You are walking by a pet store and all of a sudden in the window you catch a glimpse of a cute, little, ball of fur looking at you. One glance at the little pooch and you start daydreaming about walks in the park, cuddling, playing. Right there and then you decide you want to become a dog owner. Then all of a sudden you start overthinking and realize you don’t know anything about taking care of a little furry friend. You ask yourself how to prepare for owning a dog. Look no further, the answer to that question is in this article.
Have you done your research?
Whether you have decided to buy a dog or adopt one from a local shelter, you are in for a treat. There is a quote from Josh Billings that says
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”
Owning a dog will teach you many things starting from gratitude, living in the moment, forgiveness and it also helps with managing stress and depression.
However, becoming a dog owner comes with great responsibility, because owning a furry friend is for life and not just for the holidays. Be prepared, do your research.
Have you decided on a breed? Different breeds of dogs have particular needs, characters; some dogs require more space than others.
Besides, the type of food you give to the little pooch will depend on the breed as well.
Also, doggies that have longer, thick coats are prone to overheating, as well as dogs with short noses (pugs, bulldogs) because they can’t pant well enough to cool themselves.
Whether you live in an apartment or a house will influence the type of dog you can own. Keep in mind that some breeds will require a larger space to run and play because they need a lot of exercises (Labradors, golden retrievers). Without exercise, they might put a lot of weight.
Before you bring your new canine friend home, check your neighborhood’s pet policy. If you live in housing with noise restrictions, maybe a dog breed that is less inclined to howling and barking will be a better fit.
This might be the moment to find a suitable veterinarian. It would be more convenient in case of an emergency if the vet you choose is closer to your home. However, you also need to look into vets that have similar views as yours, vets who are reliable and trustworthy. Ask your friends, family, and colleagues who own pets for a recommendation, or you could approach a dog owner in the park and at the same time meet a play buddy for your new pooch.
Is your home ready for the new family member?
There are quite a few items that you will need to buy to prepare for owning a dog. Nevertheless, with so many food brands and dog products are available, that it can become quite overwhelming and confusing.
Start with the essentials like a leash and a collar or a harness, and then you can move on to crates with appropriate size for the dog. Even if you don’t plan to crate train your pup, they are quite useful for traveling.
It would be great if you get a dog bed especially for him/her. Even if you want him/her to sleep with you, the puppy needs to have its place as dogs sleep 12 to 16 hours.
Don’t forget about grooming supplies. You will need to become a dentist, a hairstylist, and take on many other roles for your canine companion. Choose a shampoo based on the type of fur your doggie has (long, short, or curly). If you take a small puppy in the beginning you might need just a regular brush, but as he/she grows you will determine which type is better for its coat. Toothbrush and toothpaste are essential for keeping good dental hygiene as plaque can build up on her/his teeth and cause various infections.
Furthermore, bowls are necessary for food and water. Try to find ceramic, glass, or stainless steel bowls, because plastic ones can cause allergic reactions in some dogs. Consult with a veterinarian about the type of food specifically for your dog (dry, wet, grain, or home-cooked), but consider that your puppy’s need for food will change as it gets older.
Toys are a necessity, especially for puppies. If you want to save your favorite slippers, get some chew toys for the little pooch to chew on instead.
There are some not so fun situations you will need to deal with as well. Pick up some cleaning supplies, poop scoop, and a poop bag. Yes, you read that right. You will need to scoop some poop when you take your cute, little friend out, but also get ready for some accidents at home.
Finally, cover all electrical cords, keep your trash covered, secure your items with lids to prevent spillage, puppy-proof your home to keep your pup safe and sound.
Choose the right puppy for you
All furry friends are cute, playful, with their own unique traits and characters. Some are going to be more suitable for you than others.
If you have set your eyes on a certain puppy, get to know the ball of fur before taking him/her home. Visit the doggie several times, get to know each other, observe how he/she reacts on different occasions, how he/she behaves with his/her littermates. Some dogs are moodier than others, and some are more energetic, others might be more aggressive.
Depending on where you are getting the doggie from, ask the owner of the shop or the caregivers at a shelter if you can take the dog out for a walk some time. This is your chance to monitor her/his behavior in various environments.
It might be helpful, if possible, to get to know your pup’s mother. This will help you see how he/she will grow and look like, and find out some good and bad qualities he/she might have when he/she is not a puppy anymore.
Remember that a pup has to be at least eight weeks old before taking him/her away from his/her mom.
The little ball of fur will grow into an adult dog, and choosing a dog with a personality that will fit with you and your family is of utmost importance.
Training your dog – should you hire a trainer or not?
The first thing you need to do after bringing the little pooch home is to develop trust. You can do this by taking it for a walk, spending one on one quiet time with your new family member, playing with him/her. Start with establishing routines for walking, eating times, and in this way you will build consistency and show your pup that he/she can trust you.
Create a plan for house training your canine friend and have patience with it. Whether you choose a small puppy or a fully grown dog, they will need to be house trained. Determine specific times for potty break and take him/her to a regular potty space. You could take a treat for when he/she does it right, but don’t punish him/her when he/she does it wrong.
Also, think about what you would like your new best friend to learn. If you are interested in basic obedience training (learning to stay, sit down, walking without a leash) maybe taking an obedience class at your local shelter would be a more suitable option. Taking this class will help you to develop a bond with the little tail-wager.
Another option is hiring a dog trainer, but you should choose the right one for you, a trainer that has similar dog training ethics and philosophy as yourself. In relation, it is relevant that the trainer puts you in the picture as well when training the pooch. Hiring a trainer is a great choice if you want to teach your canine friend more advanced tricks.
It’s time to mingle – where to start?
You and the pup will be walking around your neighborhood quite frequently. Being a first-time dog owner, you should be aware of a few things when taking your doggie for a walk.
The pooch will be a little bit overwhelmed by being in a new environment, having lots of new places to sniff out, and many new people to meet.
Give some time before you start introducing the new family member to other people and family. Try to keep him/her on the leash for a bit of control. He/she will be sniffing and smelling people that come close, so advise anyone who wants to pet your doggie to be relaxed as he/she can sense when someone is nervous.
Barking, jumping, and growling are normal reactions, but try to train your doggie not to jump on other people by using a command word of your choosing.
Children can be extremely excited when they see a furry friend. However, their screaming or speaking in a high pitched voice can scare the little pup and her/his reaction might not be pleasant which will result in frightening the children. It is best to remind the kids or their parents that a dog is not a toy and try to explain to them that he/she is an animal and can react unpredictably.
Mingling with other powwows while it is still young is relevant for hers/his natural development. Nonetheless, it’s crucial that you vaccinate your doggie before meeting any other animals. There are several things to consider before setting up a play date. Firstly, introduce the doggies gradually, let them sniff each other, but both need to be kept on a leash for control. Secondly, you and the other owner need to stay calm as they can sense any restlessness. Lastly, some dogs tend to be territorial, so try to meet on neutral ground the first time.
Vaccines and more
In the beginning, your doggie will need to be dewormed to avoid worm infestation and any serious stomach problems. How often you will need to give him a pill for deworming depends on the age of the pooch. If you take a puppy, it is advised that you deworm him/her every month until he/she reaches six months. After that, it is recommended to continue every four months.
Fleas are a common issue with our furry friends. There are several products you can use to protect your pup from fleas, starting from various powders to a range of ampoules. My favorite way of protection is a flea collar that repels ticks and fleas, and I have been using it with my doggie for years.
Vaccines are vital for the pup’s healthy development and protection from diseases. Therefore, as a dog owner, it’s essential that you keep up to date with all vaccines that your new friend needs to take. Check with the vet you chose about the types of vaccines and the time period at which they need to be taken.
Consult with your vet about how often you should take your pup for a regular checkup. Until your puppy is sixteen weeks old, you will probably need to take him/her every three to four weeks. In relation, once it gets older the periods will get longer. Personally, I take my dog for a checkup and blood work once a year, because he is older.
Different breeds have specific conditions and health issues, so get familiar with the specifics for your breed. There are some breeds that are more at risk of cancer; therefore it is extremely important that you are well informed about the particular conditions that your pup might get.
It’s time to take your pooch on a road trip
You got to know your new family member, you bonded, you cuddled, and now you want to show him/her off to the world and take him/her on a road trip. Where to start?
You can start by getting a transport crate or kennel if you are planning to travel long distances. Your pooch needs to feel comfortable, so try to find a size in which he/she can stand erect and move around. The crate needs to be strong and leak-proof, and if you are traveling by plane make sure that it has the appropriate label.
To avoid any confusion and unpleasant experience, read about specific laws and regulations of traveling with a dog beforehand. Get ready with proof of vaccinations and health certifications, because this is a requirement for all airlines.
Just a couple of words more
It might seem like becoming a dog owner is complicated and overwhelming, but your life will be a hundred times more fulfilled with a furry friend around. You will be showered with love every time you come back home, they are truly a man’s best friend.
Taking care of a dog is a responsible task, but once you prepare for owning a dog and the pup becomes part of your family, you won’t even remember life before he/he came into your life.