My good friend Doris recently lost her beloved cairn terrier, Cooper, and she continues to mourn him. Next week, we are going to Philadelphia to pick up her adorable new addition, 1-year-old cairn terrier Larry. Read all about this journey in an upcoming column.

Doris has been very anxious about getting Larry settled in and making him feel safe and secure. I tell her she is overthinking everything. But it is my hope that my column today will help Doris, and others, deal with the fears that develop with the addition of a new furkid. The conclusion from research and experienced matchmakers: If you do your work to make the right match and help the bond develop, there’s no need to worry.


Why do fools fall in love?

Science can’t explain why you love a pug instead of a golden retriever, but it does know why you’re set up to fall for dogs and cats. We have an instinctive urge to care for creatures that look babyish. Studies have shown that for people all over the world, those qualities are what make us find something cute. This response that helps make sure we care for our own young also tends to attract us to animals, especially the domesticated ones we typically keep as pets. I personally have never had children, but I have always felt strong maternal instincts toward all my pets and love to nurture them.


That special individual

When you think about it, love at first sight isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Falling for a photo, either on a dating website or a pet-finding site, doesn’t always mean the relationship will work. There are so many factors involved, and I encouraged Doris to open her heart and not be as analytical in making her choice.

So how should we find that special pet? Some say to start with the practical considerations, and the bond is likely to develop with time. Unrealistic expectations are often what doom those online dates, and it can be the same with pets. Research shows that starting out with reasonable expectations is a big predictor that a pet will stay in the home rather than being surrendered. As with any relationship, recognize that there will be bumps in the road and sacrifices to be made.

Sometimes, a person will have a desire for a puppy, not considering they work long hours and may not have the time or the energy to adopt and train a youngster. Finding the right dog for each family may include recognizing that they probably don’t have the time to deal with puppy training and behavior, but that a more mature dog might be a better fit. It is work, but it should not be taxing and stressing to add that additional family member, if you’re choosing correctly. Finding that fit is important for solidifying the bond between you and your dog.


Strengthening the bond

Research also shows that enrolling in training classes increases the odds that a dog will remain in the home. Participation in obedience class reduces risk of relinquishment. It’s likely related to improved behavior and to better understanding and tolerance of behavior. The training experiences enhances the bond between you and your dog as they learn what is acceptable behavior and how to please you. A welltrained dog is a pleasure to be with. You’re not embarrassed by his antics, and having good experiences with your pet works as positive reinforcement for the owner.

Positive training affects your whole relationship, resulting in a dog who’s more focused, trusting, and responsive to you.


What to expect at the start

So now we know that you don’t need to fall head over heels to start. A new animal may not show immediate love for you, or vice versa. The dog who runs up and kisses everyone may be the first to get adopted at any
shelter, but lots of great dogs and cats aren’t going to act that way. They may be frightened of the shelter environment, stressed from being moved from place to place, and justifiably wary of strangers. Initially, you cannot be sure of the connection. I met Whitney when she was only 8 weeks old. I remember the back of the vehicle being opened, and all of the little puppies were bundled in a crate. They all came up to the front, wagging tails and excited bouncing bodies. All but one little puppy that cowered in the back. And I said “Oh, that puppy is shy and scared.”

And you guessed right. That cowering puppy was my Whitney! Shy? Scared?? Not in a million years! Whitney was larger than life, confident, and a diva princess. So first impressions may not always be correct. This I
know firsthand!


Baby steps

When you take a new pet home, make sure you have time to spend with them for the first several days, helping them get comfortable. Devote time out of your busy schedule to get them settled in. This is huge for building that foundation. Whenever I brought a new puppy home,I took a week off work to get them acclimated to their new surroundings. With Rue, I worked a second week part time,introducing him gradually to the separation that was inevitable. Having canine (or feline) siblings can be reassuring to the new addition.

And give the relationship time to develop. The dog that you have on day one isn’t going to be the dog you have on day seven and not the dog you have on day 30. So take the time, enroll in that training class and, if you’ve made your choice thoughtfully, chances are the love will follow. I got my beautiful Aussie, Ty, when he was 2 1/2 years old. Ty was kept in a kennel for the first eight months of his life, then he was with a family where he was kept outside much of the time. I remember wondering how long would it take for me to have a relationship with this dog. My friend Linda visited me approximately a month after I had adopted Ty, and she commented on how bonded he was with me. And I then realized that it was true. Ty felt comfortable and secure in his new surroundings, and his true personality quickly surfaced. You may initially be skeptical and worried about bringing that new dog home. But in a matter of weeks it will seem like he has been there forever and that you cannot imagine your life without him. Relax with your new furkid. Love and cherish them, and let the magic happen.

Dog bless.

Resource: Linda Lombardi/