So you got a new dog! That's one of the most exciting moments in a dog-lover's life. You’ve now added a new member to your family and while it’ll take some work, it’s going to be fun and beyond rewarding. It can be overwhelming at first, however, so here are some things to think about as a first-time dog owner.
Diet is very important in creating a healthy, happy life for your dog. Every dog has its own nutritional requirements that are based on breed, health and dietary needs, as well as stage of life and age. Look to give your new canine companion some dog food with high quality ingredients and a good reputation or rating.
Keep in mind that some dogs have food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies. Because of this, it may take some time to find the right dog food. Look to their bowel movements for hints about whether their food is working for them (you want good consistency, not too hard or soft). And don’t be afraid to ask your vet for guidance.
Pro Tip: While dog food gives a rough guideline for how much to feed your pup, sometimes it’s still not the right amount. Your vet will be able to calculate the proper amount based on your dog’s current weight, ideal weight and the brand of food.
2. House Rules
It’s important to set some rules for your new companion and even more important to train him or her to follow those rules. For example, you can set boundaries for what rooms your dog is allowed to go into or whether they’re allowed on the couch or bed, etc. Not setting house rules and training your dog to respect them is one of the most common mistakes by new dog owners. And it can result in an unruly dog running all over your place.
Along the same lines, training beyond house rules is important. A trained dog is a happy dog and also makes for a safer home. Some training to consider:
- Potty training (so your dog knows not to go in the house)
- Obedience (to help you manage and control their behavior)
- Crate and/or bed training (so they learn they have their own place to sleep on or enjoy throughout the day)
- Leash training (so they are manageable and behave on walks).
Socialization is another, specific form of training that’s very important for dogs and especially puppies. Without socialization, your pup will not be able to interact with or relate to other dogs in proper, healthy and safe ways. He or she may even seem hostile. Socialization will help your pup become more confident and secure and get along with others.
5. A Good Vet
When you get a dog, you’ll also need to get a vet. This is a must. You’ll want to take your new companion to a vet pretty quickly after bringing him or her home. And if it’s a puppy, you’ll need to go rather frequently after the initial visit. Look for a vet with good reviews online or one recommended by someone you know.
Pro Tip: Another factor to consider are the vet’s hours. Some are open on Saturdays, which makes for a convenient time to take your dog outside of the work week.
6. Help From Others
A dog can be a little overwhelming for first-time owners so it’s always good to get help when you can. Your vet will be your go-to for health-related questions and issues, but they'll also be able to offer some information and suggestions beyond health. In addition, you can talk with someone who’s familiar with dogs, especially your dog’s breed. And if you can afford it, a dog sitter or walker can make things easier and take some pressure off you, especially if you work or travel quite a bit.