When you first take your dog or cat home, find the nearest vet and research pet insurance – or, if you move house, make sure your insurer knows your new details.
Search online, ask neighbours with pets, or, if you’re moving to a new area, your estate agent may be able to provide further information. If you live in a very remote place without a surgery, there are a number of mobile vet services set up across the UK.
The vet is also a great place to find out where the local pet shop is to buy food, toys and treats for your dog or cat. And, if you have a new pet, your vet can advise on the best diet plan.
‘Registering with your local vets is something you can do before you move or bring your pet home,’ says Helen, who runs Social Paws, a behaviour specialists in Cheltenham. ‘If you’re moving house, make sure you change the information on their microchip.
‘You might want to let them settle in for the first week; going to the clinic can be upsetting. Once they’re ready, book a health check appointment so they can familiarise themselves with the vet.’
‘The pet shop is a great place to find trusted pet sitters,’ says Helen. ‘They’ll know people in the community and will be able to recommend cat lovers to cat sit and people to take care of all kinds of animals. Ultimately, we want to know our pets are being loved when we can’t be there.’
The website matches people who can’t have a dog of their own, but want to enjoy time with a pooch, and dog owners who need support.
Alternatively, if you have a very sociable dog, they might enjoy a doggy daycare centre where they can play with other dogs.
Or, if they have lots of energy, consider a daily dog adventure with a trainer like Dominic, who runs Pack Leader Dog Adventures.
‘We take dogs on hikes out in the fresh air and play with toys. They get to run around with their doggy friends and you can find similar services across the UK,’ he explains. ‘If you’re a new owner, or have moved, join Facebook community groups and ask on there. Make sure you check testimonials.
‘A good dog walker will let you go out on one of their walks so you can see them in action.
‘You can see how many dogs they take out and how the dogs respond to the walker, assess how they’re transported and chat about what your dog can expect.
‘This will help you make sure that they have a positive experience and that you have peace of mind.’
In recent years, some employers have been offering up to two weeks ‘paw-ternity’ or ‘pet-ernity’ leave to staff who have become new pet owners.
‘This is fantastic because those first few weeks are so important,’ says Helen. ‘With puppies, you definitely need two weeks at home full time with them, and it’s the same for rescue dogs.
‘During the first two weeks, stay at home and get them used to you, the house and the garden. Ideally avoid having visitors as it can be overwhelming and if you have young children, explain they need to be calm and the dog or cat needs space.
‘If you have a puppy, I would definitely recommend puppy classes to help them socialise – it’s a lovely way for them to make friends. With a rescue dog, book an appointment with a behaviourist so they can assess them emotionally and offer support if needed.’
Once you venture out into the community, the safety of your dog should be at the forefront of your mind. Dog walking groups are a way to meet other pups in a controlled environment.
‘Before you let your dog off the lead make sure that they have a very strong recall,’ recommends Dominic. ‘Train them to come back at home and in the garden first, and only let them run free when you’re confident they will come back.
‘Always take treats and balls, or your dog’s favourite toy, out with you to make walks more enjoyable – your dog can have as much fun with you as they do playing with other dogs!’
If you’ve moved to a new house with your pet be mindful they may feel unsettled and disoriented at first in the space.
‘Take photos of the living room in your old house and try to simulate it with the layout of furniture, including your pet’s beds and bowls, in the new house,’ says Helen.Make sure your garden is secure and stick to the same routine for sleeping, walking and feeding; they should soon settle in and enjoy their new home.’
Having a four-legged friend enriches our lives, so it’s great to see how much help and support is out there to make sure that, wherever you and your pet call home, they can live life to the full.