THE PERFECT FAMILY
by Jane Smoak
Having a happy family takes work; it doesn't just happen. Everyone in the
family has to know their place and what is expected of them. It is no
different with dogs. When you put dogs and people together with other pets it
means you have to think a little bit more about how to make the pieces fall
into place. In our attempt to raise a well-adjusted Guide puppy that is ready
to learn when he is recalled for training, one should consider how best to
help him deal with multiple animals in the household.
Puppies are born into a "family" of pups plus
mom. They begin their life searching out the best places to get food, warmth
and sleep. They have to compete with littermates and are soon building
an idea of social status within the litter. Mom is there to nurture and put
limits on behavior. As they grow, the pups will compete for toys and
attention. Naturally, when we receive the puppy he is already familiar with
social climbing and is ready to jockey for position with everyone he
encounters. His approach to life will depend on his personality: he may be
shy and easygoing, assertive and outgoing, or somewhere in between. Puppy
raisers need to mold our pups so that they will enjoy humans and tolerate
other animals, without either being afraid of them or bothering them.
If you have pets in your home that have strong, assertive
personalities, they will probably tell the pup in animal ways that he needs
to leave them alone. This can be pretty scary for a timid pup or a challenge
to an assertive one. If you have pets that are tolerant, the puppy may take
advantage of them. Either way, you have to teach the pup to leave your pet in
peace. Some pets will accept a puppy willingly into a household. That's
wonderful, but you will have a "party" on your hands if you are not
The pup needs to work on self -control and you need to help make this happen.
If you can't supervise free time then the puppy and pets should be separated
so that everyone can relax.
It is best to supervise a puppy very closely whenever it
is in a position to interact with a pet. This goes for all pets, not just
dogs. The pup must learn that the pet gets the food first while the puppy
waits patiently for his turn. The pet gets the first choice on toys, and gets
to choose where they want to sleep. Pups should never take a toy away from
your pet. A pushy puppy can even make an easygoing pet uncomfortable during
relieving time. Make sure your pet has his own space. In short, the pet was
there first and deserves the higher social status. The puppy will get the
benefit of learning self -control from all of this while the pet gets the social
status recognition. Yes, eventually they will be able to play but it
must be relaxed play—not roughhousing like “alligator mouth” or running
through the house. Mostly, they should just hang out together.
A Guide Dog puppy will be spending a great deal of time
with you, coming and going, and your pets need to be comfortable with that.
If they aren't, they will make it clear by showing signs of stress or
negative behaviors to get your attention.
Active, quality time with your pet will help your pet's
energy level to be lower and your pet will be more inclined to be restful
around your puppy instead of trying to mix things up. It also helps your pet
to know that the bond with you is secure. Try taking daily walks with your
pet but without the puppy. Teach your pet new tricks or trying agility
training. Don't forget grooming and quiet time.
Not every family can work with multiple pets. It can take
some time to get things up and running. When it works our pets can live
together in peace without our having to intervene. There is no such thing as
“The Perfect Family” but there is such a thing as a happy one. It's up to
you, as the leader of the pack, to make it happen.