5 Lessons for New Pet Owners

by Beth McEwen

Adding a furry member to the family can be an exciting—and frustrating—endeavor. Whether you have recently adopted, or are considering adopting, here are five tips to keep in mind.

1. Agree on expectations.

You want your new pet to sleep in bed with you, but your significant other is set on having a pet bed in the living room. Is getting on the furniture ok, or is dad’s favorite chair off-limits? Set a family meeting to discuss what the rules of the house will be for your new addition. It is extremely important for all family members to be on the same page, as inconsistency will only undermine the rules you put in place.

2. Create a safe space.

Transition is tough for humans and animals alike. Help your new addition adjust to the environment by creating a safe space for them. For a pup, this could be his kennel, which he will grow to see as his “den.” For a kitty, it might be a bathroom where her litter box and food are kept. These safe spaces are meant to be somewhere your new pet can be kept when you aren’t home to supervise him or her. Additionally, help make your entire home safer for your pet by taking care to put away (or make inaccessible) dangerous objects. Electrical cords can be enticing “chew toys,” and leftover scraps in the trash bin are very attractive to curious pets. Invest in a covered trash bin, tuck wrapped electrical cords out of the way, and always supervise your new pet when he or she is not in their safe place.

3. Set boundaries.

Boundaries go hand-in-hand with expectations. Once your family has agreed on the expectation that Fido isn’t allowed on the sofa, or that Miss Kitty isn’t allowed on the counter, be sure to enforce those boundaries. Pets, like children, need boundaries to feel secure. A tiny puppy or kitten having free access to a huge house can be overwhelming! Limit your new pet’s access to the room you are in, and you will prevent many accidents from occurring. As an added benefit, you will be helping your new pet bond with you.

4. Establish routines.

We are creatures of habit and so are our pets. Consistent routines play a big part in helping a new addition adjust to their new environment and also help create a sense of security. Establish a feeding schedule, a bedtime and wake-up time, and plan on taking new pups outside every hour or two while they are awake. Also, during the first few weeks that your new pet is home, do your best to keep your schedule predictable and your home low-key. As much as we love to show off our new furry friends, lots of visitors can be stressful in the beginning.

5. Be aware that transition is hard.

Any time our life goes through major changes, it takes time for us to adjust. This is just as true for our pets. Whether an eight-week old pup, or a senior cat, your new friend will need time and understanding during their adjustment period. Typically, it takes around two weeks before you really begin to see your new pet’s personality emerge. During this transition time, you may encounter behavior issues that may worry you; for example, your new pet may not eat well, or may be restless in their safe space. These are normal stages of transition. Allow your new pet the time they need to adjust (along with boundaries and routines), and they will grow to be a well-loved member of your family.

Beth McEwen, owner of Mind Your Manners Dog Training, has been working with dogs and their families for almost 20 years. Learn more at www.mindyourmannersdogs.com.

5 Lessons for New Pet Owners

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