So you have made a decision to adopt a canine companion. Congratulations!
When you bring your four-footed friend home, the real work — and fun — begins.
Most dogs need an adjustment period when adapting from one type of lifestyle to another. Whether your new family member is a brand new puppy or an older dog, whether she comes from from a shelter, a rescue organization or a private breeder, expect an adjustment period lasting anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months.
Visit a Vet
The first thing to do when you bring home your new companion is to make an appointment with a vet. Choose a veterinarian who will work with you and your dog. There are a lot of choices out there for veterinarians, and their services range from shot clinics to specialties. Ask your pet-owning friends, colleagues, and neighbors for recommendations. It’s fine to try several vets until you get one who clicks with you; just remember to take copies of your pet’s medical records so your new vet can keep track of vaccinations, medications, procedures, allergies, and so on.
Also become familiar with local and county regulations on spaying and neutering, required vaccinations, and whether your new pet needs a license. San Mateo County currently requires your dog to be licensed and vaccinated for rabies by four months. The Peninsula Humane Society web site explains county animal laws and has other helpful information.
For new puppies spaying and neutering is a personal preference, although if you get a puppy from a breeder, it will state in the contract whether you must alter the dog. If you choose to leave your pet intact, be prepared to properly house and confine your pet to prevent unplanned litters. Be aware, the annual licensing fee for a non-neutered pet is much higher in San Mateo County.
Routine is Key to Success
Set up a routine for this new family member. Routine is key to having your new companion adjust successfully to its new life. Establish predictable feeding times, play times, potty breaks, walk times, and nap times. These will help you build a wonderful relationship with a four-legged companion who will be with you and your family for the next 10 to 15 years.
An important part of your routine should include obedience practice. Just a few minutes two or three times a day will help you bond with your new buddy and give you a positive way to channel his energy as well as establish good communication with your dog.
Start with basic commands such as come, sit and stay; if you are new to obedience, you can hire a trainer for one-on-one work, or sign up for one of the numerous obedience classes given all over the county. Keep your obedience work upbeat and it will seem more like play than work. You may find yourself looking into other dog activites such as agility or tracking just to mention a few options.
There is no single “right” training method for every dog — or every person! The key is finding what works for you and your pet Techniques to consider include positive reinforcement, clicker training, marker training, crate training, collar and leash, and reward training. Dog Training Central discusses the various methods. Find a trainer or group that you can work with -- look for the basics , common sense and clear communication. Your vet, other dog owners, pet stores, and the ASPCA can make recommendations. No matter what training method you choose, success boils down to being consistent and having a few rules that everyone in the household can abide by.
Just remember that knowledge is power and you have an endless amount of tools at your fingertips. Enjoy your new canine companion!
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