1/ Consider your lifestyle when choosing a breed of dog.
Are you the type to lounge on the sofa, or are you outside and in the action? Your lifestyle is an important consideration when you’re choosing a dog breed. While all of us need regular exercise, some breeds need a lot more than others. Make sure you choose a dog with similar needs to your own. Big dogs need space, so be sure your yard is an appropriate size. And don’t forget – dogs require quality food, toys, regular vet care, grooming and most of all, attention. Be sure you can afford the time and the expense before you add an animal to your family!
2/ Remember: dogs have people; cats have staff.
There are dog people and then there are cat people. Dogs are always happy to see you, and will constantly seek your approval. Cats have a tendency to be indifferent unless it’s time for them to eat or they’ve decided that they want your attention RIGHT NOW, even if right now is 2 am and you don’t appreciate them batting you in the face with their paw or attacking your feet. Whether you choose feline, canine or both, enjoy the love, fun and the health benefits (lower blood pressure, stress relief) they provide.
3/ Pet proofing the house is important – make sure there are no tempting electrical wires or cords to chew!
Much like small children, pets can find a world of trouble inside and outside the home. It’s a good idea to get down to floor level and take a look at the world as they see it – electrical cords will make a delicious and dangerous chew toy, so make certain they are tucked away and out of reach. Houseplants, trashcans, cleaning supplies, shoes and clothing also should be “out of bounds” – baby gates can be a great way to keep pets away from specific areas. Don’t be afraid to use them.
4/ Cats will inevitably want to sleep on your head.
Cats have an incredible knack for determining when you do not want to be distracted or disturbed, and then make it a personal mission to get Right. Up. In. Your. Face. Trying to read a book or use the computer? Get ready for a furry body to flop down between you and the book or on the keyboard. Sleeping soundly? Prepare for the middle of the night stealth attack or your feet or hands, or to wake up staring into the business end of your animal. And just try opening a can without getting tackled.
5/ If your pet will be spending time outside, make sure your yard is safe and secure.
The outside world is a wonderful place full of enticing sights and smells, and for many dogs, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Scope out potential escape routes, and store away health hazards like tools, lawn or pool chemicals. If you have a pool, be certain your animal is safe around the water.
6/ If you have other pets or small children, introduce them to your new animal under close supervision.
In any new relationship, it takes time to get to know one another. Your existing pet needs time to adjust to the idea of a new companion, so try to introduce them on neutral ground, like a park. Watch for jealousy and aggressive behavior in both animals. Close supervision will be necessary for a week or two until everyone settles into the new routine.
7/ Small children love small animals, but they both need supervision and guidance.
Small children can be a source of stress for a puppy or kitten. Too much handling, unintended roughness and loud noises will make the animal nervous, so be sure to keep interactions gentle and soothing. Puppies and kittens also tend to nip and bite while they are being trained, so watch little hands and fingers.
8/ People food is for people. Don’t feed your animal from the table.
A healthy diet is important for every member of the family, including your dog or cat. Animals need quality food formulated for their size, age and nutritional or medical needs. This does not include table scraps, candy or snack foods. It’s never to early to start good eating habits, so don’t start by facilitating bad ones.
9/ Start training right away. It’s never too early to begin good habits, especially with dogs.
Learning basic commands like come, sit and stay, leash and house training are all parts of being a good pet parent. Dogs especially need boundaries and you need to establish your place as the leader of the pack from early on. Patience and consistency are key factors in successful training. Consider attending an obedience class with your dog. It’s fun, and helps your animal be comfortable around other dogs and people.
10/ Arizona has extreme temperatures, so be sure your pet has plenty of fresh water and a cool place to hang out.
We all know how hot it can get during Arizona’s summer months. Be sure to supply plenty of fresh water, shade and/or indoor shelter for your animals. Sunscreen is also a consideration for animals with short hair or light coloring. When walking your pet, don’t forget the pavement can easily burn their paws. Consider pet shoes, and confine your walks in the early morning hours and after dark when the concrete cools down. And never, ever, leave your pet alone in a locked car. Temperatures can soar to lethal levels in just a few minutes.