By Dr. Gary Weitzman, President and CEO, San Diego Humane Society
One silver lining of the pandemic is a boom in pet adoptions and fostering. Thanks to quarantine measures keeping more of us at home, many have decided to add a new pet to their family or to foster an animal. As a result, animal shelters are adapting to meet the needs of the animals, and those who want to add a four-legged friend to their family.
Adopting a pet from a shelter can be a wonderful experience — one that helps to save the life of an animal in need. But during this time of social distancing, it’s more important than ever to teach children about responsible pet ownership, so your furry friend can stay happy and healthy once you’re heading back to work and school again. Here are a few tips to ensure that welcoming a new animal into your home goes smoothly.
Every pet needs clean water, healthy meals, a place to relieve themselves, appropriate exercise and a comfy spot to sleep — and knowing how to read your new four-legged family member’s behavior and train them is key to a successful adjustment.
New dog owners may wonder:
• How do I keep my dog calm in new situations?
• When is it a good idea to give my dog a treat?
• Should I punish my dog for bad behavior?
• What should I do if my dog pulls on the leash, jumps up on guests or has “accidents” in the house?
Likewise, new cat owners may ask:
• How do I get my cat into their carrier?
• What should I do if my cat chews on things she’s not supposed to or urinates outside the litter box?
• Why does my cat “go crazy” and run around at night?
• Can you really train a cat?
Spoiler alert: You can in fact train a cat, and there is no such thing as a “bad dog!”
Learning to read a pet’s body language and teach them new behaviors won’t just make your lives easier (and save your furniture). Structured, regular training is a great way for families to bond with a new animal companion.
If you’re not sure where to start, I recently wrote two new children’s books that can start your family on the right track. “Fetch! A How to Speak Dog Training Guide” will take you through all the steps of training your dog, from basic obedience to correcting behaviors to teaching more advanced tricks.
New cat owners can pick up “Pounce! A How to Speak Cat Training Guide” for tips on everything from teaching your kitty to use a scratching post instead of the couch, to walking on a leash.
All pets deserve to be cared for like any other family member. And starting out on the right foot with your new family members is essential. Behavioral challenges are one of the leading reasons why pets are relinquished to animal shelters, but we can reduce those numbers through proper training and ensuring that everyone in the family is ready to help in creating a successful transition for your new family member.
If you’re looking to adopt, please consider adopting a shelter animal. San Diego Humane Society has a variety of animals waiting for their new homes and we would love to help you find the right fit for your next pet.