By Kim Gilliam
June is a popular month for pet adoption. People looking for a new canine companion realize that this is a great time of year to find someone to enjoy the great outdoors with. It is also the height of “kitten season” when shelters are teeming with kitties of all shapes, sizes and colors.
Any pet, regardless of age, breed or circumstance, will experience a period of adjustment as they settle into their new home. Here are some ways you can help.
Take it slow
Even the most outgoing of animals will be shy in a new place. It’s normal for your new kitty or pup to seem skittish and scared. Don’t rush it. Spend one-on-one time letting them get to know you, other family members and their surroundings as they explore the home at their own pace. Try not to over-stimulate them during the first few days; if they come up to you for attention, by all means, be as affectionate as they seem comfortable with.
However, don’t let them practice any bad habits. You need to set the house rules from day one and reward good behaviors with praise or treats. Just remember to keep things calm and positive.
Give them space
While it’s tempting to smother your furry companion with love, it’s important to give them independence. Make them as comfortable as possible by setting up a bed or safe spot where they can retreat when tired or stressed. Spend time learning to read their body language. Wheth- er they’re excited or scared, unsure or playful, there is huge value to tuning into your pet’s reactions to different situations.
Don’t feel that you need to introduce them to friends and family right away; make sure they are comfortable in your home first. If they show any discomfort with having strangers over, give them the option to retreat.
Dedicate bonding time
Cuddle time, grooming and play are powerful ways to bond with your new pet. If they aren’t in the mood for snuggles, brushing or games, try giving them something to do on their Sown by offering a treat-dis- pensing toy or puzzle game. Becoming the provider of awesome things is a simple way to build trust. Training is another great way to bond with a new dog while help- ing them gain confidence and learn new skills.
Be prepared for appetite/stomach issues
Stress or sudden dietary changes can cause diarrhea in new pets. If you decide to switch their food, you’ll want to do so over a few days by mixing the new in with the old until fully transitioned. Shy or anxious animals may lose their appetite in a new environment; it may take a few days before they’re com- fortable enough to eat a normal meal. If they are other- wise healthy, don’t worry too much – just give them time to adapt. You can offer a piece of high value food, such as chicken or tuna; if they’ll readily eat this, then they’re likely just going through an adjustment period.
Find your new routine
Pets thrive on routine. Do your best to have set times of day when you feed,
walk/play, head to bed, etc., so they can find comfort in knowing what is coming next. Your pet will feel more secure once they learn what is expected of them at any given time.
Supervise your new pet
Close supervision is required so they don’t get into trouble eating or playing with things they shouldn’t. Stress could lead them to become destructive when left home alone. If possible, con- fine them to a safe, smaller area of your home or crate when you are out. If you have other animals, you will want to be on-hand to su- pervise their interaction and keep them separated when not there.
In addition, beware of escape attempts, a common problem with newly adopt- ed pets. When going out- doors, keep your new dog on a leash at all times, don’t let the kitten run away when you open the door, and don’t leave them unsupervised in a fenced yard where they can dig under or jump over fences; they likely won’t come back when called.
Getting a new pet is an extremely rewarding experience, but just know that there is going to be an adjustment period. Don’t get discouraged — it may take weeks or even months for them to fully adjust to their new home. Be patient, give them a consistent schedule and provide a safe and caring place that they can feel com- fortable calling home.
Kim Gilliam owns Alexandria’s Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym, with her husband Kevin Gilliam.