A large majority of dog owners treat their pet as an integral member of the family. In fact, that’s how the term dog parent’ came into usage. For example, very often, we are so fond of our dogs because they’re sensitive and loving creatures, and often quite emotional as well. However, it is these very same qualities that make it difficult for them to adapt to change, especially if the change in question is a sudden one.
However, in contrast to human family members, dogs cannot verbally communicate their concerns. This is why it is essential that you help your canine friend (or child) in a manner so the change makes sense to him and he can make the transition without too much difficulty.
How To Help Your Dog Deal with Change: Tips for Handling Different Situations
Typically, many changes will take place in a household over a lifetime. So, in this article, we’ll discuss some tips that you can learn to help your dog adapt to the most common of these changes in as painless a manner as possible.
1. An Addition to the Family: Bringing Home That New, Cuddly Bundle of Joy That’s Your Baby
If you’re expecting a baby, there will be some inevitable changes around the household. There will be mixed emotions (joy, fear, nervousness, excitement) running loose among pretty much all the family members. In short, there will be a shift in energy and rest assured, your dog will pick up on that.
Then, once you bring the newborn home, he or she will be the focal point of all the attention in the home. But how will your dog perceive all of this? He’ll see a new living creature that is far too little, makes all sorts of funny noises, smells somewhat funny as well.
Now, at this transitional period of your own life, you yourself need to stay as clam as possible. It is difficult, we admit. All the same, do try your best and also try to make sure that you stay consistent with your dog’s daily routine.
During the pregnancy, you might have already put in place a new set of limitations and boundaries for your dog. Keep them the same even after you bring your baby home. At the same time, you’ll need to set up a boundary between your baby’s room and the dog’s corner.
In fact, you’ll need to perform this step even before the baby arrives home. Prepare your baby’s room and teach your dog that he is not to enter the room at all. However, once the baby settles down in her room, it’s a good idea to make your dog get used to the scent of the newborn.
You can start this off by letting the dog sniff at your baby’s laundry. Then, after a few weeks, you may consider introducing the baby to the dog. However, before you do this, make sure that your dog is calm and is not feeling too energetic or excited. One way to ensure this is to take the dog out for a long walk and then introduce the baby once he’s home after his exercise.
The long walk will drain him of any excess energy. All the same, you must still make sure that he is adequately calm before you let him in the house. That done, hold your baby from a seated position and let the dog come near him and sniff him without, however, getting too close to him.
This again will help the dog learn the boundaries he is to maintain. And even after the dog has become familiar enough with the little one, you still never want to leave the latter unattended in the presence of the dog. Even the most caring and docile of dogs can accidentally harm a small infant.
Now, while all of this is happening, make sure to keep up with your dog’s daily schedule and don’t make him feel neglected. Give him the usual care and attention. However, don’t overdo it. Otherwise, it may make him nervous and excited.
And as the child begins to grow, his common instinct of curiosity will make him want to explore things around the household, including your dog. At this juncture, it’s crucial that you train the child to be loving and respectful towards the dog right from the start.
Make sure the kid doesn’t see the dog as another of his toys. Teach him not to pull the dog’s ears or disturb the dog in any manner. And always keep the child under supervision when he is in the presence of the dog.
2. Introducing a New Pet
You may be all too excited about adding a new pet to your household. However, don’t expect your dog to share your excitement in this case.
If it’s a new dog you’re bringing home, never commit the mistake of putting the two dogs in the same room, simply hoping that they will get along fine. That’s not going to happen. Your dog considers his room as his own territory and sure enough, he won’t like no intrusion from a stranger.
This means you’ll need to spend time and effort to properly introduce each to the other. One way to go about this is to make them meet in neutral territory. So, for example, you can take both dogs out for a walk. Have another friend or family member walk the new dog while you stay with the old one.
Keep both on a leash but don’t keep the leash too tight. This will help the dogs stay calm and relaxed. And also, don’t try to force an introduction between the two. As they come close to each other, the dogs will naturally try to sniff each other and form an acquaintance.
However, you need to keep close watch while this is taking place. Watch out for signs of distress. If relaxed, both will have open mouths and sometimes lolling tongues. On the other hand, if one or both of them start growling or baring their teeth, these are signs that they haven’t taken a liking to each other yet and you may expect aggression. So, stop the introduction routine for now, bring them back home and for the time being, continue keeping them in separate rooms.
Over time, they will get used to each other. They may not eventually become very good friends, but at the very least, they will tolerate each other’s presence. However, no matter how it pans out, always make sure to provide the dogs with their own separate food and water bowls.
During this transition period, also make sure to keep the dogs in separate rooms or enclosures whenever you’re not home (crate training comes handy in this situation).
It’s a different deal, however, if you’re planning to introduce a cat. Know that cats feel excessively stressed when entering a new environment. So, you need to spend extra hours to keep your dog as calm and obedient as possible before bringing the cat home.
When the cat enters the house, the stress factor will be considerably less if the dog stays calm. Also, just as with a new dog, keep the new feline member of your family in a separate room and provide her with a litter box, and adequate food and water.
Eventually, the two creatures will get used to each other’s scent through the door. So, after a few days, you can let them in the same room. However, you must still keep the dog on a leash and keep close supervision over them. Keep these introductory sessions brief at first and provide the creatures with their favorite treats during these times in order to keep them calm and contented.
Once you have enough confidence that the dog will not act aggressive towards the cat (and vice-versa), you may keep the doors open and let them roam freely. Still, the cat may sometime feel threatened for one reason or another. Once this happens, cats are generally very good at finding hiding places.
So, if you ever find your cat hiding in some nook, don’t ever force her to come out. Give her time to adjust to the surroundings and eventually everything will fall in place. In the best case scenario, your dog will get overly attached to and protective of the cat. Even if that doesn’t happen, they will still become familiar enough to tolerate each other’s presence without any mutual feeling of hostility.
3. Making Your Dog Adjust to a Move
Moving home is stressful for all families and your dog will sniff out that stressful energy once you begin the preparations for the move. However, the good news is that dogs usually don’t feel too bothered about moving to a new environment. He’ll be happy and satisfied as long as you, too, are part of that environment (isn’t that cute?).
However, the general hectic environment during the moving prep period can rub off on your dog, too. So, make sure that you keep up with his regular routine (playing, exercising, feeding) in order to keep him calm and stress-free.
The most challenging time for the dog would be the journey itself. The dog may feel stressed especially if it’s a long journey. In order to make the ordeal less stressful for him, consider putting him in a bed or crate that he has a special liking to. Put the bed/crate at the back of the car when you travel.
Once you move in, immediately designate a place for the dog which he will recognize as his own. Feed him his favorite dish and let him rest while you go about with arranging your new home. As we mentioned, the dogs are really good at settling down at a new place fairly quickly. Still, it will help if you continue to use most of the stuff (furniture and other articles) from your previous home. And, of course, don’t forget to bring along the dog’s own toys.
Just try to stay calm during the whole process and your dog will have little trouble settling down at his new home. He’ll be alright as long as you’re around!
4. When you or Another Family Member Suffers From Extended Illness
Now, this is a much more challenging situation for a dog owner. If a member of the family falls seriously ill, the dog will instinctively sense it. The dogs by nature are highly emotional creatures and illness in their owners can put a lot of stress on them.
During this period, it’s important that you do not stray from his usual routine and keep behaving with him as you do in normal times. No matter whether it’s you who is ill or one of your family members, if the dog senses weakness in you, he will become overly protective towards you.
Now that may sound nice. However, dogs that become overly protective can actually turn aggressive towards other people and animals since he will try to keep them away from you. So again, it’s important to stay consistent with the rules, boundaries and routine you’ve set for him.
No matter how you feel, try your best to act normal with him. Chances are that he’ll still sense it if things are not all too well inside the home. However, if it results in any noticeable change in his behavior, you’ll need to stay firm and be strict with him.
For example, if the dog shows signs of aggressive behavior, don’t try to appease him by using a soothing and calm voice, etc. Rest assured that that’ll not work. In fact, trying to act nice with him at such situations will only serve to reinforce his negative behavior.
As mentioned, try your best not to stray from his daily routine. For example, if you take him out for a walk everyday or devote time for his exercises, keep up with that. If you yourself are ill or you don’t have the time since you’ll need to tend to the person who is ill, ask a close friend or relative if they can help by walking the dog.
We repeat this time and again since any deviation from his normal schedule will make the dog feel anxious and insecure and this may result in unwanted behavioral changes. Be nice with him as long as he is doing the right things. Don’t forget that dogs like to be led by their keepers and they feel safe and secure that way. As long as they get to observe the rules and boundaries already set for them, they’ll stay calm and normal.
5. Mourning the Loss of a Family Member
Emotional creatures as they are, dogs get extremely attached to all members of the household. So, if a member of the family dies, he will become extremely sad and devastated and may even fall into serious depression.
So, if you’re a dog parent and if it so happens that you are ill and know it for a fact that your days are numbered, you must plan ahead about your dog’s future. Who will take care of the dog in your absence? Where will he end up?
We strongly suggest that you include specifics about the dog in your will. Also, if you’ve found someone who is willing to take the guardianship of the dog, consult him with the paperwork and make sure he is alright with whatever provisions you make for the dog in your will.
You must also help the dog’s future owner/caregiver with sets of essential information regarding the dog. These may include specifics such as:
• The dog’s daily routine
• The veterinarian he sees for checkups
• His health record book
• His preferred brand of food, and his favorite treats and toys
Now, if you happen to be this future guardian of the dog, make sure you can shoulder the responsibility before you agree to it. However, if you can after all look after the dog after the passing away of his original owner, you’ll be doing a great service both to the dog and his deceased owner.
And if the latter happens to be a close friend or relative of yours, taking care of his canine companion is perhaps the greatest way of honoring him once he is no longer among us.
At first, the dog will stay bereaved. However, if you can stick up with his usual routine and give him enough love, he’ll eventually be able to get over the grief.