So, you've chosen the breed, you've paid the fees, and now, you have this squirming ball of energy. How do you care for it? Much like human babies, pet babies are a mystery. What do I feed him? How often should I take her out? How can I keep him safe? Why is she crying? The key to a successful start as a pet parent, whether it's a dog, a cat, a ferret, or a bearded dragon is to have a good team of experts whispering their wisdom in your ear.
Your biggest ally and supporter is your veterinarian or, vet. Ideally, this individual will be involved not only in the care of your new family member but, also instrumental in the selection of this wonderful addition. Before you select your pet, select your vet. This individual should be someone you feel completely comfortable with and trust implicitly.
Your main goal in this search is to find the vet who you believe will take the time to be familiar with your pet's needs. In addition, you need to feel comfortable establishing a long-term relationship with this person and his/her team, from receptionists to vet techs. A doctor, human or animal, is only as good as those who work with him. This individual will be responsible for maintaining an ongoing history of your pet's medical treatments. These include, but are not limited to, immunizations, illnesses, reactions to medications, surgical procedures, and behaviors. He or she will also be responsible for creating a preventive care plan to help maintain your pet's overall health.
There are many sources of good information when searching for a vet. Your main source is fellow pet parents. If your friends already have a furry or scaly pet child ask for references. Where do they go? Who do they trust with their pets? You will be surprised at the zeal some individuals show for their vets along with the contempt they show for those vets they have been dissatisfied with. Along with your friends, you yourself can be a great source. If you currently have pets take a moment to reflect on the care they receive. Are you happy with the service? Then why mess up a good thing? Stay with your vet. If you are dissatisfied, move, find a new one and take your other pets with you.
Another great source of information about selecting a quality vet is a breed club or organization. These are especially helpful for those who have selected non-traditional pets. These individuals will have a harder time finding a vet. For example, a special interest group focused on pythons is invaluable to the pet parent who just adopted a beautiful rose python because not just anyone is talented enough to work with pythons. Even cats and dogs, especially specific breeds, have special needs that might be better addressed by a specific vet. Breed clubs will have that information.
If you can't get any information from friends, you don't already have a vet, and there aren't any special interest groups in your area then your next resource is the phone directory and/or the internet. Searching the yellow pages then researching the vets online is a reliable source of information that you can use in your decision-making process. Looking at this source of information, along with the others, it all comes down to your gut feeling. Once you have selected a vet, meet with him/her and his/her team. Do you feel comfortable? Is there a sense of mutual trust and understanding? If so, go with it. If not, call the next vet on the list until you find one you feel comfortable with.
Almost as important as your choice of veterinarian, a trainer is an invaluable member of your pet care team. Training can make or break a pet, especially a dog. The sweetest dog in the world can be the biggest terror without proper training. Puppies should be in class as soon as they are old enough.
The importance of a trainer comes with their understanding of pet behavior. Trainers have a window to look into your pet's psyche. They have an understanding of animal behavior and instinct. Their expert pet advice will be invaluable as your pet grows.
Your pet is your baby and, just as you would tour day care centers before placing a human child in one, so should you visit and tour training schools for dogs. There are various methods used. You need to know these methods and decide which will work best for you and your pet. Each method has its merits and each training school utilizes one of the three common methods mentioned below:
1. Lure-Reward Training: This method utilizes a lure, usually food, to entice the animal to perform the desired behavior. Behavior is reinforced by giving the food reward and verbal praise when the appropriate behavior is completed.
2. Compulsion-Praise Training: In this method the animal is manipulated into the correct position through the use of physical manipulation or use of equipment such as a head halter or choke collar.
3. Marker-Training: This method utilizes the use of a clicker, word, or sound to indicate correct behavior. This is quickly followed by food or verbal reinforcement. The use of the "marker" separates the behavior from the food, making it a reward, not lure.
As a pet parent you have to decide which method you feel most comfortable with and find training schools that utilize that method.
In conclusion, as a pet parent it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure that your pet child is well taken care of and happy. By choosing the right expert veterinarian and the right trainer you will be on the right track to ensure that your pet has a high quality of life for his/her entire life. Would you do any less for your child and the best friend you could ever wish for?