as you and I do daily when we go to work. You’ll probably want to give him a new name, or teach him to come when called, and you cannot expect him to learn these things for free. Using some of his regular food, along with really tasty training treats, will help him learn new things and help you build a good relationship at the same time.
Some dog’s love toys, while others show little interest. This is probably because nobody has ever taught them how to play with toys. I strongly recommend teaching your new dog to play with toys. This can take some patience on your part, but is rewarded later in life when your dog would rather be with you and his favorite toy, instead of rushing off to do his own thing! Keeping a few special toys out of your dog’s reach, and getting them out daily for a good game, will ensure they keep your dog’s interest.
Chew toys should always be available for your new dog. After all, you don’t know much about his history and certainly don’t want to find out he enjoys chewing on your furniture or personal items. Kongs® or Busy Buddy® toys are wonderful as they can be stuffed with food. Nylabone® and Gumabone® products are also safe chew toys for your dog. I also like Bully Sticks. Some dogs prefer to chew soft articles while others prefer harder articles, so supplying your dog with both is a good idea in the early stages.
It’s very important that when you see your dog chewing one of these toys, you immediately reward the dog with attention. Most dogs that have become destructive have learned that chewing their toys does not get their owner’s attention, but chewing the remote control or kitchen cabinets certainly does. Many rescue dogs have never had a good relationship with humans. They’ve learned that to get their owner’s attention they had to misbehave. When they were good they got ignored; but, when they displeased their owners, they got attention, and any attention is better than none at all!
Housetraining is often another important issue when acquiring a rescue dog. Dogs that have been in kennels for some time will need your patience, as they are used to a kennel and run, not a house and yard. Some will feel very insecure coming into your home for the first time. Nothing smells familiar to them so they cannot relax. They may potty in the house, so that something does smell familiar and they can settle more easily. Start out as if you were teaching a brand new puppy, with supervision and confinement. Then, as your new dog settles in, you can begin to find out how reliably housetrained he may or may not be.
Many rescue dogs are insecure and can become overly attached to their new owners. This may lead to separation anxiety, and believe me you don’t want that! Separation anxiety is when you cannot go out and leave your dog alone because he barks, becomes destructive and may potty in the house due to stress. It is therefore very important not to let this develop, but to build a good, healthy relationship instead.
One of the first things you should teach your new dog is that he does not need to follow you from room to room within the home. This is a great help in making him relax, settle in and not get separation anxiety. Start this by using a baby gate and setting up a room you will be leaving him in (bathroom, kitchen, laundry room). Give the dog something tasty to chew, like a stuffed Kong® or Busy Buddy® toy, and put him in this room with the baby gate closed. It is ideal to have this room be in a location where the dog can see you, but cannot follow you. Depending on how well your dog reacts, go and do something in another part of the house for a few minutes, then come back, take the chew toy away, and let him out again.
IMPORTANT – the dog should only get his special chew toy when he is left alone! Build this up daily until he is happy to go in this room for between 20-35 minutes while you are doing other things in the home. Once your dog is comfortable being alone in his room while you are in another part of the house, you may begin to practice leaving the house. It is important that you practice this using a crate as well as a room, as you will most likely want to crate the dog when you actually leave the house.
Introducing a new cat into your home
By Elizabeth Morse, DVM
Congratulations on deciding to adopt a new cat! Bringing a new feline companion into your home can be both exciting and stressful — exciting because you have a brand new furry best friend to keep you company, and stressful because you want to make everything as comfortable as possible for your new pet.
Relax and try not to worry! Here are some purr-fect tips to help get you started!
Before you bring kitty home, set up a comfortable, quiet space in a separate room or an out of the way place with everything your new cat needs – this will help make the transition to a new environment less scary.
Make kitty’s home base:
- designated food and water bowls
- comfy bed (an open cat carrier with a soft, fleecy pad inside is a good option)
- litter box (don’t forget extra litter – a clay based clumping litter is usually the best option – and a scoop for those daily cleanings)
- scratching post(s) or cat tree
- window to gaze out of (kitties love to watch people & birds outside!)
- lots of toys (try a variety – crinkly, with feathers, and/or catnip).
Make sure you remove any potentially dangerous objects from the area (this goes for the rest of your house as well):
- watch out for strings or cords that kitty can chew on and possibly ingest
- keep electrical cords out of the way and/or covered
- check for heavy objects or unstable furniture that could fall and hit kitty
- and/or make sure any plants you have in the room are non-toxic to pets — a great resource to check and see if your plants are safe is the ASPCA poison control website
When you bring kitty home, make sure that you have a secure carrier for the car ride — most cats don’t like traveling, so be prepared for kitty to vocalize her displeasure. No matter how much she protests, keep the carrier closed during the trip to keep both you and kitty safe.
Once you and kitty get home, give her some time to explore and adjust to her new surroundings. Even though you may want to hold and snuggle her right away, it’s good to take things slow — talk to her and offer treats, let her approach you first and start with some gentle pets. Over time, as kitty’s gets more comfortable, she’ll become more adventurous and affectionate — soon she’ll be your new best friend!
If you have any questions or concerns, our Veterinarians and staff at IVS can be a great resource!
Below are some websites and additional reading.
The Indoor Pet Initiative, Ohio State University
“Bringing your new cat home” The Humane Society of the United States
“The Feline Behavior Series” Veterinary Partner
Introducing your existing pets to your new kitty
By Elizabeth Morse, DVM
If you already have other pets in your household, then it is best to introduce them to your new kitty gradually. Ideally you should keep kitty in her own space for about 1 week before attempting introductions.
- Kitties need time to get used to each other’s smell prior to meeting face-to-face. A good way to achieve this is by swapping towels or bedding that each cat has been sleeping on for 2-3 days.
- The next step is feeding both of the cats at the same time, on opposite sides of the same door. This again allows both cats to smell each other and creates a positive association (everyone loves food!).
- Once the cats have adjusted to mealtimes together, you can try briefly introducing them by cracking open the door – make sure the cats can easily see other, but not go through the door.
- Be prepared for some initial hissing. If the hissing escalates to growling or aggression, then close the door and try again in a few hours.
- Once both cats calm down, try opening the door wider and allow them to finally meet – with supervision from a few feet away.
- As long as all is going well, you can gradually increase the time the cats hang out together over the next few days until they are fully sharing the house.
- The key to a good lasting kitty relationship is to make sure that both cats still have their own areas for eating, sleeping, and using the litter box. Remember the rule of litter boxes is to have one for each cat and an extra one, all in different rooms/areas of the house.
- Start off by making sure that kitty has a home base area where she feels safe – i.e. it should have all the essentials and be inaccessible to the dog!
- Keep the dog limited to one area of the house and allow kitty to approach and make contact at her own pace – a great way to achieve this is with a baby or pet gate.
- Place your dog on a harness or collar and leash and set up a meeting – use praise and treats to try and make it a positive situation for everyone involved.
- If your dog barks, growls, or lunges, try to gently correct his behavior – if it persists, then try another meeting in a few hours.
- If kitty hisses or swats at the dog, try not to punish her – just give her a break and try again once she feels calmer and more secure.
- Once your dog and cat are comfortable around each other, you can try giving your dog free range of the house – just make sure that you do not let your dog chase or pick up kitty in his mouth – even if your dog is just playing, this can be very stressful for your cat and may lead to injuries!
The importance of positive reinforcement:
Kitties respond best to positive reinforcement – praise and treats work much better than punishment! I got my kitties to start using the scratching post consistently (vs. the furniture) by praising them – now they will go and scratch when they want attention from me. If you catch kitty in the act of doing something naughty, try to distract her by making a loud noise or throwing something across the room to draw her attention.