Monday, April 14, 2014


For most people, the best time to devote a couple of days to the new pup will be the weekend. It would be great if you could take a couple of days off work—say a Friday and Monday—to give you  and the pup a four- to five-day window of getting to know each other. Or take a day and a half so that the day you go back to work is only a half day and you can get home to spend the other half with the pup, who has spent what are probably his first hours totally alone.
You don’t have to focus on the dog, but just your presence can make him feel secure. Extended time spent together will give you information about his temperament. This doesn’t mean you can’t go out, but try to spend as much time around the house as possible so there’s a chance for low-key bonding to take place. One of the most important things for a puppy to learn, aside from house-training, is to feel comfortable with your coming and going from the house.

If there’s a lot of confusion and excitement in the house and lots of people coming and going, it can raise the stress level during the dog’s transition into your family. Of course, if all that activity is normal for you—if your household is normally like Grand Central Station—then maybe the dog had better get a taste of it right off the bat! However, it would be best to keep strangers to a minimum in the beginning and give the new dog time to settle down and settle in. It’s really not necessary for all your friends and your children’s friends to pay a visit to meet the new arrival in the first forty-eight hours.
Keep it cozy and relaxed without letting the dog spin out with excitement. This is especially true for puppies, who tire quickly and can get too worked up. You wouldn’t pass an infant hand to hand to be dandled by a bunch of people. Keep it simple. Family members only at first. And no matter how excited or happy the people may be, try to save shrieks and shouts of delight for after the dog has had a chance to settle in.
Right from the beginning it will make life easier for both of you if your dog accepts your departures and returns. If you don’t make any fuss about it, neither will the puppy.

Use a catch phrase like “See you later” and just leave. Go out for a minute or so, then return. Give the pup a brief pat on returning—no big fanfare—and then leave again, using the “See you later” phrase. Stay out for longer this time before coming back inside. Once again, make sure your return is no big deal.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Monday, April 7, 2014


As you and the pooch adjust to this new living arrangement and get to know each other, things should smooth out. If you have prepared yourself and your family for what to expect in the early days with a new dog, you’ll be ready for whatever happens. For example, if you don’t want a dog on the furniture or begging from the table, then everyone should be clear about that and respect the rules right from the start. It’s harder to undo a bad habit then to never let it begin in the first place.
Begin the relationship right by making clear what you expect of the dog. You also want it to be clear how she can expect the people in the household to be with her. Remember, you’re building a solid foundation for the best possible life with the four-legged addition to your family. 
Feeling unsure about having gotten a dog—or this dog—is not unusual. But just because you have doubts doesn’t mean that you have to do anything about the feelings. Why wouldn’t you feel apprehensive about having made the decision to take full responsibility for another being’s welfare? Those negative feelings should diminish in the early days as the attachment process begins and the positive feelings crowd out the doubtful ones.
Embarking on what is going to be a lifetime with an unknown companion can seem overwhelming: if you view the new pooch as being like an arranged spouse, you can understand that it’s not that unusual to get cold feet at the altar. Getting a dog is a big decision—and having last-minute doubts doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or that you should bail out of ownership. It probably means that you’re realizing the importance of the commitment. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the changes and responsibilities that come with getting a dog. But it can make it easier to deal with if you realize that’s what you’re feeling.

Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Think of the New Puppy as a Newborn Infant.
It should help you accept the huge burden of a puppy by perceiving him as a lonely, frightened baby. Think how shocking the move to your house must be for a young pup, suddenly removed from a warm bed full of squirming siblings and a mommy full of tasty milk. Suddenly he’s all alone—and you’re the new parent bringing him to his new home, where he’ll probably sleep alone in a crate. It’s quite an adjustment! So if in the early days the puppy cries or whines or gnaws on things, try to be patient and compassionate. He’s not doing it to irritate you, or because he’s “spoiled.” Remember, he’s only a baby.
  Think of a New Older Dog as a Foster Child.

If you got the dog from a rescue organization or county shelter, you may not learn much about her past. The dog may have already been in multiple homes or other institutions (shelters, breed-rescues). She cannot know whom she belongs to or what’s expected of her or what’s going to happen next. That doesn’t mean you feel sorry for the dog and let her have free rein without imposing any rules. On the contrary, knowing that someone is in charge and is consistent is part of what will make her feel secure in her new environment. Showing her what the boundaries are and creating some sort of predictable schedule will help her make a successful transition into your home.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Friday, April 4, 2014


As long as he is clear about what to expect—and his needs are considered, too—then a dog can fit into whatever life you have. Dogs have been bred for centuries to accommodate human needs. To put it bluntly, dogs are here mostly for our comfort and delight. Generally we have made dogs into what they are to make us happy. Obviously there are true working dogs who perform useful tasks, but for the most part none of us is a Basque shepherd with an unruly flock of sheep that we could never manage without our devoted little herding companion.
You may really want a dog but wonder if you should even have one—you or those around you may question if it will be fair to the dog. But then you have to ask whether any alternative homes for that dog are so much better or different. Aren’t there millions of dog owners who live in apartments? Have busy professional lives? Are single and go out a lot at night? Are married with  children and have limited time or energy? What makes them so much more deserving or worthy than you are of a dog’s love and companionship—and vice-versa?
Dogs enrich our lives—that’s why they mean so much to us. It’s easy to feel guilty about how the time constraints in our lives seem to shortchange the time we can spend with our dogs. You may look at people who have dogs but don’t have much time for them and be tempted to feel critical, to make a value judgment about the owner for leading a life that may seem selfish.

But the truth is that not all dogs can live in a perfect dog-oriented environment with hours to run free and play and acres to do it on—but nevertheless they are happy and give happiness. Dogs are about their people—and as long as they have the affection and attention of their masters, they can enjoy their lives.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


   The getting-to-know-you stage with a dog or puppy can be as intense and rewarding as the courtship period between people. A dog can pack a wallop to your heart before you know what’s hit you! It’s good to be reminded of that in case you weren’t expecting the possibility of an intense emotional experience. For those people who have never “fallen in love” with an animal, you may have a wonderful surprise coming your way. If you’ve had a dog in the past or even have one now, it’s easy to forget how intensely you can feel about a new dog in the early stages. Dogs and people must be wired to connect this way after centuries of being together—we worm our ways into each other’s hearts in record time and bingo! we’re hooked.
You could think of the first few days with a new dog as sort of like the beginning of an arranged marriage. With the arrival of the “mail-order bride” (your dog) both of your hopes are high but neither of you knows very much about the other yet. It’s really not far-fetched to compare getting a dog and marrying a virtual stranger. In both cases you decide to spend a lifetime together based on little more than a quick meeting. Sometimes there isn’t even a face-to-face if you’re getting a purebred dog that’s being shipped long-distance from a breeder. The decision may even be based on not much more than a conversation with an out-of-state breeder who sends you a photo of the puppy. But even if you get a puppy in person from the breeder, it’s not as though you can learn a whole lot about the dog you’re choosing from a brief visit with a puppy’s whole litter. If you’re adopting from a breed-rescue or shelter, you may have little more to go on than a photo from a Web site, followed by a meeting under less-than-optimal circumstances at the place where the dog has been locked up.
All in all, accepting a dog into your life is a leap of faith. When you think about it, isn’t it amazing how well people/dog relationships do turn out, considering that we have so little to go on before deciding to share our lives (and often our beds) with a four-legged member of a different species?

There’s a magical glue that bonds us to dogs. The deep connection that has always existed between man and dog can transform us and a new canine from strangers into inseparable companions within days.
Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner