Adopters, click any hyperlink below for access to resources you may have lost/misplaced during the adoption process. Each animal’s medical record and contract will be specific to the adopter (so call our office for access), but general information is below about the resources you should have received in your adoption folder. Thank you for choosing to rescue!
Check out some of Paws and Prayers’ approved training suggestions below for a smooth assimilation of your new adopted pet!
Tips for introducing two (or more) dogs:
- Let them get to know each other slowly and carefully; throwing them together in the back yard and letting them work it out can lead to problems, including serious injury, if the integration fails.
- Have the dogs meet on leash in neutral territory: the initial meeting should be in neutral territory, such as the yard or a park. Have both dogs on-leash. Take the dogs for a walk together, keeping 10 feet between them so that they can’t greet each other or stare. The idea is to acclimate them to each other’s presence without causing tension. They should not be sniffing each other at this point.
- Always keep the leashes on (dragging or otherwise); a tense leash makes for a tense dog. Allow them to sniff each other on a loose leash, then call them away. If they start to play and it seems to be going well, let them play for a few minutes and then end the session. End each initial session on a good note! Do not let them play so long that an accident could happen and the dogs’ attitudes towards each other change.
- When bringing a new dog home, always do meets outside first. First in the yard, then inside the house. Before the in-house introduction, take the resident dog out to the yard, then bring your new dog inside. Bringing the new dog inside to meet your resident dog can cause a negative reaction if the resident dog is territorial. Keep each interaction short and pleasant. If signs of tension arise, separate the dogs immediately and try again later. Remember that the introduction will set the tone for their relationship, so it’s important to set everyone up for success.
- Keep new pets separate from resident pets while you are away; no matter how well the new pet seems to be doing with your resident pet, you should always keep them separate when you are not there to supervise. This should be done at minimum for the first month.
Tips for introducing two (or more) cats
During the adoption process, consider the personality of your own cat; our adoption counselors will help aid you in selecting the best pet for your household. Generally, pets with similar personalities are best together. If your current pet is dominant, you should consider adopting a more submissive cat. If your cat is lazy/quiet, you may not want a hyperactive cat. You want to make sure your pets’ personalities will balance well. Adjustment periods can vary for each cat depending on personality, age of adopted cat/kitten, and/or sex of adopted cat; assimilation can take from two weeks to two plus months.
Even if the cat you’ve adopted is good with other cats, there is always the possibility of problems when introducing strangers to each other. Most cats will not warmly welcome strangers immediately. There are several steps that you can take to reduce the likelihood of problems. Before bringing your new cat home, create a separate “territory” for him/her. This area should be equipped with food, water, a scratching post, a litter box, access to natural sunlight, and comfortable resting places. The new pet should not comingle with your resident pet immediately.
Your other cats should have their own separate territory. Make certain that both areas (the space for the new cat and the space for the other cats) contain multiple hiding places so the cats can easily retreat if necessary. Large cardboard boxes with holes cut in two sides make great hiding places. The second hole allows the cat to escape if cornered by another cat. The boxes will come into play once you start allowing the cats to interact directly, but it can be helpful to introduce the boxes first, so that the cats become accustomed to using them.
Place your new cat in his/her space as soon as s/he arrives home, and spend a minimum of one hour with him/her (and the other cats in the household) per day. Play with them regularly and watch them closely for signs of stress or anxiety, such as hiding, aggressive behavior, decreased appetite, and/or excessive vocalization.
If any cat is showing mild signs of stress, give him or her time to acclimate to the new situation. If all the cats appear comfortable in their spaces, place the new cat in a different room (equipped with the same amenities) after two days, and allow your other cats to enter the new cat’s original territory. This will allow each cat to become accustomed to each other’s scent in a non-threatening way. Allow the cats to acclimate to their new areas for one day.
Cats have glands in their cheeks that produce pheromones. When your cat rubs her cheek against a wall, chair, or your leg, she produces pheromones, which are chemical substances that can help to relieve anxiety and provide information about the cat who is producing those pheromones. Exposing each cat to towels that were gently rubbed on the new cat’s cheeks may be a good way to introduce them. Some cats respond very well to a synthetic pheromone (a spray or diffuser), a product that can be bought online or in pet supply stores.
You can now start allowing the cats closer access to each other by placing them on either side of a closed door so that they can smell each other directly. The next step is to allow them to see each other through a baby gate or a door that is propped open two inches. If the cats are interested in each other and seem comfortable, allow them to meet. Open the door to the rooms between the cats and observe them closely.
If any cat shows signs of significant stress or aggression, separate them again and introduce them more slowly. Once the cats have acclimated to being allowed to sniff each other through a door, bring each cat into a large room, on opposite sides. Over multiple sessions, gradually bring the cats closer to each other. Encourage them to play with one another, give them treats together, or feed them a bowl of wet food together. This exercise teaches the cats that they get special rewards in each other’s presence, and that nothing bad is happening. With time, the cats will learn that they are not a serious threat to each other.
Remember, an anxious cat is much more likely to behave aggressively than a cat who is comfortable and relaxed. Patience and closely following these instructions are key to a smooth assimilation of your recently adopted pet!
Paws and Prayers is always happy to provide additional recommendations if you are not successful at assimilating the pets. You can also speak with your veterinarian about additional options.
Tips for housebreaking and litter training:
Housebreaking adult dogs and puppies can be unique challenges, but the key in either endeavor is to establish a routine. Check out these tips and feel free to reach out to us for further advice about your specific situation if needed:
Dogs do best on a regular schedule. The schedule teaches them that there are times to eat, times to play and times to do their business. As a rule of thumb, puppies an control their bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is two months old, they can hold it for about two hours. Don’t go longer than this between bathroom breaks or they’re guaranteed to have an accident.
Take your dog outside frequently—at least every two hours for puppies and four hours for adults—and immediately after they wake up, during and after playing, and after eating or drinking. Do not give them a reason to have an accident; give them ample opportunity to use the bathroom outside.
Pick a bathroom spot outside, and always take your dog (on a leash) to that spot. While your dog is relieving themselves, use a specific word or phrase that you can eventually use before they go to remind them what to do (such as “go potty”). Take them out for a longer walk or some playtime only after they have eliminated. Use playing and walking as a reward for using the bathroom.
Reward your dog every time they eliminate outdoors. Praise or give treats—but remember to do so immediately after they’ve finished, not after they come back inside. This step is vital, because rewarding your dog for going outdoors is the only way to teach what’s expected of them. They need to associate your praise with their action.
Establish a feeding schedule. Feeding your dog at the same times each day will make it more likely that they’ll eliminate at consistent times as well, making housetraining easier and more predictable for both of you. Puppies should be fed at least twice a day; if your adult dog is particularly unpredictable, you can consider feeding them once a day.
Pick up your dog’s water dish about two and a half hours before bedtime to reduce the likelihood that they’ll need to relieve themselves during the night. Most dogs can sleep for approximately seven hours without needing a bathroom break. If your dog needs to eliminate in the middle of the night, quietly and quickly take them to the bathroom as to reduce excitement or teaching your dog that it’s play time. Turn on few lights, be quiet, and make the trip short.
Housebreaking adult cats and kittens can be unique challenges, but the key in either endeavor is reinforcement. Check out these tips and feel free to reach out to us for further advice about your specific situation if needed:
Cats have a natural instinct to eliminate in sand or soil, and kittens also learn from observing their mother. Kittens usually start learning to use the litter box at 3 or 4 weeks of age, so by the time you bring your kitten home, she will likely be used to using a litter box.
You will not need to train your kitten to use the litter box in the same way that you would housebreak a puppy. However, it is important to make sure your new cat/kitten knows the location of the litter box in his/her new surroundings. Make sure the box is not in a noisy or hard-to-reach place. Soon after you bring your cat home, take him/her to the litter box at a quiet time. Place him/her into the litter box, gently take her front paws and show her how to scratch at the litter once or twice. Place her in the box at the times throughout the day. Remember that cats prefer privacy when using the litter box. We recommend you place a litter box on the main floor so the cat can quickly find it and slowly move it to it’s final location (such as the basement). The rule of thumb is that you should provide one litter box per cat, plus one extra.
Most cats will make the adjustment to a new litter box without any problems. However, if there are any accidents, don’t scold or punish your cat. Yelling or using a squirt bottle will only confuse and scare your cat, and she won’t understand why you are upset. Instead, clean up the accident with an enzyme cleaner to remove stains and odor. Then go back to square one, placing the cat in the litter box frequently until she starts using it. If the accidents continue, or if you are noticing any diarrhea or straining, have your kitten examined by your veterinarian to rule out any possible medical problems.
Tips for crate training your dog:
Crate training is important for several reasons; even if you let your animals have the run of the house when you are not home, it is important they know how to act in a crate if you have visitors, ever have to board your pets, etc.
For a demonstration on how to familiarize your pet with the crate, watch this youtube video.
For both dogs and puppies, there are several steps (courtesy of Cesar’s Way) you can follow for smooth crate training:
- Introduce it casually The worst way you can introduce your puppy to the idea of a crate is to bring it home and lock him inside it immediately. People don’t like being trapped against their will, and neither do dogs. Instead, you should initially treat the crate like it’s just another piece of furniture — but one that he can enjoy. To this end, place it in a part of the house that he frequents, add a blanket and a toy or two, and keep the door open. Then back off and give him a chance to explore it. Some dogs will immediately start sniffing around and going into the crate, which is a great sign. If your puppy isn’t quite so bold, encourage him to check it out by placing favorite foods and toys near and inside the crate. The ultimate goal is to get him comfortable with going inside, and this is something that could take days. Be patient with the process.
- Use it for meal time After she’s willing to enter the crate, your next goal is to get her comfortable with staying inside for extended lengths of time. One of the best ways to do this (and create a positive association with the crate) is to start putting her food in the crate.If possible, you want to place the food at the back of the crate so that your dog goes all the way in. Some dogs may not be willing to do this, though, so you can start with the food just inside the crate and slowly move it back with successive meals.
- Close the crate As soon as your dog is eating his meals while standing all the way inside the crate, it’s time to close the door. After he’s done eating that first time, open the door immediately. You’ll leave him in longer and longer with each meal, adding just a few minutes every time. It’s possible that your dog may whine. If this happens, open the crate immediately and don’t leave him in as long next time. However, if he whines again, wait until he stops before letting him out or you will teach him that whining equals open door.
- Extend crate time Once your dog is hanging out in her closed crate without signs of stress, it’s time to lengthen her stay. Use a favorite toy or treat to encourage her to enter the crate, then close it. Hang out by the crate for several minutes, then go into a different room for a few minutes so she gets used to the idea of staying in the crate alone. When you return, don’t open the crate immediately. Instead, sit with her again for a few more minutes and then open the door. Keep increasing the time as you do this until your dog is able to stay in the locked crate for half an hour without your presence. When she’s able to do this, she’s ready for you to leave her for short periods and possibly even sleep in the closed crate overnight. Make sure you keep the crate relatively nearby for overnight stays though. Puppies usually need to go to the bathroom overnight and you’ll want to be able to let her out.
- Leaving and returning The key here is to make crating seem completely normal and avoid excitement. Encourage him to get into the crate and praise him when he does so, but keep it brief. When you come home, stay low-key and ignore any excited behavior that he shows.
Tips for keeping your dog well socialized:
- It is imperative you keep your puppy/dog well-socialized with humans and other pets throughout his/her life. Think of it this way: you likely have a favorite grocery store you use. Maybe your favorite grocery store is closed so you have to go the other nearest one; you take twice as long to do your shopping because you weren’t familiar with the store. If you never let your dog meet other people, go places, or meet other animals, they will likely develop the same hesitance over having to do these things as you have over going to your least favorite grocery store. Dogs can develop aggression and other unwanted behavior towards people/animals if you do not keep them socialized. Check-out some of the below tips on how to keep your pet socialized:
- Daily walks (and exercise outside of your yard) are key: take different routes, allowing your dog the chance to meet new friends and experience a wide variety of sights.
- Let your dog meet other people: expose your dog to a wide variety of people, from men and women to children, so s/he can get acclimated to the idea of people (who are much bigger). The idea is that if your dog only ever hangs out with one person, s/he may grow wary of anyone that isn’t that person. Have new people give treats to your pet and praise them for positive interactions and always remember to let your pet greet strangers.
- Take your pet to training classes. This isn’t required, but basic training for any pet is always recommended. The training setting not only helps to teach your dog basic commands, but teaches him/her to have a good disposition around strangers, interact with people well and to always listen to you, specifically, in crowds.
- Always take treats with you. The opportunity to praise your dog is around every corner, so always take treats with you. Also, take your dog on short trips in the car, if you like, to keep familiarizing him/her with new places.
Tips for teaching your dog basic commands:
Teaching the “Sit” Command
- Hold a treat close to your foster dog’s nose.
- Move your hand up, allowing his head to follow the treat and causing his bottom to lower.
- Once s/he’s in sitting position, say “Sit,” give him the treat, and share affection.
- Repeat this sequence a few times every day until your dog has it mastered.
Teaching the “Come” Command
- Put your dog on a leash.
- Hold the other end of the leash, say “come” once, then quickly move backward.
- Keep moving backward until your dog gets all the way to you.
- When your dog catches up to you, say “Yes!”
- Give your dog a treat!
Teaching to Walk Without Pulling
- Begin by capturing your dog’s correct behavior on leash. Even if s/he’s a whirling dervish or major-league puller, there will be times when he stops the craziness enough to let the leash go slack. He may even turn to look at you (probably to find out why you’re plodding along). The instant the leash goes slack, reward your foster dog with a treat and praise.
- If your dog walks pretty nicely without pulling or dancing, reward him every so often to hive him a “reference point”. If he understands that you like him to walk calmly without pulling, and he gets excited and forgets his manners somewhere down the road, be sure to reward him when he resumes politely walking.
- If your foster dog has already formed the habit of pulling on the leash, you must convince him/her of two things: Pulling will not hasten the arrival of his/her goal and walking politely will make you happy enough to reward him/her. If you are training a puppy, or if your adult dog is responsive and submissive to you, try the “no forward progress” approach to pulling. In other words, teach your dog that if he tries to pull you toward something, you will stop in your tracks. If your dog is determined to get where s/he wants to go, s/he may not notice right away that you are playing statue, but sooner or later s/he will either stop pulling or turn around to look at you. The instant the leash goes slack, reward and then resume walking. If your dog pulls again, stop again. You may have to spend a few days going for short, slow walks, but many dogs will figure out very quickly that pulling slows progress rather than speeds it up.
Tips for teaching your cat not to scratch:
Most cats will instinctively scratch and kneed objects, especially carpet. This is usually not a destructive behavior and they do it to remove old sheaths of nail. In cases where it is a destructive behavior, the cat is usually expressing anxiety and stress through scratching. Try to see what may be causing your cat stress. Exercise/play may be the answer (see below). If your cat is a destructive scratcher and exercise/play does not help, there are some tricks that can help:
• Provide a scratching post or pad.
• Placing double-sided tape on the object they are scratching. Cats do not like how it feels. They sell special tape at pet stores that will not damage your possessions.
• Spraying surface with an unpleasant smelling/tasting liquid, such as bitter apple or water with citrus.
• Using “Soft Paws” or nail covers.
Note: Paws and Prayers has a strict “no declaw” policy. We will not declaw any cats that come to us and adopters must also agree not to declaw.
What NOT to do in the first month of adoption:
For any pet and any environment, we always recommend that adopters take it slow. You can’t go too slow! Cats and dogs alike need time to acclimate to your new home. Think about it this way: if you’ve ever moved in your life, you know there’s a whole process involved. You have to pack your things, move, and then unpack your things. This process likely takes you multiple months until you’re fully settled in. You can’t expect your new pet to do so overnight, either. Cats and dogs alike need time to get to know their new home, their new people and really settle in to their environment while unpacking their own bags.
For cats, we strongly recommend keeping any cat in it’s own area for at least one to two weeks. Spend time with the cat in this area (perhaps a spare room) and as s/he warms up to you, give the cat more leniency. Let the pet explore the main part of the house (keep the other rooms closed), spend some time with you on the couch, etc. As the cat builds confidence in his/her new home, give the pet more freedom. Always remind new cats where their litter box is and never let them outdoors. Cats adopted from Paws and Prayers must be solely indoor cats.
Paws and Prayers recommends a similar introduction method for dogs. Don’t overwhelm the new dog. Give him/her a tour of the house. Do NOT open the door to the new home and let him/her have free reign. Keep your new pet leashed and guide him/her through the house (after a good amount of exercise as it is best when the new pet is tired). Let him/her sniff each corner and crevice and if you examine any unwanted attention, give a gentle correction and divert his/her behavior to something more positive. Spend time in each room before moving to the next, letting the animal acclimate to the new environment. Do not let the animal spend time out of a confined area when you are not home right away (e.g. crate the dog or confine to a certain area based on the dog’s needs). Do not test the animal’s bladder. Take your pet out to potty frequently and establish a water/food routine. Do not take your new pet to dog parks or let your pet off leash in the first month. These activities, although exciting, will come later once you have cemented the bond with your new pet.
Happy Tails and Pupdates from Paws and Prayers alum!
Returning an Animal to Paws and Prayers
Paws and Prayers proudly always takes back animals adopted from us, no questions asked; whether it’s two weeks, two months, two years or twelve years, we will always take an animal adopted from us back into our care. Although we hope that every adoption brings families a lifetime of joy, we understand that sometimes, circumstances beyond our control make us unable to care for our pets. To return an adopted animal to us, fill out a surrender application and we will be in touch about the next steps.