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How to Introduce a New Pet to the Family

A pet can be a wonderful addition to the family, but you need to take the proper steps to ensure a smooth transition for everyone.

How to Introduce a New Pet to the Family

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When my son was born, my husband and I had a small pup named Theo. My son loved the dog, but because he was already there when he was born, he was very "used to" having him around. Unfortunately, our first fur baby got sick and passed away when he was only eight, and it took a few years for us to feel like we were ready for another dog. However, this time, my son was much more involved in getting a new pet.

Bringing home a new pet

We decided on a Goldendoodle after our friends got one. They have a great temperament and are loyal, sweet, and very smart. We had to drive three hours to pick up our little Toby (who quickly became big Toby), and when we saw his little face, we all instantly fell in love. Our son helped us pick the pup we wanted from the litter, and we all decided on a name together.

There were a lot of things we did to prepare for having another dog. First, we had to teach our son how to interact with a puppy. Since puppies are always trying to nip, chew, or jump up, our son was also very involved in training him. We all learned to be consistent and use the same commands, and we only gave him treats when he did something good. I know that, with other families who have a few kids and a new pup, everyone provides the dog with treats at random times, and before long, they have a dog that is not only untrained and has terrible habits but could become overweight, too.

We also had to make sure Toby was gentle and patient around children when they might be excitable and hyper. We are a busy household and have a lot of kids over all the time, so we wanted to be sure the pup was ready for the constant chaos. We would feed him and then play around in the food bowl while he ate to ensure he didn't get possessive.

We did the same with toys – we'd give him a new ball, let him play for a bit, and then take it away, only for a second, to ensure his reaction was understanding, kind, and not aggressive. And when we trained him to break bad habits, it was with patience – animals don't learn in a day, nor do we.

Author, Jenn's son with their new dog Credit: Jenn Cox

Preparing the family, not only the pet

Our son needed some training, too. We had to ensure our son didn't leave any small toys around – we'd heard horror stories of dogs eating a Lego or doll accessory, costing the owners thousands in vet bills. We also had to get into the habit of not leaving food or candy (or, God forbid, chocolate) around. At the same time, we were also teaching Toby that people's food wasn't his to take. It was indeed a group effort.

Having a pet gave our son a great sense of age-appropriate responsibility. He helped with feeding and exercising him in the backyard. To this day, he cleans Toby's water bowl and helps pick up the dog's toys. A family pet is a family responsibility, and the to-dos shouldn't just fall on one person.

A new family dynamic

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Introducing the family to a pet is a process. You can't just get an animal and expect the family dynamics to stay the same. Pets can be a lot of work initially, especially a puppy or a kitten – they need constant supervision, training, and correcting. They're trying to acclimate to their new home just as much as you're trying to get used to them being a part of the family. It takes preparation – who will give them food and water, get them exercise, take them to the vet, and more?

If you have younger children, you'll want to talk about the animal coming in and how they should be treated and handled. While littles will love toting around a kitten in their play stroller or carrying them around all day, the cat may be less thrilled—practice handling a small animal with a stuffed animal or toy. If you're getting an animal that needs to stay in its habitat, like a reptile, bird, or small critter like a hamster, your child needs to understand the importance of keeping them safe and letting them be when they're in their homes.

A pet can be a wonderful addition to the family. But for the transition into pet ownership to go smoothly for everyone, including your new furry (or feathered or scaled) friend, you'll need a few days of introduction and acclimation. Once you get through the process of adjusting to a new pet, you'll be able to reap the many rewards of pet ownership.

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