Becoming a pet owner is a wonderful and rewarding adventure. Very few things beat coming home to the wagging tail or excited purr of a furry friend, and dog ownership has benefits for people of all ages and backgrounds, from young children to the elderly, and from recovering addicts to people with bipolar disorder. While you will be inundated with love and joy, owning a pet also comes with a slew of responsibilities and even a few challenges.
For first-time pet owners, some of these may come as an unexpected—and maybe even unpleasant—surprise. But, if you do your homework and set the stage, you can get your home, your family and your new pet ready for a happy, healthy life together.
Preparing Your Home
Before you even go looking for a new dog, you’ll want to decide which breed is a good fit for your home and lifestyle. If you have a small house or apartment with a limited yard, look for breeds that have less energy and require less space. If you lead an active lifestyle and want a pup to accompany you on all your adventures, research high-energy breeds. Once you know the personality and energy level you prefer, you’ll want to get your home ready by:
● Purchasing the necessities, like a collar, leash, food and water dishes, food, toys and an appropriately-sized kennel (if you plan on crate training), puppy pads (if you’ll be house training) and baby gates (if there are areas you’ll want Fido to stay out of).
● Establishing house rules and responsibilities, like rooms the dog isn’t allowed in, if he can hop on furniture, and who is responsible for walks. Make sure your entire family understands the rules and their roles.
● Setting up all the necessary vet visits, researching training programs, and interviewing pet sitters and dog walkers.
While there is a lot of prep work you can do ahead of time, you’ll want to keep in mind that your dog’s personality might dictate a few things as well. Toys, food and a comfy bed are a few things you might want to pick out with your pup at your local pet store. Not only will this help you get a sense of what your dog is interested in, but it’s also one of many ways the two of you can bond.
Bonding with Your Dog
The quickest and most effective way to bond with your dog is to focus on positive praise when he does something good more than punishment for less-than-ideal behavior. Your pet is getting used to a new family and a new home, and will be looking to you for cues on how to take their place in this unfamiliar pack. That’s why good, consistent communication is essential. You can’t give your dog mixed signals, or they will feel anxious and won’t know how to trust you. Other ways to bond with your dog include:
● Playing together
● Going on walks with a leash
● Establishing clear boundaries
● Giving affection and attention
● Avoiding behaviors that elicit fear
● Focusing on building confidence by being reliable
● Spending time together
Bonding with your dog is an important element in a healthy human-pet relationship. It’s extremely important to make an extra effort to bond with a rescue dog, as the abuse and abandonment they may have experienced could have a profound effect on his or her ability to adjust.
Helping Your Pet Adjust
From rescue dogs to puppies, injured pets to adults, different kinds of dogs require a different approach to bonding, discipline and rewarding. For example, adopting a rescue dog from a shelter is extremely rewarding; you have saved them from life in a cage (or worse) to life in a warm home, and that bond is iron strong. However, it might take a while to get there. A rescue dog might have trauma to work through and unwanted behaviors. Help your pet adjust to its new life by:
● Keeping stress to a minimum.
● Giving your dog spaces in your home that are safe and comfortable.
● Going away for short periods of time to help your dog work through any separation anxiety.
● Helping your dog create positive associations.
It can take a rescue dog roughly two months to get behavior patterns down, while puppies can take even longer. It’s important that you listen to your dog, take precautions to limit fear and anxiety, and give plenty of love and affection.