Gavin and Kelsey LeBel recently welcomed a Shih Tzu puppy named Otis into their family. “My family has always had pets and I grew up having smaller, inside animals who have always been a part of our family,” Kelsey said. Otis has a face anyone could easily fall in love with, but Kelsey is quick to point out, “It’s a commitment to take him out on a leash because we don’t have a fenced-in yard. We just recently bought our home and our new carpet is already ruined from him having accidents, but it’s been good preparation for children. It involves training, time, patience and willingness to be aware of their needs.”
Whether you’ve been researching breeds, planning for a family pet for awhile, or if you’ve made the impulsive decision to find the cutest face who needs rescuing from the pound, bringing home a new pet can have a huge impact on you, your family and your home. Most people don’t think about the supplies, food, space and even cost of the animal, but it is important to prepare for a new pet as you would for any addition to your family.
Pet allergies are very serious, and could turn your cute puppy or kitten into a late-night emergency room visit. The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America states that 15 to 30 percent of people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. So before you bring a cute ball of fur home, make sure your entire family is free of pet allergies.
Babies have an uncanny tendency to find things and put them in their mouths. Think of puppies the same way. If it is within the dog’s reach, it is fair game to be chewed, gnawed, bitten or torn to shreds. Your favorite pair of shoes, your latest copy of HOME magazine in your magazine rack, furniture legs, or small garbage cans are all popular targets. Remember, your puppy doesn’t have it out for your prized possessions – but he, like an infant, is teething. The best way to alleviate your headaches from “doggy destruction” is to remove the popular threats and replace them with puppy friendly options. For example, make sure before you leave for work that all of your shoes are in a closet, and give your puppy a chew toy or bone. The ASPCA reminds that a busy dog will behave much better than a bored dog, because we all know, where there is boredom, trouble quickly follows.
When bringing home a kitten, be warned that anything in your house is subject to being clawed. Cats can turn fine leather into shreds, and berber carpet into frizz. Kittens and cats love scratching whatever they can find, so the first step is to give your pet “legal” scratching areas. Cat trees and scratching posts can save your furniture from possible doom.
One of the most stressful times of pet training can be housebreaking an animal. Most pet owners cringe at the thought because so many have failed at this step, and it has cost them hundreds of dollars in new carpets. The Humane Society says that the most important aspect of your pet training is consistency. Develop a strict routine and you will soon begin to see patterns in your pet’s bathroom habits.
Make a schedule for when to put food out and notice how long after eating your pet needs bathroom time. For cats and kittens, the most important thing for the trainer to do is to make sure the litter box is clean and that the cat can find it.
Kelsey agrees that being consistent has played a huge role in their housebreaking and training Otis. “We’ve done a lot of research, not just to learn how to train him but also to understand why he’s doing what he’s doing. He’s a puppy – just like a baby – and he can’t tell us what he wants or needs.”
When it comes to discipline and training, the LeBels say one signal word or sound. “We’ve taught him when we say “ahn” he knows it means no or bad, and whenever he goes outside we repeat the word “potty” so he knows what he’s supposed to do and where,” Kelsey said.
Doggie treats have become a staple in training and discipline as they positively reinforce Otis’s good behavior.
If you’re considering adding a pet to your family, be sure to plan it, cover all your bases, and be sure you are ready. The last thing you want is to make an impulsive decision that comes back to hurt you or your family in the long run. “Realize it’s a big commitment and consider your schedule. Animals can be self-sufficient in many ways, but they’re also still dependent on people,” Kelsey advises.
A pet needs attention and care – especially a puppy or kitten – so make sure your new addition has value in your family. If you’re not quite ready for the time and energy of a puppy or kitten, you might consider a fish. Just remember, they need water and food too!