Caring for a New Pet
Dog buying is a big deal. Educate yourself about what you need to know and do before, during and after pet adoption.
What is the perfect dog? Often it is the one found spur of the moment on a Saturday while “just browsing.” And although that’s understandable – it’s easy to find love at first sight when it comes to puppies – consider the rule of P’s when pet shopping: prior planning prevents poor performance. The following are some tips to make this process easier and increase your odds of success:
- How Much is That Doggie in the Window? – Understanding the financial commitment involved with pet ownership is something that is easy to forget when looking into those deep brown doggie eyes. Things to consider include the cost of quality dog food, preventive veterinary care (such as examinations; dewormings; vaccines; spay/neutering; heartworm; flea and tick preventative; microchipping; and licensing), grooming, training, boarding and pet supplies. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animalsdoes a good job of outlining some of these costs at www.aspca.org/adoption/pet-care-costs.aspx.
- Health Care Hints – There have been tremendous advances in veterinary medicine, but this comes at a cost. Pet insurance is a good way to mitigate unforeseen expenses Bonus: Some insurance companies offer complimentary insurance coverage for a month. The ABCs of pet insurance are explained at www.pet-insurance-university.com/guide_to_pet_insurance.html. For end user-supplied ratings for the major pet insurance companies, check out www.petinsurancereview.com.
- Vetting Veterinarians – Now is also a good time to get recommendations from friends and family for veterinary care and visit prospective animal hospitals. Questions to ask include vaccination protocols, availability of appointments, fee structure (some hospitals have a different fee structure for sick visits) and general practice philosophy. A veterinarian should be your partner when it comes to preventive health care, illness, nutrition, behavior and overall family interactions. Request a tour of the animal hospital to get a feel for its overall personality, employee bedside manner, cleanliness and quality of pet care.
- Cozy Confines – Where will your new pal be spending their time? Training a dog to be crate savvy facilitates potty training, keeps them safe and can allow for easier handling in the future (airplane travel, staying with family while vacationing and care when hurt.). Styles and pricing vary considerably on crates, but planning ahead allows options such as online purchasing. Also, be aware you may need multiple size crates during the growth stage. Use too large a crate too soon and some benefits may be lost. One option is crates that have a divider. Another potential option is to ask your veterinarian if they have a crate loaner program for the growth phase. Lastly, while in the home, it is beneficial to partition off an area that is a safe zone for your new pet. Baby gates and exercise pens can assist with this.
- Fenced In or Walking? – When your pet goes outside, will you be walking them or is your yard fenced in? Invisible Fence (www.invisiblefence.com) is an example of pet fencing that doesn’t require a physical presence in your yard. Reputable companies provide a lifetime guarantee and training, and the fencing can be installed even if there is snow on the ground.
Picking a Pooch
Big or small, energetic or docile, young or old? There are so many choices when selecting the perfect pup that taking the time to research this part of the process can make the difference between happily ever after or heartbreak hotel. The following list will help make big decisions easier:
- Pondering Purebreds – When selecting a type of dog, first consider whether a purebred or mixed breed dog suits your lifestyle. Purebred dogs provide a predictable physical appearance, but may also come with genetic – and potentially devastating – medical problems. A good breeder can mitigate many health-related risks. Ask friends, family and your veterinarian for references when selecting a breeder. Indicators of a responsible breeder include allowing visits to the facility, encouraging interaction with the puppy’s parents, interest in whether the breed is appropriate for your lifestyle, and appropriate pre- and postnatal care. Signs you are dealing with a puppy mill include middlemen (brokers), meeting representatives halfway to deliver a dog and puppy stores. Puppy mill dogs are often inbred and handled infrequently, which leads to behavior issues and they might be in poor health. Lifelong behavioral and medical problems may be established before you even see that cute puppy in the window. For more about avoiding purchasing from a puppy mill, visit www.thepuppymillproject.org/illinois-pet-store-info. Breed rescue groups are another great way of finding a desired breed. These dogs are often a bit older, but most responsible rescue groups work diligently to match the right dog with the right forever home.
- Mixing it Up with a Mutt – Mixed breed dogs have the benefit of being one of a kind. Breed-specific medical or behavioral problems are seen less frequently. Petfinder.com allows prospective pet owners to filter through dogs available. Helping Paws (www.helpingpaws.net) in Woodstock and Animal Control (www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/health/Pages/ACAdopt.aspx) in Crystal Lake both do a responsible job matching needy dogs with the right adopter.
- Give Me Shelter – Desirable shelters tend to be clean, allow adopters to tour their kennels (not just bring dogs to you) and can demonstrate that their dogs have received appropriate medical care from a licensed veterinarian. Far too often dogs are unknowingly adopted with health problems that could have been prevented or treated prior to adoption. When meeting with adoptable dogs, look for a willingness to interact and a generally friendly demeanor. Although a quiet, submissive dog may be endearing, it can also be an indicator of future issues.
Hound, Sweet Home
A dog homecoming is an exciting time for everyone. The first week at home is a getting-to-know-you period. For young puppies, this time can be exhausting, and unsettling for shelter dogs that may have bounced from place to place. Be patient, provide a consistent schedule and a safe environment, and keep things low-key until everyone has adjusted. Focus on potty training, learning your dog’s signs of fatigue, and monitoring for illness, including vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, coughing and excessive lethargy.
Schedule a visit with your veterinarian of choice as soon as possible to identify any potential health concerns and preventive health care needs. This visit should also provide you with additional advice on potty training, nutrition and ancillary services. Avoid communal dog areas (e.g., pet stores and dog parks) until getting the go-ahead from your veterinarian. If children are in the household, be vigilant to protect them and your new dog from each other. Children need to be taught how to safely interact with their new pet and ultimately need to be protected from any potentially harmful interactions. Visit www.doggonesafe.com for more.
Fun with Fido
Now that everyone has settled in, it is time to have some fun! There are countless ways to have fun with your new friend. It can be as simple as painting a personalized dog bowl or as involved as pursuing advanced training for search and rescue. The following are a few ideas to consider:
- Training – Basic obedience training and socialization are beneficial for all dogs. Formal puppy classes, personal trainers and training books can all be of use. Freestyle, agility, rally, obedience and flyball are just a few of the options available to those interested in pursuing training.
- Dog Parks – Lake in the Hills (www.lith.org/BarkPark.html), Crystal Lake (www.crystallakeparks.org/parks-facilities/lippold-park/hound-town.htm) and Cary (www.carypark.com/Parks-Facilities/DogPark.asp) all have outdoor dog parks. Parks are great opportunities to allow pet socialization, exercise and socialization with other pet owners. Local dog-friendly trails (leashed pets only) include: Veteran Acres: www.crystallakeparks.org/parks-facilities/Veteran-Acres.htm; Fox River Trail: www.traillink.com/trail/fox-river-trail-%28algonquin-to-aurora%29.aspx; Prairie Trail: www.mccdistrict.org/web/assets/maps/PrairieTrail_0311-web.pdf.
- Travel – Vacationing with your dog is fun and has been made easier with resources found on the Internet. Visit the following sites for pet-friendly locations, services and activities: www.petswelcome.com; www.travelpets.com; www.dogfriendly.com; http://takeyourpet.com; www.bringfido.com; and hikewithyourdog.com./page8/page180/page180.html.
Finally, there are numerous resources available to help with pet ownership preparation. There is a free online book that does a concise job of laying the groundwork for success available by visiting www.dogstardaily.com/files/downloads/BEFORE_You_Get_Your_Puppy.pdf.
Brining home a new furry friend can be one of the most memorable days for a family. Take pictures and videos, and journal the story behind your new pup’s name and funny stories from the first few weeks. These are the memories that warm the heart and bring smiles for years to come.