Archive by Author

Holiday Pet Safety Tips

Here is a list of holiday items to be mindful of to ensure you and your pets make it through the holiday season in one piece.

Holiday Treats

Many traditional holiday foods contain ingredients that are toxic to our pets. Make sure all food, sweets, and adult beverages are kept out of reach of pets and instruct your guests not to share. Be especially mindful of young kids. Little kids are at perfect sharing height, so your pet will quickly learn to hover to get lots of yummy, but potentially dangerous treats. Small dogs and cats are especially at risk, as they only need a small amount of ingredients to start feeling the negative effects. If your dog is a counter surfer or likely to get into the trash, it might be in their best interest to keep them put away during the party or arrange a sleepover for them at TGDS! Better to have them miss out on the party then have to rush them to the emergency room. It is a good idea to have the phone number for your local emergency vet clinic and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center phone number (1-888-426-4435) on the fridge in case of an emergency.

Foods your dog should not eat include chocolate, grapes or raisins, onions, garlic, turkey bones, xylitol sweetener, excessively salty foods, yeast dough, seasoned meats and gravy, and alcohol.

Signs your dog may have eaten something toxic include drooling, lip licking, vomiting, lethargy, refusing to eat, diarrhea, constipation, and any other abnormal behaviors. 

Seasonal Decorations

Dogs and cats are curious, playful animals, which means they can get themselves into a lot of trouble over the holiday season. To prevent any disasters, here are some tips:

  • Secure your tree to prevent any climbing cats from knocking it over.
  • Place valuable tree decorations towards the top. Playful paws or happy tails will likely knock off any low-hanging decorations.
  • Avoid decorating your tree with tinsel to prevent your pets from swallowing it.
  • Skip the holiday plants if you have a plant chewer. Poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, amaryllis, lilies, and the Christmas tree can all pose a risk to your pet if ingested (particularly to cats!).
  • Monitor your pets around any new plants and the tree to make sure they aren’t chewing and swallowing them.
  • Many pets enjoy drinking the Christmas tree water, which can contain bacteria, mold, or chemicals from the tree. Many retailers offer pet-proof tree stands to prevent your pet from drinking or playing in the water.
  • In general, monitor your pet for the first couple days after putting out new decorations to see how they will behave. This will help you identify any problems sooner than later.


Busy holiday seasons and frequent visitors often disrupt our pets’ normal schedules and training routines. Monitor your pet for signs of stress or for inappropriate interactions with your guests. Not all guests are pet savvy or recognize signs of discomfort. Be especially mindful of interactions with children. Even if you have the most patient dog in the world they need to be given their space and the ability to get away when they are uncomfortable. All interactions with children should be monitored closely, especially if the dog has food or valuable toys or bones around. Children should be instructed to be calm around any pets, and be taught to pet nicely, rather than to pull tails or ears, sit on or hug. The last thing anyone wants to do on a holiday is to rush a child to the emergency room because of a bite or scratch from a stressed-out pet. To prevent any problems, give your pet safe places to go away from the commotion and instruct children to leave the animal alone if they go to their safe space. This could be a bedroom, their crate, or a bed. Don’t be afraid to give your guests guidance on how to interact safely with your pets or to encourage them to follow your training protocols. If you have a nervous pet, it may be best to keep them away in a separate room or to board them with us at TGDS to prevent any disasters.

Winter Activities To Do With Your Dog

We have been lucky so far this winter to have warmer days that allow us extra outdoors time with our pets but soon it will be cold, snowy, and icy which will make exercising our pets much harder. Some dogs will play outside no matter the temperature or weather, but that doesn’t mean you want to join them so here are some fun activities you can do with your dog this winter to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.

  • Enroll in a training class. Even if your dog is well-behaved and knows many of the basics, training classes are a great way to bond and spend quality time with your dog in a new environment. The new sights, sounds, people, and dogs will be very stimulating for your dog and will help tire them out more than if you were at home. You might even meet a friend for your dog so you can schedule puppy play dates throughout the winter. There are many different types of classes beyond basic obedience, so maybe you and your dog can find a new hobby or sport to try this winter. If you have a reactive or fearful dog, there are classes that are designed for you too! These classes will give you the tools you need to help your dog feel more comfortable.
  • Brush up on training at home. Is there something you have always wanted to teach your dog but never do? Try it this winter! There are plenty of training videos and suggestions online. You could learn a new behavior every week or month, depending on how ambitious you feel! Just be sure the videos you find use only POSITIVE training methods. One suggestion you could try is putting names with all of your dog’s toys and ask them to bring them to you by name. You could also then hide the toys around the house and ask your dog to find them.
  • Practice recalls in the house. One activity that is fun and productive is practicing having your dog come when called while in the house. This is best done with multiple people. Have each person pick a place in the house and call the dog to keep them running back and forth for a while. You could have people switch locations each time and play hide and go seek with the dog. To play the game alone, teach your dog a reliable “stay”, ask them to “stay” while you hide then call them to you.
  • Feed your dog in a puzzle feeder. This will help enrich your dog’s mind. There are many different models of puzzle feeders so switch them up or get create with what is in your house. You could hide kibble in empty bottles, boxes, or paper bags and let your dog figure out how to get it out (bonus: let your dog tear apart the boxes or paper bags. It will make a mess but your dog will have a great time).
  • Hide food and treats around the house. Then let your dog sniff them out!
  • Go to pet-friendly stores. Bring your dog to your local pet store and explore up and down the aisles. Work on some training while you’re at it. Finally, end the excursion with some new treats or toys! To find out which stores are dog-friendly, check out this list by Huffington Post. Always call your local store to be sure you can bring your pooch along.
  • Get creative. You know best what your pooch likes so find new and exciting ways to stay active this winter together!

Senior Pet Health

How to Manage Your Senior Pet’s Health

Most pets are considered to be senior when they reach 7 years of age, and can live to be 10-13 years old for dogs, or 13-17 years old for cats. These estimates vary with every pet depending on a variety of factors, including breed. With advancing veterinary care and more advanced research into proper pet care, it is not uncommon for our companion animals to live beyond these estimated time spans. Because of this, it is important that pet parents know the best ways to manage their aging pets. Primary areas of concern for senior pets are health and disease management, nutrition, physical exercise, mental stimulation, and end of life decisions.

Health and Disease Management

The most important way to care for your senior pet is to bring them to the veterinarian regularly. This will ensure you catch any diseases, pains, or other health concerns early enough to treat or prevent suffering. When we live with an animal, we can sometimes oversee little changes that indicate something is wrong, so regular visits to the veterinarian can help you keep on top of these changes. We want our pets to be their best selves all the way until the end, and having a good relationship with your vet with help make that happen.


Senior pets have different nutritional needs than younger pets. Often, they require fewer calories due to a slower metabolism and overall decrease in activity. To prevent weight gain in older pets, it is advised to switch them to a senior diet. Many brands of pet food offer senior varieties that are lower in fat and higher in fiber. Being overweight can cause a number of health problems as they age and affect mobility, so be sure to keep your pet at a healthy weight throughout their whole life. It is much harder to get weight off of a senior pet than a young one with a lot of energy!

On the other end of the spectrum, some older pets lose their appetite and can become too thin. There are a number of ways you can encourage them to eat, such as buying food with smaller kibble so it is easier to chew and swallow, or adding broth, wet food, or other yummy items to their kibble to make it more appealing and softer to eat. You could also talk to your veterinarian about homemade diet recipes that your pet won’t be able to resist. Many veterinarians recommend feeding senior pets 3-4 smaller meals throughout the day, as big meals can be harder on their digestion systems.

Physical Exercise

One factor that can determine the health and longevity of a pet is how much daily exercise they get. Exercise helps keep muscles, joints, and bones active and healthy, but also helps prevent other health issues, such as heart disease, and improves mental health. You should provide daily exercise for your pet at any age, but it is especially important with senior pets to keep them moving. Your senior pet may not be able to exercise the way they used to but it is important to keep them doing the things they love at a pace they can handle. For your daily walks, your dog may not be able to go as far or as fast as they could. They may even be a little reluctant to get up and out, but it is important to take the time and patience needed to get them their daily exercise. Be prepared to let them sniff more or take breaks as needed, and adjust your route as needed. Swimming is a great form of exercise for senior dogs (and maybe some brave cats…).

Senior pets usually are less playful than their younger selves, but they can definitely have their bursts of energy and you should take advantage of that whenever they offer it to you! The play may not be as vigorous as it once was, and that is ok. If you throw a ball with your dog, or play with the laser pointer with your cat, be mindful that they have aches and pains and keep the play milder to prevent injuries. Senior dogs will definitely rest more, especially after a busy day or a particularly fun bought of exercise. Use this time to give them extra snuggles and pets!

To read more information about mental health and end of life decisions for our senior pets, visit our blog articles!

Senior Pet Proof Your House

Tips to Make Getting Around a Little Easier for Your Senior Pet

Senior pets can have a harder time getting around, so here are a few ways you can help make it a little easier.

  • Provide comfortable beds in frequently used locations. Thicker beds or heated beds will feel good on your pet’s aching body.
  • Put throw rugs in areas where they frequently walk or stand, especially if you have hard wood floors or other smooth flooring. Older animals can have a hard time getting around on smooth floors. This might prevent them from being as active or could put them at risk of injury if they are slipping around. Keep in mind places where your pet might be jumping down onto the floor, like jumping off of the couch, bed, or cat tree. Also think about the stairs, and providing them a throw rug at the bottom of the stairs or any landings along the way down.
  • Make sure commonly used paths are free of clutter to prevent tripping and injuries. Try to keeps important items in a consistent location, such as food, water, beds, toys, litter boxes, and even tables and chairs. This will help your pet as their vision gets worse. Also, be aware of sharp edges around the house and add some cushioning to hard objects that your pet might frequently bump into.
  • Remove any cords or strings from pet reach. Aging pets cannot see as well or may be suffering from dementia, so getting caught in dangling strings or cords can put them at risk of strangulation.
  • Provide ramps or stairs up to beds, couches, or cars as needed. Older pets will have a harder time jumping up or off high surfaces, and doing so may increase their risk of injury. Steep stairs might also give your pet a problem as they age, so providing ramps can be a good alternative. Many pet supply stores sell different types of stairs and ramps. Building them could be a fun DIY project, also.
  • If you have an aging cat, provide them a litter box on every level of the house. Moving up and down levels to use the bathroom might become difficult for them. Providing easy accessible litter boxes can help prevent accidents out of the box.

Every pet is different and will have different needs as they age. To find other ways to make your pet more safe and comfortable as they age, monitor them. Watch them move around the house and figure out what areas or activities are giving them the most trouble, and find a way to fix it.

Mental Stimulation for Senior Pets

Mental Health is Just as Important 

 Mental health is just as important as physical health, and is especially important for senior pets. Senior pets often are not able to do all of the activities that they used to be able to do, and as a result can suffer from boredom and depression, but mental stimulation can be just as tiring to an animal as physical exercise. There are plenty of ways to keep your senior dog busy, from training to nose work to problem solving games! Remember that older animals may be a little stubborn at first, so when first introducing a new game or training a new behavior, go slow at first until they understand what you are asking.


You may have heard the old saying “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks” but it is not true! You can absolutely teach old dogs new tricks. The best part about training an older animal is that you can train just for fun. They probably already know all the basic commands, such as sit and stay, so you can focus on more fun behaviors like paw, spin, or bow. There is an endless list of behaviors to train on the Internet, so get out your clicker and some treats and get to work! Combine mental and physical stimulation by using training to create a sequence of behaviors for your dog to do to stretch their body different ways, like doggy yoga! Remember, cats can be trained too!

Nose work

Even while their sight and hearing begin to fade, many pets maintain an excellent sense of smell making nose work an excellent option for mental stimulation. Here are some examples:

  • Throw their kibble on the floor or in the yard to encourage them to use their nose to find all the pieces.
  • Hide yummy treats around the house and let them sniff the treats out.
  • Put a little dab of a scent on a toy and ask them to find it in a hidden location, or just put different scents around the house for them to explore.
  • Allow them to follow scents and to sniff to their heart’s desire on their daily walks.

Problem Solving Games

To help keep your pet’s mind sharp, incorporate some games into their daily lives. The possibilities are endless so here are just a few examples of games to play with your pets, or ways to get them to problem solve:

  • Put some kibble and treats in a puzzle feeder for them to work out. A puzzle feeder can be as simple as putting a few treats in an empty water bottle and having them figure out how to get the kibble out.
  • Put a treat under a cup and scramble it around with other cups so your pet has to guess which cup holds the treat.
  • Assign names to your dog’s toys and ask for them each by name. You could also teach your dog to put the toys away into a bin by name, if you’re really ambitious! (Some cats may be able to do this!)
  • Play hide and go seek with your pet. Ask them to sit and stay, then go hide and call them to you.

Deciding When it’s Time

End of Life Decisions

One of the hardest parts about owning a senior pet is knowing when it is time to let them go. Because we see them everyday, it can be hard for pet parents to recognize when their pet is suffering, and some pet parents may even be in denial. When our pets are younger we may set certain guidelines of when we will euthanize, such as when they start going to the bathroom in the house, or when they can’t walk as well, but then when we get to that stage we may want to hold on a little longer. This is one of the many reasons it is important to have a close relationship with your veterinarian so that you can work together to decide when it is best to consider euthanasia. Veterinarians will be able to give you a more objective opinion about your pet’s quality of life, and help you see if your pet is suffering. You could also have a close friend or family member agree to tell you when they think it is time.

The following quality of life scale is used by many veterinarians to help pet owners monitor their pets as they age. Your veterinarian might even have his or her own scale or may be able to recommend a local hospice veterinarian to help you make the decision. We all struggle with this decision with our own pets and it is a hard decision to make, so do not be afraid to ask for help from others.



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.

Canine Cough and Canine Flu

What is canine cough and what are the symptoms?

Canine cough, also known as kennel cough, is a type of respiratory infection that causes inflammation of the throat. It is similar to a chest cold in humans. Canine cough can be bacterial or viral.

Symptoms of canine cough include:

  • A dry cough or “honking”
  • Gagging or coughing to the point where your dog coughs up white phlegm
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge

How is canine cough spread?

Canine cough is highly contagious and is an airborne illness. Much like the common cold in humans, canine cough is spread through the air by sneezing and coughing. Sharing resources, like a water bowl, can also spread it. Canine cough is often referred to as kennel cough because it can spread rapidly in places like boarding kennels or animal shelters where there are many dogs in the same place breathing the same air and sharing space, but it can also be spread just by walking your dog in the same area as other dogs even if they do not see and meet other dogs. Because this disease is airborne, cleaning and disinfecting can only go so far in preventing it being spread to others.

How do I prevent my dog from getting canine cough?

Just like the common cold, if your dog spends time around other dogs it can be hard to prevent canine cough. There are certain times of year where canine cough may be more prevalent. At these times you can avoid bringing your dog around other dogs. There is a vaccine to help fight against kennel cough, but just like with the common cold or flu in humans, these diseases tend to evolve quickly and different strains can be prevalent in the environment. This means that the current vaccine may not be effective in protecting your dog against the current strain in the community. It is best to consult with your veterinarian for the most up to date information on how to prevent canine cough.

What do I do if my dog has canine cough?

If your dog begins showing symptoms, it is recommended to contact your veterinarian. Typically canine cough just needs to run it’s course through your dog’s immune system and other medical intervention will not be required. Your dog could take up to 3 weeks to feel better. If your dog is showing symptoms, they need to be isolated from other dogs immediately. Similar to humans with a cold, your dog needs rest to heal. You can also provide a humidifier or cough suppressants for symptom relief. Monitor eating and drinking and call your vet if your dog stops eating and drinking, or if symptoms are getting worse.

What is canine flu and what are the symptoms?

Canine flu is a viral infection similar to the flu in humans. The canine flu was first identified in dogs in 2004, and is believed to be a strain that was infecting horses and evolved to infect dogs as well. There are currently two strains of canine influenza prevalent in the country.

Symptoms of canine flu include:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

The symptoms of canine flu are very similar to canine cough. If your dog is exhibiting any of the above symptoms it is best to consult with your veterinarian so they can determine which disease is afflicting your dog. This will also help monitor the spread of canine flu across the country.

How is the canine flu spread?

The canine flu is highly contagious and is an airborne disease. It is easily spread between dogs through sneezing, coughing, and sharing resources, and can be spread at any time. This is a new disease in the dog community and is still spreading to new parts of the country, with cases being reported in Massachusetts as of August 2018. This means all dogs are equally susceptible to getting sick.

How can I prevent my dog from getting the flu?

If there are known cases of the canine flu in your area, it might be best to avoid places with lots of dogs with unknown health status. You can also consult your veterinarian about the canine influenza vaccination to see if that is a good option for your dog.

What do I do if my dog has canine flu?

If your dog is showing symptoms of canine flu, contact your veterinarian to confirm. All dogs showing symptoms of canine cough or canine flu should be isolated from other dogs and allowed to rest and recover at home. Limit the places you bring your dog until they are no longer contagious. This might mean less walks but there are plenty of ways to keep your dog occupied at home while allowing them to recover. Just like humans, dogs might feel sick for around a week or so, and then feel better after the virus has run its course, but you can talk to your veterinarian about symptom relief. Monitor your dog for eating and drinking, and let your vet know if your dog’s behavior changes or if symptoms are getting worse.