With many people spending more time at home, pet adoption and fostering is at an all-time high. And while being a first-time pet parent can be extremely rewarding, it’s not always easy. To help make your pet’s adoption go a bit smoother, we had Chewy’s resident veterinarian Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM, of the Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia, take over our Instagram Stories for a lunch break chat to answer your questions about helping newly adopted pets thrive.
Q: Are there any good signs I can look for to know my rescue dog is enjoying his new home?
A: It may sound a little cliché to say that you’ll just know when they’re enjoying their new home, but it’s true—you’ll see it. They’ll be running around with a ball in their mouth for the first time or wagging their tail or playing with their sibling—and when you see it, you’ll know.
Q: We adopted a 9-year-old, previously abused cat. What are some gentle ways to correct poor behavior?
A: For kitties with behavioral issues, it’s best to have them checked out by your veterinarian first to make sure there’s no physical problems. But otherwise, it’s all about environmental enrichment and redirections during times of undesirable behavior that helps them to get through some of these behavioral issues.
Q: What is the best way to start socializing your adopted dog with other dogs?
A: The best way to start socializing your newly adopted dog is slowly. Perhaps start with a neighbor’s dog that you know is easy and patient, and then build up to smaller group playdates before you venture into anything like a dog park situation, which can be scary for a new dog.
Q: How do you help an existing pet acclimate to a rescue sibling without jealously?
A: It can be hard for older siblings to learn to share that attention, so make sure you are spending some time with the older sibling individually so that he doesn’t feel left out. Also spend time with them together so they get used to sharing that affection.
Q: Is it common for dogs to appear anxious when first introducing a crate?
A: Crates can be a little scary for dogs, especially if they’ve just come out of a shelter environment, but it’s all about presentation. Make it their safe space. Give them treats. Make it a desirable place and they’ll actually start to seek it out during times of stress.
Q: How can I tell my dog that they are safe when they are triggered by loud noises?
A: Pets can pick up on our anxiety. So during scary times, like thunderstorms or fireworks, it’s important for us to be calm for them. You can also check out some products like Adaptil, Rescue Remedy, or ThunderShirt to help calm them in a natural way.
Q: How can I help my 5-year-old German Shepherd mix adjust to moving to a new home?
A: Moving can be nerve-racking for everyone in the family. If you can, bring your pet to the new home before you move in so they can get used to some of the sights and sounds and smells. If you don’t have access to the new place, try one of my recommendations for a natural calming product (above).
Q: My rescued pet is skittish and won’t let me [teach] him [to] sit. Do you recommend a special trainer?
A: Both my rescue dogs came with some significant fear issues, so I recommend looking up a positive reinforcement trainer in your area. You can have them come out to your home and work with you on an individual basis. They’ll help you to find the best solutions for your pup.
Q: My dog constantly bites his paws. Should I be concerned?
A: Biting at or licking the paws can be a sign of allergies in pets, so this is something I would recommend you having your pet seen by your veterinarian for. They’ll be able to give you some great information on what’s going on, make sure that there’s nothing else going on with those little toes, and make the proper recommendation for treatment.
Q: What are some tips for the impending separation anxiety dogs will face once we go back to work?
A: Separation anxiety is one of the most common behavioral problems in dogs, and in order to prevent something like that from happening we’ve got to try to stick to some sort of routine now to prevent our dogs from going into shock when we all go back to work.
If you find this Q&A helpful, follow us on Instagram and stay tuned for upcoming lunch break vet chats with Dr. Katy Nelson in the coming weeks.
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.