preparing for a new furry family member

So you’re on the verge of welcoming a new furry family member, it’s an exciting time! To help you and your new best friend adjust to life together, preparation is key. There’s a lot to do when getting a new cat or dog. Here’s our checklist to prep for your new arrival and to ease your new pet’s transition to a new home.

man hugging a dog

Before the Big Day

Start with some research into where you’re sourcing your pet. Wherever you look, make sure they’re ethical and that animal welfare is their priority. You’ll want to pay a visit to the breeder or shelter to check things out and get to know the animal you’re considering.

It’s worth giving rehoming groups and animal shelters a go, as there are several benefits to rescue pets! You’ll not only provide a loving home for an abandoned animal, you’ll be saving another life by freeing up the shelter’s resources to help others. Adoption is also cheaper than breeders and pet shops, and they often get a start on vaccinations and de-sexing for you. On top of this, you reduce the demand for commercially bred animals, helping to reduce animal cruelty and abandonment. You can even adopt an older animal who might be more suited to your lifestyle, as you can skip the demanding adolescent years, which require a lot of time and patience.

Next, it’s time to figure out the right match! Different breeds have different needs, and individual animals can have very distinctive personalities. Consider the needs of your pet and how they fit into your lifestyle, both now and into the future.

Things to consider:

  • Your available space inside and out.
  • Your time for training, attention, and exercise.
  • Costs of healthcare and daily supplies.
  • Your current household, including any existing pets you may have.
  • Your work routine, travel plans and general lifestyle.
  • Your chosen pet’s needs and temperament.
Consider a rescue dog or puppy

When you find your match, you’ll need to prepare your home for the new arrival. Animals can be a bit mischievous, so do a thorough check to make sure the space is safe from curious paws. Minimise hazards by keeping things tidy: secure cupboards, remove choking and poisoning hazards (cats and dogs can’t tolerate many kinds of human foods and common houseplants), use pet gates where necessary and keep anything dangerous out of reach. You should also pet proof your car so it’s safe for them to come home in, and so it complies with state law.

You’ll also want to purchase all of your supplies before they arrive so you’re prepared. If you have animals already, you’ll still need to get your new pet their own things, as they won’t like sharing food bowls, toilet space, beds or toys. Stock up on the same kind of food they’ve been eating previously, as sudden changes in diet will cause an upset stomach, so work in new food slowly.

Settling In

Now for the exciting part: bringing them home! Transitioning to a new environment is always going to be stressful for an animal, so try to keep things as calm and quiet as possible. Introduce them to new people and animals slowly and carefully.

Your pet needs a bit of space and patience to get used to their new home in their own time. It can be helpful to designate a special place for your animal to settle in, without too much disturbance from other family members. After all, everything is new here! They just need to get used to things with your patience and encouragement.

Setting up a little den or crate with everything they need and a cosy feel is a good start. If you implement crate training carefully, it mimics natural den conditions and reduces anxiety by providing a safe place to retreat to when they feel shy. Keep their bed, food and water bowls, and toilet area in separate corners of the room. If you can bring a blanket with the scent of their previous home, as this can be a big comfort.

Additionally, comfort toys like the Little Buddy Comfort Heart Beat Sheep can also be helpful in reducing anxiety in puppies. The gentle tick of the ‘heart beat’ simulates their experience sleeping next to their brothers and sisters, and provides a comforting cuddle buddy.

One thing you want to get right from the start is behaviour training. Once habits form they can be difficult to break, so make sure everyone in your family is on board with the rules you’re setting, or your poor pet will be confused, leading to undesirable behaviour.

For example, you may decide to crate train your new puppy. When crate training, if one person undermines the process by going to comfort the puppy every time they whine (or even worse, letting puppy sleep in bed with you), this will undo the behavioural conditioning that training strives for. Pets need have their good behaviour reinforced consistently (and their bad behaviour not rewarded) for training to be effective. Do your research about tried and tested methods, and consult with a professional trainer if you need a hand.

a cat getting held

Part of healthy development may involve socialising your pet with other animals. Animal behaviour can be complicated, and every pet is different. Socialising is especially important for younger dogs, but it’s important not to do too much all at once. You’ll want to get a balance of interacting with different people, different dogs, and being alone, for well-rounded development.

Of course, some shelter animals come from hard circumstances and might need a little extra attention to address behavioural issues, such as anxiety, food and resource guarding and separation anxiety, to name a few. Some of these issues are relatively easy to fix, and some might need more work. But don’t be put off! Any new pet is going to need attention and training, and once you work through any teething problems, shelter dogs can prove to be loving and loyal member of your family, and it’s all the more rewarding for the work you’ve put in. Consult with behavioural experts if you need a guiding hand, and be prepared to give a little extra love and patience as they adjust to their new life.

Sharing your home with a four-legged friend is a hugely rewarding experience. With the right preparation and a bit of research, you’ll soon be on your way to sharing the love with your furry family member!

Posted by Francesca Codd