Are you sitting down as you read this? If not, you just might want to do so. Why? Because there is an incredible new development in the world of pet parenting, and it is being called “pawternity leave”. In an August 2018 segment on the Today show, the team looked at a new concept in paid leave and it is fantastic news to those of us who raise fur babies. According to the story, “mParticle, a New York City-based tech company…offers special perks to its staff, including leave for pet owners.”
The reporters visited several employees of the firm to discuss their ability to take two weeks paid leave if they were brining a new dog into their home. According to one of the people interviewed for the story, it was crucial time for her to bond with the dog, allow them to get to know one another and get their new life together off to a good start.
The owner of the company also opens the office to employees’ pets. In other words, you can also bring your dog to work each day. The reason? Well, it isn’t because the owner adores dogs, but because he believes it is the best way to find the right recruits for the firm. In other words, if you are passionate about your pup and also technology, well…there’s definitely one firm you want to send your resume!
Yet, this got me thinking about ways anyone can improve their chances for successfully adopting and bringing a new dog into their home. While finding a company that would give a few weeks of time off (with pay) to get the new dog’s veterinary issues dealt with and initial training in places certainly figures at the top of the list, here are nine other steps to take.
1. Consider the Unpaid Pawternity Leave
Here’s the thing, if you are going to adopt a new dog and then head off to work the very next day, it can set the stage for disaster. In the past, I’ve written about mistakes common to first-time dog owners, and one of them is that they just assume bad behaviors go away on their own.
And dogs do not train themselves. So, if you are preparing to bring a new dog home, I urge you to consider at least a few days of paid or unpaid time off to help that pup figure things out. A neighbor of mine loves St. Bernards and drove out of state to adopt one from a rescue organization. She planned the pickup on a Wednesday to avoid weekend traffic, drove back the same day and took the next few days and the weekend to settle the new dog. This, I would say, is the absolute bare minimum time you want to set aside for a new dog (four days). So, if you have to adjust the budget or burn up some vacation time, you’ll be glad you did!
2. Get Out
Now, I can hear you shouting, “Hold on, Ash! You just said NOT staying home is a bad idea!” I’m not talking about YOU. What I’m talking about is socialization. One of the worst things you can do when bringing in a new dog is to just stay at the house or apartment all day, going out only for walks. This is telling the dog that this is the way their new life is going to go. Instead, I would suggest socializing the dog within a day or two of bringing it home (unless the dog has demonstrated a few social issues).
Most of my readers know I’m not a big advocate of adopting a dog to leave it home five days a week and most of the weekends. I am, however, very big on doggy day care if that is in the budget. So, if you are going to be using a facility, start with an hour’s visit within the first few days. If, however, you are lucky as I am and get to work from home, get the new dog out to the dog park or out into the world you inhabit. Do you walk each day? If the dog is fit for walking, bring them along. Do you run errands several times a week? If it is possible to bring the dog along, this is very healthy for them!
3. No Slacking Off!
Lots and lots of new pet parents make a bit mistake right from the proverbial get-go and that is to be very casual about rules. They are not consistent with things like schedules, house rules, and expected behaviors. I know, I know! It is so hard not to just cuddle and snuggle, forgiving any bad behaviors or actions you might normally question in a dog. However, curb these things you must!
Though it sounds a bit rigid, I actually suggest that most new pet parents take a few minutes before a new dog arrives to list the things they expect from the dog. For instance, one of my friends called in a tizzy because the new dog was not “asking” to go out and just doing its business by the door. I asked them if they had shown the dog the yard and made certain that they had used the “facilities”. They hadn’t and so the dog had no clue. While this is just an example of naivete and lack of training, it is the kind of inconsistency and lax rules that some new pat parents set down.
4. Avoiding Food Blunders
Until you know your dog’s digestive system, it is a very unwise choice to free feed. In fact, most vets do not recommend it at all. First and foremost, it doesn’t let you monitor their intake and this can mean they are over or under eating. It also doesn’t allow you to get an accurate fix on whether any digestive issues are due to eating too much of a specific food, an allergy and so on.
Always ask the vet just how much your new dog needs to eat and what an ideal body weight is for that specific dog. Not so much the breed, but your dog personally. Adjust accordingly and take the time during pawternity to figure out what the new dog likes, doesn’t like and maybe likes a bit too much!
5. Failing to Figure Out Entertainment Needs
You all know that I am big on keeping dogs’ brains busy. A bored dog is one that often ends up as a bad dog. Though I wrote another piece about bringing a dog into a home with other dogs, saying that you must allow new dogs to have a bit of “alone time” during the adjustment period in a new home, you have to create balance. A dog does need its space, but it also needs entertainment.
In other words, to keep yourself and the new pup happy, you need to offer stimulation when the dog is alone, as well as when you are interacting with the dog. Now, some of the simplest ways to do that include finding toys that help them pass time contentedly but also with a little challenge thrown in. Toys with pockets for hidden treats or toys that require them to chase something or even activate something (such as pushing a button with their nose) are great ways of keeping them entertained.
Games you play together are also crucial during the first weeks, and so you should spend some of the pawternity time figuring out what sorts of games your new dog likes. It could be that your dog likes wearing a backpack and having a job or doing all kinds of canine sports, but it could also be that your new dog’s favorite form of entertainment is just sitting wherever it is you might be and enjoying their new life. The key is for YOU to figure it all out.
6. Setting Up Grooming
It does not matter what breed of dog you have adopted, nor the age, you must get them familiar with the grooming routine you are going to follow. This may be a combination of steps you take to maintain the dog’s health and well-being as well as their coat. After all, there are a lot of different breeds that can benefit from regular, if not daily brushing. Setup a time of day when the new pup can expect a good brushing or some sort of grooming and stick with it.
At the very least, make sure you “handle” the dog at least once a day. Maybe handle their paws a bit – not crazily – just enough to get them used to the idea that this is normal and acceptable. Not only does this allow you to bond, but it also ensures that your dog is not going to flip if they must visit a groomer or a vet and have their feet handled or their coat prodded a bit.
During that pawternity leave you might also want to introduce your new dog to the concept of a bath. Keep in mind that most dogs don’t need frequent baths – usually once a month or less. At this same time, you can also introduce the idea of a tooth brush. Even older dogs with poor dental health can be trained to accept doggie dental care, and this is incredibly helpful to their overall health. Use one of the less frightening finger brushes and a dog-friendly toothpaste and you might even make it a form of daily entertainment or training!
7. Accept That the First Two Weeks Are Often the Worst
I know that sounds grim, but it is surprising to me to hear so many new dog parents say they are not sure it was a good idea after a few tough days. Now, some dogs fit right into your routine and act as if they’ve always lived with you. However, there are also some dogs that have difficulty adjusting. Usually, most dogs do well if you are persistent and consistent with the training and teaching.
All my readers know I’m all about positive reinforcement as the world’s best method for training and never advocate shouting or physical tactics during training. So, even if you feel that this might have been a mistake, don’t quit. Give the new dog a bit of time to adjust (and give yourself that time, too). This is one huge reason I suggest the pawternity leave concept – having two full weeks together is perfect for offering a dog that attention, consistency and training.
8. Make a calendar
This is a tip that few people take, but those who do wonder how they lived without it. That calendar is for one thing – setting goals for the new dog. Two weeks can fly by, and one week evaporates in the blink of an eye. If you make a daily schedule for each day of the pawternity leave, you’ll get much more done and you won’t miss key issues. As an example – day one might be little more than ensuring house training and letting the new pup explore the home. Day two could be to go out for a walk, visit the day care or dog park, and maybe get any and all veterinary issues tackled. Day three might be to start some training and introduce that grooming.
The point is, if you don’t map out what you intend to do, you run the risk of squandering that precious time together. And a calendar lets you see if you are setting realistic goals. An untrained dog is not going to be able to learn that barking is not encouraged in a week, or even two. However, if you note when you introduce different methods to stop the barking, you’ll see real progress.
9. Be Ready
One of the toughest things with adopting a new dog is finding out that you might not be a good fit for one another. I have seen relationships fail. One reason that a pawternity leave may be crucial is that it could let you see that the new dog may have serious behavioral issues that basic training can fail to overcome. If so, you need to be ready to act. Either have training and dog day care lined up or be ready to re-home the dog to someone who has experience with the issues your dog displays. I’ve found that professional trainers can often help with even serious problems. It is a matter of dedication.
I know that most of you are as committed to pet parenting as I am to my Janice and Leroy. I am so glad to hear about authentic pawternity policies in the workplace and I hope you can soon take a leave of this kind to bring home your new fur baby!