The wedding and honeymoon are over, and now the real work begins. The American Kennel Club wants to remind pet owners that it's not just about working on a healthy marriage, but also about helping your dog adjust to the combination of two households.
"Dogs have different personalities and while some are excited to have new people in their lives, other pooches may need some time to adjust," explains Mary Burch, Canine Good Citizen and AKC Star Puppy director and certified applied animal behaviorist. "Taking your dog's personality into account along with some preparation will help ensure a smooth adjustment period when two households are combined."
To help pet-owning newlyweds, the AKC offers tips on how to ease your dog's transition into married life. Among them:
Introduce your dog. Consider your dog's personality when introducing her to your future spouse. Is she enthusiastic or shy? Tailor the first meeting to what will make her most comfortable. Regardless of personality, the first meeting should be in a neutral space — for a more outgoing dog this could be a dog park, for a shy dog, perhaps a friend's back yard. Praise your dog when she interacts well with your future spouse and set aside several subsequent meetings before you combine households.
Discuss expectations. You and your spouse should discuss your dog's current routines. Will you share walking or feeding duties? If so, set up a schedule and stick to it so your dog's life remains consistent.
Continue to work on your relationship with your pooch. It's easy to get wrapped up in wedding planning and the life adjustments that come after the ceremony. However, Fido should remain a priority. Try to keep his schedule as consistent as possible by planning walks or playtime at the same time daily. Your dog is likely to feel less stress if one-on-one time remains regular.
Praise your dog. Every dog reacts to the stress of change differently. The key is to praise your dog only for her positive reactions. Don't give your dog extra attention if she acts shy or too excited around your spouse. Only reward her with attention when she behaves properly.
Additional tips on training responsible dog ownership can be found online at the American Kennel Club website at akc.org.