Bringing home your first pet is a moment you’ll probably always remember. With the excitement of adding a member to the family comes the responsibility of caring for an animal that is completely dependent on you for food, water, shelter and much more. It can be exhilarating, exhausting and expensive—especially if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Here are some tips on how to prepare for your adventure as a first-time pet owner. Picking the Kind/Breed
You may already have an idea of what kind of pet you’re getting, but it’s still good to consider some different factors before you commit. First of all, talk it over with any family members. It’s important that everyone is on board with the change that’s about to happen. Ask yourselves questions like: What kind of pet will fit well with our home and lifestyle? How much hair can we deal with? What kind of personality are we looking for in a pet? How much time do we have to attend to his or her needs?
Next, once you decide on whether you’re getting a dog, cat, or other animal, you’ll need to pick a breed. If you have plenty of space in your house for a Saint Bernard, go for it. But you may want to think twice before bringing him home to your one-bedroom apartment. The size of your yard is another factor; if you choose an active breed (i.e. Blue Heeler, Weimaraner, Border Collie, etc.), be sure she will have enough room to run around. Also, if anyone in your family is allergic, consider getting a shorthaired breed with minimal shedding or one that requires weekly grooming and plan to frequently deep clean your home.
Preparing Your Home
Before the arrival, there are a few things you can do to prepare your home. Get any supplies the pet will need in advance (i.e. collar, leash, food, bowls, toys, etc.). Designate a space in the home where the pet will be able to acclimate comfortably. Also, discuss with your family how each person will contribute to the pet’s care and arrange for the pet to come home during a time when you can give him ample time and attention.
Acclimating your pet to a new environment will require patience, attention, and consistency. Consider crate training her in the designated area. Stay close enough to monitor her but don’t crowd her with too much affection at first; if she’s a rescue pet, she may be extra nervous or fearful. Allow the pet to adapt at her own pace. Take her outside regularly so she can learn where to potty, and reward her with a treat when she goes. Also, be patient when she goes in the house. Moreover, the pet will need consistency, so pick an unchanging place for her to sleep, eat and drink water.
The most rewarding part of owning a pet is the bond that’s formed. There are many benefits to having a companion animal, and they can be particularly beneficial to someone in addiction recovery. But whether or not you’re recovering from addiction, the loyalty and unconditional love—mixed with the responsibility of caring for a pet—are sure to add to your quality of life.
While you can’t always predict how and when the bond will happen, you can do some things to move the process along. Like with humans, simply spending time with your pet makes a big difference. Go for a walk, play with the tennis ball, go swimming; get to know your pet’s personality and what he likes, and do things that he enjoys. Also, training your pet well is one of the fastest ways to form a strong and lasting bond. Be firm when you need to be, but always try to stay calm and reward him periodically.
It takes time and preparation, but the benefits of having a companion by your side make it all worth it. You’ll know more of what you’re getting into if you carefully choose a kind and breed of pet and prepare your home for his arrival. Make acclimation as easy for him as you can and put effort into forming that special bond. Bringing home your new companion is a life change you’ll never regret.
Thank you to Jessica Brody from Our Best Friends for this guest blog!