You’ve been waiting patiently for a little bundle of joy. Now that it has arrived, you’re so excited to show it off to everyone especially those people who haven’t yet met its newest member. But when it comes time to take your baby home from the breeder, you get nervous. What if your new puppy gets scared by another animal? Or maybe the other animals in the shelter are bigger than yours!
Will they hurt him? How will you know how to protect him? These questions and others often plague first-time parents. And if you’re not careful, some fears can become ingrained into your psyche. They may even turn into an anxiety disorder like separation anxiety or social phobia.
Why You Might Fear Other Dogs
Fear isn’t always bad, though. In fact, it’s a natural reaction to danger. Some fears are rooted in reality, such as spiders or snakes. Others could stem from an experience with a specific individual, like someone who bullied you at school. It doesn’t matter where these fears come from whether real or imagined the key is to find out more information on them.
If you think your fear stems from a negative experience with a particular breed of dog, talk to the owner of the one you encountered. Perhaps that bully was a German shepherd rather than a human being. Ask if there are any incidents of aggression between members of the same pack (or litter).
If you were previously attacked by a pit bull, consider taking your pet to a trainer who specializes in working with this type of dog. Even if your fear is unfounded, talking to experts about your concern can provide relief.
The next step is to figure out what kind of dog you really want. For example, if you love huskies, then you probably won’t be too upset if your new puppy becomes friends with one. On the other hand, if you’re allergic to cats, you may want to avoid breeds like pugs, which are known to attack small pets like hamsters and gerbils.
Once you’ve decided what type of dog you’d prefer, here are a few tips to keep in mind during your puppy’s initial introduction to the rest of your family. Never punish your dog for something it didn’t do. Don’t yell at your pup because it got into the trash or chew up your cat after it urinates inside your house.
You may feel better afterward, but your dog will associate your anger toward it with your own actions, making it less likely to repeat those behaviors in the future. Instead, try playing with your pet while telling yourself “good dog,” or praise it lavishly every time it behaves well.
Don’t tease your dog. Never make fun of your pet’s appearance or tell it that it’s ugly. Also, never use words like “freak” or “retard.” While you may find your new furry friend cute as a button, your poor pooch may actually end up feeling insulted.
When meeting a new dog, greet it calmly. When you meet your new pal, extend your arms out to either side of your body.
This signals to the dog that you aren’t going to startle it with sudden movements or noises. Gently stroke the top of the animal’s head and back. Let your dog sniff your hands and then gently place it in front of you. Tell it to sit and give it treats. Gradually increase the amount of time that you spend around your pet. Eventually, your dog should begin to respond positively to your presence.
What You Can Do If Your Fear Is Serious
If the thought of interacting with another animal makes you break out in hives, you may need professional assistance. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that approximately 12 percent of Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental illness each year. Anxiety disorders alone affect nearly 25 million adults. Fortunately, modern medicine offers many options to treat mental health conditions, including psychotherapy, medications and behavioral therapy.
However, if you’re serious about overcoming your fear of dogs, you’ll want to work with a trained professional. There are a number of different schools of thought regarding treatment for phobias, including exposure therapy and desensitization. Exposure therapy is used to gradually expose patients to their feared stimuli. Desensitization involves repeated exposures over time until the patient feels comfortable approaching her subject again. Both approaches tend to be effective, but only under the guidance of a qualified therapist.
Before you bring your young puppy home, ask your vet about getting your pet evaluated. A veterinarian can also refer you to a specialist who can conduct tests to determine exactly what issues exist within your pet. Depending upon your diagnosis, your doctor may prescribe medication, suggest occupational therapy or simply recommend that you enroll in a behavior modification program.
Behavioral modifications can include things like positive reinforcement training (which focuses on rewarding good behavior), operant conditioning (a process in which a person learns through trial and error) and systematic desensitization. However, these techniques require patience and practice.
In addition to a formalized intervention, there are a number of non-professional methods you can try at home. One way is to interact with your pet outside of your home. Take walks together, play fetch with your pet in the backyard or go to the park. Another option is to invite friendly neighbors’ dogs over to visit. By doing so, you’ll slowly build confidence and trust.
Finally, remember that no two situations are alike. Every household is unique, and your situation will change as your relationship with your pet progresses. Just because you had a difficult interaction with another dog once doesn’t mean that you’ll encounter similar problems again.
Tips for Introducing a New Dog or Puppy Into Your Family
Now that you’ve gotten acquainted with your new fur ball, it’s time to get the whole gang together. No doubt, you’re eager to share your new addition with your loved ones, but you shouldn’t neglect your extended family. After all, you wouldn’t leave your child home alone without supervision, would you? Well, just as you wouldn’t allow your toddler to walk down to the corner store alone, neither should you leave your dog unsupervised.
While most puppies are gentle creatures, you still need to teach them important lessons early on. Before bringing your new pet home, consult local shelters and humane societies to see what types of animals live there. Pick up a book on basic obedience classes and read articles online to familiarize yourself with their protocols.
Then, take your new pet to the vet to receive a checkup. Make sure your vet completes a thorough examination, including checking to see if your pet has any medical conditions or illnesses. Once you’ve done everything possible to prepare for your new addition, your pet will be ready to join the family.
Whenever possible, establish dominance hierarchies among humans and animals. You should assign leadership roles to individuals within your household. For instance, you may decide that you’ll be the leader, while your spouse will assume the role of protector. As part of this hierarchy, you should create rules for how other animals should be treated.
For example, if you have a large yard, you may want to set boundaries for your pet’s activities. Decide if your pet is allowed to run free or confined to a fenced area. Finally, assign duties to designated members of your household. Maybe you’ll designate one adult male in your household as the dominant male, meaning that he gets to boss around everyone else.
Or perhaps you’ll choose the oldest female in your family to rule over the females. Whichever method you choose, make sure that everyone understands their responsibilities. Be consistent. Everyone needs clear guidelines to follow. Establishing rules ahead of time will prevent confusion later on.
Take responsibility for your pet’s care. Be prepared to feed, clean up after and discipline your pet. Most importantly, train your pet to behave properly. Teach your pet basic commands like sit, stay and lay down. Keep your pet on a leash whenever it’s outdoors. And remember to reward your pet every time it obeys a command.
Create a special space for your pet. Make it inviting by providing food, water and toys. And don’t forget to brush and groom your pet regularly.
Let your pet meet other animals. Slowly integrate your pet into your daily routine. Take your pet to places like parks, beaches and stores. At first, supervise your pet closely, but eventually let it roam freely. Remember to listen to your gut, however. If you feel uncomfortable with a situation, remove your pet immediately.