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Finding the Right Companion: Tips for First-Time Pet Owners

If you've never owned a pet before, it can be a life-changing decision for your entire family. That's why it's important to do some research and think hard about the type of animal you want, what sort of changes you'll need to make to your home and lifestyle to help him fit in, and the best ways to keep him safe and happy, especially if he's a rescue companion.

There are so many preparations to think about that it can be overwhelming, so take your time and don't enter into any decisions too quickly. Talk with your family and get everyone's input so that you're all on the same page; after all, everyone will likely have to do their part in taking care of your new companion.

Here are some of the best tips for choosing the right companion and how to help him feel at home.

Consider a rescue companion

Rather than going to a pricey breeder, consider rescuing an animal from a shelter. These dogs and cats (and many other types of animals) often come from a difficult background and need lots of love and attention, but adoption is a wonderful way to keep the animal shelters from overcrowding, which can lead to euthanasia. Keep in mind that these animals may be extremely timid or have anxiety issues, and they might require medications or prefer to sleep in a kennel, where they feel safe. If you choose to adopt, be prepared to have patience and give lots of gentle care to your new companion.

Think about your schedule

Bringing home a new companion means you'll need to make time for him, even if you have a busy schedule. Think about all the logistics involved in having a new companion and how you'll help him take care of his needs while you're at work; for instance, a dog will need to go outside every few hours, so you might consider hiring a dog walker who can assist you during the day.

Prepare your home

Becoming a companion parent means you need to prepare for his needs, so make sure you have food and water bowls, bedding, toilet items, toys, a collar and leash, and anything else you think he'll need, including food and treats. Your companion may not like the food you have, so it might be a good idea to have a couple of different kinds on hand. Once you've found one that works, stick with it so as not to confuse him or cause stomach issues.

Its also a good idea to look at your home from the companion's point of view; do you have plants that could be poisonous to animals if eaten? Electrical cords that might look like a fun toy? Take care of any potential hazards before your companion even comes home so that you can have peace of mind that he'll be safe and happy.

Find ways to bond

In some ways, having a new pet is akin to having a new child, and its important to bond with him, especially if he's a rescue animal. Building trust and love is imperative in this new relationship, so make time to play with your companion and get to know him. This is especially important, as being able to read his body language and mannerisms will help you keep him - and everyone around him - safe, as well as interpret his needs.

Some of the best ways to bond with your companion include training him - which helps to strengthen communication - and simply taking long walks or engaging in active playtime. Help him learn the rules of your home at the same time; companions need boundaries to be set.

Remember that its important to talk to your family about the process before getting a new companion. Make sure everyone knows what to expect, such as the fact that rescue companions may be cute but are a lot of work. If everyone is prepared, your companions first day in your home will go smoothly.

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