Selecting the ‘right’ pet

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By Kim Gilliam

Ready to add a new member to the family? One that has four legs and fur? Pets come in all shapes, sizes and personalities, and the selection process can seem overwhelming.

With last month being “Adopt-A-Dog” month, I have received lots of questions from potential pet parents about how to find the right one.

Pets differ in terms of care, feeding, behavior, cost, housing and demands on your time. Knowing what you are getting into will improve the chances that you will have a happy animal, a good relationship with your pet, and an easier time dealing with any challenges that might arise. Ask yourself:

What type of animal is the best fit for your home? Will you be able to live with pet hair, a litter box or the occasional wear-and-tear they might cause?

Will everyone in your home welcome an animal? Do you have children that will distract from the focused attention your pet needs or will they help care for an animal?

How much space do you have inside and outside your home?

How much time do you have available to spend with a pet?

What is your activity level? Are you sedentary or more active?

Do you have the financial resources if your pet has a medical issue with high veterinary bills?

How will you provide care for your pet when you travel?

The ultimate decision should incorporate your lifestyle, the time your family can offer for daily interaction, and the amount of care required for the pet.

For example, if you live in a small apartment, getting a large, active puppy might not be the best choice, whereas if you are looking for a jogging partner or have kids who will play with the dog all the time, it could be perfect.

Consider their age, size, exercise requirements and compatibility with children or other pets if applicable. You may be considering a puppy, but young dogs usually require much more time in terms of training and supervision. If this doesn’t interest you, an adult dog may be a better choice.

And while an active, bouncy dog might catch your eye, a quieter pooch might be a better match if you just want a TV-watching buddy.

If adopting an animal from a shelter or rescue, ask a lot of questions, although not all animals will have a known history. Take every chance you can to interact with potential pets outside of their cage — either in visiting rooms, out on walks, or by taking them home with you for a weekend if possible.

Animals will act differently in stressful situations, such as a kennel, so the more you can learn how they act in a home environment, the better. Fostering is a great way to get a sense for the prospective pet’s personality.

As you narrow in on a specific type or breed, research their typical behaviors and energy levels, but know that personality traits are just as important. For example, is the animal confident or shy? Hyperactive or calm? Dependent or independent? Tolerant or reactive? Playful or laid-back?

Information gathering via questions, research and experience will prove key to making the right decision.

Once you select your new pet, be sure to introduce them to current pets in a neutral location or in a gradual manner. Remember to take it slow; limit unsupervised access to the house, keep valuable items out of reach, focus on potty training even if they are an adult and seem well-behaved — it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Proper preparation and follow through will result in much better odds of a successful match, which will pay dividends in furry hugs and kisses for years to come.

The writer is the co-owner of Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in the Eisenhower Valley.

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