Table of contents:
- Preparing to bring your dog home
- Securing your home for your new pet
- Choosing the right veterinarian
- Obtain your dog license
- Training your new dog
- Keeping your pet healthy
- Selecting the right dog food
Adding a new puppy to your family can be an exciting moment. If you ask any dog owner, they will agree that having a loyal companion that loves them unconditionally brings great joy to their daily lives. While it is a fun and exciting experience, having a dog is a significant commitment and a decision that should not be taken lightly.
If you are a first-time dog owner, you need to know a variety of things before bringing your new pet home.
Preparing to Bring Your Dog Home
Before you bring your new pet home for the first time, there are a few things you will want to do to your home to help make it safer and more comfortable for your new pet.
- Bed – To start, you can use some old blankets to give them a soft place to sleep, but once they’ve grown out of their chewing phase, you should consider getting them an actual dog bed.
- Brush- For a puppy, you will not need a fancy brush. As their coat grows in, you can add additional grooming tools to suit their fur.
- Bowls- Try to avoid plastic since some dogs can be allergic to it. Look for stainless or ceramic instead.
- Pet or baby gates- These will help you block off areas of your home that your pet is restricted from as they are being trained.
- Collar, tags, leash- You will want to have the identification tags, collar, and leash ready for your pet so you can take them with you when you pick them up to bring them home.
- Nail Clippers- You may be able to use cat nail clippers at first, depending on the size of your puppy. You will want to make sure you purchase clippers based on your dog’s size as they grow.
- Crate- Having a crate ready will make it much easier to begin crate training right away. You can choose from plastic, metal, heavy-duty, soft-side, and decorative crates. Each has its pros and cons, so be sure to research each type to see which best suits your needs.
- Poop scoop and bags- An important part of pet ownership is cleaning up after your pet. You can get scoopers for either grass or concrete, and be sure to have bags ready, especially if you are leaving your property with your dog.
- Toys- Puppies are full of energy and will want to play. Be sure to get them a variety of toys to keep them occupied. Avoid toys with anything that could come off and become a choking hazard.
- Toothbrush- You can purchase a dog toothbrush or a kids-sized one as well. In addition to brushing, you can give your dog dental treats for days where you do not get a chance to brush their teeth.
- Shampoo- You will want to buy shampoo specifically formulated for dogs, which is available at most pet supply stores and retailers such as Walmart.
Securing Your Home for Your Pet
Now that you’ve gathered all the necessary supplies for your dog, it’s important to evaluate your home and eliminate any hazards. You will need to go throughout the home and dog-proof everything. Start by tucking or taping any loose electrical cords to baseboards.
You also want to make sure any household cleaners are stored on high shelves or secured in cabinets. You should also move any small rugs, pack up your breakable items or place them up out of reach as your puppy navigates its new home. Make sure you have the gates set up as well as their crate. Set up their food and water dishes as well.
As you secure your home, you will also want to decide where your dog will spend most of its time. If you are working from home, you can take your dog out at regular intervals and supervise them. If you need to leave your dog at home alone, you need to decide if they will be crated indoors with a neighbor or friend taking them out for bathroom breaks or if they will spend their time in an exercise pen.
You should also research pet daycare pricing to see if that is an option for you. Be sure to determine which options are best for your dog and have arrangements in place before you bring your pet home. You also need to decide where the dog will sleep each night. You can have them in a crate in your room, give them their bed as they get older, or maybe even allow them to sleep in bed with you or another family member in the home. You may also decide to let them roam freely throughout the home at night once they have been potty trained.
Choosing the Right Veterinarian
When looking for a veterinarian, you can start by asking your friends or family for recommendations. Once you’ve found a few that you are interested in, take the time to visit the different offices and meet with the veterinarian and staff to get a better idea of what they are like. You should also ask for a tour of the facility to make sure that you are comfortable with their standards of cleanliness. Make a checklist of what matters to you most regarding veterinarian care, and make sure you look for those qualities as you do your research.
It’s crucial for your puppy’s first vet visit to be a good experience so your dog can learn to go to the vet without anxiety or fear. Once you’ve chosen a vet, schedule your dog’s first appointment so they can get a checkup and any vaccinations they may need.
Obtain Your Dog License
In most places in the United States, it is legally required that you have a dog license. Your local law may be different, but a dog tag will help return them home if they ever get lost. You can also have your dog microchipped for additional insurance. Call your local animal care and control to learn more about how to get your dog licensed. In many cases, you should be able to apply online.
Training Your New Dog
When you first bring your dog home, keep things calm and laid back. Try not to overwhelm your puppy with a bunch of visitors and let them settle in for the first few days. You should also introduce your dog to their crate so you can get started on crate training. This is a great method for house training. The crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand up and turn around easily but not so roomy they can go to the bathroom on one side and lay on the other.
Another helpful tip is to put a toy stuffed with treats in the crate and close the door. When your dog starts to sniff and paw at the crate, you can open the door, let them inside, and close the door. Give your dog about 10 to 15 seconds in the crate with the door closed and then remove the treats and close the door again. Reopen the crate, place the treats back in and repeat the process. This should be repeated three to four times in a row at least four times throughout the day.
Training your pup should start as soon as you bring them home. The earlier you train them with good habits, the easier and faster they will learn good manners. This will help them learn what they can and cannot do, where their water and food dishes are, where they are supposed to go to the bathroom, which toys are theirs, where they can and cannot go in the house, and what behaviors are restricted.
When researching trainers, look for one who shares the same ethics and philosophy about dog training. You will want to make sure that they use methods you support to ensure that you will carry the training at home. You can expect to be a part of the trainer process and work with the trainer closely to reinforce the skills at home.
Consider getting recommendations from friends and neighbors. You will also want to make sure your trainer is certified and that they have references they can give you from current or previous clients.
Keeping Your Pet Healthy
To keep your dog in good health, you will want to take your puppy to the vet for a checkup every three to four weeks until they reach 16 weeks old. During these checkups, they will receive their vaccines as well as heartworm and flea/tick medication. The vet will make sure your dog is growing normally and that they are healthy. At six months old, you will schedule your dog to be neutered or spayed. As your dog gets older, your veterinarian will be able to recommend a schedule for a visit to make sure your pet gets the exams and shots they need.
Another important part of their health is keeping a regular exercise schedule—the amount of exercise your pet needs will depend on their age, size, and breed. Get into the habit of exercising your dog around the same time of day for a consistent amount of time to keep them happy and healthy. Walking, running, or playing fetch are all great ways for your dog to exercise.
Selecting the Right Dog Food
There are various dog food types and brands out there, from soft to kibble (dry food), each with its benefits and drawbacks.
Canned/wet food – Canned dog food is shelf-stable and makes for a convenient food option for dog owners. Keep in mind that this type of food is not always nutritionally complete and can also be expensive. Look for canned food that is “100% nutritionally complete.”
Kibble/dry food – This is one of the most affordable options and helps with your dog’s oral health because chewing the crunchy kibble helps remove tartar.
Semi-moist – This food resembles “meaty food” and is commonly made up of preservatives as well as artificial colorings and flavors with little nutritional value. These are usually best suited as an occasional treat for your pup.
Raw – This diet comprises raw bones, raw meat, fruit, vegetables, and raw organs. This type of diet can be great for dogs, but it has its drawbacks. It can be time-consuming to prepare, poses a risk of imbalances in nutrition and the risk of broken teeth. Speak with your veterinarian before switching to this diet.
Veterinary diet – This is a diet specifically formulated to address your dog’s specific health needs for certain types of conditions. Your vet will recommend this type of diet if needed.
When choosing food for your dog, be sure to focus on the first five ingredients of the food. You also want to look for food with top-quality digestible proteins. Avoid foods with ingredients such as poultry or meat by-products, generic fat sources like animal fat, artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and added sweeteners.
The amount of food and how often you feed your dog will depend on their size and how much exercise they get each day. You want to avoid overfeeding your dog. This can lead to skin disorders, oral disease, heart disease, musculoskeletal problems, skin disorders, arthritis, diabetes, and even some types of cancer.