As pet ownership becomes more common, and millennials prefer to adopt a pet before starting a family, it’s imperative that we begin educating new pet owners on what to expect when owning a pet. Owning a pet requires more than fulfilling basic care needs. As pet owners, we need to take the time to understand our pets on a deeper, more intuitive level to understand them as a whole. Pets have so much love to give and learn from us, but they also have a lot to teach us about unconditional love, happiness, and intuition or that “gut feeling.”
Starting out as a first-time pet owner in 2003 with Heidi, to a second-time pet owner with Simba and Leo, my mindset about pet ownership changed dramatically. The amount of knowledge I gained in eleven years of having Heidi amazes me. I learned responsibility for another living being who depended on me. I kept track of the number hours she stayed home alone. I exercised her and played games that would stimulate her mind. Brain games for dogs help them continue growing intellectually. I developed an unbreakable bond with her, and she became my soulmate. If she wasn’t feeling well, I started to pick up on cues indicating changes in her behavior and she did the same.
Reports show that pet parents bring home a pet because pets teach children how to be responsible and nurturing while providing companionship and love. “According to parents, children maintain high levels of daily involvement in caring for and playing with family pets as the children grow from preschoolers to teens.” (1) As this bond evolves, people form an attachment to their pets, and continue to evolve and learn about unconditional love and care.
Pet Ownership is on the Rise
Pet ownership correlates with certain positive physiological measures, such as lower blood pressure, serum triglycerides, and cholesterol levels, which ameliorate the cardiovascular effects of stress. Furthermore, close relationships with pets positively influence oxytocin release; one of the body’s “feel good” chemicals and also plays a role in social bonding. (2)
Those who have interacted with pets and have experienced an upsetting time — the feeling of being lost, lonely, or frustrated — have witnessed their companion animal run to comfort them. As an animal’s natural instinct, they come to you providing comfort when you’re upset. “Animals rely heavily on their intuition for survival and it is at the core of every living being. [Intuition serves as an animal’s] first resource, where humans learn to use cognitive abilities and subsequently have paid less attention to and even ignored their intuition.” (3) As we learn more about all that animals have to offer, and as companionship with animals rises, the responsibility of pet parents evolves.
Many new pet parents yearned for companionship. Being quarantined and isolated from loved ones, pets provided comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Now that many people have the ability to work remotely, it seems like the perfect time to adopt a pet. Pet owners have time to train and housebreak a new pet. As a result of increased adoptions during the pandemic, veterinary clinics have seen plenty of new pet patients. Overwhelmed veterinary clinics feel like they are drowning in the number of appointments seen per day. Even the appointment schedules remain fully booked several days out, with surgery scheduled almost one month out. Veterinary emergency clinics have also witnessed up to eight-hour wait times, which is unheard of in the veterinary field.
People will do more than they once did to preserve the human-animal bond with their pets and as a result have been spending more money on pet care. Pets no longer reside as barn animals, farm animals, or a piece of property. They are members of our families, and pet parents will do more than they have ever done before to preserve the lives of their pets.
One of the interesting components of pet ownership, or pet parenting, revolves around building a structured foundation to support our pets as they became integrated members of our families. Working with a credible trainer helps control problematic behaviors such as chewing the furniture and pulling on a leash. Finding ways to socialize dogs will help them acclimate to new environments and build their confidence. Training helps develop a good relationship between you and your pet. It allows for mutual trust and respect between both parties, and strengthens the relationship.
I was only thirteen years old when we took Heidi to her puppy classes, and I didn’t understand the importance of continuing her training past the puppy years. I learned the importance of training Heidi to “heel” and “come” through the years of her life and made sure these were behaviors my dogs, Simba and Leo, learned. Being pulled on a leash by a large dog didn’t fit the definition of fun. I learned by encouraging good behavior early on, it would alleviate a lot of frustrations later in life.
In some cases, pet parents end up adopting a pet who becomes aggressive over time, and managing those behaviors becomes difficult. In this case, desensitizing the pet to triggers and creating positive associations with what’s scary helps alleviate the level of reactivity. Not only can an aggressive pet pose danger to strangers, but they can also become a problem in the home. Paying attention to cues and working with your pet to resolve them leads to a more fulfilling life for the pet and the pet owner. Training helps pet owners form a stronger bond and deeper connection with their pets, and builds trust between the two. With a trusting relationship, the bounds of pet ownership, now referred to as pet parenting are unimaginable.
In this article series, I share excerpts and stories from my book, A Paw Partnership. I hope you enjoyed this post — if you enjoyed it and want to connect you can reach me via my webpage, or connect with me on social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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- Pavol Prokop and Christoph Randler, Ethnozoology: Animals in Our Lives (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2018), ch. 23.
- Gail F. Melson and Audrey H. Fine, Handbook on Animal-Assisted Ther- apy: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2010), ch. 12.
- “Intuitive Connections with Animals,” Animal Intuition (blog), accessed September 10, 2020.