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Cat and puppy laying together in a grassy area outside

BEFORE YOU ADOPT

So you're ready for a furball... 

Whether you're new to pet adoption or this is your first time, no two situations are the same and it's critical to understand that in order to set realistic expectations for this transition. With surrenders at an all-time high, we're taking a strong stance to educate our community before the take their new fur baby home with them. In doing this, our hope is to not only reduce the amount of animals that are being returned again and again, but we hope that this information can spread like wildfire and have a far larger impact throughout our state.

Below are some essential tips to know about before you take home your new, furry friend:

Man poses for a picture with two dogs he adopted at an adoption event

01

Learn the 3-3-3 Rule

If you’ve ever started a new job or moved to a new school, you know this feeling... being in an unfamiliar place, new surroundings, new people, new rules. The same thing happens with animals and the 3-3-3- Rule is guidelines set for the first three days, three weeks, and three months after adopting a new dog with the goal of  helping them adjust to their new environment. This time frame may look different for each dog, so patience is critical in these early months.

02

No two dogs are the same

Some dogs may like other people or dogs, some may not. This does not indicate a problem with your dog, but rather an opportunity for you to learn an understand their comfort level, in order to provide them with a safe space. If you've had a dog before, or even if you have other dogs in the home, it's important to be patient as each animal has its own adjustment period (like mentioned above in the 3-3-3 Rule).

03

Do your research

Did you know that some dog breeds will destroy things if they're not stimulated enough? Or that some breeds are more protective than others? Not every breed is the same, therefore not all may be a good fit for your home or lifestyle. Rather than adopting a dog that you simply think is cute, take the time to learn what they need in order to thrive in their new home. This particularly applies to anyone who will have more than one dog in the home. Dog personalities are a real thing and just like humans, they don't all mesh well together.

04

Establish good veterinary care

A certified, dependable veterinarian is crucial as a pet owner. Establishing care will be critical to making sure that your dog is vaccinated against things that could make them very ill, such as heartworm or Lyme disease. Getting any pet on preventative medication won't only be benefical for their health, but it will also benefit your wallet in the long run. Not to mention, emergencies happen and you'll want to have care in place so that you can get your fur baby medical attention with peace of mind.

Ways to introduce your dog to a cat

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Option 1
Slow and Steady

Gradually increasing exposure is a good way to reduce your dog's reaction to the cat. You'll need to put the cat in a room (a bedroom, bathroom, etc.) with a tall baby gate across the door. The room you choose should be one the dog cannot and will not need to access. The gate needs to be a barrier that allows the cat and dog to see one another, but not access each other. Sometimes, even seeing the cat at first is too exciting for the dog. If this is the case, close the door and begin feeding each animal on their side of the door: Hopefully, through this process of slowly getting accustomed to the cat’s presence, the dog will eventually become desensitized and lose interest in the cat.

Dog and cat facing each other icon

Option 2
Face-to-Face Introduction

In this fast-paced introduction, one person should hold the dog on a loose leash and watch the dog’s body language, while someone else watches the cat’s body language. If the cat is not raising their back or hissing around the dog, they can be allowed to move around freely. If the dog is calm around the cat, you can ask the dog to sit and stay while the cat moves about freely (sniffing the dog if desired). The dog should be praised for ignoring the cat. If the dog is too fixated on the cat (ie. staring at the cat, has stiff body language, will not listen to your commands) or if the dog lunges and tries to chase the cat, you should try a different strategy.

Option 3
"Look at that"

By playing this game with your dog, you can help to teach them not to fixate on the cat by encouraging them to look at the cat and then look back at you for a treat. The goal of this is to teach your dog that it's more rewarding to ignore the cat. To begin this approach, you'll need to figure out the dog’s threshold while on leash (ie. at what point does the dog notice the cat but still respond to your commands? Each dog has a different threshold). Once you’ve figured out the dog’s threshold, grab a clicker and some training treats. When you see the dog looking at the cat, click or use your verbal marker and offer a treat. Start waiting your dog out, and only mark if your dog will look at the cat and then look right back at you. Once your dog is reliably looking at the cat and then looking back at you, you can slowly start moving closer and closer to the cat. If the dog becomes fixated on the cat when you move closer, you’ve gone past the threshold and need to move back. As you train, your dog’s threshold will decrease, which means that the two of you will be able to move closer and closer to the cat. Continue this with your dog until they can be right next to the cat without an issue.

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If you're still experiencing problems or would feel more comfortable working with a trainer, below are our local recommendations:

  • Tennessee Dog Pro: This company has spent the past 30 years perfecting a training system that personalizes the training for every dog and owner. "Every dog is different and every client deserves to receive the best possible results."

  • Say It Once Dog Training: Featured on Good Morning America and World’s Greatest, and voted the top in-home dog training company in the nation. Specializing in everything from behavioral issues to high level off leash
    obedience with high distractions. “Properly trained humans can be a dog’s best friend.” 

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