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Pet Wellness

Acclimating New Pets to Your Home

Photos: Courtesy of Annenberg PetSpace Adoption

During these unprecedented times, many animal lovers are helping pets in need and building bonds with a new friend. Social distancing, quarantines, and shelter-at-home orders are an ideal time to bring in a new dog or cat through adoption or fostering. The extra time at home provides new pet parents with an opportunity to create a closer bond between a human and an animal adjusting to their new space. The deep connection you form now will last a lifetime together.

Where to find a pet

There are a variety of animals in need of homes right now. Luckily, there is also a high demand for adoptions during this pandemic. Many smaller organizations may be closed or are limiting their services, but municipal animal care centers and larger rescues are still offering animal care and adoption. You can begin the adoption process by researching which organizations near you are offering adoptions by appointment.

If you’re concerned about the commitment of adopting, there are additional options available. Fostering a pet eases the burden on organizations working with reduced staff and allows more one-on-one time for an animal. Fostered pets have a higher likelihood of successfully finding a forever home, due to their increased time spent in a home and around a variety of new people. It also gives foster pet parents a nice companion and something fun to do while staying at home for extended hours.

Start slow

Once home, practice positive reinforcement and patience with your new pet. Keep all interactions positive and never punish for bad behavior. Otherwise, they may begin to fear you. If you already have another animal, make the introductions slow and supervised to ensure success. Your adoption organization may be able to offer ongoing consultations or lessons. Socially distanced training sessions with a certified trainer are helpful too. Utilize this time to help your new dog or cat form good habits. Since you can regularly supervise them while you stay home, use that time to teach your new pet good habits (like staying off furniture), housebreaking, and general manners.

Ease into a routine

After your new pet is settled into a routine, the next step is to manage expectations for the future. Start preparing your dog or cat for a time when you return to a daily routine of leaving home for longer periods of time while at work. Begin with shorter outings to help them become acclimated to time on their own. It may be helpful to leave them with a Kong toy filled with kibble or other enrichment item to occupy their time while you’re away. Once returning, don’t make a big deal about your return and go about your business for several minutes before offering affection. This helps make coming-and-going a routine and not a stressful event. Continue extending the time away until you determine they are better managing any separation anxiety that may occur. Sometimes, this may require the assistance of a trainer to help you achieve success. It’s an investment of time and money that will benefit your pet and your home in the long run.

With these methods of training and practice with a new pet accomplished, they’ll be better adjusted for a lifetime of love and companionship with you. Your work and dedication for a four-legged best friend now will prevent a need to return them to a shelter due to unforeseen compatibility issues.

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