In movies and on television, bringing home a new pet requires little more than a red bow and a bag of kibble. But in real life, choosing and preparing for a new pet means planning and at least a little research. After all, caring for an animal is a big commitment and you’ll want to do everything you can to set this new relationship up for success. From choosing a breed to pet-proofing your home, these tips will walk you through the process so you can focus on bonding, instead of stressing.
Choose The Right Pet For You
While dogs are a popular choice (with an estimated 78 million kept as pets in the U.S., according to the ASPCA) they aren’t the only choice and may not be the best option for you. When deciding the best animal for you and your family, consider:
The Size Of Your Home And Yard – Do you have enough space to live comfortably with a large dog? Will you have to enclose your yard to keep your pet safe outdoors? If letting your pet out unattended is not an option, are you willing to walk your dog daily, sometimes in the rain or snow?
The Activities You Plan To Enjoy With Your Pet – Your lifestyle and the activities you enjoy can help you determine what type of pet is right for you. If you’re planning on walking or running regularly with your new pet, you’ll want an active breed that can keep up. If you’re more of a couch potato, you might consider a cat, an aquarium of fish, or a less active breed of dog, like a pug. The American Kennel Club has a quiz that can match your lifestyle with an optimal breed.
Allergies – Is anyone in your home allergic to specific animals? While an allergy may prompt you to look into alternative animals, like a fish or a lizard, your dreams of dog or cat companionship don’t have to be dashed. Of course, no dog or cat is 100% hypoallergenic, but there are breeds more easily tolerated by allergy sufferers. You can find complete lists of hypoallergenic cat and dog breeds online.
Preparing For Your Pet
Before bringing your new pet home, you’ll want to discuss who will be responsible for different aspects of its care. Older children may be trusted to walk a small to medium-sized dog, while everyone can share in feeding and grooming tasks.
You’ll also want to purchase the supplies, food, and gear necessary for when your pet comes home. This includes food, bowls, toys, litter box, leash, cages, treats, and a bed. If you’re adopting a dog or a cat, check with the breeder or shelter to find out which brand of food your pet is already accustomed to. Keeping your pet’s kibble consistent can prevent digestive discomfort and ease a frightening transition.
Choose a veterinarian before bringing your pet home and schedule a checkup within the first week or two after your pet’s arrival. You should also locate the nearest 24-hour emergency animal hospital and post their phone number where everyone in the house can find it.
Pet-Proof Your Home
Make sure that cords are secure and that any houseplants you have won’t be a health hazard to your new pet. With puppies, it’s also a good idea to store shoes, garbage bins, and laundry baskets out of harm’s way. If you have any pest or rodent traps or repellents, make sure those are also out of reach.
Bringing Your New Pet Home
Bring your new pet home at the beginning of the weekend or at the least, schedule it so you can devote a full day to helping your pet acclimate to its new surroundings. Use a crate or harness when transporting your animal, as a fearful or curious pet can quickly distract the driver or get underfoot, interfering with braking and accelerating. Upon entering your home, don’t bombard or overwhelm your new pet, especially rescue animals who may be nervous in new surroundings. Remind your children of the animal’s possible fears and encourage them to sit and talk calmly to your pet until he’s comfortable.
Once you’ve let your new pet explore its new surroundings, introduce your pet to where you expect him to use the bathroom. Let your pet sniff around, do his business, and then offer praise for going where he’s supposed to.
Bonding With Your New Pet
During your pet’s first week home, balance all those snuggles and attention with plenty of space for your pet to explore, gain independence, and settle into a natural schedule. You should also use this time to identify any additional necessary pet-proofing. Dedicate time in your daily schedule for walking, running around the yard, and/or playing with toys. While there will certainly be accidents, messes, and a period of adjustment for you both, pet-proofing and preparation will go a long way toward heading off trouble before it begins, giving you more opportunity to bond with your new pet.
Preparing For An Elderly Pet
Your first days at home with a new-to-you elderly pet, or a pet from a shelter, should be kept as relaxing as possible. Prep your home to accommodate an older animal, and put off visitors and trips to the vet during the first week your pet comes home. If your new pet seems to sleep a lot during this time, there’s probably no need to worry. Many rescue animals come from noisy and stressful kennels and the peace and quiet of your home may give them a chance to finally get some shut-eye. If your elderly or shelter pet’s personality seems lackluster in the first few days, give it time. It’s normal for a newly adopted pet to “lay low” during the first week in a new home. Your animal’s personality will emerge more and more as he begins to feel comfortable.
While no amount of preparation will potty-train a puppy or save every pair of shoes from chew-toy status, there are ways to ensure that the transition goes smoothly, for both you and your new pet. Remember to be patient and avoid overwhelming your new animal. It won’t be long before he’s walking around like he owns the place.
*Written by Jessica Brody