Saturday Jul 30, 2022

Episode 15: New Pet Get Ready For The Emotional Cycle of Change

Hello ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products Podcast. This is episode 15 and I'm your host Dr. Marc Smith, 20-year practicing veterinarian and co-creator of PET | TAO Holistic Pet Products. I want to tell you how much I thank you for tuning in.

Today, we're going to start by thinking about the day you brought home your new puppy or your new kitten, a new pet.

Think about it and what I want you to do is I want you to focus, to focus on remembering how you felt on the first day your new pet came home.

Did you feel excited? Did you feel happy? Did you feel a sense of relief that you finally searched out and got your new best friend and you finally got this pet in your house?

I bet your kids were fighting over the new arrival's affection.

Or maybe you were on the other side of the fence where you felt nervous about all the time involved in having a new pet.

Nervous about the bills associated, the veterinary bills, the food bills associated with having a pet, and even anxious about having to wake up in the middle of the night to all the whining.

Or maybe you dreaded the fact that you would have yet another person to take care of and clean up after.

No wonder people refer to having a pet as having a baby because all of the care involved is actually exhausting.

If you look back on these feelings you may have had about your new pet, you probably experienced a little bit of both. Both the good and the bad.

This leads us to our kind of the meat and potatoes of what I want to talk about in this podcast.

What I want to talk to you about is what's termed the emotional cycle of change and how it relates to bringing home a new pet.

This concept of the emotional cycle of change, it doesn't just apply to a new puppy or a new kitten, but it really it could apply to any pet of any age. If you adopt an older dog, it could apply to that dog. An older cat, it could apply to that cat. The key is, it's got to be a new pet that comes into your home.

The other thing that you need to think about is that this cycle of events, or this cycle of emotions that you go through, it comes after making a voluntary decision. Having a new pet, we all know it's a voluntary kind of a privilege, is the way I look at it.

The emotional cycle of change is actually a model, and it was a model created by two psychologists, Don Kelley and Daryl Conner.

This model outlines a predictable cycle of emotions a person experiences when making a voluntary change - in this case, bringing a new pet into the house.

These two psychologists identified five distinct phases that every person goes through when they bring or they implement a change in their life.

Those five phases, or those five stages I'm going to call them, the first stage is called uninformed optimism. The second stage is called informed pessimism. The third stage is hopeful realism. The fourth stage, informed optimism. The fifth stage is completion. Okay, so we know the five stages of these emotional cycles you go through when you make a change that is voluntary.

Just think back to the last time you made a change in your life.

Perhaps you changed jobs, maybe you bought a new home, or you may have enrolled your kids in a different school.

Chances are, you went through some ups and downs, some peaks and valleys during this new change.

The thing is, when you know what to expect about your emotional changes, then it's much easier to cope with those emotions that arise. These same emotional stages that I've talked about prior, and I'm going to elaborate on here in just a minute, arise after you assume the ownership of a new pet.

I'm going to tell you exactly what to expect so that you can deal with these emotions when your new pet arrives home. Let's go through the stages and see how they apply to your situation.

Like I said, the first stage is called uninformed optimism. This is the time when everybody's excited; when everybody's wanting a dog.

It's kind of like the honeymoon phase. Think how great it's going to be when that dog or that cat gets to your home, fits in, kids are happy, and everything seems wonderful, right?

Maybe you love looking at different dogs on the internet and seeing glimpses of your future best friend. Or maybe you like going to the humane society and looking at all of the different dogs and evaluating how they could fit into your family.

Or maybe you thought to yourself, "Hey, I can go out and adopt a rescue pet and really do some good in the world."

Everything at this time, this uninformed optimism stage, is great.

Here's the thing, what you do during this stage, is you shut out the reality of how challenging this new change of bringing home a new friend will actually be.

You stuff away the commitment to pet ownership, you look the other way. This stage lasts from the time you decide on making your change up until the first 24 hours that your new friend is home.

The second stage is called informed pessimism.

You have your new pet and let's pretend you call him Ralph.

All of the new excitement is starting to go away with Ralph's newness. He's awful cute, but you're getting a little bit tired of him. You know what I'm talking about. This second stage is kind of marked by when the good things, the excitement, and all the fun start to back off.

It's starting to shrink, and those bad things are starting to get more intense. They're starting to resonate with what you've gotten yourself into. It kind of sounds like, when I was reading about this, it sounds like when you have a new girlfriend or a new boyfriend.

It's all the honeymoon phase, but when you move in together, everything changes. Ralph, your new puppy, he tinkles on the carpet. Then, Ralph vomits and poops in your bedroom. He even chews into little itty-bitty pieces of your husband's new silk underwear.

Even in the middle of the night, when you take him out to pee because you're doing your job, Ralph casually walks around without a care in the world, thinking it's playtime.

Ralph could care less if you're tired and you tend to think, "What in the hell have I gotten myself into?" Now your once prized possession, Ralph, has turned into a royal pain in the ass.

Unfortunately, this is the time during this second stage when a lot of people give up; they quit. Sometimes it's extreme, and pets like Ralph are given up even for adoption. It can be really a sad time.

This change can also turn to regret and significant resentment. Let's say your wife brings home a new puppy, and you don't want to fool with it, being the husband.

You can get very, very, very resentful. What you need to know is that there is hope if you stay the course, because very soon your new friend Ralph, Ralph will learn, and he will mature, and he will become better, and if you stay that course long enough things will ultimately change.

When they change, that's when you enter the third stage. The third stage is called hopeful realism.

This stage occurs when you realize your current path, having a new pet like Ralph, is at the very least, comparable or at least on the same level as your old path, where you didn't have a pet.

Things are really starting to even out, and you get this thought in your mind that if you continue on and you stay the course, you'll make it to your goal of having a functional well-developed family pet.

Getting to this point, though, it may not be tomorrow, or it may not be next week. It may not even be next month, but you're getting to the point where you're seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

The change of Ralph's existence and the way he fits into your home starts to seem normal in this phase. It doesn't seem to be as much of a problem.

For example, Ralph may whine less. You may have to clean up Ralph's pee and poop less, and your whole home may seem more structured. The goal seems distant, but the changes you've made in your daily life with Ralph are starting to become the norm, and you understand that the daily outcome is better than your old path of not having a pet.

The ultimate goal of having a functional pet becomes almost palpable, and you're dedicated to staying the course without a doubt.

This is when you moved into the fourth stage. The fourth stage is called informed optimism.

The key sign of informed optimism is that you start to feel a confidence about your decision to bring a new pet into the home. You become confident that you know you made the right choice. The boundaries you set with your pet have become very clear. Everything's starting to go with the flow, and you're starting to feel that not only is Ralph a new family member, but that Ralph is an important family member.

Taking Ralph out to pee in the middle of the night takes minimal effort, not the 30 minutes it took when he was a puppy. Now Ralph is at the point where he instantly walks out and hikes his leg and urinates on your husband's new truck tire. Things now seem normal. Ralph is becoming the ideal family pet.

In fact, some people may say that he's starting to act like an older dog. Everything becomes easy. It becomes straightforward. Ralph makes your life better and more fulfilled. What's really common in this stage is a family friend might be inspired to adopt a new pet as they notice how laid-back Ralph acts, and how Ralph actually fits into the family.

It's shocking because a lot of people would say, "If only you know how many struggles I've been through to get Ralph to this point." This point kind of leads us into the fifth stage, which is term completion.

As we think about Ralph, he started off as a new puppy, kept you up at night with his constant whining. He peed and pooped all over the house, he chewed on everything in sight, he even dug holes in your new garden. He was a total headache.

Now, Ralph, he doesn't dig, he doesn't chew, and he goes out and pees and poops on command. What a relief, you feel relieved and happy with the feeling of completeness, because you have just finalized your goal of having a well-grounded functional family pet. A pet just like Ralph. I'm sure you can see it. You can see Ralph hanging out the window of your husband's new Trans Am, or maybe hopping from backseat to front seat in your wife's minivan. He is the perfect ideal family pet.

Next, he'll adorn your Christmas card with your three kids. Congratulations, congratulations to you and Ralph for this change.

If you like what I had to talk about today, the emotional cycle of change and how it can impact your ability to cope with your emotions when you bring a new family pet home, then go to our blog at and search for yourself, empower yourself and learn the best ways to take care of your pet.

Thank you for listening, and please tune in next week to episode #16.

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