Some of your first memories might be of your family’s golden retriever, who let you saddle and ride her on piggyback through the backyard when you were little. Or, maybe they’re of the tabby you used to find snuggled in the crook of your legs when you woke up. You grew up with these animals, and now that you’ve moved into your first apartment or put a down-payment on your first house, you want your own pets. The tips below will help you decide which one is right for you, and how to set up your home so that they’ll flourish there.
What’s Right for You?
First, figure out what kind of pet you want. Let’s say it’s a dog. Keep in mind that dogs vary wildly in size, so take that into account when considering the space you can offer them. Some websites will even quiz you about your life to determine which breed will thrive in your living arrangement. If the dog you get is going to be alone in an apartment with no yard for more than 40 hours a week, you might choose a small breed like a Boston terrier. On the other hand, if you live in a house in the suburbs with a huge yard and young children, you might go with an English setter instead.
What’s Right for the Pet?
As you’re thinking about which pet is right for your home, also look at the situation from their viewpoint: What’s best for them? Some pets require minimal accommodations. Fish, for instance, necessitate aquarium maintenance, fish food, and little else. For turtles, iguanas, and other reptiles, you need to regulate their temperature and provide them with enough light, but they’ll thrive in an aquarium, too. With dogs and cats, extending their living space into a backyard often comes as a boon. The optimal size of your yard depends on your pet. A mastiff needs a pasture-like spread to bound around in, while a manx will mostly laze on the table on sunny afternoons. Whichever pet you get, consider building a fence around your yard for its safety. Fences protect your pet from thieves and bigger animals and prevent it from running away.
And for dog-owners who don’t have a yard, fear not: Going on a jaunt with your dog provides it with much of the exercise it would’ve gotten digging up your tulip beds. Plus, it offers other benefits – structuring the dog’s day, teaching it to socialize with other dogs, calming any boredom it pent up indoors, and more. Your part in this deal is to keep it skipping along for 30 minutes and to have a doggy-bag handy at all times. Proper pet waste cleanup practices are worth a mention, not just out of etiquette, but because dog feces can contain salmonella, hookworms, roundworms, and other viruses that none of your neighbors want transmitted to their own pets.
One of the last (but most vital) considerations to weigh when you get a dog is its age and background. Older pets will need a few modifications to keep them comfortable, and even the kindest rescue dog will be wary of you at first, especially if it suffered abuse in a previous home. To earn its trust, don’t force your own kindness on it. Feed it at the same time every day, but also give it space to eat, so that after it feels nourished, it’ll come to you on its own. Preparing your home for an older dog calls for many of the same acclimating strategies: Make sure your house is quiet and warm to impart in it a sense of safety. Once it seems settled, take it to the vet for a checkup, and ask if you should mix any arthritis or dry skin supplements into its food.
And after all that, walk it on quiet mornings, and let it roam through your (fenced-in) backyard, and unfold a rug in front of the fireplace so that it can stretch out before the blaze on cold nights, because an elderly dog can instill in you the same sense of peace that it needs, too.