Don’t Ruin Your New Pet Dog! Guide To Success For First Timers

white puppy

Whether you are holding a new puppy in your lap, or have suddenly found yourself with a new dog, or are wistfully wondering “how much is that puppy in the window,” you’re here for advice.

A new pet dog is nothing short of a miracle in many people’s lives.

But you should keep in mind that there is more to it than that. 

playing with a dog

It’s not just about buying the puppy – you also need to think about the commitment that goes into it.

If you get a dog, that little guy (or girl) will give you laughs, tears, and frustration for years to come. In some ways, it’s a lot like having a kid. Obviously, it’s not nearly the same level of commitment — you’re not going to be paying for college after all — but it’s definitely more than a lot of people think!

If you are looking for your new pet, we have some great advice for you before you even bring them home.

Already have a dog and need to get to the nitty-gritty? We’ll get there shortly!

First: Read on to see if being a pet parent is right for you!

Warning: New Puppies And Dogs Aren’t For Everyone!

dog growing up time lapse

Most people can agree that puppies are cute. However, most people are not equipped to take care of the cute puppies.

While a puppy is cute, you should keep in mind that it won’t be a puppy forever. If you see yourself dropping the dog at a shelter when it becomes too big to take care of, please don’t get a puppy.

New pet shopping for supplies

You also need to keep in mind that it is a commitment.

If you can’t stand the idea of furniture being ruined, you’re never home, or you simply can’t commit to more than a decade of having a dog, it may not be the best idea.

That’s not all:

You also need to make sure that you have the financial resources to take care of a dog. They need food, collars, leashes, cleaning supplies, toys…and don’t forget vet expenses that come up.

So…before you get a dog, make sure that it is actually feasible.

Then, narrow down your breed choices to dogs that suit you and your lifestyle

Here’s how

A Hidden Key To Success: The Breed Matters

You have decided you want a dog. Now, it is time to choose a breed.

There are many factors to consider.

  • Would you prefer a big or small dog?
  • Is anyone in your home allergic to fur?
  • How much exercise are you able to provide for your new pet?

playing with dog

A big dog is going to cost more, if only just in food. They also generally need more room to move around and exercise. If you have a fenced yard and are fairly active you may enjoy a large breed.

kids playing with their pet in the living room

A small dog may not be right for you if you have young children that could accidentally hurt the little dude.

Keep this in mind when you think about breed size:

Many apartments have rules about the size of a dog you can have living with you. If you are a homeowner, this may not come into play, but…

…if you rent or move around a lot the size of your dog may limit your housing options.

Also, there will be shedding. Well, with almost all breeds, there will be at least some hair on your sofa and clothes.

If you don’t want a dog that sheds, you should think about getting a hypoallergenic dog. Keep in mind, though, that these dogs need to be groomed fairly regularly.

dog in a bear suit walking for exercise

Energy level:

There are also some breeds that need more exercise than others. If you want a lower energy dog, you may want to consider breed such as a basset hound.

Dogs like Shih Tzus don’t need to have a ton of exercise, but they still need walks at least 20 minutes of play a day.

dog lying sadly

Age:

Most people want puppies, but it can be a good idea to adopt an adult dog as well. Adopting a senior dog can be wonderful, as you’ll save the dog from living out his or her golden years in a shelter.

They are also fairly low energy.

If you already have kids, or are fairly sedentary people or work outside of the home, an older dog may be the best choice.

The Shop vs. Adopt Debate

Now, you are facing your next big decision. Will you shop or adopt?

Shopping

If your heart is set on a purebred dog, you’ll likely want to go to a breeder. If you go this route, make sure that you avoid puppy mills. The animals are kept in terrible, inhumane conditions.

You don’t want to support that. Also, it’ll make it more likely that your new pet will have health and temperament problems.

But don’t forget breed specific rescues!

They can be an amazing way for you to give a forever home to a purebred dog.

If you must get your new pet from a breeder, make sure that you choose a responsible one. How do you know? Try this Humane Society checklist.

You can get referrals from a veterinarian or local breed club.

Remember this:

A good breeder

  • is going to be proud to show you where puppies are born and raised.
  • will not sell puppies without meeting and interviewing with the owners first.
  • is going to ask you a ton of questions and require signed contracts and possible a home visit.

That means you will likely NOT find a purebred puppy from a responsible breeder in pet stores.

They mostly come from puppy mills.

backyard breeders can be a poor choice for a new pet

PETA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Make sure that you visit the location where the puppy was born and raised before making your purchase.

Adopting

If you decide to rescue a puppy, that’s great!

There are so many dogs and puppies at shelters who need good homes.

Of course, you are unlikely to find a specific type of purebred most of the time. The adorable puppies you see will usually be mixes of two or more breeds.

However, that’s a good thing in many ways. Mixed breed puppies tend to be healthier and more intelligent.

Ready Or Not! Bringing Your New Furbaby Home

Remember, getting a new pet is not like purchasing an inanimate object.

There are lots of things you need to do to prepare.

Preparing your home for your new family member

You will need to dog-proof areas where your dog is going to be.

  • This need not last forever, but at least for the first few months.
  • Stow away household chemicals, and tape up loose electrical cords.
  • Put breakable items out of reach.
  • Set up your dog’s crate, and install baby gates for any areas that are off-limits.

This helps keep both your dog and your things safe.

Absolutely essential advice for parents:

dog licking and playing with a baby

Take care to introduce your dog to your children. Make sure they know how to treat the dog.

Too many people end up taking their dogs back because their children do not understand that the dog is a living being, not a toy.

Necessary supplies

Here’s our simple list of must-haves:

  • Identification tag and collar 
  • Leash
  • Food
  • Food and water dishes
  • Brush
  • Nail Clipper
  • Shelter for outside time (dog house)

via GIPHY

Now that’s not all:

A crate is also necessary.

You won’t be keeping your dog in there all the time. After all, your dog needs time to run around and play.

But your dog instinctively likes to den, and it’ll be like their very own room.

dog getting a blanket then go to sleep

Fido, Spot, D.O.G., Lady, Patches…

dogs going up stair one by one

What’s in a name? Quite a lot!

Now it’s time to name your new friend. So many choices, what shall you do???

Basically, you should name your dog something you like. You are going to have to hear and say that name for a long time, after all.

Generally, you should stick with something simple.

It should be one or two syllables, so it’s easy for your dog to understand.

You should avoid naming your dog anything that sounds like a command. If you name your dog Fletch, for example, he could confuse it with “fetch.”

Unique is a good thing:

You might want to avoid the more popular dog names, like Fido and Rover. Chances are, there will be a lot of dogs at the vet and dog parks with the same name.

You don’t want to confuse your dog and other dogs. But if your heart is set on one of these names, no one’s stopping you!

Basically, the sky’s the limit. Just use your best judgment.

Finding The Right Veterinarian

A new pet will need medical care

You will need to take your dog to the vet within the first week.

However, not just any vet will do.

If your dog has special health concerns, for example, you will need to make sure your vet has experience in addressing them.

Choosing a vet is a lot like choosing a pediatrician.

Make sure to choose an animal hospital that has received accreditation from the American Animal Hospital Association, or AAHA. AAHA-accredited hospitals meet or exceed hundreds of standards.They have proven that they provide the best and safest care to their animal patients.

Here’s more to keep in mind:

Getting a referral from another veterinarian or a friend who has owned animals for a long time is a great idea. Also, tour the practice and make sure that the animals there are safe and comfortable.

Check out your new pet's doctor

The equipment should look up-to-date. And it goes without saying that the place should be clean, and the staff should be professional!

dog playing with the rug

No… Not The Rug AGAIN!

Depending on how hard your new pet is to train, housebreaking can be the most frustrating part of getting a dog. However, if you train him or her properly, it should not take more than a few weeks in most cases.

If you adopt or choose an older dog, it will go even faster in most cases.

However, some adult and senior dogs were never well trained and may be even tougher than puppies.

a cute dog trying to find a way out

What goes in, must come out

Feeding and “relieving” go together. At least at the beginning, have your new pet on a regular feeding schedule. If your puppy eats all day, he or she will have to eliminate that way as well!

You’ll have to take your new pet outside frequently. How frequently?

Generally, a puppy can hold its bladder for one hour for every month of age. So, if your puppy is three months old, he or she can hold it for three hours. Make sure to take the puppy out at least this frequently.

You should constantly be taking your puppy out.

Yep, we mean constantly:

  • right after waking up
  • before and after playtime
  • after eating and drinking

This may seem tedious, but remember it won’t last forever. Once your puppy is trained to eliminate outdoors and never indoors, you will only have to let him or her out a few times a day.

Location, location, location…

Pick one spot outside, and make sure to always take your puppy to THAT spot with a leash.

Pick a word or phrase that the whole family can agree upon to use. Your dog will associate this phrase with going to the bathroom, so it should be consistent.

What word?

“go potty,” “go to the woods,” “go out”

Really whatever you want. Just keep in mind, if you train your dog to a swear word — you never know who you’re going to be standing next to when it’s time to go…

giving reward for your dog

Make sure to reward your puppy every time he or she eliminates in the right place. Give them treats and praise.

This is essential:

Make sure to do this RIGHT AWAY after they have finished, so that they associate the reward with the action.

You should also make sure to watch your new pet consistently. Don’t give the puppy the chance to soil the floor. (They will anyway.)

Try to keep them in sight, you can even use a leash to keep them close by while in the house, and watch for signs that he or she needs to go out.

They will show signs:

These can include squatting, restlessness, or sniffing around.

When you see these signs, immediately take him or her to the bathroom spot.

If you are unable to be around all the time, put your puppy in a small area. They typically won’t want to eliminate in small areas, such as their crates.

You should expect your new pet puppy to have a few accidents in the house. As frustrating as this may be for you, punishment is not an answer.

No, really, despite what you may have been taught:

It does more harm than good if you scold them or rub their nose in it.

All it will do is make them afraid to do their business in front of you. If you find a soiled area after the fact, it is already too late. If you punish your puppy, he or she will not understand.

Here’s the right way to do it:

What you should do is interrupt your puppy when you catch him or her in the act and startle the puppy. Then, take them outside to finish.

If they finish outside, reward them.

Also, make sure to thoroughly clean any soiled areas. Puppies are very likely to continue using areas that smell like urine or feces for that purpose.

Training Your Dog

You can opt to either have your new pet professionally trained or train them yourself. Whichever you choose, there are methods to keep in mind.

puppy running away carrying a plastic on his mouth

Problem behaviors

Every dog is likely to develop “problem behaviors” at some point.

It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your dog.

You need to remember that your dog only knows how to be a dog. This can sometimes translate to inappropriate behavior in the human world.

It is then on you to teach him or her what is acceptable.

It is important to be consistent.

Not just YOU — everyone in the house needs to be consistent.

If one person in the house is slipping your new pet food under the table, he or she will expect it from everyone. As such, everyone needs to enforce the rules or else the training is unlikely to be effective.

Our strongest advice:

Make sure that you reward good behavior.

If your dog nips at your clothes to get attention, do not scold them. Instead, tell your dog what you want them to do (such as “sit”). When your dog complies, reward THAT behavior instead of punishing unwanted behavior.

Remember that punishment is rarely effective for dogs.

You should also keep in mind that all dogs need basic obedience training. It isn’t just for dogs who are going to be competing in dog shows.

This is particularly true for breeds with a lot of energy.

In ANY case, if your dog knows basic commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come,”…

…your life will be a lot easier!

Yes, you can train your dog!

There are many different ways to train a dog. You should keep in mind that every dog is different, but there are ways that have been shown to work with most dogs.

In just about every case, the key is consistent positive reinforcement for desired behaviors.

You may not see the importance of teaching your dog specific commands. However, commands such as “sit,” “stay,” “heel,” and “come” are very important.

Here’s why:

Sit, stay!

Getting your dog to sit or lie down is important when he or she is bouncing all over the place and you need him or her to calm down.

Heel!

Telling your new pet to “heel” is important so that he or she stays with you during walks and doesn’t stop to sniff something every five seconds or drag you down the street.

Come!

And of course, you want your dog to come when you call them, so you can see the usefulness of that one without much explanation.

Here’s how you can teach, “sit” effectively:

  • First, choose a treat your dog loves
  • Then, hold it above their head so they look up and move it back towards their tail.
  • The dog will need to lower their rear to keep looking at that treat.
  • Tell them “sit” when the bottom touches the ground, and give them the treat.
  • If they jump, or try to snatch the treat, do not give it to them. Say “no,” firmly and try the command again.

Watch the video below to teach some more really fun tricks!:

Taking Care Of Your Dog On A Daily Basis

Adding a new pet dog to your family is an adjustment for sure.

You’re going to have to modify your routine significantly.

Keep in mind though, that you’ll get a lot of your former life back once your dog is trained. It will still be a time investment for sure, but not in nearly the same way.

Feeding schedules

Puppies need to be fed multiple times per day.

  • 6 to 12 weeks of age, feed them four times
  • 3 months to 6 months, three times
  • 6 to 12 months, two times

This may seem excessive, but they need to be eating consistently in order to facilitate their growth and development.

It is also important to keep them on consistent feeding schedules for housebreaking purposes. If you feed your dog “whenever,” they will poop on the same schedule — that can make housebreaking really frustrating.

Housebreaking adult dogs requires some adjustments to feeding:

Adult dogs can eat twice a day if they are in the housebreaking process. Once they are housebroken, most likely you can just leave out a bowl of food for them to eat whenever they are hungry.

The importance of exercise

Your dog will need a good range of physical activity for optimal health. However, you can’t just say “the more, the better.”

Too much of even a good thing can still be too much.

You should consider the age, physical health, mental health, and recent exercise patterns of your dog.

Too much exercise can actually be bad for your dog’s health. If they are not accustomed to a lot of exercise, you need to start slowly and work your way up. Also, avoid exercising with your new pet in extremely cold or hot weather. Hypothermia and heat illness are real risks that you should keep in mind.

dog in a sweater barking

It is different for every dog, but in general it is a good idea to take dogs for daily walks. Some need more stimulation than others; for example, border collies need tons of exercise and make great jogging buddies!

Doggie Bath Time!

Generally, you should wash your dog at least once every three months.

However, this can be breed specific, so make sure you know how often your dog breed should be washed.

Try not to do so more than every other week, unless you use a very gentle shampoo.

Here’s what you need to remember:

Barring extreme need, such as the mud puddle you didn’t see coming, you should wash your new pet whenever he or she starts to smell.

owner brushing dogs teeth

Oral care is also important.

Make sure that you use a toothpaste that is specifically formulated for dogs. Human toothpaste is tough on their teeth and stomach (you know they’re going to end up swallowing it, right?).

Special bones designed for chewing are also good for canine dental health.

Watching your dog’s health

You should make sure to be vigilant about your dog’s health.

If you notice any aberrant behaviors or see that your dog is in pain, do not hesitate to make a trip to the vet. This is particularly true for those who have dogs with existing health conditions.

If your dog is a puppy, you should take him or her in every three to four weeks to check for illness and get necessary vaccinations.

An adult dog should go to the vet for a check-up once per year, and a senior dog should be taken every six months. Your vet will inform you about necessary vaccinations and vaccination schedules.

So I Have A Well-Trained, Happy Dog…Now What?

Now that you have taken care of all the business of bringing your new pet into your home, you may be wondering what to do.

The answer differs for everyone, of course.

Training and caring for your new pet dog doesn’t stop after the puppy phase.

playing with the sleeping dog

It’s not over because you adult dog no longer pees on the rug every day.

Dogs are life-long companions: not yours, sadly, but theirs. This means you’re going to need to work with them, exercise them, play with them, teach them tricks, be woken up at 5 a.m. on the only day you had to sleep in… for their lifetime.

What we can promise? If you train your dog well, and provide for their needs, it’s 100 percent worth it. You not only have a new pet, but a new friend!

Featured Image: CC0 via Pixabay

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