Handling family dynamics when preparing for a new puppy or kitten.
Training the pet family before the pet comes home.
A new member always changes dynamics in any team. In the human world, the rules of engagement are clearly stated. There are further negotiations and agreements. It is still not a seamless world.
When a newbie pet family gets a puppy or kitten there are no expressed rules. Emotions run high resulting in a charged environment. In such cases, it helps to understand the power structure and knowing who the person in charge is. The various roles typically taken up are:
The tornado – Wanted the pet, got it, beside himself or herself with glee. Determined to demonstrate ownership of the pet and generally creating confusion. Believes that his or her limitless love will take care of everything. Might be the youngest in the family or at least in the moment acts like it. May not be equipped to take care of another person.
The skeptic – The voice of reason. Is pretty much getting palpitations of the heart. Doesn’t know how this can possibly go well and the excess energy of the tornado and the cowering puppy is adding to the dread.
The bystander – Never quite understood the fuss. Now they are worried how they might be co-opted to help. Would want nothing less.
The naysayer – Doesn’t want the pet. The pet is here. Not pleased with the situation and doesn’t want anything to do with it.
The interloper – Could have been on either side of the argument about getting the pet. Now shifts hard held positions, annoying or pleasing the two sides equally.
In this cast of characters comes this kitten or puppy or for that matter any other pet. There has been no pet parent training. It doesn’t matter if the new pet is chirpy or intimidated. Human energy is at its crescendo. The pet needs to exhale, get veterinary attention at times, some pet grooming in some cases due to tiny accidents in transportation and the family is in uproar. All of which is up for vociferous debate.
At such times the natural alpha takes to the fore. However this is the family alpha who is using his or her known information of humans on animals and that’s not always the best thing. Also it is the time when the tornado wants to take charge.
The pet comes into this mayhem and picks up mixed signals. Pets behave best when there is discipline and clarity. In the absence of a common language, behavioural signals set the tone for future relationships. Make-do decisions become habits and in the long term are detrimental both for the pet and the rest of the family. This is when the unruly pet is born.
Before the pet comes home, along with all the reading, have a few family meetings. Not one, but many. Have clear understandings and agreements on what is acceptable behaviour and set boundaries for both the biped and quadruped family members. Decide who is in charge and responsible for which tasks. Also who would be the enforcer of all these rules. Name the alpha or the pet will happily take the titular position. In such cases, it might be anyone’s fault but certainly not that of the pet.