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Diana L. Guerrero on Adopting a Pet
Animal behaviorist Diana L. Guerrero, understands the challenges of adopting a pet. She operates Ark Animals, a company that specializes in wild and domestic animal behavior, training and careers. Guerrero has worked at many animal facilities, including the San Diego Wild Animal Park, Los Angeles Zoo, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Marineland of the Pacific and Humboldt Wildlife Care Center. She has also penned two books, What Animals Can Teach Us About Spirituality: Inspiring Lessons from Wild and Tame Creatures and Blessing of the Animals: A Guide to Prayers & Ceremonies Celebrating Pets & Other Creatures, and she is a contributing editor of Resources for Crisis Management in Zoos and Other Animal Care Facilities. Guerrero discusses the joys and challenges of pet adoption
What are the emotions associated with adopting a pet?
It’s a whole new experience. It’s similar to having a new child come into the home: joyful, stressful, frustrating, fun—all of those things. Bringing an animal into your life changes you on an emotional level and it takes you to places you probably never felt safe to go to with humans.
What makes the first 30 days important for an owner’s future with a new pet?
The first 30 days are important because you’re setting the bar for the rest of the animal’s life in your home. You’re setting all the rules. It’s the time when you teach the animal right and wrong, and how to live in a human household with you.
Animals are hardwired differently from humans. They have behavior, language and natural instincts that are very different from ours. Coming into a human household, they need to learn the right ways to act. You need to teach them what you want.
What are the most important first steps when adopting a pet?
Prepare prior to the new pet arriving. Read up on the pet. Discuss with your family what the limitations will be. Some people don’t want pets on the furniture and some people think it’s OK. Decide what your rules will be and stick with them. Be home with the pet and help him through the transition.
Do young pets have special needs?
They’re babies; you need to teach them. If you’re bringing a baby into the household, they know nothing. You need to teach them everything.
Everything goes into their mouths. You don’t want them to eat electrical cords or go into the dryer. You need to look from their perspective to figure out what’s going on. Everything is a toy.
What most surprises new pet owners?
How much work an animal is. A lot of pets go back to an animal shelter or their origin, whether a pet store or a breeder, because the owners haven’t prepared for life with a pet. They have totally unrealistic expectations.
It’s a lifetime commitment, not a short-term commitment. You should be prepared for 20 years [with a pet]. It’s not cheap—they need health check-ups. They have accidents. They need to go to the groomer.
Another thing people don’t realize is that animals need exercise. They need quality attention and concentrated activity. They need socializing. They need to go to school. They need to learn how to get along with other people and strange animals in a safe, controlled environment. They need rules. They need to be safely confined.
Most behavior problems, like destructive chewing and clawing, barking and marking, can be avoided if people take time before the pet comes into the house to plan and prepare. The secret is to educate yourself, get professional help, get the right information from the right people and be consistent.
There are so many kinds of pet professionals. Where should a pet owner go, and for what purpose?
Veterinarians deal with medical issues. Behaviorists deal with behavioral issues. Groomers deal with beauty and body care issues. You want to go to the right professional for the right issue.
You also want to find a place to board your pet or find a professional sitter to come into your home when you travel. People think a friend can handle it, but what if something happens and they can’t?
How can new pet owners keep their pets safe?
You want to have a secure yard and a secure house. You want to make sure your cat won’t push the screen out of the window and fall three stories to the ground.
You need to be able to transport your animals. People need to plan for emergencies: When you plan for your family, your pet is part of the family, so you need to plan for the pet. I live where there were just big fires and people didn’t even have crates to evacuate their cats.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
Just sit back and take a breath. People get too focused on the details and stress, and sometimes you just need to step back and take a breath. That’s especially true with animals.
The best thing about change is...
The new experiences it brings.
What is the best change you have ever made?
I’m changing my business. I’m going back into the masses. I’m going out on the speaking circuit and taking my message to a larger audience.
For more information about Diana L. Guerrero, visit www.arkanimals.com.