3 Simple Steps to Help New Pet Parents Prepare for Their First Fur Baby
Thinking about making a dog a part of your family soon? We bet you’re excited and can’t wait for all the warm snuggles, silly antics, and unconditional love you’re bound to get.
“Having a fuzzy, warm critter running around your home can really improve your quality of life,” Jessa Paschke, pet behavior and training specialist with Mars Petcare, says. In fact, having a pet can actually improve your heart health, ease depression, and increase your overall well-being.
But bringing home your first fur baby can also be a bit nerve-wracking. You don’t know how your four-legged friend will feel about her new home. Not to worry—we’ve got tips to help you and your new dog have less stress and more fun during the settling-in period. Here are three steps you can take to make it a smooth transition:
1. Plan Ahead: Know What You’re Getting Into
The first, and perhaps most important step, is to make sure that you and your soon-to-be pooch are a good match, Paschke says. “It’s easy to give into a tug on your heart—when you see a cute puppy or kitten, you want to make it yours. But it’s important to do the research to make sure the pet fits your lifestyle.”
Different types of dog breeds have different needs. For example, if you live in an apartment, a mellow English bulldog who likes to lay on the couch may be a better companion than an energetic terrier who needs lots of opportunities to run around.
Once you’ve settled on the type of dog that’ll work for you, start thinking about house rules and routines. Will your dog be allowed on the couch or the bed? Where will you keep her supplies and toys? Who is responsible for taking her for walks, and when? Figure those things out before you bring your new BFF home, and you'll be better prepared for those first few days together.
2. Pet Proof Your Home: Make Your Space Safe
Similar to children, pups are curious about their surroundings. They sniff, paw, and swallow all kinds of things. “When you’re preparing to bring home a pet, you have to think about what items in the home could be a danger to them,” Paschke says.
Be sure to:
- Check for cords or anything lying around that your dog could nibble on (especially puppies who might still be teething).
- Secure breakables that an excited pup could knock over.
- Lock away hazards like cleaning supplies and prescriptions.
- Check to see if your plants are safe should your pet decide to give them a chew. (Hint: different plants are toxic to dogs, so do your research).
Another one of the most common dangers to pets are open doors and gates. Review your home for various ways your pet could get out and see what you can do to eliminate the problem. Does your yard need a fence? Do your windows need new screens? Does your gate latch securely?
3. Prepare Accordingly: Have Everything You Need on Hand
Now that you’ve covered safety and security for your new furry BFF, it’s time to deck your pad out with everything your pet will need to feel at home. First up? Food. To support your pet’s health, it’s essential to feed them the right balance of nutrients.
“The best way to find a food that’s properly formulated is to look for what’s called an AAFCO statement on the label,” Angela Hughes, DVM, PhD, veterinarian and senior manager of Global Scientific Advocacy at Mars Petcare, says. “This confirms that the pet food has been tested and is complete and balanced.”
Whether you feed your dog wet or dry food or a combination of both is a matter of preference, unless your pup has health issues like allergies or certain conditions that require a specific food. Chewing dry food helps clean pets’ teeth while wet foods provide more hydration, Hughes explains.
Of course, you’ll want some treats on hand too, but it’s important not to give too many. Treats should not make up more than 10 percent of your dog's diet, Hughes cautions. Good options include dental treats that double as teeth cleaners or even veggies you pull from your fridge. “Stick to things like raw carrots or green bell peppers but avoid onions and garlic, which can be toxic to pets,” Hughes says.
Besides food and treats, also ready your space with pet essentials like bedding and a crate, a collar with ID tags, a leash and harness for walks, and cleaning supplies for any accidents (including waste bags to clean up poop), and toys that will keep your hound entertained.
You’ll also need to line up a local veterinarian for wellness visits and emergencies. Not sure what to look for in a vet? Your breeder or shelter where you adopted your dog from might be able to provide referrals, along with friends or family who have pets of their own.
Remember: Adjustments Will Take Some Time
Don’t forget to practice a little patience with your new dog, too! “Many new pet parents expect their pet to immediately feel comfortable and be up for going everywhere with them,” Paschke says. “But just like if you started a new job or moved into a new home, it takes time for pets to adjust to a different environment too.”
Paschke suggests keeping in mind “The Rule of Threes.” In general, she says it takes three days for your pet to decompress from the initial transition. Then, give your canine companion another three weeks to learn your routine, and a full three months to feel completely at ease in your home.
Just remember: With a little planning, some prep work, and patience—you and your pet will get off to a great start together.