The Most Important Things for a First-Time Dog Owner

The idea of bringing home a new dog or puppy must be an exciting one. If you’re deciding to embark on a journey as a dog parent for the first time, there are several important things for a first-time dog owner. You might have a lot of questions that can lead you to a bottomless…

first-time dog owner

The idea of bringing home a new dog or puppy must be an exciting one. If you’re deciding to embark on a journey as a dog parent for the first time, there are several important things a first-time dog owner must know. You might have a lot of questions that can lead you to a bottomless research and homework pit. That’s why you need a structure for your research process. This can also help you to nurture a good relationship and happy companionship from the beginning.

The Responsibilities of a Dog Owner

Dogs are creatures of habit. It means that from day one of owning them, you need to understand the basic responsibilities that come along with it. When you plan to bring a dog or a puppy to your home, make a plan for caring for them throughout their life. A dog may live for 10 to 15 years, or longer. You at least have to make a plan for your life for the next 5 years and include a dog in that plan. Please make sure that you’re ready for a life-long commitment before acquiring a new dog. The

Choose between a pure-bred or a mixed-bred dog

Pure-bred dogs mean that they are dogs with registration papers that indicate both parents were registered and of the same breed. Mixed breeds, also known as mongrels or mutts, are dogs with no pedigree and whose parents are not of the same breed.

Knowing this basic definition will help you so much in your life planning process. Why? Different breeds of dogs will require different energy levels. This will determine their feeding regimens, activities, and of course temperament of your dog.

You certainly want to choose a breed that will match your lifestyle, space of living and budget. Each breed has different energy levels and exercise requirements. If you live in a small apartment and work 9 to 17 every day plus commuting time, it will be hard to have a dog with a high energy level that requires exercising 3 times per day.

Other than that, you also need to consider a breed’s shedding levels, grooming requirements and trainability. That will add up to increase your happiness and contentment with your dog.

Get a puppy or an adult?

Most people usually think of getting a puppy because they’re adorable. But don’t get it wrong, the puppy needs a lot of work, patience and persistence. To get confident, well-behaved adult dogs, puppies need extensive training and socialising in their first year of life. Potty training is definitely going to be challenging for some breeds. It is also hard to measure what kind of dog that puppy will grow into. You can only make early presumptions on the dog’s adult size, energy levels, activity requirements, coat and personality.

But for adult dogs, you take out a lot of guesswork from the equation. What I like about adult dogs is that they are usually already house-trained. If you adopt them from a good shelter, they also will make sure the dogs are well-trained and well-behaved. They got basic obedience training, and are ready for a home. And adult dogs can be just as sweet, adorable, loving and so much fun as younger pups.

Where to Get a New Dog

You have two main options for getting a new dog: buying a puppy from a reputable breeder or adopting a puppy or adult dog from local animal shelters or rescue groups.

Buying a Dog from a Breeder

If you are set for having a purebred puppy, your only best bet to having a good gene is to buy from a reputable and responsible breeder. Buying a purebred puppy online is not a good option and is too risky because usually, the puppies come from puppy mills or brokers who only want to make as much money as they can from their dogs. Who knows the condition of the dog moms when they were pregnant? That definitely will affect the physical condition of the young dog they gave birth to.

A responsible breeder with good reputations takes the health of their dogs and puppies seriously. Breeders like these will never offer puppies for sale with a click of a button. They will require extensive interviews to get to know you as a new dog parent. Your chance is usually slimmer because you don’t have any experience with dogs. The only thing that can help you to get their trust is your caring plan and your knowledge of the breed you choose.

You need to do extensive research to locate responsible breeders around your location. Contact them and make appointments to visit their home and meet their adult dogs. If you plan to get puppies, I encourage you to interview the breeders and look for signs of responsible breeding practices and healthy puppies. Here are some things you’d want to look for in a good breeder:

  • Performs breed-appropriate health testing for their adult dogs before breeding them, and will happily show you the health testing paperwork.
  • Offers some kind of health guarantee for the puppies.
  • Focuses on breeding for good health and temperament.
  • Doesn’t always have puppies available. It means that they only breed a small amount of puppies per year, and it will ensure the health of the adult dogs as well.
  • Allows each female dog to have not more than one litter per year.
  • Keeps the puppies with mom and siblings until at least 12 weeks of age.

Adopting a Dog from Animal Shelters or Rescue Groups

If you are okay with taking a mixed-breed adult dog, then you should consider adopting from animal shelters or rescue groups. These places will always have a lot of dogs available to be re-home. Some rescue groups usually get in touch with animal shelters, too. Puppies are rarely available there, but it is not impossible. Even though you might not know about the parents of the dog or even their history, you will still be able to get healthy and well-behaved dogs. Some reputable animal shelters that I know even have their own veterinarians. This will ensure that you get the most healthy furry friends than adopting strays from the streets.

Bringing Home Your New Dog

Once you get your new puppy or adult dog, whichever you choose, I highly recommend you take them to a visit to the veterinarian within your first week of owning them to have a thorough wellness check. To adjust a life with a new dog, you can ask a lot of things to your vet. This will make sure that whatever you plan for your dog is the best for them as well. For example, if you don’t plan to breed them, ask your vet about spaying or neutering them. Or ask about potential diseases for that breed. There are so many things you could ask the vet to help you have a healthy dog and happy companionship with them.

You can follow some tried-and-true tips on your pets’ transition period. Try to be patient and not force things. Let your new dog adjust their new life in this new home at their own pace. Different dogs will require different paces; please be patient. Keep your interactions calm and gentle, and periodically give them some alone time to rest and play by themself. In the meantime, you can also include a training plan in bite-size, so that they don’t get too stressed.

Some dogs even require extended time to get warm with you. They will need to assess a lot of new things and make sure they are safe in this new place. Don’t feel worry if they require more time to get warm with you; it only means they need their own space and time. They are also creatures that need boundaries—like us humans!

You might be tempted to invite your extended families, friends, or neighbours to meet your new dog. My suggestion, please hold yourself for a bit. A huge homecoming party with a lot of guests can overwhelm a dog that is not yet used to their new home; your home. Stick to one or two guests at a time until they get relaxed and learn how to be more sociable. Otherwise, they might get too excited and probably disturb your guests, or they might attack them because they feel threatened. It’s definitely something you want to avoid, right?

Get into a Routine with Your New Dog

Creating a routine with your new dog can help them to adjust a bit more quickly. This means they know what to expect from you each and every day. They will get excited about it, of course, and it will create a bond between you two. Some routines you can build for your dog include:

  • Feeding meals at the same time, every day. Adjust the amount of food you give to their age and feeding requirements. Consult your veterinarian about this matter first.
  • Go for walks or outdoor exercises around the same time, everyday.
  • Communicate and enforce house rules really clearly and gently to them. For example, if you don’t want them to sit on the sofa, teach them how to not do it.
  • Schedule short training sessions every day. Make time for this at least 15-20 minutes in the morning and evening.
  • Reward your dogs with praise and occasional traits when they do the right thing. Spend some time to educate yourself first on how to train them. You can also take them into obedience school with you to train and socialise with other dogs simultaneously.

If your new dog seems to be struggling or shows a sign of severe fear or anxiety, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian and ask them to prescribe some anti-anxiety medications, behavioural training or other advice to help your dog adjust smoothly to their new home.

I hope you get the best new life with your new dog. Cheers!

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