Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Bond with Your New Puppy or Kitten

By Langley Cornwell

The bond you have with your puppy or kitten begins the moment they come home with you, and continues to grow throughout their lifetime. Ways to strengthen this bond include affection, training, grooming, playing, exercising and participating in a variety of activities with your new puppy or kitten. What you do in the early stages of your union sets the proper foundation for a solid, lasting connection; a connection that will benefit both of you in more ways than you can imagine.

Bonding with a new puppy

The first week or ten days of a puppy’s life consists of nursing, sleeping and not much else. During that time, the puppy’s mother is his source for everything. If he gets separated from his mother, she finds him and leads or carries him back to the litter. If he gets hungry, she feeds him. If he cries, she comforts him. The bond between a puppy and his mother is the first and most important relationship of his little life.   

Once the pup’s eyes and ears open, he begins to notice things beyond just his mother. As the puppy ages and is able to fend for himself, his relationship with his mother becomes less dependent—more like a friendship. When the pup is between three and six weeks old, he begins to develop relationships with his littermates and learns basic social skills from their interactions.

According to noted veterinary behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a puppy’s distrust of unfamiliar people starts developing at around eight to ten weeks of life. At this time, it’s essential that the puppy is introduced to others.

At about eight weeks of age, most puppies are available for adoption, and that’s when a puppy’s new human enters the picture. Early separation anxiety is almost unavoidable at the beginning of the relationship, because the puppy misses his mom and littermates. It’s at this time that you must become ‘everything’ to your new puppy—so if he whimpers or whines, you tend to him.

If you’ve ever heard or read that you’re supposed to let your puppy cry through the night, ignore that advice. That’s incorrect. You are now substituting for the puppy’s mother, and mama dog doesn’t ignore her babies. By meeting the puppy’s demands you will keep him on the right track for appropriate social development. Additionally, the puppy will gradually re-attach to you, his new provider. This is when your connection begins to really take shape.       

To ensure a healthy bond, you should:

• Spend loads of time with your puppy
• Make your puppy feels like part of the family
• Touch and hold your puppy frequently 
• Act like a teacher rather than a disciplinarian
• Talk to your puppy and say his name often
• Establish daily schedules for walking, playing, feeding and eliminating
• Start grooming your puppy early

Bonding with a new kitten

As with puppies, kittens rely on their mothers for everything at the beginning. Their mother is their source of nourishment, warmth and care, and the bond between the kitten and the mother cat is strong. When a kitten leaves her mother and comes to live with you, her entire world shifts. You must now become the kitten’s mother-substitute.

Many kittens are shy at the beginning; the change of location is frightening and creates insecurity. Introduce yourself to your new kitten slowly. Move in a relaxed and deliberate manner and use gentle tones when talking to her. You may consider establishing a small, quiet room as her ‘safe place’. Keep her in that space in the early days to avoid overstimulation. 

Take things slowly and be mindful of the kitten’s reactions. Let her set the pace. In time, your new kitten will re-attach to you as her source of everything and the rewards will be tremendous. It’s up to you to foster a strong bond with your new kitten so she will feel safe and secure, and grow into a well-adjusted feline companion.

To ensure a healthy bond, you should:

• Interact with the kitten as much as possible
• Speak softly and lovingly to the kitten
• Hold and pet the kitten with a gentle, soothing touch
• Develop games to play with your kitten
• Reward your kitten with FELIDAE TidNips™
• Encourage the kitten to nap in your lap and gently stroke her as she awakens

Healthy bonding with your puppy or kitten at an early age produces an easier relationship between the two of you. It creates fewer and less intense behavior problems, and it establishes a closer and more rewarding lifelong connection.

Puppy photo by Nathanael Boehm
Kitten photo by Ole Martin Bjornli Gunther

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell
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