First Time Pet Parents

First-Time Pet Parents: How to Integrate a New Pet into Your Family and Lifestyle

Jessica Brody, Guest Editor

Adopting a pet for the first time is both exciting and overwhelming. Suddenly, there’s another living being in your home relying on you for food, a warm place to sleep, and lots of love. Being a parent to a furry friend is one of the greatest experiences in life, but you want to do it right. If you’re about to become a pet parent for the first time, these tips will help you integrate your new family member into your home and lifestyle with ease.

Choose the Right Pet for You

Adopting a pet is a major life decision. Your pet will be part of your family for many years to come, so you want to be sure that you’re adopting a pet that is well-suited for your lifestyle. If you have young children, for instance, adopting a dog with a history of aggression is a bad idea. While that may seem obvious, there are other considerations, too. Do you spend long hours away from home at the office? Do you take vacations or business trips several times a year?

While these aren’t deal-breakers, you do want to ensure that you have the proper arrangements in place to ensure that your pet will be well cared-for in your absence. You’ll want to decide if you’ll crate your dog while you’re at work during the day, or make arrangements for dog boarding when you have to travel out of town. If you rent, check with your landlord to find out if pets are permitted, if extra fees are involved, and if there are breed or size restrictions. A careful evaluation of your lifestyle is in order to ensure that you adopt a pet you can successfully care for throughout its life.

Evaluate Your Budget

Caring for pets can be expensive, depending on your pet and her unique needs. Consider the cost of dog food, toys and treats, beds, litter boxes, litter, and veterinary care. Purchasing a veterinary insurance policy is almost always a good choice, as these plans function similar to health insurance for people. If an unexpected accident or illness arises, you won’t need to worry about scrambling to come up with astronomical amounts of cash to keep your pet healthy.

Your pet will require a health checkup at least once each year. There are several recommended vaccinations for pets, such as rabies (often required by law, depending on your state), kennel cough, distemper, parvovirus, and more that will protect your pet against common diseases. If your pet is not yet spayed or neutered, talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate age to have this procedure done.

Establish Boundaries Early

If you’re adopting a puppy or kitten, you’re in for an adventure. Housebreaking or litter training may be your first challenge as a new pet parent, but you should also remember that puppies and kittens are generally full of energy. You might want to buy a few baby gates to restrict the areas of the home where you allow your pet to roam freely. Crate training can also be useful for puppies – especially considering their love for chewing on your shoes and furniture – but this is largely a personal decision.

Establishing boundaries and conveying the rules of your home through consistent reinforcement will help you and your pet develop a healthy, loving bond. Decide early if you’ll allow your pet to be on the furniture and if she’ll sleep in your bed or in her own bed in a certain room in the house. Some people also crate their dogs at night time, again a personal choice.

With dogs especially, it’s important to establish your position in the “pack order,” in other words, letting your dog know that you’re the leader. Failing to do so can result in your dog feeling free to engage in unruly behavior – after all, if he’s the boss, he can do what he wants. You and  your dog will both thrive when the pecking order is well-established and the rules are consistent. If you’re having trouble training your dog, consult a canine behaviorist or trainer. There are likely a few local group training classes available in your area; some trainers offer virtual consultations.

Parenting a pet will surely be one of the best experiences of your life, but you want to get started on the right foot to ensure that you and your pet will develop a healthy, lasting relationship. Choosing the right pet, planning your budget to ensure that you can provide the care your pet needs, and setting ground rules to help everyone thrive will help you integrate your new family member seamlessly into your lifestyle.

Image via Pixabay by thatsphotography

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