Pandemic Pet Adoption: Tips to Help Them Settle In Safely
It’s been a stressful year. Borders are shut down, hospitals are over capacity, and we’re all fearful for our lives and loved ones. Trapped in our own homes, the strong desire for companionship became inevitable.
In fact, research has shown that the presence of a non-human companion—especially a dog—decreases stress and creates physiological changes that make us feel better.
According to Packaged Facts, COVID-19 triggered a surge in pet adoption. Ten percent of current pet owners acquired a pet in the initial three-month phase of the pandemic.
Vancouver alone has seen a huge spike in pet adoptions. About A Dog Rescue Society has not only seen adoption applications triple, but they’ve also experienced a large increase in applications to foster pets in need.
Mike Edwards, President and Co-Founder of the Vancouver-based rescue society, believes a major factor in the adoption increase is people having more time to think about what really matters.
"As people are spending so much time together as a family or in self-isolation, it's given them time, and the perspective, to see the benefits a dog, or any pet, can add to your life," explains Edwards.
It’s wonderful to see so many people opening their hearts and homes to animals in need. Becoming a pet parent is a joyful, fulfilling experience. It’s also a massive commitment -- not one to be entered into lightly.
Helping Pets Adjust to a New Home
If, after careful consideration, you’ve decided it’s time to expand your furry family, congratulations!
No matter how young or old your pet is when you bring him home, there’s an adjustment period. Patience is key. Your furry friend may be a little apprehensive at first. After all, moving in with a new fur family can be overwhelming and a little scary.
Remember, every pet is different. Adjustment times will vary. Now, let’s explore some helpful ways to help your new pet adjust to your home quickly and safely.
Set up Your Pet’s Space
Be prepared before your pet arrives so their “welcome home” is comfortable and inviting. If you’re adopting a pup, consider a crate that’s large enough for your pet to easily move about, but not so big that he may be inclined to use one end of the space as a bathroom.
If you’re bringing home a puppy, he might outgrow his crate quickly.
Check online and ask around your neighbourhood to see if you can find a second-hand crate for those first few months.
Crates provide a safe haven for dogs. Put a soft mat and blanket inside, and toss in an old t-shirt, too. Your scent will be soothing.
Use feeding dishes made of dishwasher-safe materials, such as porcelain or stainless steel.
Don’t forget the toys! If you have a puppy, make sure he has chew toys to get through the teething phase! If you’re not sure what your pup will like, pick up a toy for every occasion: one for tossing, one for tugging and another for chewing.
Crate training is especially helpful if you work long hours away from home because he’ll have his own safe haven to rest and relax until you return.
Even if you’re working from home, though, crate training can be a great way to teach your pup proper sleeping hours … unless, of course, you prefer to be woken at midnight by puppy kisses!
Spend Quality Time
Particularly when it comes to house-training, the most helpful tip we can offer is to watch your pet VERY closely. If they go sniffing off or suddenly disappear, find them fast and either take them outside (if he’s a dog) or to the litter box (if he’s a cat). Do this for a month and you’ll have a potty-trained pet.
Frequent interaction is critical when building a bond with your companion. Remember, there’s no such thing as a bad pet -- there are only bored pets acting out. Find things you can enjoy doing together. After all, that’s why you adopted a pet!
Explore the Space
Pets get to know their area by smell, so letting them explore is important. Just be sure you’re with them as they look around. You wouldn’t want them getting into anything dangerous.
Don’t hesitate to set boundaries. Literally. It’s OK to block off rooms or spaces you don’t want your pet to be in. My husband didn’t want Jessie to be in our bedroom (she’s got her own) so I was consistent in telling her to “stay” outside the door, shuffling to block her if she tried to get past, or even closing the door (just for a moment).
Positive reinforcement is key. Remember to reward your pets with a treat and lots of praise when they do what you ask.
Get plenty of exercise
Fitness is incredibly important when raising a healthy pet. Walks, runs, and bike rides are always good. Trips to the dog park or the beach are loads of fun. Jessie also loves to go kayaking with us.
Like we said before, find things you enjoy doing together!
Keep a Schedule
Animals are creatures of habit. Pets know when they need to play, they know when they need to sleep, and they know when they want to eat (all the time!). Don’t give in on that last one ;-)
Do listen to your pet by watching their behaviour throughout the day. When do they have the most energy and need to play? Our Jessie needs play throughout the day, but especially after breakfast!
Choose one of these playtimes to teach new tricks to stimulate their mind. Feel free to use toys or treats as incentive.
Food is also a driving force. They know when it’s suppertime!
Try to keep feeding times on schedule. We serve breakfast at 5:30am and dinner at 5:30pm … with a few treats throughout the day. Find timing that works for you, and don’t be afraid to tell your pet to wait if they’re getting eager to eat before feeding time!
Sleep is just as important for pets as it is for us. Put them to bed at a time that is best for them. Your pet’s bedtime doesn’t always have to be the same as your bedtime.
This may sound obvious, but always be on the lookout for anything that can harm your pet -- inside and outside the house.
One of the most useful commands we’ve taught Jessie is, “Leave it.”
We practiced with treats and toys as we walked through the space on a lead; try the command first, and if there’s no response, try the command with a gentle tug. Your dog will learn to listen if you are consistent. This is a good way to train the command without introducing unnecessary dangers.
Some hazardous items you may not think of include:
- Garbage bins
- Electrical wiring
- Toxic plants
- Chemicals under the sink
- Home renovation clutter
- Broken glass
Find and build a rapport with a local veterinarian you trust. Ensure your pet is up to date with all vaccinations.
Vets are important during an emergency, and they can offer some guidance along the way. But, if you have any questions about diet and nutrition, PureForm is happy to help as a certified Pet Nutrition Coach from the North American Veterinary Community (NAVC).
Training classes are strongly encouraged. Jessie and I graduated two classes at PetSmart, and everyone who comes over says she’s the BEST behaved dog they’ve ever seen.
Alas, I can only take credit for consistency -- every pup’s personality is different!
Above all else, prepare yourself mentally and physically. Having a pet is not easy. It can be a ton of fun and super rewarding, but being a pet parent is also extremely demanding. It’s a lot of responsibility.
Please make time for your new fur-baby, remember to stay calm, and be patient as they adjust to their new family … they just want to love you! <3
Safely Surrendering Pets
Unfortunately, not all stories have happy endings. The stress of the pandemic resulted in many pets being abandoned by parents who could no longer care for them.
Pets are abandoned for far too many reasons. Sometimes their owners pass away and sometimes family members are allergic. Other times they’re replaced by a new baby or they’re surrendered during a divorce. Superstitious beliefs, relocation, disability … the list goes on.
We’re not here to judge. If you’re unable or unwilling to properly care for an animal, the responsible thing to do is try to rehome them (find a suitable family willing to care for them) or take them to a shelter or rescue group where they will be safe until they can be adopted.
If you’re no longer able to care for your pets, find a nearby shelter. Here are some resources to help:
For new pet parents, we strongly encourage adoption over buying. Sure, there’s nothing cuter than a brand new puppy you pick from the litter.
But older animals come with plenty of perks, too!
They’re typically house-broken, they know lots of commands, and believe it or not, you can actually teach an old dog new tricks.
With so many loving animals overcrowding shelters coast to coast, adoption is the best way to invite a new furry family member into your life. Especially now since you just read all those tips on how to help your fur-baby settle in!
Have you recently adopted a new pet? Tell us about it and feel free to ask any questions in the comments below!