Caring for a pet can be as complicated as caring for a child.  Your pet needs food, toys and a lot of attention.  According to the majority of American households have one or more pets, the most popular being dogs and cats.   They provide us companionship, love and are good for our health.  But, life happens and caring for our pets during difficult times can be a challenge.

Tips to caring for your pet during difficult times

1. Seek help for pet care

The cost to have a dog walker or to sign your pet up for doggie daycare may be minimal compared to the problems that can arise from your family's inability to care for your pet during stressful situations such as divorce or moving.  Often, these providers can help with veterinarian visits, training or offer suggestions for misbehavior in addition to their typical services.  

2. Financial responsibilities

At the time of your separation you should begin to arrange the care and support for your pet with your spouse.  While many courts are now granting mutual custody of pets, most still recognize the pet as part of the marital property.  Some states have now started to consider the well being of the pet and consequently grant custody based it's best interests instead of it's owners.  

Consideration for how much one spouse cares for the pet is not always enough.  The costs to raise a dog or cat can be excessive.  It may be reasonable to ask for petimony from one spouse while the other is the primary custodian.  The arrangements may be recognized in your separation agreement or divorce settlement, but the laws of each state vary so consult your local divorce attorney for guidance.  Make sure you consider long term care and costs associated with pet insurance, possibility of serious illness, daycare, grooming, training, nutrition, scooping services and annual vet visits (including preventive prescriptions).

3. Your pet is stressed out too

It's easy to be overwhelmed by the numerous changes associated with divorce.  The whole family gets consumed by the changes they all must endure.  The family pet quickly fades into the background.  In the grand scheme of things it may seem like the pet is least affected by the change.  But, this is absolutely not the case.

Pets get stressed, anxious and depressed just like humans.  In fact, they may experience the same emotions of other family members but are unable to communicate in a way that it's owners would understand.  Instead they may demonstrate strange regressive behavior like biting, chewing or defying their potty training expectationsundecided.  In your state of stress the pets reasons for behavior problems may not be easily realized. 

Instead of managing the problems, your pet may need added love and reassurance.  During times of high stress like moving, it may be wise to call in professional sitters or walkers to help care for your pet and provide extra attention you and your family are unable to provide.  

4. Re-engage the family 

Pets can bring a family together. Go for walks, cuddle, play games and involve your pet and kids in plenty of family time.  Continue to make happy memories, no matter how insignificant they may seem.  This family time will combat the effects of the tough times your family is currently experiencing.   You, your pet and family can all experience happy times in the face of adversity.  Pretty soon, the tough times will dissipate and the happy memories will be what you will retain. 

5. Pets help reduce stress

Part of caring for your pet is making sure your pet gets plenty of attention, exercise and relaxation.  This is good for you and your stress reduction, as well. Walking, running and playing fetch can be as helpful for you as it is for your pet.  Relaxing on a binge watching weekend with your pet by your side can also provide the companionship and stress reduction you both need.  So run, walk, sleep and veg out with Fido, it's good for you, it's good for Fido and it's good for the whole family.

6. Does my pet need extra training?

Maybe.  If your pet has never been properly trained, he may need a professional who can provide a great deal of relief to your family during these stressful times and beyond.  It's best for you to participate with the training so your pet learns to be responsive to your commands.  If that is not possible, some training may be able to be done while your at work and your pet is in daycare.  Otherwise, a trainer may be able to do the training in your home.  

Before beginning a new program, you should meet the individual who will be the primary trainer.  Emphasize your expectations from the training along with any problems you are currently experiencing with your pet.  If the problems are recent, you may want to let the trainer know there have been changes in the home that may have affected the pet. 

Ask about his/her experience with the problems you are currently experiencing with your pet.  Understand the timeline before you will start to see improved behavior.  Also, ask how you and your family will be involved in the training. 

Finally, it is important to know the time and financial commitment to complete the training program to ensure your pet's success.


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