First-Time Pet Owners: How to Choose Your New Best Friend

by Jessica Brody

So you’ve never had a pet before. Growing up, your family didn’t own a boxer-coonhound mix, a tabby that lazed in front of the hall radiator or a gerbil named “Fluffy” that was actually a tad psycho. Nothing – not even a goldfish. But you’ve always wanted one, and now that you’re on your own, you’re determined to join ranks with the 62 percent of U.S. households that have pets.

The most common pets in this country are dogs, cats, fish, birds and rabbits, so which one is right for you? Following some of these tips below can help you decide  the ideal pet in your home.

What’s Right for You?

Pets are a big commitment. Some estimates put the annual cost of owning a dog at $1,270, and for a cat, $1,070. So figure out what’s in the budget. Can you wing an extra $105 added onto your monthly bills? If so, spend away on that German shepherd you’ve always wanted. If not, a guinea pig might be more your speed.

You’re probably aware if pets might give you allergies, so no matter how downy-soft a British Shorthair looks on your neighbor’s couch in the morning, he’ll still make you cough or sneeze. Finally, take a look around where you live. Yes, you love Nana in Peter Pan, and you envision your kids riding around on a St. Bernard’s back. Only problem is, you’re in a condo, without a backyard – is it really a good idea to have a 180-pound dog bounding around indoors? Online quizzes let you plug in your priorities, what city you live in, and so on, to determine the pet that’s ideal for your living situation.

The Right Home

So you’re ready for your pet. But is he ready for you? Some of the basic steps involved in acclimating him to your home include feeding regularly, training him to be well-behaved, and staying patient, no matter how many times rules are broken. Welcoming a rescue animal to your home, meanwhile, can be more complicated. Most likely, your new pet is used to chaos. So make sure you provide for him a household that’s calm and runs on a schedule. Remember, former owners might have abused him, so let your pet come to you. When you set out food, give him enough space to eat alone. Eventually, the dog will realize that you’re nourishing him, and once he nuzzles your hand, you’ll know it’s time to start bonding. Of course an essential part of owning a dog is taking him for walks. Make sure to pick up a retractable leash and a collar and harness that fits your pup.

How to Bond with Your Pet

On that note, your relationship with your pet is like any relationship – you have to work at it. But this work should be fun. The key here is play with him. If you’re a dog lover, for instance, get used to tug-of-war, throwing a Frisbee or tennis ball, or wiggling a chew-toy. Set rules for your pet, but be sure to congratulate your pup on observing those rules. And why do we have pets at all, if not to relax with them? Sleep in with your pet in the morning. Lounge on your deck on summer nights with him at your feet. And establish a bedtime routine that you stick to, as well, to cap off the schedule that you’ve created.

As much as you’ll want to bond with your pet, it’s healthy to carve out time for yourself. That’s why, if you’re a dog owner with a packed calendar, you’ll need to keep a reliable dog walker on call for when you work long hours.

And why not splurge a little on your pet? Many people mark stages in their lives by the pets they owned. Make sure the environment you provide for them is ideal and your new pal feels like they belong with you.

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