Bringing Home Baby: Advice for the New Pet Parent
Congratulations! You’ve decided to share your home and your life with a lucky new friend and soon your home will echo with the pitter-patter of tiny paws. You’re on the path to one of the most rewarding relationships a human being can hope to have, and it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime.
What kind of pet do you want to have? This commitment should last your pet’s whole life, so give it careful thought. Take your family dynamics into account. Consider these questions:
Do you have children or other pets in the home?
Does anyone have allergies?
Who will be the primary caregiver for your new addition?
Sorting out whose job it is to scoop the poop or clean the cat box can prevent problems later. Consider your lifestyle and your work schedule.
Do you have the time it takes to train a puppy or rehome a needy rescue?
If you work long hours, you can hire a pet sitter or a dog walker to assist and invest in a professional dog trainer. But that brings up another question: what about costs? Can you afford to give your pet the care it needs? The average American household spends $538 per year on their pets, and the average cost for a veterinary emergency is $1,500.
Whatever you decide, you’ll need to anticipate changes in your lifestyle down the road and make the necessary commitment to stay together. Be realistic about where you expect to be in one year, three years or 10 years. If you cannot see yourself still living with the pet you’re considering, choose one with a shorter lifespan.
Many people fall in love at first sight, but most of those people are divorced. “Date” a little. Give yourself the opportunity to meet and interact with lots of potential pets. Try volunteering at a shelter or animal rescue program to see which breeds and temperaments are best suited for you. Learn about your pet’s history, any previous owners and their likes and dislikes. Animals, like people, have their own unique personalities, so make sure yours mesh well.
Are you into sports and the great outdoors? Or, cuddling in front of the fire with a good book? Get to know the personality of the pet you’re considering, so you can plan the sort of activities you’ll want to do together. Certain breeds are known to have specific personalities and traits, but even these vary in degree from one animal to the next. So, it’s important to get to know the pet himself, not just his breed description.
If you are determined to have a purebred pet, there are numerous breed specific rehoming programs you can check out. If you decide to get a puppy or kitten from a breeder, make sure they’re reputable. Your local Better Business Bureau may be able to help. At a minimum, you should look into their references and visit with previous customers.
Before you bring home your new friend, you’ll want to make sure you’re in compliance with local zoning laws. Examine your home with a critical eye; are your fences secured? How close are you to the road? Pet-proof the house by putting chemicals and cleaners into latched cabinets or out of the way shelves. Stash the trash can in a closet. Put away the breakables and close off areas of the house that have delicate furniture. Select a veterinarian and make an appointment to take care of any needed shots or treatments. He or she may also be able to make recommendations on food, toys, and bedding choices.
Good communication with the previous owners and the vet will help you during the early stages of your relationship with your new pet. Once you get home, you might need some guidance, so keep those phone numbers handy.
The key to integrating your new pet into your home is love, time and plenty of patience. The process may take a few weeks, but if you’ve laid the right groundwork, you’ll have a friend for life
Give yourself time to bond with your new pet. The first few weeks will be an adjustment period as you get to know each other. Set up areas where he can feel safe, and provide plenty of toys and treats. Even if you are going to be your pet’s forever home, your new companion doesn’t know that yet. Your pet’s situation is traumatic, especially if he’s come to you from a shelter. He may be frightened, or confused. He doesn’t know the rules yet. Just be patient with him and with yourself. You’re new at being his owner and you’re both bound to make a few mistakes.
Speaking of mistakes, it’s important to remember that even a well-trained pet can have accidents under stress. If you’re training your pet for the first time, just be consistent and provide plenty of reinforcement for positive behaviors. Pay close attention to your pets’ body language. If your dog’s tail and ears are pointed upward, he’s feeling playful. If Fido’s ears are laid back and his body is lowered, he is under stress. If your cat Fifi’s ears are laid back with her fur bristling, she is scared.