tips and advice for first time dog owners

So You Want to Get a Dog. . .Tips and Advice for First Time Dog Owners

For first time pet owners, getting a dog can be stressful for both you and the dog. Before you take the plunge, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Choosing the Right Dog for Your Lifestyle

First, think about the behavior you’re expecting. Do you want a cute, energetic puppy that relies on you for everything, or are you looking for an older, more independent dog? If you’re not prepared to house train a puppy (and clean up stains and odors from accidents in the meantime), it’s probably best to find a pet that’s at least a few years old and housetrained. Are you looking for a companion to sit on your lap, or a fierce protector to guard your family? These aren’t mutually exclusive, but understanding that each breed has a different personality and unique needs can help make for a better transition.

Other questions to ask yourself include:

  • Is anyone in your home allergic to dogs, meaning you should look at hypoallergenic breeds?
  • Do you want a short-haired or long-haired pet?
  • Would you be more comfortable with a pooch with low or high energy?
  • Is the size of the dog important?
  • What are your preferences for activity, affection, and/or noise level?
  • How much time will your new pet be spending alone?

It’s also important to consider your house and yard size. Will your dog need a lot of space to play and exercise, or will you be wanting a less active animal that only goes out for potty breaks? Will there be children or other pets in the home that the dog must be comfortable with?
One person living alone with a dog is a different commitment than bringing a dog into a home with multiple pets.

Getting Ready to Bring Your Dog Home

Once you’ve thought about what type and age of dog you’d like, you’ll need to prepare to bring Fido home. Whether you’re getting a purebred puppy or a mutt from the pound, you need to dog-proof your home and have everything in place for your new furry friend.

Certain decisions about how your pet will join your family should be made in advance: Will the dog have the run of the entire house or be confined to certain parts of it? Where will they sleep? You might want to start them off in the kitchen (or a different room that isn’t carpeted) until you know how well they’re trained. Have an ID made for their collar in case your new pet gets loose, and set up a comfortable bed and toys where your pup can hang out. It’s also a good idea to choose a vet before bringing your pet home. If you’re bringing home a shelter pet, give them several weeks to adjust to their new situation. Regardless of where your dog came from, spend as much time as possible together with short “practice” times away to lessen separation anxiety.

Bond with your new dog by playing with them and teaching them tricks. You’ll want to play games that encourage the type of behavior you want to see. For example, don’t play tug of war if you want your dog to let go of things when you command them to. Instead, play with retrieving and letting go of toys. All of these activities help you learn how to train your new dog and let them show you how smart they are. Your new pooch will want to please you, so praise them frequently and offer replacement options (for example, sitting rather than jumping on you) instead of punishing them when they do something you don’t like. Be patient while they learn your expectations and you learn their behaviors. Soon enough, you’ll have a new family member that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without.

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