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Committing and Connecting with your Pet

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Taking on the responsibility of pet ownership is a long-term promise. It’s a combination of financial, practical and emotional bonds that can last until death do us part. In this episode, we turn our focus to understanding and respecting the commitment that every pet parent must make to bring health, happiness and man’s best friendship into their life.

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Things We Do For Pets

Committing and Connecting with your pet

On the American Kennel Club’s website, there’s a list of 95 ways to be a Responsible Pet Owner. Clearly, it’s an important topic. The Canadian Humane Society and several Veterinary Associations also publish similar lists all intended to advocate for the proper care and wellbeing of domestic animals throughout their entire lives.

Inspired by their advice, we have compiled our own list – a much shorter one, you’ll be happy to hear – to highlight what we believe are the most important points to consider. These items on our list are not in order of importance. They just follow the logical progression of your relationship with your pet.

Let’s start by choosing the right pet

Whatever the breed of your cat or dog, the love they offer shows the need for owners to connect and commit to their pet.
Assorted set of pets looking at you (Photo by Gurinaleksandr | Dreamstime.com)

Before even getting a pet, think about how ready you are in your life to be completely responsible for the existence of another living creature.

Then think about the time you can devote to a pet. Does your work, living situation and lifestyle leave room to fully meet their needs? Are you and your family or other household members on board with the concept? Is anyone allergic to any type of pet?

Next, do a bit of math. And a bit of practical budgeting. Research the initial cash outlay on top of the ongoing maintenance costs on top of potential emergency care costs. In today’s economy, the number of people relying on food banks is skyrocketing. And right beside people food banks, pet food banks are increasingly in demand.

Take a moment for self-reflection. And family reflection. Are you a household of social, adventurous people who are always on the go, who thrive on 6 am walks on snowy mornings? Or would a cuddly creature who self-grooms be more your speed? There’s no right or wrong answer here… no judging. You just want to be confident that the romance doesn’t fizzle after the honeymoon.

Once you have narrowed the field to the species of animal, explore next the characteristics of the many potential breeds. You can refer to some of our previous episodes in this podcast for this fun exercise.

Do please consider adopting a pet from the Humane Society or providing a forever home for a rescued animal. It’s the best kind of pay-it-forward.

  • You may already have a specific breed in mind, based on previous experience or even celebrity animals. But don’t be taken in by the cute factor or fancy tricks. Every animal is different. And even though it can be an emotional experience – especially if children are involved – try to avoid letting love at first sight or even pity force an impulsive decision.
  • Keep all of the above in mind when thinking about a second, or third pet. Know your limits!

Welcome home! Now you need to get set up for success

  • Introduce your new pet into a suitable environment. Whether it’s a fishbowl, a cage, or a warm and comfy bed, your new pal should be shown their designated indoor area to sleep, rest, retreat, and be safe. Food and water bowls in place? Check! Piddle pads or litter boxes fresh and ready to go? Check! Toys to help distract and reduce stress? Check.
  • Let your animal be themselves! Some puppies will jump all over you and lick your face. Others will hide. Same thing with cats. Make sure you and other family members know how to treat the pet. Be patient and let your little buddy set the pace.
  • Create a safe environment. Keep poisons and hazards safely out of reach. Remember that some house plants and human foods like chocolate can be toxic for pets. Make your home escape-proof with secure windows and screens, doors, and balconies. Remove any tempting electrical plugs, cords and sockets to chew on… and anything else which you would like to remain teeth-mark free.
  • Carry through on your promise to follow local regulations and laws regarding pet ownership, licensing, registration, and identification.

Who is in charge? You are! Yes, you are!

Committing and connecting with your pet brings the owner satisfaction and responsibilities
A satisfied man pointing to himself (Photo by Khosrork | Dreamstime.com)

You decide on the lifestyle, routines and expectations for harmonious behaviour within your household. Most indoor pets require minimal training to help them navigate the human world.

  • If you own a dog, they need to understand and obey basic commands like Sit. Stay. Come. Heel. Down.
  • If you own a cat, they need to understand basic commands like Come Back. Or not. Stay. Or not. Cuddle. Or not.
  • Seriously, even a cat needs to be socialized to cope with people, children, other animals, doorbells and other noises.
  • Behaviour training with a reputable, qualified trainer is always an excellent investment for your canine. Check out the training tips and advice from our friend the Brazilian Dog Guru which we’ve published in an earlier podcast in this series.
  • For best long-term results, focus on choice-and-reward-based training instead of negative, punishment-based training.

Choose the right Veterinarian

  • Early on in your pet relationship, you need to find a reliable local vet who understands both you and your pet. Referrals from satisfied owners are a great place to start. Visit the clinic to make sure it is clean, well organized and well staffed. Observe how customers are treated. You want clinical expertise along with TLC and people skills. Don’t be afraid to shop around; this is an important relationship.
  • Appropriate vaccinations are mandated in most provinces and recommended in all. Parasite control is also high on the list of preventative measures. Follow your vet’s advice regarding frequency and timing.
  • Stand firm about any principles or beliefs you hold about practices like de-clawing a cat, tail docking or ear cropping a dog, or over-vaccinating.
  • Do have that early conversation about reproduction control. No one wants to contribute to a pet overpopulation problem. So unless your goal is managed breeding, containment or spaying/neutering are responsible choices.

Play is the best medicine

Playing and walking your pet shows your love and commitment.
Senior Couple Walking With Pet Bulldog In Countryside (Photo by Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com)

By now, you have made the commitment to provide adequate food, water, shelter, and health care for your pet.

  • The next commitment is to establish and stick to a regimen and schedule. When it comes to food and walks, your pet needs a routine for physical regularity. From a mental and emotional point of view, your pet will be calmer knowing when to expect events and how to react to stimuli.
  • If your animal will spend extended periods of time outside, their habitat should include provisions to minimize distress or discomfort. Plan for access to appropriate food, water, and shelter from extreme weather conditions.
  • Equally important on our list are companionship, play and human interaction. Physical exercise and mental stimulation will keep your pet active and healthy. Show them affection and praise, and they will love you back.

Be a good neighbour

  • Indoors and out, you must understand and respect the rights and preferences of others regarding pets. As already mentioned, early training will help your pet manage social encounters and minimize barking. Early training, consistent reinforcement… and a leash.
  • If your pet goes outdoors, make sure they wear a collar with a tag and your contact details. Many owners depend on embedded locator microchips and registration in a national database. Many others are embracing geo-locating Air Tags to keep tabs on their pet through a mobile device. Very wise practices!
  • Being a good citizen means considering the environmental impact of your pet, and disposing of waste properly.

Consistency, contingency and continuity

  • Think ahead: create a workable plan for day care or pet sitting when you or a family member cannot be available. Prepare your pet in advance to make it a positive experience and minimize trauma.
  • Consider getting your pet insured to help cover the costs of unexpected medical emergencies.
  • Be prepared for an emergency or disaster by including your pet’s needs in your evacuation or survival kit.
  • Plan for your pet’s future in case you can no longer provide care.
  • As the years go by, monitor your pet and recognize any decline in their health and quality of life that warrants consultation with your vet.

In closing, to quote the Veterinary Medical Association: “Owning a pet is a privilege that brings us great rewards. Because our pets can’t speak for themselves, we each take on a responsibility as owners to advocate for them and provide the support and resources they need to live healthy, happy lives.

So that’s it for today. Gotta go buy more Milk Bones. Thanks for listening!

Sources

Humane Canada (www.humanecanada.com)

Humane Society (www.humanesociety.com)

Four Paws (www.fourPawsUSA.org)

American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org)


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Things we do for Pets


Podcast: Things We Do For Pets
Made possible with the support of Ontario Creates

Directed by: Teresa Botelho
Content writing: Lauri Richardson
Pre-production & research: Ana Carolina Botelho
Recording / Editing / Social Media: Christian Pedersen
Host: Eric Major
Vignettes & special effects: Robson DJ Estudio 
Website & Digital Marketing: Creative Team Canada


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