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Getting a pet for the first time is exciting, but it can also be daunting figuring out how this new responsibility will fit into your life. The first decision to make is what type of pet you want. Start by taking a look at a few lifestyle factors: your home, your schedule, and your family’s expectations and limitations.
Choosing a Pet
Your home environment is a crucial factor in deciding on a pet. Large dogs need plenty of space and exercise. According to PetMD, living in a small space can lead large dogs to develop health issues and become bored, which makes them more likely to chew and destroy things in your home. Regardless of the size of your home, a dog needs regular walks, so be sure to consider your outdoor space. Small dogs, cats, birds, and other small animals don’t need as much space.
Different animals also have different needs. Because dogs need walks, it’s important to take into account the time your family can dedicate to them. If you work long hours, a great option is to outsource dog walking or dog boarding; instead of rushing home on your lunch break, you can hire a daily caretaker to ensure your pup is getting plenty of exercise. Cats tend to need less care since they can use a litter box and are largely independent, but they do still need exercise and a clean litter box.
Make sure you also consider your family’s expectations for your pet. Different types of animals, and even different breeds, will have unique qualities. If you have kids, think about your children’s personalities and how they would interact with the pet, as well as what types of activities your family would like to do with the pet. Do you want a loyal, loving companion? Do you want a dog you can take for jogs and who plays fetch, or do you prefer a cat to cuddle with? You will also need to determine whether anyone in your home has allergies to any animals.
If you plan to adopt a dog, Parenting suggests talking to a reputable breeder to find out as much as you can about the breed you’re considering. If you’re adopting from a shelter, take plenty of time to talk with the people who work there. They should be familiar with the animal you’re thinking of adopting and can advise you on temperament. Finally, consider your family’s budget. The Washington Post has a great rundown of pros and cons for different types of pets, including the average annual costs.
Preparing Your Home and Helping Your New Pet Acclimate
Once you have decided on a pet, you will need to prepare your home for them. Dogs need a soft bed, and you may also want to use a crate. If you’ve never had a dog before, the idea of using a crate may seem like punishment, but many dogs get a sense of security from having a safe space that feels “den-like.” Using a crate keeps your dog out of trouble when you leave the house, especially if you get a puppy that likes to chew. Crates and dog beds also help your new dog acclimate by giving them a sense of their own space in your home. Your pet will also need their own food and water bowls, chew toys or special spots for cats to scratch, and a leash and collar for dogs.
When you first bring your pet home, make sure the house is calm and quiet because this will give them a sense of safety. Bring your new pet home early in the day because many animals naturally feel more insecure at night. As your new pet is adjusting to your home, give them plenty of treats and attention as well as permission to explore any parts of the house where they are allowed. This shows them that you are there to love and care for them, which will help you both bond.
Getting a pet for the first time is a big decision, and definitely not one that should be made on impulse. Follow these guidelines to make sure ahead of time that you’re choosing an animal that is the best fit for you and your family.
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