Your New Dog: Preparing for a New Pet in Your Home

Boy petting dog

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to “proof” the relationships between new rescue dogs and their human siblings? To be able to ensure that both the children and the dogs understand how to be polite and appropriate with each other at all times?

While best behavior all the time can't be guaranteed, there are proactive steps that you can take to create a safe and healthy relationship between your children and your new rescue. Even if you can’t “proof” them entirely, you can at least feel confident that your new family is headed in the right direction.

Learn to Read Your Dog’s Signals

One of the most important first steps of bringing home a new rescue dog is acquainting yourself with canine body language so that you can understand what your dog is trying to tell you. That's not just referring to old standbys like “a wagging tail means he’s happy” or “growling is bad.” (Neither of those assertions is 100 percent true, by the way.)

Canine body language is nuanced and can be subtle, but there are several unmistakable behaviors that telegraph intent, specifically discomfort. If you can pinpoint when your dog is feeling conflicted, you’ll be better able to defuse the situation before it escalates. For example, yawning is a very clear indicator of stress. It’s a contextual behavior; if your dog yawns at the end of a long day, he’s probably just tired. If he yawns when your child tries to take his bone away, he’s stressed. Similarly, “lizard tongue” (lip licking) is an indicator of tension. If your child gets too close to your dog’s face and he looks away (another signal) and licks his lips, he’s communicating stress. Learn to recognize when your dog is enjoying interactions and when he’d rather just be left alone.

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