5 Ways Good Pet Parents Can Become Great Ones
While you may consider yourself a preeminent pet expert, ready to dispense your years of hard-earned pet parenting tips to new owners at the drop of a hat, have you ever stopped to think about what, exactly, elevates a person from being a good pet parent to truly great one?
We’ve asked Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Michelson Found Animals, to share the top five ways good pet parents can become great ones:
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They Create a Home for Their Pet
Good pet parents tend to provide a safe, loving environment for their dog or cat from the very beginning. Whether that’s providing them with a quiet room in the house, a comfy cat bed or dog pillow bed in the basement, or a blanket on the couch, making your pet feel welcome at home is essential, Gilbreath says.
Great pet parents, however, think not only about how to make their pet feel welcome at home but how to help their pets find a way back home if they ever needed to.
“Great pet parents not only have ID tags on their pet’s collar, they also make sure that their pet is microchipped and that the microchip is registered in a free database,” Gilbreath said. “No one expects their pet to be lost, but if they are, the added protection of a registered microchip can help a lost pet return home.”
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They Provide Socialization for Their Pet
Regardless of their personality or how much time they’ll spend around other animals, every pet needs to interact with other dogs, cats and people. This socialization helps them to practice important training skills and learn new behaviors, Gilbreath said. While most pet parents are good with allowing their pets to be socialized, not every pet parent thinks about the consequences of letting their cat or dog socialize a little too much with other animals.
“Tens of thousands of unwanted litters are born each year because of ‘unfixed’ dogs or cats and too many of them end up in shelters [and are] at risk of being euthanized,” Gilbreath said. “Great pet parents do their part and have all their pets spayed or neutered as early as possible.”
Great pet parents also use their pet’s social time as an opportunity to be a positive influence to other pet parents around them. By striving to be the best possible pet owner you can be, you’re setting an example for others to follow your lead, Gilbreath says.
“The example you set, advice you offer and tips you share can improve the relationship between [another] owner and pet,” she said. “That improvement could mean a pet owner works through a challenge, rather than surrendering their pet to a shelter when times are tough.”
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They Take Their Pet to the Vet
According to Gilbreath, it’s very rare for a good pet parent to ignore medical issues or refuse to provide proper medical care for their pet when it’s needed. However, some good pet parents may spend a little too much time trying to self-diagnose the problem rather than calling in an expert right away.
“Caring for a dog or cat can be a challenge and not every problem can be solved just by looking online for the answer,” she said. “Great pet parents look to trusted experts because they know the investment in proper training or health care leads to longer happier lives for their pets.”
These great pet parents also consider purchasing pet insurance for their animals. In the event of an emergency, pet insurance can help you avoid difficult financial decisions and give your peace of mind when it comes to providing the best medical care possible for your pet.
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They Exercise Their Pet
Good pet parents understand the importance of giving their cat or dog a safe home, a chance to explore their environment and the ability exercise their minds and bodies. Not only does exercising your pet help them to stay in top physical condition, it helps them mentally and emotionally and can make them less likely to display unwanted behaviors stemming from boredom, Gilbreath said.
What great parents recognize, though, is that in addition to keeping their animals fit and stimulated both mentally and physically, good health starts with proper nutrition.
“Great pet parents are aware of foods that can be harmful to cats and dogs and are diligent about serving their pets the best-quality food for their budget,” she said. “While it may be cute, feeding at the table leads to bad manners and, even worse, raises the risk of inadvertently giving something poisonous to your pet.”
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They Teach Their Pets Good Manners
Most pet parents do what they can to teach their pet good manners, Gilbreath says, even if the desired results don’t work one hundred percent of the time. Great pet parents, however, know that positive reinforcement and consistency are key elements in training their pet and helping them hang on to their newly learned skills for life.
“We would rather have a pet parent try to do the right thing and make a mistake than do nothing and raise an ill-mannered dog or cat, [but] a well-trained pet is a pleasure to be around and also stays safe because it can follow basic commands like ‘stay’ or ‘drop it,’” she said.
Like parenting a child, becoming a great pet parent won’t happen immediately and it will take time and plenty of effort on your part. However, this dedication won’t be without rewards.
“When you adopted your dog or cat, you hopefully made that commitment with the intention of becoming the best possible pet owner,” Gilbreath said. “Fulfilling that commitment takes perseverance, but the rewards of a loving, mutually beneficial relationship are worth it.”
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Jessica is a managing editor and spends her days trying not to helicopter parent her beloved shelter pup, Darwin.