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Welcoming a new pet into your home

Vet Jon Bowen shares his advice on how to help your new pet or pets settle in.

As a rather timid 10 year old, I went to stay with a French family for the evening when I was on a school trip. I couldn't understand a word of the language, and everything seemed very strange, especially the food - I never did get over eating snails! Dogs or cats arriving in a new home are likely to have a similar experience; everything is unfamiliar and confusing.

A sense of security

Dog hiding in a blanket (© Crystal Cartier Photography, Brand X Pictures, Getty Images)

What gives us a sense of comfort and security? Strip away all the fancy stuff, like expensive furniture and a posh car, and you are left with the need for a reliable source of food, a comfortable place to sleep, a familiar environment that feels safe and people we can rely on. Dogs and cats have the same needs.

Your new dog or cat will settle in much faster if you offer it some food and water when it arrives, and show it where the litter tray or garden are. They are also comforted by familiar smells, so try putting some used bedding from the previous home into your pet's new bed.

Dogs like routine, so if you're taking on a rescue or older dog, make sure to stick to the same times for feeding, walks, games and toilet times as in the previous home, until the new addition has fully settled in. Cats, on the other hand, like the freedom to eat and rest exactly when they want, so make food and water available at all times, offer a choice of places to sleep and provide a tray with familiar litter.

A woman with a dog on the sofa (© Mark Edward Atkinson, Tetra images, Getty Images)

Be patient

Puppies, kittens and even adult dogs will make mistakes when they move into a new home. They chew or claw something they shouldn't, or will even go to the toilet in the wrong place. Getting cross or using punishment can easily damage the relationship with your new pet so instead, try to understand what went wrong, and think how you could help the pet to avoid making the same mistake again. Does it need more exercise or more toys and things to chew? Does the cat's litter tray need cleaning, or does the dog need to go out to the toilet more often?

To get you on the right track, take your puppy to specialist training classes like the ones offered by Puppy School. If you feel your adult dog lacks a few social graces, ask your vet about a reputable local trainer.

Start as you mean to go on

The first few days after getting a new pet are very exciting, and we want to make a good impression by giving lots of extra attention, special treats, games, walks, cuddles and privileges. Unfortunately, this honeymoon period can't last forever, and as dogs grow up we tend to make fewer allowances for them. For example, an 8-week old Labrador puppy is lovely to cuddle on the sofa, but a mud-covered 35kg adult Labrador isn't. If you allow a puppy to sleep on the sofa whenever he wants, then he may get frustrated and angry when you start to say "no" later on in his life. So, it's better to start with some ground rules that avoid any misunderstandings later on.

A child in bed with a puppy (© Jonathan Ross, Digital Vision, Getty Images)

Meet the family

Children are fascinated by animals, and pester power is often the reason for getting a new pet. But not all cats and dogs can cope with the barrage of attention and play they get from children, so it is important to make sure that children know that sleeping dogs must be left alone and let the pet have time out on its own to rest. Keeping play sessions short will prevent the pet from becoming overexcited or stressed.

The Blue Dog project, which helps teach children to understand their pets, recommends that parents actively supervise when children and animals are together, because misunderstandings can easily lead to bites and scratches (from either party!).

The views and opinions stated in this article are the author's own and are for the information of the public only. They do not imply or constitute the involvement, support or endorsement of More Than, More Than Pets Insurance or any other insurer or specific insurance product.