Guidelines for first-time pet owners
Deciding to adopt a furever friend is a big decision, especially if you’re a first-time pet owner. How do you know what kind of animal is right for you? What should you expect? Does anyone in the family have any allergies? Can you afford the vet care necessary for your pet? Here are some tips to help you make the best decision for you and your family.
Are You a Dog Person, Cat Person, or Both?
The first step is deciding what kind of animal you want to join your family. Age, temperament, and personality all differ from animal to animal, but breed characteristics can provide a guideline. Dogs may need a bit more interaction and attention than cats, but the idea that cats are independent is a myth created by people who’ve never owned one. Any animal is going to take up a good bit of your time.
That’s a reason why we take them into our homes: to enrich our lives with the rewarding time spent in a loving relationship with a treasured pet.
But generally speaking, your lifestyle and housing arrangements will dictate whether a dog or cat is right for you. A dog — especially a larger, more energetic breed — will require daily walks and regular exercise. They need more room to roam and access to a yard. For a more in-depth view, check out 10 Things to Consider Before Getting a Pup. Cats, meanwhile, require less space and are generally able to entertain themselves while you’re out of the house. They spend a great deal of their daytime napping when they’re not climbing your curtains.
Don’t Fall in Love at First Sight
Once you’ve decided on a dog or a cat…ah, we’re pretty sure it will be a dog, it’s time to learn about temperaments. It’s a good idea to read up on breed specifics and to volunteer at shelters to get to know a variety of animals. Find out what personalities suit you best. Be on your guard; it’s easy to fall in love with a dog from the shelter without knowing its history, only to get home and find out you’ve made a mistake. Look into the past history of any pet you’re considering and be realistic about your expectations. If you decide to go with a breeder, make sure they are reputable and check their references.
Prep for Launch
Before you bring your baby home, decide which areas of home and yard he will have access to. Line up a vet and purchase supplies, such as training pads, pet odor and stain remover, beds, dishes, leashes, and kennels as necessary. Your local vet can make recommendations. Decide where to place bedding and feeding dishes, and set up potty locations. Want more? Check out these 10 Tips to Prepare Your Home for a New Pup. You may also want to arrange for lessons with a professional pet trainer, or try to DIY it with lessons on YouTube.
The Big Day
When you introduce the new furever friend to the house, remember that they are likely to be nervous and confused. Even if they are house-trained, there could be accidents. They may have picked up unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as chewing or excessive grooming, while they were there. Learn to recognize their emotional state from their body language so you can react accordingly. Avoid introducing them to the neighbors until they have acclimated to the household. If you can spare it, take a few days off from work to give yourselves time to get to know each other.
Creating a Bond
The more time you have together, the closer you will become with your new furever friend. There is no substitute for time to grow that one-on-one bond. You can work on it proactively by scheduling regular walks, petting and grooming, and playtime into each day. Your training regimen will help your new friend to recognize you as pack leader and learn social etiquette. Remember, dogs are constantly watching and learning from us, so every second is a potential teaching moment. Reinforce behavior you want to see more of with copious praise and treats.
Pet ownership is one of the most rewarding experiences a human can have. Congratulations on your family’s new addition! You have a lifetime of wonderful memories to make together.