Choosing a new pet for the family

Welcome Home - Choosing a Family Pet

kitten and puppy

The time has come, you’ve made the decision that the time is right to choose a new pet for the family. This is a major decision for families, especially those that have experienced pet loss. We’ve created a step by step plan to help families get the ball rolling and from choosing your pet to naming your pet and introducing your new fur ball to the family - we’ve got some great tips and hints and tricks that will help start you off on the right foot!

Step 1 - Have a family meeting

Picture of family meeting

Gather all the family together and sit down and have a discussion about the process. Whether you have teenage children or younger children, it’s important to make sure that everyone is on the same page with the process and what to expect as well as you have a realization of their expectation. Some children may want reassurance that you aren’t ‘replacing’ the pet that has passed away, others may need the reassurance that the pets that you have now will still be loved just as much.

Also, it’s important to outline the process - especially with younger children. Questions such as who is feeding the new pet? Who’s responsibility is it to let the pet out? Clean up after the pet? Making the pet a family responsibility and assigning tasks to individuals within the family not only teaches important lessons about how to care for a living animal but also helps children with being accountable.

It’s also important to be clear on time frame. Again, with younger children especially, their concept of time is significantly different than ours. They may think that ‘we’re getting a new pet’ means RIGHT NOW. And, as with adopting or choosing a new puppy from a breeder, RIGHT NOW could realistically mean three months from now. Choose your words carefully and be prepared to articulate exactly when you are anticipating getting a new pet. Which leads us to step 2.

Step 2 - Do your research

Two women looking at laptop

You need to be aware of what you’re about to undertake. Whether this is your first pet or your fourth, you need to take the time to research the process of how to acquire, how much you’ll be spending, what to expect when you’re expecting a new puppy, etc. Some tips include:

  • Research the breed

    Certain breeds of cats and dogs have particular qualities that may or may not work for your family. For instance, if you live in an apartment an animal that is high energy and needs room to run and exercise may not be the ideal choice.

  • Be aware of health concerns.

    For those with allergies, there are pets that are considered better alternatives to those allergy sufferers such as short haired dogs that do not shed.

  • Temperament is very important.

    Certain breeds have a more docile temperament while others are a little more high strung or aggressive. For instance, akita’s are known to be fiercely protective and this may not be ideal for families with younger children. Knowing the particular temperament of the breed you are researching can save you heartache down the road.

  • Think about the gender of the pet.

    Are there particular traits that are gender specific? With cats, is there a difference typically in the personality of male cats versus female cats? Is one particular gender more adept at mingling with the entire family? Does a particular gender have a tendency to attach to one person?

  • Online sites can provide a ton of information.

    Check out different online sites (see below) to gather information on what to look for when starting your new fur baby search.

  • Ask your local pet store or veterinarian for a reference.

    Often times, these can provide great resources on breeders, rescues and general help on what to look for when choosing your puppy and what to look for when you visit a rescue or breeder’s home.

  • Put the question out on Facebook or Twitter or other social media!

    We all know people that are animal lovers and sometimes is basic common sense that we get from our peers that helps us to know what to look for. What worked for them? Where did they go? How was their experience? What is their pet like? Real people, real advice, real helpful!

Knowledge is power and the more you are informed the better decision you’ll make for your family.

Step 3 - Considering Adopting a Pet

Cat and Dog for adoption

There are pros and cons to both adopting a pet and buying a pet from a breeder. If you're looking to adopt your new member of the family we have some information to help you along the way.


Why we should

  • Adoption costs can start around $200 and go higher depending on the shelter or rescue that you are adopting from.
  • This varies from state to state and checking with your local animal shelter or ASPCA can give you a good run down of the expected costs.

Why we should not

  • Whereas the cost is lower, this does not always cover a health guarantee.
  • Additionally, it is still recommended that you have the animal checked by your own vet and that is additional out of pocket expense.

Gene Pool

Why we should

  • For those that are looking for a mixed breed or a purebred is not something that interests you, adopting a pet is the way to go.
  • The animals are often a blend of different breeds and traits and there is an aura of mystery as to which traits will be dominant as the pet grows.

Why we should not

  • You don’t know exactly what you’re getting and, for some, this is not ideal.
  • Whether it’s due to allergies, the age of the children at home, etc. many families like to know exactly what the make up is of their pet.
  • Some breeds are more aggressive than others and that may be something that is not an option for a particular family.

Compatibility/Ease of Transition

Why we should

  • Adoption is a great option for those that are looking for a companion animal or an animal that is older.
  • Maybe you don’t want to go through the trials of house breaking or you alone and are looking for an animal that serves as your constant companion.
  • There are several adult animals that need good homes and this is a terrific way to give them love and saves them from being euthanized.

Why we should not

  • Puppies up for adoption can be feast or famine - seems as if they are plentiful or they are hard to come by.
  • For families looking to start with a younger puppy, it is not often that you find dogs under the age of 10-14 weeks that are adoptable.
  • An older dog can be more set in their ways and, again, for families with younger children an older dog may be less compatible.

Integration into the Home

Why we should

  • Often with adopting, the adoption agency requires that other animals be introduced to the potential adoptee before the adoption can take place.
  • This let’s families introduce other family pets to a potential pet and be certain that the animals are compatible with one another.

Why we should not

  • It does take animals time to adjust and if you’re required to introduce other animals to a potential adoptee and they don’t get along right away - that can impede or stop the adoption process all together.
  • Animals may be frightened of a different space or simply react to your emotions and this can lend itself to behavior that is atypical of your family pet.

Adoption Process

Why we should

  • There is generally a lot of paperwork with adopting a pet.
  • You will most likely be asked for references too and this is to ensure that the pet is going to a good home.

Why we should not

  • There is a lot of paperwork.
  • And you are at the mercy of the adoption agency and if they feel you are a good fit for the animal or not.
  • And the process can be long and drawn out which is taxing on the family.

Step 4 - Considering Buying a Pet

dog with puppies

For those looking to purchase a pet from a breeder, there are a wide variety of options when it comes to finding the right breeder and deciding on the particular breed you'd like to go with. Here are some things to consider.


Why we should

  • The cost of buying a pet typically includes all of their initial shots, weekly checks by a vet and a health guarantee that ranges anywhere from a two year guarantee to a lifetime guarantee on a particular malformation such as hip dysplasia.

Why we should not

  • Buying from a breeder can cause the costs to range from $500 up to several thousand.
  • Many purebred puppies depending on the breeder and the bloodlines can start around $1000.
  • Other costs such as freight charges for shipping and vet costs can quickly add up to a significant monetary investment.

Gene Pool

Why we should

  • When you buy from a breeder, you generally have a very good idea exactly what you are getting - especially if the pet comes with pedigree papers.

Why we should not

  • Not all breeders are reputable and if you don’t do your homework than you can get deceived.
  • Breeders have been known to inbreed which leads to health issues that can compromise the livelihood of your pet as well as drive up vet costs.

Compatibility/Ease of Transition

Why we should

  • Typically pets from a breeder are raised in a home environment.
  • And this makes the transition in most cases very easy.
  • Additionally, if the pets have been handled frequently by the breeder you’ll find that the result is a good natured animal.

Why we should not

  • Pets that are coming from a large litter and then are without their litter mates may suffer some adjustment.
  • This can lead to the pet becoming more singularly focused on whomever is their primary care giver rather than the family as a whole.

Integration into the Home

Why we should

  • Again, with pets that have been handled daily and raised in a home environment, the integration into another home is typically very smooth and without problems.

Why we should not

  • Pets that are coming from a large litter and then are without their litter mates may suffer some adjustment.
  • This can lead to the pet becoming more singularly focused on whomever is their primary care giver rather than the family as a whole.

Buying Process

Why we should

  • Many breeders have standard paperwork and require a deposit to hold a pet for your ‘turn’ in choosing.
  • The paperwork is straightforward and the breeder may or may not require references.

Why we should not

  • If you’re looking for a particular sex and color, you may be forced to wait it out.
  • If you are third in line for a female and there are only two females, you either have to wait for another litter or choose differently.
  • This can add months onto the process and is less than ideal for those that are wanting a pet right now.

Step 5 - Choosing your Pet

boy with cat

Probably the funnest part of the whole journey is choosing your new family member. Whether you are adopting or buying, if you can go and visit and see the personalities of the pet than do so! This let’s you see which one will fit in best with your family. Some families want a pet that is rambunctious and playful while others are looking for one that is a little calmer and docile. If you are unable to choose the pet by visiting, ask questions about their emerging personalities to help you decide which is the best fit.

But it’s not just about personality. There are other things that should factor in when choosing a pet that are very important. Clap your hands behind the head of the pet to check for hearing. They should turn their head towards the sound. Roll a ball or wiggle your fingers on the ground in front of them and see if they try to follow or pounce. Check their fur, their ears and their teeth. All should be clean. In some instances, particularly those animals that are being rescued, you may find the fur is not as clean or that the pet simply needs some tender loving care. Don’t let a little exterior dirt dissuade you from choosing an animal that has captured your heart.

Step 6 - Name game

Dog with name tag

Now comes the hard part - choosing a name! This task can be made that much more difficult if everyone in the family has a say and an opinion on what the pet should be named. Once you have chosen your pet and have an idea about their personality, brainstorm some suggestions. Some families may choose to have each person pick out a name and draw from a hat. Other families stick with a letter of the alphabet and name their pet based off of that particular letter. Maybe you choose the place where you got them like Boston. The sooner you choose a name the sooner the pet starts to feel like a real member of the family.

Tips on how to choose the right name for your pet:

  • Think outside the box.

    You don’t have to stay with names that are typical to pets - pets can have people names too. Henry, Nina, Jackson and Anna are not just names of people in our life but can absolutely be used to name our pets!

  • Change it up - change the spelling of the name.

    Have fun with it and choose a spelling that is unique all to your pet. For example, Murphy can be spelled Murphie or Merphey. Abby can be spelled Abbee or even Abbi. Make an ordinary name extraordinary simply by changing the spelling.

  • Pick a name that has special meaning.

    A military family might choose the name Honor or Sergeant. Maybe you select a name based off of a passion such as Harley or Gunner. And you can keep the ‘why’ of the name a secret to others. What’s important is that it have special significance to the family.

  • Think long term.

    You want to choose a name that will fit the pet in the long run. A German Shepherd named Teacup at 8 weeks is cute but at full grown the name may no longer suit the dog. Think of the pet at it’s full grown state and come up with a name that makes sense now and then.

Step 7 - Get your supplies in order

Check list

When you bring your pet home, having all the necessary supplies will help make the transition much easier. Find out from the adoption agency or the breeder what the pet has been fed or what they recommend and have it on hand. If your new pet is a puppy, having a crate all set up is important because dogs are den animals and this gives them a place that is theirs. Just like humans, pets need a place to go to retreat, sleep, get away from stresses and a crate provides that. Toys and treats, a collar and leash if necessary, bowls for food and water and everything in between all ready to go lets you focus on your pet. Additionally, don’t forget the pet cleaning supplies. New puppies and kitties are apt to have accidents and having those cleaning supplies on hand can make the messes easily and efficiently cleaned up.

Pet Supplies

What we need


  • Breeder/Vet recommended food
  • Bowl for food
  • Bowl for water
  • Treats


  • Collar
  • Leash
  • ID Tag
  • Disposal bags for pet waste when walking


  • Toys

Pet Home

  • Crate
  • Blanket or bed for crate

Clean-up/Pet Maintenance

  • Pet stain and odor remover - Nature's Miracle
  • Pet shampoo
  • Flea/Tick treatment

Step 8 - Make an appointment with the vet

Vet visit

When you have a date that you are bringing your pet home, call your vet and make an appointment to bring them in for a check-up within a day or two of their arrival. Taking your new pet to a vet within a few days is the same as taking a newborn child for a checkup with a pediatrician. Many breeders and adopting agencies require this and it’s a good idea regardless to ensure that you received a healthy pet. The vet will examine the pet for health and wellness and give you information on any vaccines needed. Make sure when you bring your pet to the vet for it’s initial visit that you bring any and all paperwork that came with your pet so that your vet can have it on file.

It’s also a good idea to bring a list of questions with you to the vet. Have you noticed any particular behaviors of your pet that you are unsure of? Any difficulty in going to the bathroom or irregularities in the stool or urine? It’s not uncommon for some pets to have some diarrhea when coming to a new home. Write down the times and frequency and, if possible, get a sample and bring it with you to the vet. Ask about spaying and neutering and time frames for vaccinations. Some vaccinations are required such as distemper while other vaccines are recommended such as bordetella. If you have questions on crate training, nutrition, vitamins for your pet - ask your vet for their opinion and advice!

Step 9 - Bring that fur baby home!

It’s time to bring that new baby home! Make sure that you’ve selected a day where you can be home for the day and help to integrate your new member of the family. Your pet may be skittish or a little apprehensive and that is completely normal. Make sure that you have talked with the family about rules and schedules and who is doing what so that there is a plan in place when you come home. Be aware when introducing your pet to animals that are already at place in the family unit and do not leave them unattended. Just like with people, it takes animals time to adjust to one another and find their place in the ‘pack’.

Additional resources and sites that might prove helpful:

You can choose your location, the type of pet you’d like to adopt, a specific breed and age and gender. The site helps you find pets that meet your specific criteria that are up for adoption.

Adopt a Pet
Find links to particular shelters and rescues that may have the type of dog, cat or other pet that you are searching for. Visitors to the site can also donate to pet causes or find places where they can volunteer their help.

Learn more about animal rescue and placement, donate to the ASPCA and find information on caring for pets, pet dangers and ways you can make a difference in protecting animals.

Puppy Find
Look for breeders of a particular type of puppy. Find information specific to particular breeds including size, care, temperament and more.
Search for breeders, read dog breeder blogs and find questions that you can ask when researching a breeder. A wide range of information on different dogs, popular breeds as well as dogs that are good for families with children, guard dogs, etc.

Humane Society
Site features an online magazine as well as ways to donate and get involved. There is info on how to fundraise for your local chapter of the humane society as well as information on adopting such as through the Shelter Pet Project.

A great site that features info on animals of every size and shape and type, visitors can learn about a particular animal, find information on causes surrounding animals and pets as well as find easy to read info for children that are animals lovers.