Archive | October, 2018

Equipment for a New Dog

What do you need for your new buddy?

Going to the pet store to find the best walking equipment for your new fur-iend can be overwhelming. There are many different choices for collars, harnesses, and head halters and it can be hard to decide which will be best, especially as you are still getting to know your dog. Here is a list of the equipment you need, and our recommendations for which might work best for you. Keep in mind that every dog is different, so you may have some trial and error finding the equipment that works best for both of you.

Leashes: Simple 4’-6’ leashes provide the best control. We do not recommend leashes longer than 6’ or retractable leashes, as you have less ability to intervene if your dog is about to get itself into trouble or get hurt. If you walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening, a reflective leash or one with a safety light on it are always great options to stay safe in the dark.

Most dog professionals, including veterinarians, strongly dislike retractable leashes. Here are a few reasons why you should reconsider using one:

  • The lack of control you have on your dog the farther they get from you. At any moment your dog could dart in any direction and run into oncoming traffic, inappropriately greet other people or dogs, run down someone on a bike, or eat harmful items.
  • Retractable leashes have caused a number of injuries to humans and dogs. The thin cord that retracts in and out can cause serious burns and lacerations (we are talking cuts to the bone or people losing fingers!). Many dog owners get hurt trying to grab the cord or as the cord runs against their leg as their dog is running off on the leash. This happens frequently when the locking mechanism breaks and owners are scrambling to get their dog under control. Injuries can also occur as larger dogs are running full speed to the end of the leash. This can cause owners to get pulled off their feet, dogs to get serious injuries to their necks as their collar tugs them back, or can cause the cord to break, setting your dog free to keep running.
  • Retractable leads actually teach dogs to pull! This is counterproductive to the peaceful walks we hope to have with our dogs. When you don’t have the leash locked the dog is expected to pull forward on it to extend the leash. When the leash is locked or if you switch to a non-retractable leash, the dog will continue to try to pull to get more leeway. Once this behavior has been learned, it is hard to teach a dog not to pull on leash.

Collars: Dogs should always have a collar they wear on a regular basis, especially when they are outside, that has its identification tags. If your dog ever gets loose, this will help them find their way home. Always make sure your identification tags are up to date, including the microchip information.

Types of collars and when they are recommended:

  • Traditional flat collars: Good for everyday use to keep ID tags on your dog. If your dog does not pull, these can be used for walking as well. If your dog does pull on leash, these are not recommended for walking as they can damage the neck and trachea. Make sure the collar is appropriate to the size of your dog. Collars should be tight enough where it cannot slip over the dog’s head. It is typically recommended that you should be able to fit 1-2 fingers under the collar, but it shouldn’t be any looser than that. We recommend taking the collar off if your dog is playing with other dogs because some dogs get their mouths, paws, ears, etc. stuck in collars when playing with each other. Some people also take their dog’s collar off when they are kept in a crate due to risk of the collar getting caught on the crate.
  • Martingale collars: These collars are good for dogs who can slip out of a regular collar. There are often used on dogs such as greyhounds that have thin heads. These collars tighten enough to prevent dogs from pulling out of the collar, but not so much that you are choking the dog. We do not recommend you use these collars for leash corrections to teach your dog not to pull. They should only be used for additional safety purposes.
  • Head collars: Head collars are a great option for dogs that are easily distracted on walks, are leash reactive, or dogs who are larger and stronger than their handlers. These collars work like halters on horses, where you are able to have greater control over the animal because you are leading them by their head. Dogs who wear head collars are typically unable to pull as easily, making it easier to redirect their attention back onto you so that you can train them to walk nicely on a leash. If you have a dog who is a strong puller or is leash reactive or has the potential to be aggressive or run away off leash, some head halters have an extra safety feature where you can have the leash connected to the head halter and to the dog’s regular collar. This way if the head halter becomes loose or if your dog is a Houdini and gets out of it somehow, you still have control over your dog.
  • Choke and prong/pinch collars: We do not recommend the use of these collars for any reason. They can lead to neck injury, trachea damage, increase eye pressure, and nerve damage. The use of punishment-based methods can also lead to stress in your dog, which can use leash reactivity, aggression, and anxiety. 
  • Shock collars: We do not recommend the use of these collars for any reason. They lead to stress in dogs, which can lead to leash reactivity, aggression, and anxiety.

Harnesses: Harnesses are one of the safest options for you and your dog when walking. If you have a small dog or medium sized dog, or a brachycephalic dog (short snouted dog), a harness is your preferred option. Smaller dogs and dogs with short muzzles are more prone to collapsed tracheas or increased eye pressure from the use of collars while walking. Even if your dog doesn’t pull, walking them on a harness is good for the rare occasions where you may need to pull them to prevent any harm or injury.

  • Back-clip harnesses: These are the safest form of harness for you and your dog IF AND ONLY IF your dog does not pull, or your dog cannot overpower you if it does pull. This is the best option for small to medium sized dogs. If your dog does pull, is not trained to walk well on leash, is leash reactive, or can easily overpower you back-clip harness offer you little control over your dog and make it difficult for you to redirect your dog’s attention back onto you.
  • Front-clip harnesses: If your dog pulls, front-clip harnesses are a good option to use during training. Front-clip harnesses work by restricting the dog’s ability to pull on leash. If the dog tries to pull while on a front-clip harness, the chest piece restricts, which causes the dog to have to turn towards the leash rather than pulling forward. This offers dog owners a little more control over their dog than back-clip harnesses. However, if your dog is a severe puller or is leash reactive, this won’t be the best option for you. Front-clip harnesses can also alter the dog’s natural walking gait, which can be uncomfortable for them and lead to injuries.

Other equipment you might need:

  • Poop bags (biodegradable for extra points)
  • Pooper scooper for the yard
  • Food and water bowls
  • Crate: crates should be big enough for the dog to stand up, turn around, and lie down, but no bigger than that. This helps prevent soiling in the crate.
  • Bed and blankets
  • Toys: get a variety of toys, including soft plush toys, interactive toys, harder chew toys, toys of different textures, etc.
  • Grooming supplies: brushes, nail clippers, shampoo, etc.
  • Training treats: get a variety of treats to start with so you learn what your new dog’s favorites are. Typically small, moist, stinky treats work the best for training.
  • Chewing treats: get a variety of bully sticks, antlers, and bones to learn what your dog likes the best.
  • Food: deciding on the right diet for your new pooch will depend on their age, size, breed, and activity level. Consult with the adoption counselors where you got your dog from and with your veterinarian.
  • Nature’s Miracle Pet Stain & Odor Remover (highly recommended): this product is great at getting out pet stains, especially dog urine and feces. Make sure any cleaner you get has enzymes designed for dog messes.


Choosing the right dog

You’ve decided to adopt a dog! That is wonderful.

Bringing home an adopted dog can be a very rewarding experience as you watch your dog become more comfortable in their new home and start to see you as their trusting pet parent. To make sure this process goes smoothly and that you and your new companion will have a long and happy life together, it’s important to make sure you have done your homework first. There are a lot of variables to consider before deciding on a dog such as:

  • What is your schedule like? Are you home during the day or working for 8+ hours? Your answers to these questions might help you determine if you want a younger dog who needs to be let out to potty more frequently, or an older dog who is happy napping on the couch all day. If you are home during the day, adopting a dog with separation anxiety might be good because they will learn you are always there for them and you can help them recover from it. If you are gone for long hours every day a more independent dog might be more appropriate.
  • How much time can you devote to exercising your dog? Are you a couch potato looking for a snuggle buddy or a runner looking for a running buddy? It’s important to adopt a dog who will fit into your current exercise routine. Some people buy high-energy dogs hoping it will motivate them to be more active, but this does not always work out to be the case so be honest with yourself and your new dog.
  • How much time do you want to spend training your dog? If you get a high-energy working breed, hopefully your answer is A LOT! But if you don’t have a ton of extra time to train your dog, there are plenty of dogs out there that are perfect for you!
  • How much hair do you want to deal with? Don’t mind finding fur everywhere? Great, get the floofiest dog there is! More of a neat freak who doesn’t want to find fur in their food on a regular basis? A shorthaired dog is probably a good idea.
  • Are you settled where you are or do you hope to move somewhere in the future? Are you committed to bringing your dog with you wherever you go?
  • What is your relationship status? Will you stick with your dog no matter who comes in and out of your life? Do you and your partner agree on what kind of dog you want, and are they equally invested in caring for the dog?
  • Do you have kids or plan on having kids in the future? Dogs are often a 10-15 year commitment so think far ahead. Are you willing to integrate your dog into your future family plans? Is the dog you are adopting good with kids?
  • Do you have people who can help you care for your dog when you are gone? Can you afford a dog walker, pet sitting, or to bring your dog to daycare and boarding?

Once you’ve answered these questions, do your research to find out what kind of dog might be best. What qualities do you think would fit best in your life? Write them down and use those as you search. There are many great places in Western Mass to find the perfect dog for you. Some of those places include Dakin Humane Society, T.J. O’Connor, and Rainbow Rescue. The people at these facilities are experts in what they do and dedicated to finding you a great companion. Go talk to them. Tell then what you are looking for in a dog, and they can steer you in the right direction. is also a great resource for finding adoptable dogs, especially if you are looking for something very specific.

Introducing your dog to their new home

You’ve found the dog you want to adopt and you’ve got all the supplies, now what?

  • Make sure all the supplies are set up where you want them so you can give your dog a smooth transition into their new life.
  • Dog-proof your house. You never know what to expect when you bring home a new dog even if they are in a foster home. Prepare for the worst by putting all valuable items out of reach of the dog and making sure any dangerous or hazardous items are locked away. The last thing you need while bonding with your new dog is to have them accidentally ruin your favorite pair of shoes or having to rush them to the E.R. for ingesting something hazardous.
  • Make sure everyone in the household is on the same page. Decide on rules before bringing the dog home. Decide on a schedule for the dog and who will be responsible for which chores.
  • When you get home, let them explore the outside area of the house while on leash. If you have a fenced in yard, let them explore off-leash once they seem comfortable. If you will be introducing your dog to other human family members, have this happen outside the house at first. Make sure everyone is calm and respectful of the dog’s space. Let the dog approach people at their own pace.
  • Once the dog is comfortable outside, bring the dog inside. Give your dog a tour of the house on leash and let them sniff and take their time. Once your dog seems more comfortable, let them off leash to explore. Be sure to show them where the bowls, bed, and toys are! Make note of any items they seem particularly interested in, and use that to inform how else you might need to dog-proof the house.
  • Watch your dog closely and bring them outside frequently. Even if they are potty trained, it’s important to establish a routine right away and to encourage them to go potty outside as if you are newly potty training them. This will help prevent any accidents. Bring treats outside with you and reward them for going outside. If they do have an accident inside, do not punish them. Clean up the mess with an enzymatic cleaner, and watch them more closely next time.
  • Moving to a new home is stressful. Let the dog acclimate at their own pace. Establish a routine quickly, but don’t bring your dog on any major excursions until they are comfortable. Do not invite a bunch of friends and family members over right away to meet your new dog. Keep the atmosphere calm for the first couple of days to let them settle in.
  • Keep walks short and positive so you can see how your new dog is reacting on leash. This will help you identify any problems early on, like if they have leash reactivity issues or are fearful of certain things. Then you can work on establishing a training plan or consult with a trainer to address issues right away.
  • Try not to make special rules or exceptions the first week that you don’t plan on keeping later on. For example, if you don’t want the dog to sleep on the bed, don’t give in the first week to make them feel more comfortable. Establish these rules right away to avoid confusion and frustration later.
  • Some people like to stay home with their new dog for the first couple days to help them acclimate. This is great but can also lead to separation anxiety if you suddenly are gone all day long without working on getting the dog used to this first. Start by going on short trips away from the house. Don’t make a big deal about leaving or coming home. Leave your dog with positive things to do while you are gone, like yummy chew toys or stuffed Kongs. Gradually make the trips longer. If you suspect your dog has separation anxiety issues, make a plan to address this right away. Consulting a dog trainer is your best bet, along with arranging a dog walker to come visit the dog during the day or seeing if your dog will enjoy daycare while you are gone.
  • Be patient with your dog. It can take several months for an adopted dog to fully feel comfortable in their new home. Be prepared for the dog’s behavior to continue to change as they feel more comfortable and be willing to adapt to meet their needs. Be proactive with things you see as potential issues and don’t punish the dog for making mistakes.
  • Many adoption centers and rescues offer a discount on your first veterinary visit and training classes. Take advantage of these! Get your new dog to a vet within a week of bringing them home to check out any medical issues. Sign up for training classes with your dog. Even if you have skills as a dog trainer, training classes are a great way to build a bond with your new dog while also providing them mental stimulation and setting them up for success!
  • Last but not least, enjoy your new dog! Enjoy watching them relax and begin to trust you. Take time to appreciate them and how far they are coming along.

Introducing your dog to existing pets

Introducing a new dog to resident dogs and cats can be tricky, so making sure the initial interactions are calm, controlled, and brief can set everyone up for success in the long run. A lot of people put new pets together right away to “work it out.” This can be detrimental in the long run. If the initial interactions are negative, this could lead to poor relationships for  the rest of their lives, so read our tips on how to do introductions between pets.

  • For dogs: If you are bringing a dog home to another dog, chances are you have already done dog-to-dog introductions and know the dogs get along well. However, bringing a new dog into the home is a very different experience for your current dog. It might have been all fun and games when they met before, but now this dog is on their territory, using their favorite items and getting attention from their owners. Make sure each dog has their own set of toys, bowls, and beds, and give your current dog plenty of attention while the new dog is settling in. When you first bring the new dog home, have the dogs greet each other outside. You can have them meet in the yard or you can bring both dogs on a walk (it is best to have one person walking each dog at this point so you can separate them if needed) right away to encourage a productive interaction. Keep the leashes loose during this first interaction and don’t correct or punish either dog. Keep interactions quick and then distract the dogs away from each other for a few seconds, then let them go back. Have treats to reward good behavior. Watch both dogs’ body language to know whether they are happy and comfortable, or if either dog is tense, fearful, or anxious with the interaction. Introduce the new dog to the home without the resident dog, letting a family member or familiar friend take the resident dog on a fun adventure so they don’t feel left out. Watch both dogs when they in the house together for any resource guarding or other aggressive interactions. Try to keep interactions productive and brief, and reward both dogs for good behavior.
  • For cats: Even if your new dog has been around cats before, you may not know how they will react to your cat(s). Keep the new dog on leash initially to see how they may react. Prevent the dog from chasing the cat by using the leash and treats to encourage them to pay attention to you and ignore the cat. Ensure the cat has a safe space away from the dog for at least the first couple of weeks until you know that the cat will be safe. Putting up gates is a great way to give the cat free access to the house but also giving them a safe space to get away from the dog if needed. If the dog is showing aggressive or predatory behavior towards the cat, you need to consult a trainer or behaviorist right away, or consider consulting the adoption agency or rescue about finding a more appropriate dog for your household.
  • For any other types of small pets: Follow similar protocols as for cats with any other type of small pet in your home such as birds, guinea pigs, gerbils, or hamsters. Have the dog on leash at first and only have supervised interactions until you know the dog is not a threat to the other animals. If the dog shows too much interest in these animals and you are worried the dog may be aggressive or predatory towards them, keep them out of reach or completely separated from the dog, especially when no one is home.
  • For any other types of large pets: Follow similar protocols as for other dogs with any large animals such as horse, goats, or pigs. Have initial interactions be on leash and use treats to distract the dog and encourage good behavior. If the dog is showing aggressive or predatory behavior towards these animals, consult a behaviorist or trainer, or consult the adoption agency or rescue about finding a dog more suitable to your situation.