8 Steps to Building a Solid Relationship with Your Pet
Most people know that being a responsible pet parent means feeding them nutritious food, taking care of their medical needs, having them micro-chipped, and cleaning up after them. However, did you ever consider the relationship you need to develop with your fur baby?
Being the best possible fur-mom or fur-dad isn’t just about making sure their basic physical needs are met. You also want to see to it that their emotional and mental needs are taken care of. A good part of this happens when you bring a new pet into the home, however, if you’ve had your baby for a while, don’t worry. There’s still plenty that can be done once they are established in the house.
Are you ready to build that special relationship with your furry little friend? Here’s how:
- Pick the Right Pet for Your Family
As much as we would love to go solely based off of “cuteness level,” not every pet will be a good fit for every home and vice-versa. That puppy that is 5 pounds today may well be 80 pounds or more in 6 months, which means larger food bills and longer walks (while there is nothing wrong with that, you want to be prepared and able to afford the time and money that will be required to give them the life they deserve.)
There are several different ways to look at a good match:
- Activity Level
Maybe you’re already a “dog person” or a “cat person.” Or maybe, you love both and need help deciding who would be the best fit right now. Take a look at your lifestyle and your environment. If you work long hours, have no time to take walks, and live in an apartment or a condo without a backyard, you may want to bring a kitty into your life. If you spend lots of time hiking or love to walk around the neighborhood for exercise and fresh air, a dog may be the perfect addition.
If you’ve decided to bring home a pup, you’ll want to take their breed into account, but don’t get hung up on it. While there are some characteristics that are common, every dog has their own personality and you’ll need to take that into consideration as well. If you’re thinking about rescuing an animal (which we hope you are!), you may not even know the breed so their individual personality will be your main focus. If you are interested in a particular breed you can check out petfinder.com and see the rescues available for your breed of choice.
Most importantly, be patient and wait for the right animal to come along. This is a 10-20 year commitment and you’ll want to make sure it’s right for both you and the animal.
- Pet-proof Your House
Anyone who has ever opened their home to an animal knows that pets teach us how to be neater… often the hard way. Chewed up shoes, electronics, walls – you name it and some animal somewhere has eaten it.
While you’ll want to work with your pet to know what is appropriate chewing and scratching materials, pet-proofing your house before they arrive is essential. This will keep them safe, healthy, out of trouble and you less frustrated.
A few things to look for:
- Are items picked up off the floor? Now might be a great time to invest in a shoe storage system.
- Do all cabinet doors close and lock properly? Most household cleaners can be poisonous to animals. Medications can as well, so make sure they are out of reach of prying paws. Because let’s face it, while they may be pill ninjas when you want them to take it, finding one on the floor may just pique their interest.
- If you have a backyard, is it fenced in without any holes or areas for them to dig under? Is it tall enough to prevent escape for the pet you are welcoming to the family?
- Does your trash can lock or can it be moved into a latched cabinet or to a room where pets don’t have access.
- Look for any small spaces they may be able to crawl through to hide or escape and close off those spaces.
- Getting to Know Your Pet
Having a new animal in the house is so exciting! In between the photo shoots and epic cuddle sessions, you will want to learn about your pet’s personality. While you need to establish yourself as the alpha in your “pack”, remember that every animal is different and deserves to have their preferences respected.
Here are a few things to look at:
- What does he or she like to do?
- Where do they like to relax and unwind?
- Where do they like to be petted or scratched?
- What frightens them or makes the anxious?
You’ll also want to get to know their body. Do they have any lumps or bumps to keep an eye on? Are they at a healthy weight? Knowing how they look when they are healthy will help you spot any changes quickly so you can get them to a vet as soon as possible.
- Introducing Pets
The key to introducing new and existing fur babies is to do it slowly. It’s much easier to ease pets into an introduction over time than it is to deal with negative or potentially dangerous behavior once a disagreement has occurred. If you already have a dog or cat and are introducing another into the family, be aware that you will experience jealousy from the current place holder in the home. Don’t worry though, usually after a few days to a week they will become fast friends.
If you are introducing dogs, take them outside to meet on neutral territory (and under leash control). Walk them close to each other for a little while and then allow them to sniff.
When introducing dogs and cats, keep them separated in different rooms for a few days before allowing them to meet. That way, they can get used to one another’s smell first. Always supervise their first few times together until you know they are ok with the other. Always make sure that your cat has a dog-free zone to escape to if they feel unsafe.
- Basic Manners Training
While your pet may be sweet from the moment you bring him or her home, they probably won’t come trained. For their safety, your safety (and sanity), and your guests safety (not to mention the furniture’s well being), you’ll need to train a few basic commands.
These can include:
- Leave It
Make training time fun with lots of positive reinforcement and yummy, healthy treats. Stop by our Las Vegas dog bakery, Mooch’s Munchies if you are local to the area. If not, you can order directly from our website and have these all-natural dog treats shipped to your home. Moochsmunchies.com
You’ll want to spend some time socializing your pet so they aren’t scared or aggressive when they meet other people and animals. This is a gradual process which can take a little while depending on your pet’s personality, but it absolutely worth the work. Here are a few tips for socializing:
- Spend lots of quality time with your dog or cat. During this time, you’ll want to touch their paws, tails, ears, etc.
- Take your dog for frequent walks so they can pick up new smells, sights, and sounds
- Invite people over to the house to socialize with your pet.
- Set up play dates in a controlled environment (i.e.: a backyard) with other pets and their parents
- Work your way up to a dog park. This can be an assault to your dog’s senses and a real test of their temperament and patience. Also, puppies need to wait until they are older and have had all their vaccinations to avoid any possible contagious viruses like Parvo. You’ll want to ease into this to create a safe and positive experience for everyone.
Note: When other people see how cute your dog is, they’ll likely want to give them treats. If your dog has special dietary concerns or you just want to know what they are eating (which is always a good idea), be sure to keep an eye out when you’re around other dog parents and set the boundary (nicely!) that treats must be approved by you before they are given to your baby.
Pets aren’t just made for cuddling and posing for cute photos (though they are excellent at both). Animals need physical and mental exercise to keep them happy. While there are ways for them to play without you, spending some quality time having fun with your fur babies deepens your bond and strengthens your relationships.
Invest in some toys. They don’t have to be expensive. A few squishy balls and a feather toy for your kitty is perfect and a tennis ball or inexpensive chew toy is great for your pup. And never underestimate how many hours of entertainment can be had with bubbles.
Just like training, you’ll want to keep this positive, reward good behavior, and have fun!
- Common Issues
The issues your pet experiences will likely differ depending on the type of animal you bring home. Dogs are more likely to experience separation anxiety than cats, while cats often show their displeasure through litter box challenges or scratching.
It’s important to note that the more time you spending finding the right pet for your family and spending quality time with them to improve your relationship, the less of these negative behaviors you’re likely to see.
For dogs with separation anxiety, there are a number of things you can try:
- Leaving an article of your clothing for them to snuggle with while you’re away. Make sure it is an old garment so if they chew on it you won’t be upset.
- Create a safe space for them to relax while you’re gone. This can be a comfy crate or a separate room with toys and cozy blankets.
- Using an over-the-counter calming product to relax your pup
For cats that are eliminating outside of the litter box, you’ll want to:
- Make sure the litter box is accessible
- Have one litter box per cat
- Try out different types of litter
- Keep the litter box as clean as possible, cleaning it at least once daily
If your cats are damaging furniture or possessions with scratching:
- Purchase multiple scratching posts to keep around the house. Dab a bit of catnip on them to attract your kitty.
- Trim their nails so they aren’t as sharp and destructive or get nail caps for your kitty so their scratching doesn’t do any damage.
By targeting the behaviors and working to correct them rather than punish your fur baby for their misdeeds, you’ll further improve your relationship.
Developing a strong bond and nurturing a healthy relationship with your pet will make you both happier and healthier. Animals can provide the most amazing companionship and love. With just a little work on your end, you’ll have a loyal friend for their entire life.