So, You’ve decided to get a dog or puppy. Now What? You might be feeling overwhelmed if you’ve never owned a dog before. You probably have a ton of question!
Your life will never be the same and all the better. Don’t worry about everything you don’t know. Take baby steps and see our basic guidelines below. You’re in for a grand adventure.
- Get Your Home Ready
The very first thing that needs to be done is get your home ready for a dog. You should set up an area just for doggy where the dog’s crate, bed, and toys can live. You might have certain areas of your home that will be “off limits”. Use baby gates to section off these areas.
If you’re getting a puppy, you’ll need to ‘Puppy-proof’ your home to keep them safe:
- All electrical cords should be covered or secured
- Keep all shoes, socks, and other chewable enticements in puppy-proof cupboards or closets
- All trash and recycling should be lidded or behind closed doors
Preparing your family to welcome their new furry family member is also a must. Make sure to have a family meeting before your dog comes home. Make sure everyone understands the dog care and consistent training.
- You’ll Need Supplies – But Not Too Many!
It’s so hard to figure out what exactly you’ll need when there are so many choices. There are essentials like a leash and collar, and fun stuff like treats and toys.
Here are some must haves for right away:
- A collar and leash
- Poop bags
- A dog bed, and an appropriately sized crate if you are planning to crate train.
- Food and water bowls
- High-quality dog food (Hopefully the shelter or breeder will give you a starter bag of food but ultimately, you’ll transition your pup to your brand of choice.)
Toys! Toys! Toys! Depending on what kind of dog you get will determine the type of toys. Some love chew toys, while others go nuts for tennis balls. Some dogs will be extremely treat-motivated and will do anything for that treat, and others only want the smelliest, meatiest treat.
Don’t get crazy with toys until you know what your dog likes. You don’t want to go throwing money away. You can get a few different kinds of toys to start with, and as you find out what your dog likes, you can start growing the collection.
- Find a Veterinarian
Choosing a vet doesn’t have to be intimidating or difficult. Try finding a vet before your new dog comes home.
We love word-of-mouth referrals for lots of things. Ask your friends with pets where they go and definitely, read online reviews. You want to get a feel for the vets’ expertise and bedside manner. I love to ask my neighbors via a fun Neighborhood app called Nextdoor. My neighbors are always recommending things or asking for recommendations on there.
It’s a good idea to schedule a “getting to know you” vet visit to familiarize your dog with the place and people, once your new puppy or dog is home. It’s a good idea to establish a relationship with the vet right away so you’ll both be comfortable when a more urgent vet need arises.
Before you bring that puppy or dog home, you’ll need to have a house-training plan in place. Even dogs who are already potty-trained sometimes need a refresher course in a new environment.
Things to know when house-training your puppy or dog:
- Make a schedule. A consistent feeding schedule will lead to a consistent elimination schedule. Most of the time, puppies can “hold it” one hour for every month of life. Adult dogs can last longer but tend to do best with a potty break every three to five hours.
- Pick a cue phrase. “Go potty” is the classic, but you decide!
- Choose a potty spot and take your dog there every time you go outside. This will help connect the cue phrase with the action and place.
- Always praise them for getting it right, and never punish them for getting it wrong.
Bottom line: be patient!
- Obedience Training
We can’t express enough the importance of taking a training class with your dog. It’s not just about obedience; it’s a great way to bond with your dog.
Look for an obedience class at your local animal shelter or training school. These classes will help you to learn about your dog and dog behavior in general.
In a basic obedience class, you and your dog will learn these primary skills:
- Loose-leash walking
After you learn the basics, there are advanced classes you can take, and you can always be working at home to increase skills and obedience. Training your dog can be a lot of fun, and in the process you’ll both learn to trust each other.
Ok, so the basics are done! You did great! But wait, there is always plenty more to learn. Don’t stop now!