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Posted on Thu. Mar. 20, 2014 - 12:32 am EDT

Merging pet families

Owners can soften distress of changes to living conditions

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Pets are part of our families. When a family brings a pet into the household, it becomes one of them.

But what about single people with pets? If they find themselves starting a family, uprooting or beginning a new life, this can have a huge effect on a pet. If the new partner also has a pet, it can be a shock for the animals and their owners.

If you just walked down the aisle or took your relationship to the next level, people and pets will need time to adjust to a new living situation.

Often the pet gets left behind when new partners cannot handle two or more animals or the animals have trouble adjusting.

Pets are creatures of habit. They like to be let outside, eat and go to sleep at the same time every day. In most cases, having a pet on a schedule is one way of teaching the pet that you are in charge.

The success of two pets getting along is a responsibility that the owners have to take an active part in, says Jessica Henry, director of the Allen County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Owners need to “be diligent, protect pets and remove any factor that could cause a potential problem,” she says.

Henry says that in most cases she sees at the SPCA, the pets cannot adjust to the new living conditions, such as being in a household with another pet. Henry says she believes this problem can be avoided early by socializing pets when they are young.

She also says to let the pets meet on neutral territory. Henry suggests taking the animals to a park, keeping them on a leash and taking a walk with both of them.

“Let the dogs have a chance to become friendly with one another before the new dog comes into the other dog’s home,” Henry says. It’s a strategy she uses at the SPCA when deciding whether to let a dog get adopted into a home that already has a pet.

Allowing the pet time to adjust to its new environment is also good advice if you are planning to adopt a first pet as a couple.

Peggy Bender, education and outreach specialist for Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control, sees a number of pets brought in because of problems with new living situations. She says it’s difficult to believe the stories that are told at the reception desk by people who bring in their pets.

“You have to take those stories with a grain of salt,” she says. “Everyone wants to seem like a good guy when they are bringing an animal in.”

Bender says steps taken when an animal is young are important. She stresses the importance of socializing a new pet with as many people and other animals as possible.

Bender says most problems can be avoided with pets in new situations if they are properly socialized, trained and the owners form good relationships with professionals such as veterinarians, groomers and trainers.

Bender says there could be multiple reasons why a new situation does not work out for pets.

Unfortunately, Henry says, “Some animals just don’t get along.”

Even after the owner has attempted training and socialization of a pet, there can still be problems when bringing that pet into the house with another animal. If this happens, Henry suggests trying to find a family member who can take care of the pet so not all ties are broken with the owner.

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