Guest post: Introducing a new baby to your dog

posted on August 02, 2018 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

This month I asked Dr. Alger to write a blog about a topic near and dear to her at the moment.  Please read on for more information about what to expect when you’re expecting and already have a fur child!

 

August is due date month for me and seemed fitting to write a blog to discuss introducing a new baby to your dog. My household consists of my husband, myself, and our 10 month old Bernese Mountain Dog, Walter, who currently weighs in at a whopping 100 pounds.

We adopted Walter just before Christmas and found out I was pregnant about a week later. It is natural to worry a bit about how your pet(s) will transition to your new life and I immediately wanted to know how to prepare Walter for a baby so that I could start the process as early as possible. So, the question I will focus on this blog is: What are the appropriate steps to take to prepare a dog for the new baby? I will touch on some of the important things I found and have implemented into training and preparing my own pup for the new addition to our family. 

First and foremost, determine what kind of relationship you want your dog to have with your little one. Ask yourself, is your dog calm in nature or have more fearful, excitable, or aggressive tendencies? Is your dog known to be protective, possessive, predator driven, timid, overly-friendly? Is the baby’s room going to be off limits? It is important to determine these things prior to the arrival of your baby to ensure that you are doing the proper preparation that fits your dog. Some dogs may need formal training in order to transition properly.

One of the most important steps is to take the time to implement changes and training before the baby arrives. The arrival of the baby will create a lot of changes in the household related and unrelated to your dog, and he will pick up on most, if not all of them. In order to avoid your dog feeling displaced or like it needs to compete, plan to start training them for the baby as early as you can.

Training

If you haven’t already, teach your dog to sit or lie down on command and to stay until it is permitted to get up. I will be honest, Walter is still working on ‘staying’ when things get exciting. These commands should never be associated with punishment because they will be used a lot with the baby and it is important to avoid punishment of the dog in association with the baby. With these skills, you will have better control when it comes to initial introduction and other moments of excitement and you will be able to avoid injury to yourself, your baby, or your dog.

Schedule

You can expect your schedule to change with an infant in the house, and when your schedule changes, so does your dog’s. Try to figure out a schedule that works with your pet and a new baby and implement that schedule at least a few months prior to the baby’s arrival. This includes a feeding schedule, a walk or two, individual attention that you will be giving to each pet, and any other scheduled events you may have in your day. It is important to maintain this schedule no matter what, and therefore it is important to make it a schedule that you can see fitting into your new life with an infant.

Attention

Your dog will likely be receiving or feel like it’s receiving less attention than it did before the new baby entered your life, and it will definitely recognize this and maybe even feel that the attention has been transferred to another individual, which can promote attention seeking behavior. One thing that may help avoid this is including the baby and your dog in positive things together, like exercise. This may help allow the dog to associate positive attention with the baby. The more exercise you can do with both your pet and the baby, the better everyone’s relationship will be.

The Baby’s Room

If you are not going to allow your pet into your baby’s room, you can train them to sit outside the door with the door open (assuming you’ve trained them to stay until told otherwise), or put a gate up. This way, they can still feel included and don’t feel the need to figure out what’s going on in there. If you do not need to put a gate up, be sure to shut the door when you are not using the room so they cannot enter the room when you’re not paying attention.

If you plan to allow your dog into the baby’s room, like we do with Walter, allow him in there prior to the baby’s arrival. Give him a chance to sniff around, seek out spots, and feel free to set boundaries for what your pet can and cannot do in there. For instance, we have a basket full of stuffed animals and Walter has mistaken them for his own in the past. After much training, he now knows that he has his own basket of toys and he leaves those alone.

The Introduction 

This is where you put all of your training to the test. One way that may make it slightly easier is letting your dog stay home while you are at the hospital with someone watching him instead of an unfamiliar space. This way, there aren’t too many changes or negative emotions associated with the baby. Prior to coming home, have someone bring an item that smells like the baby (a blanket, hat, clothing, etc.). When you finally come home, you will have been gone for a few days so it is a good idea to greet your dog like you normally would without the baby. It is best if you can have an extra hand can hold the baby while you greet your dog. Most dogs get pretty excited to see their owners, try to allow enough time for the excitement to settle before bringing in the baby. When you finally introduce your new bundle to the dog, it is best to have the dog controlled on a leash. The goal is to have gradual, pleasant and supervised initial exposure. If he is interested and calm enough, let your dog sniff the baby. If he gets a little too excited, take a break from the introduction and try again once he has settled down again.

Sometimes, your dog may need a little extra help, whether its in the training process of after you’ve introduced the baby. There is nothing wrong with having a professional behavioralist help you and your dog through this transition. 

Regardless of how great your dog does with the baby and the transition into a new lifestyle, accidents happen and it is not ever recommended to leave your baby and dog in a room unsupervised.

Lastly, enjoy your new life and the new relationship that is about to blossom between your baby and your fur baby!

 

Responsible Pet Ownership

posted on February 01, 2018 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

February is National Responsible Pet Owners Month.  Pets are a joy to own, but they are also a commitment.  Dogs and cats can live 10-20 years, and some pets such as birds can live even longer.  They depend upon us fully to care for them, but in return they give us unconditional love.

So what are some ways to be a responsible pet owner?

  •  Spay or neuter your pet.  Unfortunately in the U.S., there is an overpopulation of companion animals, with many dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, and other pets living in shelters and rescues.  Spaying and neutering helps prevent further overpopulation, and has some health benefits as well.
  • Get pets from reputable sources.  On a similar note, when looking to add to your family, consider rescues and shelters.  There are many pure bred rescues if you want a pure bred, and mixed breed animals often have the benefit of fewer health issues.
  • Go to the vet annually.  While your pet may not require yearly vaccinations, the physical examination is the most important part of your visit.  Pets are very good at hiding pain and problems, and going to the vet regularly may help catch issues earlier, when they are easier to prevent or treat.
  • Microchip or otherwise identify your pet.  Tags with phone numbers are important, and having a microchip with current information can help reunite with your pet should you get separated.  Make sure to keep microchip information current if you move or get a new phone number.
  • Go to training.  Training your dog helps strengthen your bond, and can help prevent or reduce behavior issues.  Things like agility can also give you both something active to do together.
  • Provide good nutrition.  Your pet needs a well balanced, nutritious diet to have a long, healthy life.  At the same time, don’t overfeed.  Obesity is a major issue affecting our pets and can cause multiple health issues.  Talk with your veterinarian about recommended foods and amounts.
  • Provide regular grooming.  Almost all dogs need their nails trimmed periodically, and most dogs need a bath every once in awhile.  Some pets require regular brushing to keeps tangles at bay, and some dogs need professional grooming to maintain a health coat and skin.
  • Hygiene is important as well.  Ears should be cleaned periodically.  Anal glands may need to be emptied on a regular basis.  Teeth should be brushed, ideally daily, with a pet tooth paste.  Regular veterinary dental care may be required as well.
  • Be prepared for emergencies.  Have a basic first aid kit handy; there are even some made specifically for pets.  Know that certain human medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) are toxic to pets.  Have emergency veterinarian contact information handy.  Keep a file of copies of bloodwork and other important health information handy in case you need to see a veterinarian other than your regular vet.
  • Have pet insurance or a savings account for your pets’ health.  There are multiple options for pet health insurance that may be able to alleviate the cost burden and financial part of making decisions in an emergency.  Having a regular savings account for your pet’s yearly care, with a buffer for emergency situations is another way to handle this.
  • Provide mental and physical stimulation.  Exercise is important for our pets, helping control weight, as well as giving a release for pent up energy that could otherwise feed unwanted behavior.  Mental stimulation such as scent training, puzzle toys, and foraging for food/treats is also important for that same reason.
  • Travel safely.  Pets should be confined when in a vehicle for their own and your safety.  There are multiple seat belt and harnesses available, as well as carriers, confinement nets, or crates.
  • Pet proof your house.  Wires and cords make tempting play toys to puppies and kittens.  Plants may pose a toxic threat.  Yards may have unforeseen escape routes or dangers.  Imagine yourself at their level and educate yourself about potential toxins to keep out of their reach.
  • Clean up after your pets.  Dogs can spread disease to other pets and humans via their feces, so if they have a bowel movement in public, be sure to clean it up.  This is also just the nice, neighborly thing to do!
  • Teach children to respect animals.  Discuss with children how to ask before going up to strange animals.  Teach them to understand basic dog and cat body language cues, and teach them how to approach and pet animals appropriately.  Supervise children and pets when they are together.  Lead by example.

Overall, there are many things that play a role into being a responsible pet owner.  These are just a few examples of things that contribute to having a healthy, happy pet for many years!

National Puppy Day

posted on March 02, 2017 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

March 23rd is national puppy day, and this couldn’t be more fitting this year.  Dr. Hartman recently got a new springer spaniel puppy named Afton!

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Puppies bring a lot of joy to the family, but are also work as well!  A puppy should never be a spur of the moment decision, breeds and breeders should be researched, and lifestyle should be evaluated before bringing home a new pet.  Different breeds have different energy levels, grooming requirements, and personalities.  Care should be used to avoid adopting from a puppy mill and rescues should be considered.  Many states also keep records of breeding facilities that they inspect.

Puppies usually can only hold their bladder for about 1-2 hours when they first come home.  It gradually increases as they get bigger (a rule of thumb is 1 hour per month of age), but some dogs are not able to go 8 hours until adulthood!  It is important to consider your lifestyle and schedule for this reason.

Puppies also require frequent visits to the vet in the first year for a number of reasons including to get booster vaccines, check weights, to make sure they are growing appropriately, and to be spayed or neutered.  Adopting from a shelter may alter some of these visits, but there is still more upkeep for puppies than for adult pets.

Puppies also should be well socialized.  Puppy classes are recommended for all dogs, even if you’ve been through a class with a previous dog.  It is a good interaction for the dogs to meet other dogs and people, and it’s always good to use the latest, proven training methods such as positive reinforcement.  Outside of class, puppies need to be introduced to a variety of things-car rides, people of various ages and appearances, stores, other dogs, water, grooming, etc.  A rule of thumb is to introduce the puppy to something new every day!  One option for puppy classes is held right here at Heritage Animal Hospital by Julie Humiston of Puppy Love Dog Training.

Lastly, puppies tend to chew and bite a lot.  This is a normal behavior, but must be trained to be appropriate.  Teaching the puppy what is acceptable to chew on, which toys are theirs, and how not to bite/nip at humans is your responsibility.  In the meantime, the house must be “puppy proofed”, removing items that are potentially dangerous to the pet if they chew on them such as electric cords, toxic plants, and potential foreign objects that could be ingested and cause an obstruction.

Despite a few inevitable relatively sleepless nights, a few accidents in the house, and maybe even a shoe or two being destroyed, puppies are a source of unconditional love and are a great joy.  If you have questions prior to adopting a puppy, please contact us, we are happy to help!

Posted in: Canine Health

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Pet

posted on December 01, 2016 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Every December many of us start to think of the coming year and we often make resolutions for things we are going to do differently or try to achieve in the coming months.  This year, why not set a resolution for your pet or for both of you?

In America, 54% of dogs and 58% of cats are classified as overweight or obese.  So while you may make a resolution to lose weight yourself, why not include the household pets as well?  Start by using an actual measuring cup instead of “eyeballing” amounts of food, look for lower calorie foods and treats, limit overall treat intake, and try meal feeding instead of leaving food out all the time.  Contact us to learn more about how to formulate a safe weight loss plan for your pet.  We can recommend diets and calculate the amount of food you should be feeding.
Another part of weight loss is getting more active.  Things you can do with your dog to help get more activity for both of you include walking, jogging, running, hiking, and skijoring.  If one or both of you is a bit out of shape or just is not used to a lot of exercise, a slow build up to activity is recommended, as pets can get sore too!  You can also increase activity for your pet indoors-play with toys, lasers, or even use feeder toys to help stimulate both your pet’s mental and physical wellbeing.  Schedule a set play time each day or incorporate small amounts of increased activity and interaction (during commercial breaks of your favorite show perhaps).

There’s a saying that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but this is not true.  Try having your pet learn a new trick.  Positive reinforcement techniques such as clicker training are a great way to help shape behavior.  Cats can learn tricks too with the right encouragement!  Sit, lay down, shake, roll over, play dead, and high five are some popular tricks, but there are endless possibilities.  Other options include joining a training class or canine good citizen class, or look into becoming a certified therapy pet.

Vow to do a better job with your pet’s home care.  Did you know that it is recommended to brush your pet’s teeth daily?  Just like with humans, plaque (soft food particles, bacteria and debris) hardens into tartar after about 24 hours.  Use a pet safe toothpaste and lots of positive reinforcement.  Even if you can’t get daily, every little bit helps, and it gives you a chance to see inside their mouth to notice changes earlier.

Some breeds require daily or weekly hair brushing as well.  Nail trims should be performed every 4-8 weeks depending on the pet, and ears may need to be cleaned periodically also.  Getting into a routine can help the pet become more accustomed to these procedures, and again, you may spot changes earlier allowing easier treatment or even prevention of problems.

Put reminders on your calendar to do these things as well as giving monthly heartworm and flea and tick medications.  While discussing things to put on your calendar, make sure to schedule your pet’s yearly examination appointment as well.

Lastly, make yourself a reminder to update your contact information on your pet’s microchip and ID.  These items are not useful if they contain old contact information such as incorrect addresses or phone numbers that are no longer in service.  You can update microchip information through Home Again here.

We wish hope both you and your pet the best of luck in achieving your goals, and hope that you have a wonderful new year!screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-12-50-34-pm

The Yellow Dog Project

posted on June 03, 2016 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

Have you ever seen a dog with a yellow ribbon tied to their leash?  Do you know what this means?

The yellow dog project is meant to provide awareness.  Dogs with yellow ribbons or other yellow items tied to their leash are dogs that require a little more space.  There are many reasons dogs may need extra space, and a yellow ribbon does not necessarily mean the pet is aggressive.

Reasons a pet might need more space include:Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 3.42.05 PM

  • recovery from surgery or illness
  • painful dogs
  • dogs in season
  • old and tired dogs that don’t want to be bothered
  • scared dogs
  • pets that are ill
  • pets that are insecure
  • pets that are fearful
  • rescue or shelter dogs that have not fully been socialized
  • puppies or other dogs in training
  • dogs that are working

 

It is important to give these dogs extra time to move out of your way, and while you should always ask before petting a strange dog, it is especially important to ask before interacting with these pets.

The yellow dog project is not an excuse to be used instead of proper training, and it is not a waiver of responsibility.  It should be used along with a professional trainer using positive reinforcement methods to help overcome any fears or socialization issues.  If you are using a yellow ribbon for your pet, do not assume that everyone knows what it means, and remain vigilant.  However, it can be a great tool to help dogs recover from illness or become better socialized.  Be aware, and spread the word about what the yellow ribbon means.  For more information, please see:

The yellow dog project

Dogs in need of space

 

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