Getting a dog for the first time is a big adventure and a big challenge at the same time. Remember, a pet is a long-term commitment. Depending on what kind of dog breed you choose, you’re looking at anywhere between 10 to 20 years of being a pet owner.
Before You Get a Dog…
Deciding to get a dog shouldn’t be an impulsive choice. Often when people impulsively take home a cute puppy from a pet shop, the dog eventually ends up at the shelter because the people didn’t realise the implications of committing to dog ownership.
Make sure you really want a dog
Owning a dog is not all fun and games. They can be expensive, energetic, messy, strong-willed and noisy. You need to really consider if you are ready for a long-term commitment. You might be crazy about dogs but playing with them and looking after one is a whole different ballgame.
Choosing a dog means that you are basically volunteering to be a dog parent. You wouldn’t just give up your baby when it becomes a nuisance, would you? Cute puppies grow up into adult dogs that can be destructive and demand a lot of time and energy from you.
Do your research before you choose
Before getting a dog, you need to figure out if you want a puppy or an older dog, as well as what breed of dog would suit you best.
A little puppy is always cute and fun, but they typically have a lot of energy and will need plenty of attention. If you do not have a lot of time and energy to spend socialising and training an active puppy, and you do not feel up to cleaning up little “accidents” while house-training the puppy, then perhaps you should look at adopting an older dog.
An adult dog may not need as much maintenance as a puppy, but it may have some habits that still need some training. Most adult dogs come house trained and, especially when adopting a senior dog, their energy level may be lower than a puppy.
Besides thinking about whether you want a puppy or an adult dog, the breed of dog that you would like to adopt is an important aspect to consider. Each breed has its own rewards and challenges. Don’t just pick a dog because you like how they look. The personality is a much more important factor to keep in mind.
After selecting a breed, research what to expect when your new dog joins your household. Be honest with yourself about your lifestyle. For example, if your idea of relaxation is vegging in front of the television, don’t get a dog that loves exploring the outdoors.
Consider fostering and adopting
Fostering a pet before adopting can be a great way to determine if you’re ready for the commitment. Chat with your local shelter to find out if they have this option and what you can do if you want to adopt the dog permanently.
Prepping for Your New Family Member
Now that you’ve made the choice to become a dog owner, there are a few basic steps to follow to look after your new pup.
Puppy-proof your home
Almost the same as baby proofing. Your four-footed baby loves to explore and chew whatever crosses its path. Make sure that the exploration areas are safe. In the beginning, it might be a better idea to keep your dog in a specific area in your house where it cannot do too much damage or get hurt.
Make sure there are no poisonous houseplants around such as mistletoe, poinsettia, amaryllis, and holly. Lock up cleaning supplies and medicines. Block access to elevated porches, balconies, and decks. Also, keep the toilet lid closed, secure electrical cords and remove any plastic materials.
You should not leave the puppy unsupervised if it has access to your whole house. Buy proper chewing toys and reward the puppy for chewing the right things. Start with training as soon as possible, it will make your life with the new family member much easier.
Visit the Veterinarian Regularly
You are now responsible for the dog’s wellbeing. An important aspect of this includes regular check-ups with a veterinarian. Between 6 and 16 weeks a puppy requires several rounds of vaccines to keep it from getting sick.
After that, you should visit the veterinarian at least once a year for check-ups. You may also want to consider dog health insurance for anything unexpected. Another important aspect to consider is spay and neuter. If you don’t want a litter of puppies, it’s best to spay or neuter your dog to avoid any unwanted surprises.
Feed Your Puppy Properly
This doesn’t just mean enough food; it entails a well-balanced nutritional diet. You will notice that there are specifically formulated dog food for puppies. The first year is the most critical. Your puppy’s, teeth, muscles, bones, and even fur will be growing rapidly. A puppy requires more daily calories than a mature dog. Carefully read the product labels to ensure your puppy digests the correct balance of fat and protein.
Also, stick to the recommended serving size and feeding schedule. Don’t feed your puppy any table scraps, bones or big snacks between meals.
Train your puppy
As mentioned above, you should start training your dog right away. Puppies can benefit from training tips early on in their development.
Reward your puppy with lots of praise and occasionally some treats. Dogs love affirmation and attention, the more fuss you make over the puppy doing something right, the more responsive it will be. House-training can be tricky. But the secret to success is consistency. In the beginning, your puppy will need a bathroom break about 20 to 30 minutes after eating. Take the puppy outside to the spot where you want it to go and use a command such as “go toilet”. Remember to offer plenty of praise when it obeys.
Some people even train their dogs to do their “business” in the flower beds, eliminating the need to pick up the poo afterward. If you don’t mind the extra “fertilizer”— this is quite a handy trick.
Be Loving, Patient and Kind
Your little puppy is new to the world, in the same way as a human baby. It has a lot of new things to learn and experience. Even with the best training, you will be cleaning up a few bathroom mishaps in the beginning and you might lose a pair of your favourite shoes that you accidentally left on the floor.
You have to exercise lots of patience in the beginning. Be patient with the learning curve your new dog will go through. With proper love and care your dog will grow into a great companion. In the end, all the hard work will be worth it.
You will have to invest lots of time in your dog, for instance setting out time in your schedule for regular walks. Dogs need lots of attention and when they don’t get it, then they become very challenging to manage.