Getting a dog for the first time feels like a bit of a rollercoaster. Extremely exciting and, at times, frustrating and nerve-wracking - a new dog owner doesn't know exactly what to expect from the new little creature that's about to make life wonderful.
Our dogs readily offer love, and in turn, need some guidance from us, especially in the case of new puppies who have just entered the world and don't yet know left from right.
For all of the fun pups are, the first-time puppy owner should get ready for the craziness to come ahead of time - purchasing the right supplies, finding a good vet, and picking the right breed are all things to consider and prepare beforehand. This first-time dog owner guide is perfect for you!
These are our top first-time dog owner tips to make life easier for you and your pup when he joins his new home.
Tip #1: Pick the right fit
One of the most significant steps to make for a first-time pet owner is deciding on a breed. Do your research on breed temperaments and the pros and cons of each.
Take into consideration your wants and needs.
- Do you have a large or small-sized home?
- Any children?
- Pet allergies?
- What's your activity level?
Choose a breed or mix that fits well into your chosen lifestyle for a near-seamless transition.
Tip #2: Prevent health problems before they arise
Familiarize yourself with the basics of general dog health and how to maintain a healthy weight and body for your new dog.
Come up with a plan for the following:
- Regular grooming of the fur, ears, and nails
- Regular heartworm and tick medication
- Spaying/neutering plan
- Regular exercise to reduce stress
- Healthy diet
- Get a small doggie first-aid kit
Every dog breed comes with a set of common health issues that can arise. Once you've decided on a breed, look up the common problems for your specific pup, and work on a prevention program.
For pups that are prone to joint issues, for example, you can feed them omega-3 supplements and give them a dog ramp for the couch to avoid joint stress from frequent
Tip #3: A full pup is a happy pup
First-time dog owners might not know exactly what to feed their pups. The dog food aisle at the local pet store is packed from floor to ceiling with endless options - how can you tell which is best?
Research different brands and ask your vet about the best-suited formula for your furry buddy.
Dogs do just fine with a diet of high-quality kibble, but if you'd like to introduce some human food, there is a right and a wrong way to do it.
Many foods that are harmless for us are toxic to dogs, so stick to these foods:
- Cooked meat or fish
- Vegetables, like cooked pumpkin or grated carrot for a fiber kick
Tip #4: Obedience school: not just for “bad dogs”
One of the best tips for first-time dog owners is to enlist a professional's help when dog training time rolls around.
Learn the basics of training, and work with your pup one-on-one to establish a healthy bond and solidify some skills. Research local trainers and ask around at the dog park to get some recommendations.
Don't let the training stop there - take your dog to a training school to learn new techniques and raise the most well-trained dog on the block!
From your first time with dog and well into adulthood, dogs thrive in a structured life and a clear dominance hierarchy. Teach them that you're the boss, albeit a loving and fair one!
Tip #5: Find the best vet
Getting your first dog is exciting, and much like a baby, the first time they get sick is petrifying. Find a great local vet before you get your pup, and rest well knowing your dog will be well taken care of if the need arises.
The right vet will teach you about your pet's health, guide your dog ownership journey, and keep a good eye on your puppy's health.
You can work with the vet to develop a care plan, including regular immunizations, medicines, and check-ups for their first year of life.
Tip #6: Create a safe space: puppy-proofing 101
It's no secret that puppies love to nibble and chew anything they can get their sharp, little teeth on. When they seek and destroy our household items, it can be upsetting and downright dangerous at times.
Before your pup comes home, go through your house and address these danger zones:
- Secure your trash can with a locking lid or in a closed cupboard
- Cover any loose cords
- Keeps bags and purses out of reach
- Move medications to a contained space
- Research houseplants and place any potentially toxic ones on higher shelves
- Use baby gates, and section off your home into more manageable areas to watch the pup
Tip #7: Set up your home(and dog) for success
Dogs need a lot of supplies that you'll want to pick up before they come home. You'll need food, grooming supplies, toys, leashes, collars, crates, ramps, and more. The list seems a little daunting for the first time owner.
Part of our new puppy owner guide includes a new dog checklist you can take to the store with you to cut down on forgotten items and multiple shopping trips.
Tip #8: Create a Plan B: the B stands for behavior issues
We always hope for a dog that adjusts perfectly to their new life with no issues. But the fact of the matter is behavioral issues come up in some way or another in most dogs' lives.
Whether it's too much barking or separation anxiety, there are methods to improve the negative behaviors.
Use these methods to correct your pup's bad behavior:
- Regular exercise to keep your dog's stress levels in check
- Ignoring attention-seeking behavior
- Redirect natural behaviors, like chewing, to a chew toy instead of your furniture
- Keep yourself calm to avoid escalating the dog's reaction
- Use and train an interrupt command, like "Stop" or "Drop it"
- Expose your dog to different stimuli, so they become more comfortable with their environment
See a professional trainer if you feel in over your head. They'll show you practical techniques personalized for your pup and they’ll teach you the next steps to improve behavior.
Tip #9: Take an early vacation
The first few days with the pup can be stressful. Take some vacation days at work if you can to ensure you can spend ample time at home bonding with the dog and keeping a close watch on their behavior.
It can be a little emotionally tumultuous for the pup who has just separated from their mom and siblings for the first time. Spending as much time with them can provide the emotional support they need to get through the challenging early days.
Use this new dog owner guide to build a safe and healthy space for your pup to settle into so that you can focus on the thing that matters most - bonding with your sweet new dog!