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A first time for everything with your dog or cat

As a brand-new dog or cat owner, you will be experiencing a lot of firsts together. The first walk, their first time being left alone… In this article, we will tell you all about those first times, so you know what to expect.

Your dog’s first visit to the vet

When adopting a dog or pup, it is recommended to choose a vet in advance and visit them as soon as your pet has arrived. Pups require more frequent vet visits than healthy adult dogs, which is mainly due to vaccinations. The first time visiting a vet can be quite stressful, so it is important to make the experience as pleasant as possible for your pup or dog. A positive first experience will set the tone for future visits. You can make the vet visit a bit more pleasant by preparing yourself properly and bringing your pet’s documents. After all, if you know what to expect your pet will feel more at ease as well. If the waiting room happens to be busy, consider going around the block instead. Reward your dog for good behaviour, for example when it doesn’t bark or cry, or when it sits calmly. Praise it with words or give it a healthy snack. This will help your pet develop a positive association with visits to the vet.

Your cat’s first visit to the vet

The first visit to the vet can be quite the challenge for your cat as well. Getting there as well as the unfamiliar location itself may cause a lot of stress. Make sure your cat is comfortable with its travel basket in advance. Putting your cat in the basket for the first time right before departure, will cause a lot more stress than a familiar situation would. So, accustom your cat to the travel basket by placing it in the living room and putting your pet’s toy, stuffed animal or blanket inside. In the waiting room, it is best to keep the basket on your lap or on a side table. Do not put it on the ground. It may help to make sure the opening of the travel basket is facing towards you, keeping other animals out of sight. Travel baskets that open from the top are a convenient option. In addition, make sure you choose a vet you feel comfortable with and who you suspect will be able to put your pet at ease.

Tip: It is recommended to have both dogs and cats checked by the vet on a regular basis. You’ll be able to catch any issues in time but there is another benefit to it. If you only take your pet to the vet when it feels under the weather, it is likely to develop negative associations with the endeavour. Going for a simple check-up will add a positive experience to the tally!

Letting your cat outside for the first time

Maybe you moved recently or just adopted a cat or kitten; either way, letting your cat outside for the first time is always a challenge. Some people choose not to do it at all, and there are arguments to be made for both decisions. One pro is that your cat gets to release its energy outside with sufficient exercise and stimuli. A con is that your pet may bring home prey. This is natural behaviour and impossible to change. Other potential downsides are that your cat may get lost or get into fights with other cats in the neighbourhood. We have listed the pros and cons in the article ‘Letting your cat outside, the pros and cons’.

If you do decide to let your cat outside, here are some tips to prepare for your cat’s or kitten’s first outing.

  • Make sure your pet knows your voice. Practice by rewarding your pet for responding to your voice when you call it. You can do this at home or in the yard.
  • Don’t feed your cat until it gets back. A cat with a full stomach will be less inclined to return than a hungry one.
  • Heading out for the first time? Always during daytime! Darkness will stimulate your cat to hunt and it won’t be back for a while.
  • Walk along with your cat. There is no harm in staying nearby. Especially the first time around.

More reading: Letting your kitten outside for the first time

The first walk with your dog

Enough exercise is very healthy for your dog! Taking your dog for its first walk is a new experience for the both of you. It should be noted that there is a difference between walking an adult dog versus a pup. Here are some tips for the first walk with your pup:  

  • Pups need a large number of short walks. Long walks may overburden their muscles and joints.
  • A good rule of thumb is 1 minute per walk x the pups age in weeks.
  • Take a moment to rest along the way, and feel free to bring some water and a snack.
  • Keep a close eye on your pup. End the walk when you notice fatigue.

Did you adopt an adult dog? It is probably used to being walked. Still, the first walk together can be stressful. The new environment is filled with new impressions for your pet. Give your dog enough time to absorb those impressions. Let it snuffle without pulling the leash; it is simply getting to know the environment. And if your dog has trouble walking on a leash, be sure to practice several times a day. Teach your dog, calmly, that its place is by your side and reward good behaviour, for example when your dog is walking properly and isn’t pulling.

Leaving your dog alone for the first time

In a perfect world, you would spend every waking second near your dog, especially at first. But in reality, you will have to go where you pet isn’t allowed, such as the hair salon or a friend or relative with an allergy. In these situations, it is important that your dog knows how to be alone. The process of learning is gradual. Do not leave your dog alone for hours right off the bat. Teach it that you will always return after a while, by staying away for a short period of time the first time around and building it up gradually. Check out the article ‘Leaving your dog alone; for how long and what to keep in mind?’ for a useful step-by-step plan as well as additional information on leaving your dog alone.

Leaving your cat alone for the first time

Leaving your cat or kitten alone is something that takes time to build up gradually, just like with dogs. Start with an hour, for example,  and extend their alone time step by step. Keep a close eye on your cat’s behaviour as you return. If your cat comes off relaxed and content, it probably has no issues being alone. But if your cat appears nervous or displays behaviour that is different than usual, being left alone for such a long time might be a problem. In any case, provide enough water, food, a sleeping spot and something to play with. You’ll find more information about leaving your cat alone in the article ‘Leaving a kitten home alone

Traveling with your pet for the first time

Who doesn’t love a day out? All the better if your dog can tag along. Bringing your dog in the car may prove quite the undertaking. It is important to prepare and let your dog get accustomed to traveling by car. We wrote several articles that will help you on your first trip with your dog:

Going on vacation with your pet is even better than a day out, but it does take some additional preparation. Once again, we are happy to help with some useful tips!

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