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Bringing Doggy Home

Pay attention to the dogs' body language. A play bow, in which a dog lowers her front end, keeps her rear in the air, and wags her tail, is an invitation to play. The other dog will probably be friendly in response. Hair standing up on a dog's back, bared teeth, growling, staring, stiff-legged walking, or attempts to mount the other dog are all aggressive behaviors. Don't let that sort of behavior continue. Distract the dogs. Call them away from one another, have them sit or lie down, and praise them or give them treats. Wait a few minutes and then try to let the dogs interact again. Keep these encounters short and controlled, and be alert so that things don't get out of hand. Don't give up right away—some dogs that start out disliking one another later become friends. But don't take any chances—dog fights are not pleasant, and it doesn't take long for two dogs to injure one another.

When the dogs stop intensively checking each other out—or better yet, start playing—take them home. Remain cautious for the first few weeks, especially if you already have two or more dogs or if there is a size difference between the old and new dogs. There's bound to be some jockeying for position in the pack, and there's no point taking a chance on a fight. When you can't supervise the dogs, it's probably best to separate them or crate them.

If you're bringing home a puppy, you still need to control the initial introduction and supervise all interaction for at least the first few days. Puppies are relentless little pests to older dogs. Well-socialized, kindly adult dogs will tolerate a lot from puppies. When things really get out of hand, a nice grown-up dog will growl and sometimes use his paw or mouth to put a puppy down and tell him to stop biting, leaping, pawing, or pulling. Puppies younger than four months aren't yet fluent in canine body language or manners, and they learn from encounters with good older dogs.

Be cautious with any adult dog that shows signs of aggressiveness or that hasn't been socialized properly. In fact, if you have a dog that is aggressive toward other dogs, be sure you know how you will protect a puppy before you bring one home. A puppy can be badly frightened and injured in a flash by an impatient canine disciplinarian. Never leave a puppy alone with an adult dog unless you're absolutely sure about the adult, and don't expect the older dog to baby-sit indefinitely. He needs some quiet time away from the puppy and some private attention from you. Be sure to give both dogs their own food bowls and toys, too, and don't let the pup annoy the older dog when he's eating.

Introducing a new dog to a resident cat should be done with control and caution. Don't allow the dog to chase or rough up the cat. If the cat bops or scratches the dog on the nose, just distract the dog with toys or petting. Don't punish the cat! She needs to tell the dog what the limits are. And don't allow the dog to retaliate—you don't want to teach the dog that it's okay to chase or harass the cat. If your cat has been with dogs before, chances are things will go smoothly once she sizes up this new dog. If she's not used to dogs, she may be stressed by the newcomer for a while. When we got married and I moved in with my Labrador Retriever, my husband's cat spent days on top of the refrigerator whenever the dog was in the house. A few weeks later they were sharing a big red dog bed.

To help the dog-cat relationship develop smoothly, set up “dog-free” areas where your cat can sleep, eat, play, and use the litter box without canine interference. Let the cat sniff areas of the house where the dog has already explored, but with the dog absent. Then bring the dog in, but confine him to a room or area of the house. If the cat wants to have a look, let her. If not, fine. Don't force a meeting. Let the cat determine how quickly the relationship will develop. Talk to both the dog and the cat. When they see that you talk to the other guy, too, they'll realize they're both part of the family.

Socialize, Socialize, Socialize

Your puppy will become a much better companion if you take the time to introduce him to many things while he is young. With some reasonable precautions, you can see to it that your pup is introduced to lots of people and things even while protecting him from disease before his vaccination series is complete. Avoid high-risk environments, such as places where other animals may leave disease-carrying feces and urine. But do get him out to see the world, even if you have to carry him part of the time. He can still meet lots of people and see and hear lots of things to help his confidence develop.

Once he has all his puppy shots, take your pup to lots of different places—obedience classes, parks, shopping centers, the sidewalk outside your local grocery store, and different neighborhoods. The idea is for him to see lots of people and lots of things. Your dog should always be on a leash in public places, partly for his own safety but also for the comfort of people you meet. Besides, in most places the law prohibits letting a dog run loose. Don't let your pup run up to any dog you don't know. Not all dogs like other dogs, and even those who do don't always like puppies. It only takes one encounter with the wrong dog for your pup to be seriously injured or badly frightened. A puppy kindergarten class is an excellent place to give your puppy a chance to interact with other puppies of different kinds as well as with more people who like dogs.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog © 2003 by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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