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Family Fun

How to Introduce a New Pet to the Family

Our wonderful, old cat died in January and we miss him like crazy.  There is such a void in the house.  We are thinking we might begin a new chapter and adopt a puppy in the spring.

So, I turned to Dr. Corey Shagensky of Progressive Animal Wellness in Avon for tips about how to introduce a new pet to a family.

*Be Prepared.  Know what you're getting yourself into.  Pets are a lot of work and they're not disposable. "How much time are you going to be able to put into this new pet?" asks Shagensky, giving examples of questions we should ask ourselves.  "Are we going to be able to do this training?  Are we going to be able to invest in training classes?"  Put time and thought into weighing pros and cons.

*Rescue or Pure Breed?  The whole family should get together and make a joint decision about a proposed pet.  "Are you looking for a big dog, small dog?  What kind of exercise requirements is he going to have?"  says Shagensky.  Avoid a "snap judgement" when you're walking through a mall and think a "dog in the window" is cute. 

*Make One Person the Quarterback.  While it's important to make the decision together, one person should take the lead when picking-out the pet, with the family members' opinions in mind.  Otherwise, the kids will all pick a different pet and mayhem will ensue!

*Consider Potential Problems.  "What's going to happen if someone is allergic to the animal?" asks Shagensky, noting that a very specific plan should be in place, if someone in the house reacts to the animal's dander or the situation isn't working out, for whatever reason.  "If the primary caregiver of the pet gets sick and can't take care of them, having a 'Plan B' is important."

*Prepare Financially.  "Young animals, just like kids and babies, can have a lot of health problems in the beginning and they can be expensive," says Shagensky, pointing out the need for vaccinations.  He believes pet insurance is a smart choice. 

*Be calm and Let the Pet Settle-In.  When you're trying to get a puppy or kitten to acclimate to the home, you want to promote a calm environment.  Instant rough-housing is a no-no.  "You may inadvertantly be teaching them to be fearful of certain situations or you might be teaching them that, 'Oh, this is an appropriate way to play with people.  You're supposed to bite them and gnaw them,'" says Shagensky, noting the correct choice is to reward calm behavior with a treat after blowing off steam in a safe way.

*Let Pet See & Smell Baby Items.  If an infant is in the mix, you can show the new pet a blanket or sleeper.  "The dog or cat is going to come in and smell an entire tapestry of your home and immediately start to acclimate to those different things," says Shagensky, who advises us to consider medical issues, as well.  "Make sure whatever pets are in the home are being de-wormed appropriately.  A lot of puppies and kittens carry intestinal parasites...they can potentially be transmissible to people, especially young people, babies and kids."  Promote hand-washing after handling a new pet.

How did you make a smooth transition with a new pet?

Share your tips and experiences!

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