Getting Your First Pet: A Guide

By: Cindy Aldridge

Pets are a huge responsibility, but they are also a source of comfort and laughter. Making the decision to bring one home should not be taken lightly, but if you feel you’re ready, a new dog or cat can definitely bring joy to your life and can even help with stress or anxiety.

There are several things to consider before you pick out your new pet to ensure you’re selecting the best pet for your specific lifestyle. For example: do you have adequate space in your home or yard? Will you need to pay a pet deposit if you’re a renter? If you have children, will the new pet get along with them? Keeping everyone’s health and safety a priority will help save you grief down the road, so think hard about the best type of pet for your family.

Once you know what you want, it’s time to get your home ready and rearrange your schedule a bit to accommodate him. After all, pets are a bit like children; they need a lot of love and attention, especially if they’re young or are rescue animals.

Here are a few of the best tips on how to prepare your home, your family, and yourself for having a new pet.


Think about the breed

Not only are there safety precautions involved in choosing the right breed, but you’ll save yourself a hassle later on if you make sure your landlord doesn’t have breed restrictions for pets. Double check on the rules where you live just to make sure. Then, you’ll need to think about the best type of animal for your needs. If your family is very active and enjoys spending time outdoors, you might think about a dog that can handle hiking trails and likes being around water. If you have very young children, it’s best to stay away from breeds that are known to be aggressive, such as Chow Chows and Dachshunds.


Thinking of adoption?

Adopting a rescue animal is a great way to go, but there are some special considerations you’ll need to make. Talk to the caregivers about any issues the pet may have, such as anxiety or fear of loud noises and lots of people. Some rescue animals have suffered abuses beyond comprehension and are wary of new people, and sometimes they need a little patience and extra love. If you know you won’t have the time to dedicate to helping nurture a rescue animal, think about looking elsewhere.


Think about your schedule

It can be difficult to care for a pet when you have a busy schedule, but if you’re set on bringing one home, think about how best to ensure his needs are met. You might hire a dog-walker who can come while you’re at work and let him out, feed him, and give him some extra playtime.


Get your home ready

Your pet needs a safe place to call home, so walk through your house and look at things from his point of view. Are there plants that could be poisonous? Loose wires that could be chewed on? Access to food he shouldn’t have? Make your home as safe as possible and stock up on food, toys, bedding, a food and water bowl, collar, leash, and toiletry items so that when your pet arrives he’ll be all set


Plan for expenses

When it comes to pets, there are expenses you can plan for, and those you can’t. Expected expenses include vaccinations, routine vet visits, and supplies such as toys and a comfortable collar and/or leash.

Unexpected expenses are by nature harder to plan for, but prepare for them as best you can by starting (and maintaining) an emergency fund. That way, when your puppy accidentally stains your upholstery, you have the cash on hand.


Bond with your pet

Once your animal comes home, it’s time to show him some attention. Set aside some quality time so you can bond with one another and earn trust, and allow your family members to do the same. It’s important for your pet to feel like he’s part of the family and for your little ones to know how to interact with him the right way. Play with him in the yard, take him for long walks in the park and let him explore, and have snuggle time as much as possible.


Remember that you are responsible for the care your pet receives, so make it a point to spend time with him and let him know that he’s loved. In return, you’ll have a lifelong friend.


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