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    So You Have a New Pet  

Congratulations on adding a new family member. We like to see happy, well-adjusted puppies and kittens added to a family, so here are some tips for introducing a new pet.

New puppies and kittens go through developmental stages early in life. Between 3-16 weeks of age, they learn to accept and trust (or mistrust) humans, acceptable dog behavior and specialized breed behavior (sheep herding instincts in Border Collies, for example or hunting behavior patterns in cats). During this critical period, the temperament and basic behavior patterns of your new pet will be formed. It is important to socialize the puppy or kitten to people, introducing them not only to family members but also to strangers.

It is also important to teach the young pet what you expect. Now is the time to handle feet and toes so they are not afraid of having their feet handled, to look into ears and open the mouth. If the pet resists, speak in a calm, quiet voice and repeat the act whenever possible. Make a practice of touching the pet all over its body during play or at rest.

If you have adopted an older pet, then most of its behavior patterns will already be formed. This pet will need time to adjust to new surroundings and people and its true personality may not be apparent for a few days or several weeks. Issue a gentle correction for undesirable behavior. Attending basic obedience classes with a new dog will help establish the owner's dominance as head of the household and aid in creating a bond between pet and owner.

In general, new pets should not be left alone with unrestricted space in the house. Crate training puppies helps with house training and gives the pup a safe haven into which to crawl. Kittens can be confined to one room until they learn the house floor plan.

Adopted older pets should be supervised with children and other pets until the pet owner is sure that safety is not an issue.

This article is provided as a general overview of the topic. Always consult your veterinarian for specific information related to diseases or medical care for pets.

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