Owning a domestic animal as a pet is a long-term commitment, with the bond between owner and pet as reward for that commitment. However, a certain amount of effort is also required to ensure your pet is as happy, safe, and healthy as possible.
If at all possible, bringing a new pet into your home should be a well thought out process and one that allows you to properly prepare your home for the new arrival. However, there are times we just fall head over heels for an animal and make an immediate decision. Regardless, you’ll want to accommodate your pet in the best possible way.
You’ll need to consider the pet’s sleeping arrangements. Do you have a crate or way to secure the pet while you’re gone from home? Purchase a crate, cushion, bed, cage, tank and/or other sleeping products. Caution: While you won’t want your pet becoming bored while you’re away, be very cautious about what you leave in their crate with them. Dogs, rabbits and other small rodents love to rip stuffed toys to shreds. The stuffing, squeakers, and other components can be ingested, causing health concerns. Also resist leaving rawhide chews or bones in your dog’s crate, they could become lodged in your dog’s throat. If you must leave a toy/activity for them, select one of the non-destructible chews into which you can place a snack. Dogs love these, as they stay busy trying to get the snack.
All pets need supplies. What do you need for your pet? Besides a basic place to sleep, does your pet need bedding such as a cushion, shavings, or a hammock? What about special lighting or heat lamps? If you’re bringing a fish home, how big of a tank does he need and what set up is best?
Food, leashes, collars, training pads, litter, litter box, food and water bowls, brushes or other grooming supplies, as well as toys and treats are some of the basic items you’ll want to purchase.
Once you’ve selected a pet, you’ll want to take him to your local vet for a check-up. (Obviously, a gold fish or rodent would be exempt from this visit!) During your visit, discuss what immunizations and other medications such as heartworm and flea preventative are necessary. If you have adopted or purchased your new pet, his previous caregiver may have already started him on his shots.
Your vet will most likely inquire about your preference for spaying/neutering the pet when they reach the appropriate age. If you are uncertain of your decision, ask the vet to explain the pros and cons.
Most municipalities require cats and dogs to have rabies shots and tags indicating they are current. In addition, many municipalities also require registration for your cat or dog. Be sure to know your local ordinances and adhere to them.
Regardless how diligent you are with your pet, there may come a time he becomes lost. At the very least, make sure he has a collar tag with contact information so you may be reunited. It is strongly recommended that you take two additional steps: Have your pet “chipped” with an internal identification device and also register with Companion Animal Recovery Service (akccar.org), the nation’s largest database for recovering lost pets.
If you have selected a cat as a pet, determine where you want his litter box(es) to be placed. It is a good idea to have a litter box set up prior to bringing kitty home. As soon as you walk in the house, place kitty in the box. It is easier for him to explore from his box than to explore his way to the box! In the beginning, you may want to place extra newspaper or training pads in the area around the box as kittens sometimes don’t have the best aim.
When bringing a dog into your home, first let the dog explore the outdoor area where you intend him to do his business. His natural instincts will kick in and he will mark the spot. Be sure to offer lots of praise! When finished, bring him into your home, but keep a very close eye on him. If you notice he appears to be searching for a place to go, or simply squats and lets loose, firmly say “no”, while moving him to your outdoor spot. Again, allow him to sniff and (hopefully) finish his business, and receive your admiration! Puppies should be taken out every two hours for the first few days. If your puppy is doing ok and not having accidents with two-hour increments, increase the span by a few minutes each day. Eventually, your dog will be able to hold it for several hours.
It is important to establish a routine, especially for the very young and the mature pet. Know that if you are gone an extended length of time, accidents may occur. It is best to plan ahead by laying down paper or pads, at least you have a chance of a self-contained accident!
While many animals can be trained in specific ways, this area is primarily for dog owners.
Your dog is now part of your pack and it is important to establish from the beginning that you and other humans in the household are pack leaders! Clearly identify appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and establish a consistent set of rewards and corrections. If you share your home with others, make sure each and every person understands and maintains the same standards—this creates structure and consistency for your dog, which in turn builds the bond between you and helps your pet feel secure.
Teach your dog basic commands such as sit, stay, lay, come and off, as well as proper leashing. Investing in a basic obedience class is money well spent!
Feeding and Care
It’s important to acknowledge your pet’s primary needs are your responsibility! Make sure to feed your pet the highest-quality food you can afford; provide plenty of clean, fresh water; exercise and/or play with him regularly; groom and/or bath him; and provide him with routine and emergency medical care. Keep him safe from cars, predators, and safety hazards. Above all else, treat your pet with love and kindness…he will certainly do the same!