Pet-Owner Problems: Tips for Training Your New Family Member

Bringing home a new pet is an exciting time, but it can also be chaotic and stressful for your household. It's important to start setting ground rules and expectations early. Although it can be difficult to anticipate every training challenge, there are some ways to ease the transition.

Be Consistent

Whether you're bringing home a rambunctious puppy or a sedate older cat, it's important to set the rules early and stick to them no matter what. Make sure everyone in the household is on board. Inconsistent expectations about feeding times, bed time, or potty time cause stress and behavior problems in most animals.

Be Realistic

Remember that this is a bigger change for your new pet than it is for you, so don't expect perfect behavior right away. Try to use praise and rewards whenever possible to build trust. Set your new pet up for success by preventing access to temptations, such as the garbage can, leather shoes or food left on the counter.

Socialize, but Don't Overdo It

Friendly pets tend to be safer and happier than fearful or aggressive ones, so spend time introducing your pet to strangers. While an aggressive dog may scare burglars away, a good alarm system is probably a safer option for guests. You can also find out which home security systems work with dogs so you don’t have to have them compete when the door rings or when they leave the doggy door. Don't force interactions or start them too early, however, as that can cause fear and anxiety. Give older pets a week or two to settle in before you start making introductions, and keep things low-key and casual until you see how your pet feels about strangers.

A Tired Pet Is a Good Pet

Remember that a lot of pet behavior problems are caused by boredom. Be sure you're giving your pet enough exercise, whether you're taking your dog for long walks or letting your cat chase a laser pointer. If you have a young puppy or kitten, check with your veterinarian to determine an appropriate exercise schedule, as too much activity can damage growing bones and joints. Puzzle and food-dispensing toys can also help alleviate boredom like P.L.A.Y.'s Wobble Ball.

Be Proactive

Don't wait for a problem to develop. Instead, create a plan from the start to help your new pet settle into your home. If you're getting a dog, consider obedience classes or one-on-one sessions with a trainer. Even cats can benefit from trick training and learning to come when called. Training basic commands from the start can help you prevent or handle any issues that arise later.

Although small problems often arise as pets and their people adapt to living together, careful planning can help minimize the stress. These simple tips can help you and your pet settle in quickly and create a long-term bond.

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