New Dog Owner’s Guide by Pets Best
The prospect of adding a new puppy to your family can be incredibly exciting. Most dog owners would agree that having a constant, loyal companion who loves them unconditionally brings a tremendous amount of joy to their lives.
Having a dog is a huge commitment, however, and a decision you’ll really want to think through. Your new pet will be with you for many years to come, so if you are a first-time dog owner, there are several things you’ll want to know before deciding to adopt a new canine friend.
Table of Contents:
Raising Your Dog Right
Ongoing Health Care
Before You Bring Your Dog Home
You may get pulled into the adorable brown eyes of the cutest puppy you’ve ever seen, but before you sign the papers, there are some things you’ll need to think through, and some preparations you’ll need to make.
What to Consider Before Getting a Dog
As a first-time dog owner, there are several things to think about before you decide that this is a commitment you’re ready to make. There are a surprising number of things to consider, and you’ll want to be sure that you’ve thought through everything.
Understanding the Specific Needs for Your Breed
At some point, you may have gotten your heart set on a particular breed of dog. Perhaps your neighbor when you were growing up had a cute toy poodle, or you always thought greyhounds looked cool. Before setting out to find a dalmatian for your kids, you’ll want to carefully consider the needs of each breed, and whether or not that fits with you and/or your family’s lifestyle.
There are breeds of dog, such as large hunting breeds, that need more physical exercise and training. Small, toy breeds require less exercise, but can become easily injured which could make them poor companions for families with small children. Families with small kids may also want to consider dogs over five months old, as puppies still have sharp teeth and a lot of energy, and could unintentionally bite or scratch young children.
One thing commonly overlooked with regard to buying a dog is the cost beyond initial purchase, and those costs add up quickly. Consider your budget for pet products including:
- Vet bills
There will also be smaller things that you’ll be buying regularly. For example:
- Flea products
- Heartworm medications
Depending on the size of your dog, you’ll need to budget how much money you can afford per month on food, especially keeping in mind the amount of food some of the larger breeds require.
During their first year of life, while they’re learning the rules of the house, all breeds will need more attention than they will in their adult years. It’s important to look at your schedule and decide what kind of time you have to devote to training and spending with the dog. What are your work and school schedules, and what works for the needs of the dog you’re getting?
Size of Your Home – Renting vs. Owning
Depending on the size of your home, there are types of breeds who may be a more optimal fit. Smaller breeds can be a good choice for someone in an apartment though not all small breeds are a wise choice. Chihuahuas, for example, tend to bark excessively and don’t make the best neighbor in tight quarters. Before assuming that you can’t have a larger breed in a small space, consider some breeds that are lower energy, and only require moderate exercise. Surprisingly enough, Great Danes are calm and quiet and happy to relax all day, despite their size. For those breeds who need a lot of physical activity, like golden and Labrador retrievers, you’ll want to be sure to have access to a yard or large outdoor space that they can run and play in every day.
Keep in mind that dog ownership is a long-term commitment, so you’ll want to be sure that your housing situation is stable and that you clearly understand the pet policy on your rental property,
Renting and Liability Insurance
There are a number of things to consider if you rent your home. It’s important to check with your landlord to find out not only whether or not you’ll need renter’s liability insurance, but which types of breeds are allowed. Some breeds, like pit bull terriers, rottweilers, Dobermans and German shepherds have a reputation for being more aggressive, and that has landed them on lists of dogs that some landlords will not allow without additional liability insurance. There are also some breeds that landlords refuse to rent to all together. Be sure to check with your insurance company to see if they cover the breed you’re considering and be sure that the insurance your landlord carries covers them as well.
A First-Time Dog Owner Shopping List
Before you bring your puppy home for the first time, there are several things you’ll need to make sure you have ready. Here is a list of must-have items for the first-time dog owner:
- Pet Gates (or Baby Gates) – To establish which areas of your home will be restricted, go ahead and set up a baby gate before your new pup comes home.
- Bed – At first, you may just want to use some old blankets to designate your dog’s sleeping space, but after they grow out of their chewing phase, you might be interested in a more official dog bed.
- Bowls – Look for ceramic or stainless steel dishes for your dog’s food and water, as some dogs are allergic to plastic.
- Brush – Your puppy shouldn’t need anything too fancy at first, but as their coat grows in, you’ll be able to determine what types of grooming tools you’ll need.
- Cleaning Supplies – As much as we hate to think about it, there are going to be accidents. Before bringing your new pup home, have some carpet cleaner on hand that destroys odor-causing molecules, rather than simply covering them up. You can find these cleaners at pet supply stores.
- Collar, Tags, and Leash – While you’re at the pet supply store, take a look at their identification tags. They can usually be made while you wait, and it’s imperative that you have them. Pick up a collar and leash right away as well so that you can bring it with you when you go to pick up your new dog.
- Crate – You’ll want to have a crate ready so that you can start crate training immediately. You’ll have the option to choose between metal, plastic, soft-side, heavy duty, and decorative. There are pros and cons to each type. For example, the wire and heavy-duty crates are easy to clean should your dog have an accident in them, are good for dogs that get hot easily, and allow your dog to see out of all sides. However, a wire crate can be noisier and some dogs are able to escape. The same is true of a soft-sided crate. Some dogs figure out how to unzip the panel to get out. They are, however, lightweight, portable, and easy to use with small breeds. Heavy-duty crates are difficult for most dogs to escape from. Each of these types of crates
aredurable and affordable, but don’t look as attractive in your house. If you have a dog that is well-mannered and doesn’t chew or try to escape, you may be able to use crates made out of rattan or wood that are designed to look good in your home. These are fashioned to look like a piece of furniture.
- Nail Clippers – At first, even cat nail clippers will work on your puppy. As your dog grows, you’ll want to have the appropriate clippers for your sized pooch.
- Poop Scoop and Poop Bags – Yes, you’ll be scooping poop, so you’ll want to be well prepared. There are several types of
scoopers, some best for grass, some for concrete. Always have bags ready, especially when you’re leaving your own yard. Most urban and suburban areas have ordinances requiring you to pick up after your dog.
- Shampoo – You can pick up specially formulated dog shampoo at your pet supply store and most discounted department stores.
- Toothbrush – There are dog toothbrushes, however, you can also get away with a kids-sized toothbrush as well. Rather than brushing their dogs’ teeth, many pet owners opt to use dental treats like Milk-Bone or Greenies.
- Toys – Your new puppy will want to play a lot! Be sure to have a variety of toys ready so they don’t get bored, just make sure that there are no parts of the toy that could come off because that can be a potential choking hazard.
Prepping Your Home
Take a look around and be sure to dog-proof everything.
Tuck or tape loose electrical cords to baseboards, be sure that household cleaners are stored on high shelves, as well as plants. You may also want to remove small rugs and pack up your breakables temporarily, or at a minimum, move them to an out-of-reach location.
Have the gate and crate set up in their designated places, as well as the dog’s food and water dishes.
Determine Where Your Dog Will Spend the Most Time
Though you’ve already had several conversations with your significant other and/or the entire family before making the decision to get a dog, one critical decision that needs to be made is determining where the dog will spend most of their time.
If you work from home or take your dog to work, you can directly supervise your dog and take them out for regular bathroom breaks and walks. If you need to leave your dog home, will they be in an exercise pen, or
Some breeds, for example working breeds like retrievers, may become destructive if they are bored and alone for too long. Some dogs will spend their day barking, and others may mess in the house. Be sure that you understand the amount of attention your dog will require. Most dogs can handle being home alone during a normal workday.
Outside of the work/school day, you’ll need to determine where the dog will sleep. Will it be in a crate in someone’s bedroom? When they’re older, their own bed, or maybe a family member bed? During the night, will the dog be allowed to roam through the house freely?
Selecting a Veterinarian
When choosing the right veterinarian for your dog, make sure that your vet’s philosophy is similar to yours. Ask friends and neighbors who have the same approach to pet care that you do to find out which vets they recommend. When you visit different offices, meet the veterinarian and their staff to get an idea of what they are like. Ask for a tour of their facility to make sure that you are comfortable with their standards. Prepare a checklist of things that matter most to you and be sure to go through those as you are researching veterinarians.
Raising Your Dog Right At Home
Once you get that adorable puppy home, your world might feel like it’s all but flipped upside down. You and your new dog will be going through several changes.
After your new puppy comes home with you, it’s time to build a bond. Bonding occurs through normal pet owner activities like feeding time, taking walks, bathroom breaks, and playing. Establishing routines, spending time with them, building strong communication through training, and one-on-one quiet time are some of the ways in which you can interact with your dog. Having a routine builds consistency and teaches him or her that they can trust you. When a dog has a routine with you, they learn to rely on that and are happy to comply with it because they earn so much of your love and respect.
Introducing Your Dog to the Neighborhood
You’ll be out and about in your neighborhood with your new puppy as soon as you bring him/her home. For your dog, this means a whole lot of new things to see and smell. Couple this with a young pup who isn’t yet trained, and you have some things to be aware of.
Knowing the Rules in Your Neighborhood
There are typically local rules you’ll want to make sure you’re up to speed on. If you live in an apartment complex, or your neighborhood has a Home Owners’ Association, those rules should be fairly easy to get your hands on. If not, check with your city or county administrators to find out what animal control laws you need to be aware of. Legally, your dog will need a license. To find out the specific requirements of your county and in your state, check with your local municipality office, animal control, or your veterinarian. You’ll also want to be sure that you aren’t violating any laws such as scooping poop laws, excessive barking, or having your dog on a leash.
Knowing How to Interact with Other Dogs
When other dogs approach your dog they typically signal how they feel about your dog with their tail. A jerky, high
Before your new dog interacts with other dogs, be sure that he stays safe and protected. A leash is the safest way to keep a dog from becoming injured or running away, so leash training is important from the very beginning. The first few times you take your puppy for a walk, consider bringing a toy and some treats to reward him/her for good behavior.
Selecting the Right Diet
Understanding Your Dog’s Dietary Requirements
Weaning begins at 3-4 weeks and your puppy should now be eating puppy-formulated pet food. Commercial pet foods have the right blend of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that your dog needs.
Before your dog becomes an adult, they’ll need to eat a formula that contains 25-30% protein. It’s important not to overfeed your puppy. A common mistake new dog owners make is feeding their puppy more treats than necessary, and more food than is healthy for them. This can lead to an overweight dog, and cause problems in their health and physical development.
Small breed dogs commonly reach their adult size around nine to 12 months. Because of their high metabolic rate, they typically need to eat three to four times per day. For mid-sized, large and giant breeds, it’s recommended that they are fed according to size and physical activity, as they can suffer from bone or joint problems should they overeat, especially during the early stages of their life.
Knowing the Differences in Food Brands
As you’re considering the type of dog food to purchase, there are some key things to understand about each before you decide which is right for your puppy.
Kibble (dry food) – Dry food is typically the least expensive type. It’s also easy to store as it doesn’t require refrigeration. Additionally, dry food helps to keep your dog’s teeth healthy because chewing crunchy assists in removing tartar.
Canned (wet food) – Canned dog food has a long shelf life, making it convenient for many dog owners. It can be expensive, and also nutritionally incomplete. When considering canned dog food, be sure to look for labels that state “100% nutritionally complete” or “complete and balanced”. Some brands may contain too much water or indigestible proteins, which will pass through your dog offering little nutritional value.
Semi-Moist – This type of food often resembles “meaty” foods. It is commonly filled with preservatives and artificial flavors and colorings, offering little nutritional value. These types of foods are best used as an occasional treat.
Home Cooked – Making your dog’s food from scratch requires a lot of time, and can be costly, but many dog owners prefer to know exactly which ingredients are going into their dog’s food, and where those ingredients came from. Making your dog’s meals on your own provides the control that some dog owners prefer.
Raw – A raw diet consists of raw meat, raw bones, uncooked organs, fruits, and vegetables. Because of a dog’s short intestinal tract and strong stomach acids, they are typically able to handle a raw diet quite well. It can become time-consuming, pose a risk of dietary imbalances, and broken teeth. Before putting your dog on a raw diet, it’s recommended that you speak with your veterinarian first to better understand the potential health benefits for your dog.
Veterinary Diet – A veterinary diet is specially formulated to address specific health concerns in dogs with certain types of conditions. Only feed your dog this type of diet based
How to Select Food
A key thing to keep in mind as you consider the brands of dog foods available is that you want to focus on the first five ingredients, as they are the most important. Focus on finding high quality, digestible proteins, and try to avoid things like meat or poultry by-products, generic fat sources such as “animal fat”, and added sweeteners, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Symptoms of Food Allergies
Several signs and behaviors your dog could be exhibiting may be a sign of a food allergy. You’ll want to keep an eye out for ear inflammation, itching, or a dull coat. Pay attention to excessive licking or paw biting. Some dogs show symptoms similar to those in humans with food allergies, such as a rash on their skin, hives, chronic gas and/or diarrhea, an itchy bottom, nausea, and vomiting.
The only way to really determine whether or not your dog has food allergies is by doing an elimination diet, whereby your vet will likely change your pup’s diet completely, introduce new foods, and then reintroduce the old foods in a few weeks to test his/her reaction to it.
There are common foods that cause food allergies in dogs including pork, rabbit, beef, chicken, fish, lamb, egg, corn, soy, wheat, and dairy. Many dogs are allergic to more than one ingredient, but they need to have a genetic predisposition to develop allergies for these to become a problem. In some animals, if they are still young enough, they may grow out of their food allergies.
How much do I feed my dog?
To get started, refer to the feeding guide on your dog’s food. It’ll be a table that will recommend amounts based upon weight. Also, consider how much exercise your dog gets to determine if they need a little less, or a little more.
Looking at your dog from the top, he/she should have an hourglass figure, meaning that their abdomen should be narrower than their chest and hips. Their chest should also be closer to the ground than their tummy, and their ribs should be easily felt with slight pressure.
Overfeeding your dog can lead to musculoskeletal problems, heart disease, skin disorders, oral disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer. Treats should only make up five percent or less of a dog’s daily food intake. Consider giving them in small pieces.
Foods to Avoid
There is quite a list of foods that you need to be absolutely sure your new pooch never gets their paws on. These foods can be dangerous or toxic to your pet, so be sure that they are not exposed to them:
In the event that your dog ingests anything on this list, consult emergency vet care immediately.
Creating Good Habits
Getting off on the right foot is essential for a healthy, happy relationship with your new puppy. Training is one of the best ways to establish a strong form of communication between you and your new pooch.
Training from Day One
Before you bring your new pup home, decide as a family what training language you will use, so that commands stay consistent. Training should begin immediately so that your new pooch knows what is allowed, what isn’t allowed, where their food and water dishes are, where they’ll go to the bathroom, what areas of the house are off limits, which are his/her toys and what is an absolute no. It’s important that your dog quickly understands which behaviors earn them rewards and positive attention. You’ll want to determine which types of behaviors your dog exhibits to get your attention are the types that will earn a reaction or reward from you.
Types of Home Training
You’re bound to get more than your fair share of advice when it comes to how to train your new fur baby. It can be overwhelming when looking at all the options with regard to how to train your puppy. There are several methods used to train dogs, and you may want to choose one, or a blend of these types of training:
Traditional Dominance Training
This type of training uses corrections like pulling on a leash or using a shock collar when trying to get a dog to obey a command. It encourages punishment or physical stimulus to gain the attention of the dog in an effort to control their behavior.
The Koehler Method has been around for over 65 years, using the philosophy that “a dog acts on its right to choose its actions”. Essentially, the method teaches that a dog’s learned behavior are influenced by the expectation of reward, and then that behavior will most likely be repeated. This method also teaches that when the dog learns their actions are influenced by the anticipation of punishment, they will no longer exhibit those behaviors either. The Koehler Method puts heavy emphasis on off-leash training so that dog owners have control of their dog with a single command. The idea behind off-leash training considers the fact that dogs commonly get out of their collars, escape fences and pens, and run out of open doors. Dog owners using this method do make corrections, however, some of the original correction actions taught with this method are no longer utilized as they are considered unnecessary and inhumane.
This method of training uses positive reinforcement like treats or toys, along with a “clicker” or small noisemaker to mark and reinforce the behavior. The clicker helps the dog identify the precise behavior that results in the treat or toy.
The electronic method of dog training utilizes the use of shock collars or electric fences that distribute an electric shock to the dog. The intent is that the dog will receive a shock in response to negative behavior.
Based on the principles of social learning, model-rival training utilizes a model, or rival for attention, who is demonstrating the desired behavior. The concept is that dogs were originally part of large social groups and can learn observationally. Within this method, the dog being trained is rivaling for the attention of the trainer, and will model the desired behavior that the rival dog is exhibiting.
This method utilizes both positive and negative reinforcement, the idea being that you work “with” the dog, rather than just commanding them. The dog is taught which behaviors are desired based upon rewards, but also with negative reinforcement, for example taking away a toy the dog expected to get because he/she didn’t wait for you to throw it first before going after it in your hand. This method teaches the dog that unwanted behavior doesn’t work.
Positive Reinforcement or Motivational Training
This style of training utilizes no negative reinforcement. Owners do not correct for poor behavior but instead reward for positive behavior. The school of thought with this method is that poor behavior simply be ignored and that dogs will learn to only exhibit the behavior that elicits reward.
Science is proving that punishment is not as effective a learning system as are rewards. Punishing your dog often confuses them, as often times they don’t know or understand what it is they’ve done wrong. A dog who appears to be responding to punishments is likely afraid of their owner, and can start to exhibit aggressive behaviors in situations they don’t like.
A positive reinforcement method that rewards dogs for desired behavior has proven to be more effective, and one that can be utilized by the whole family, rather than just the strongest person in the home. You can combine rewards and positive consequences with positive behavior so that your dog quickly learns the desired way to behave. When you train your dog with rewards, their joy-filled personality is more fully realized.
Selecting the Right Trainer
Only you can decide on the right trainer for you and your dog. The most important thing about dog training is to first determine what it is you want to get out of dog training. Is it basic obedience, or are you looking to go further?
You also need to find a trainer who has the same philosophy and ethics about dog training that you do. If your trainer believes in methods that make you uncomfortable you will be nervous, and your dog will sense that, making the method ineffective. It’s important that you are a large part of the training process, and that the trainer is working with you just as much as the dog.
Ask around to find out about trainers in your area whom your trusted friends and neighbors have worked with. Make sure that your trainer is certified, and ask for referrals from their current or previous clients.
Socializing Your Dog
At some point, you will feel ready to start introducing your dog to other dogs.
It’s nice for him/her to find some playmates, and gives them another outlet for exercise. Dog parks can be a great opportunity for your pooch to run freely in a controlled environment.
Start socializing your dog between 3 and 12 weeks of age.
Finding the Right Dog Park
Start by asking other dog owners and your veterinarian where there are safe dog parks they recommend in your area. You’ll want to make sure you find the right one for your dog. There are some that cater to small dogs, and some
Understanding Dog Park Etiquette, Safety, and Rules
There is some basic dog park etiquette and safety you’ll need to be aware of. There are guidelines for behavior in the public areas while on a leash, and also in the designated off-lease locations. Courtesy of dogpark.com, here are some of the typical rules you’ll encounter at dog parks:
- Pick up and discard any trash so that no dog becomes injured.
- Make sure your vet feels that your dog is healthy enough to play.
- Spay or neuter pets before playing at the dog park.
- Bringing multiple pets can divide your attention. Bring 2-3 dogs at most per visit.
- Verify that all doors to the park close when you enter and exit.
- Don't eat or smoke at the dog park.
- Do not scold someone else’s dog. Also, don’t touch them unless their owner has said it’s okay.
- Be polite and friendly to other dog owners.
- Animals causing problems should be immediately removed from the dog park.
- Dog owners must remain in the park and keep their dog in view at all times. No dog may be unattended.
- All dogs must have up-to-date vaccinations before going to the dog park. Have a copy of current shot records on hand for police or animal control officials.
- Infants and small children are not permitted in the dog park and can cause behavioral issues.
- Unless in the off-leash area, keep your dog on a leash. Leashed dogs can feel threatened by a free roaming dog. Dogs not on a leash must be under voice control by their owners at all times. If this is not possible, do not utilize off-leash areas.
- Aggressive dogs are not allowed in the park.
- Never give treats to another dog without the owner’s permission as they may have food allergies.
- Dog toys are not allowed inside the park. Other dogs may claim toys not belonging to them which can cause aggressive behavior.
- Always clean up after your dog.
- Do not brush or groom your dog inside the park.
- Training may not be permitted in some dog parks. In parks that permit training, only licensed and insured dog trainers will be permitted to do the training. Be sure to check before you go.
- Remember that owners assume all responsibility for the behavior of their animals, including any damage that may occur.
Introducing Your Dog to Another Dog
There might come a time where you will want to introduce your new puppy to another dog. Some experts believe that the best time to start socializing your dog is when they’re three to 12 weeks old. When you’re ready to do this, there are some key things you can do in order to make their meeting successful.
First, try meeting in a neutral place where neither dog feels territorial. Be sure that both dogs are on leashes, and that you and the other owner feel relaxed. Your dog will sense whether you have any anxiety about the meeting. Start by walking a safe distance apart side by side, then, let the dogs cross paths and smell where the other has walked.
Watch their body language as you let them meet for any signs of hostility. If there are none, you can then bring them to a safe, enclosed area, drop their leashes and let them get acquainted. At this point, it’s best to let them work things out on their own without human interaction. If you can sense that things between the dogs are getting tense, you can try calming them down with soothing verbal commands like, “it’s okay.”
If things get to be too much, you can try a verbal correction, and then reward/encourage them with good behavior. Should the pups get too excited and cannot calm themselves down, or things look like they’re headed in a bad direction, you may need to step in and physically separate them.
Dog Play Date Ideas
Dogs are social by nature, and getting them out for play dates is a healthy and enjoyable way to spend time with your pup. Some fun things you can do with your pooch are:
- Head to the Beach – There are plenty of dog-friendly beaches throughout the U.S. Your dog may love lying in the sand, or cooling off in the water on a hot day, especially for those dogs who love to swim.
- Go for a Romp in the Park – Dog parks are a great way for your dog to get exercise. Other dogs can give your pup a better workout than you can, and they love to socialize with one another.
- Hit the Trails – Because dogs are naturally curious, they enjoy the great outdoors and heading out to the trails with you. Just be sure to find out whether or not the trail you’re on requires them to be on a leash.
- Plan a Doggy Date – If your dog is getting to know another dog or dogs, plan some time with their owner(s) to meet up somewhere to let the dogs play.
- Include the Kids – Dogs and kids love to play together, after all, they are part of the family. Kids need their own bond with the puppy, and playtime encourages their own trusting, loving bond.
- Check out an Agility Course – You may not have any interest in competing or getting into serious dog training, but training your dog for fun is great exercise and a wonderful bonding experience for both of you.
Ongoing Health Care
Caring for your fur baby’s health will be ongoing. As a first-time dog owner, it’s important to understand how to manage the health care of your new pooch. There are specific needs and requirements you’ll want to be aware of as you care for the health of your dog throughout his or her life.
Knowing How Often to Get Your Dog a Check-Up
As a puppy, your dog will be visiting the vet for check-ups every three to four weeks until they’re 16 weeks old. They will receive distemper-parvo and rabies, and might also receive a vaccination for kennel cough. They will also start on heartworm and flea/tick medication. The vet will examine your pup to make sure they’re growing well, and that they’re otherwise healthy. You’ll make another vet visit at six months to have your dog spayed or neutered. At this time, the vet normally speaks with you about how things are going with regard to housebreaking, training, and socialization. As your dog gets older, there is a recommended schedule most veterinarians recommend you stay on to ensure they’re getting the proper shots and exams at the right times.
Understanding Common Breed Health Issues
There are specific breeds that have common diseases or conditions which can show up, usually later in life. For example; dachshunds commonly have neurological disorders, likely because of their backs. Avoid health issues by exercising and keeping the dog at a healthy weight. There are also some breeds more associated with a risk of cancer than other breeds: Bernese mountain dog, golden retriever, Bouvier des Flandres, Scottish terrier, and boxer. If you own one of these breeds, it’s not a bad idea to regularly check your dog for lumps and bumps and make sure they’re being monitored. Large breed dogs tend toward issues with musculoskeletal disease. If you own a large breed dog, it’s imperative that they stay at an ideal body weight because of this reason.
Determining if Pet Insurance is Right for Your Pet
Dogs are no different from humans when it comes to unexpected medical emergencies. Unforeseen illnesses and accidents can happen to your dog, and that can mean unplanned expenses as well. How do you know when purchasing pet insurance makes sense for you?
Consider whether you have adequate savings in your budget in the case of a sudden illness or accident. You need to ask yourself if you are in a financial position to save your pet’s life should you be put in that situation, keeping in mind that some treatments can cost thousands of dollars. You’ll also want to think about your dog’s level of risk. If they are outside a lot, come in contact with a lot of other animals, or are a breed with a particularly high risk of medical issues, having pet insurance may eliminate the worry of being able to afford proper medical care if and when the time comes.
If you’ve invested a considerable amount of money into your dog, especially if you plan to breed it, you will want to protect that investment by making sure your dog is getting the best care possible and always in great health. Even if your pup isn’t a purebred show dog you plan to breed, he or she will quickly become part of your family, and it’s wise to consider the emotional and financial implications of your dog suffering from disease or accident, and being prepared to cover those costs.
What to Do if Your Dog Has an Emergency
Unfortunately, at some point, you may experience an emergency with your dog. First, it’s important to determine the situation you are in is indeed an emergency. When you know that what you’re dealing with requires emergency care, try to stay calm, and contact your veterinarian’s office, letting them know that you will be there as soon as possible, so that they can be ready for you and your pup. Depending on the emergency you are dealing with, there are some things that you will want to know. This list from veterinary professionals offers comprehensive advice on how to handle specific situations common to dog owners.
Keeping a Regular Exercise Schedule
One way your dog may try to get your attention to let you know he or she is bored, is by exhibiting behavior you’re likely not fond of such as excessive chewing, digging, or barking. The best way to keep a dog entertained is by working their bodies and minds through exercise.
How much exercise your pet gets should be based on your pup’s age, breed, and size. Consider what your dog was bred for, for example, sporting breeds will need considerably more exercise per day than a toy breed. No matter what, it’s important to stay on a regular schedule. Try to get in the habit of going for a consistent amount of time each day and at the same time of day. Your pooch will know what time their walk, run, or fetch time is at, and they’ll remind you on those days you forget.
Vaccinations & Preventing Disease
When you make those few visits to the vet during your pup’s first couple of months of life, those shots may look like an awfully long list of vaccinations. Your vet will explain to you which combination of shots they’ll be receiving, and why. Vaccines are one of the best ways to ensure that your pet healthily lives to a ripe old age.
Vaccinations make sure that your dog’s body is prepared to fight off disease-causing organisms he or she may encounter. This is a list of the common vaccinations your veterinarian may discuss:
- Canine parvovirus (“parvo”)
- Canine distemper
- Canine Adenovirus-2
- Canine parainfluenza
- Canine enteric coronavirus
- Canine influenza
- Lyme disease
- Bordetella (“kennel cough”)
- Heartworm disease
- Intestinal worms
Bathing and Grooming Your Dog
A standard recommendation is that you bathe your dog approximately every three months. However, depending on the weather where you live, or if your dog spends a lot of time outside, you may need to bathe your pooch more often. Be sure to use a mild shampoo that is safe for dogs. You can usually find a wide variety of pet shampoos at discount department stores and pet stores.
Be sure to brush your dog first before you get them into the bath, in order to remove all dead hair or mats. Be careful to avoid getting water in their eyes and ears, and try to use a rubber mat in the bottom of the bathtub so that their footing is stable. Your new puppy may think that bath time is play time, so consider having a toy that can float in the tub to distract them with while you give them a shampoo.
You’ll want to groom your dog on a regular basis so that their hair and skin stay in good shape. It also gives you the opportunity to check for fleas. Some dogs with long hair will require daily brushing while shorter haired breeds probably only need to be brushed about once a week.
It’s a nice idea to start the grooming habits when you first get your new pup home so that they’re established, and your dog learns to enjoy that time. Start out by making them short, and gradually work into longer grooming sessions as your puppy is comfortable. When they’re done, be sure to praise and reward them.
Traveling with Your Dog
One your dog has become part of the family, the idea of leaving them behind when you travel or go on vacation can be tough. Luckily for pet owners, traveling with their fur babies has become easier as there are now several pet-friendly hotels, parks, beaches, and airlines have made the process smoother as well.
Finding the Right Transport Crate or Kennel
If you are traveling a long distance by car or plane, you’re going to need the right transport container. Airlines have a guide that will help you know whether or not your dog has enough room to turn around while standing, sit erect, and lie down in a natural position. AKC.org offers some advice on things you’ll want to keep in mind when buying a crate:
- Again, be sure your dog can turn around while standing, and lie down naturally.
- Be sure the crate is strong, has handles and grips, and is free of interior protrusions.
- Check that the leak-proof bottom is covered with absorbent material.
- Make sure that the crate is ventilated on opposing sides, with exterior rims or knobs to prevent blocked airflow.
- Especially in the case of airline travel, make sure that the crate is labeled “live animal”, has upright arrows, along with your name, address, and phone number.
Understanding the Laws of Traveling with Your Dog
Every airline has their own set of rules, so before you book a flight, be sure to go over their rules to make sure you are comfortable with them, and that you can adhere to them.
Every airline will require health certifications and proof of vaccinations. You must also have travel food and water on hand. Depending on the airline, they may choose not to transport pets when the weather is extremely hot or cold. Your crate will need to be airline-approved if they will be riding in the cargo hold. If your dog is a small breed, they may be permitted to ride in a carrier under your seat.
Finding the Right Place to Board Your Dog
Flying with dogs can be difficult, and sometimes it’s simply not realistic. Additionally, even if you are traveling by car, depending on where you’re going, it’s not always practical to bring your pup along. In these cases, you may find yourself in a position where you’re considering boarding your dog.
First off, ask friends, your veterinarian, or your dog trainer for recommendations of kennels they know and trust. Once you have a list of kennels to check out, there are some things to keep in mind before you make your decision as to which one is best for your dog:
- If your state requires boarding kennel inspections, be sure that yours displays their license or certificate indicating they’ve met the required standards.
- Is the kennel clean? Does it smell clean? Is the temperature comfortable?
- Is there enough light and ventilation?
- Is the staff competent and caring?
- Be sure that the kennel requires all dogs to be current on their vaccinations.
- Be sure that each dog has indoor and outdoor runs that are the correct size, and that they have an exercise schedule.
- Ask that the dogs’ bedding is provided so that they’re not sleeping and resting on concrete.
- Find out whether or not the cats are kept away from the dogs.
- Ensure that they’ll feed your pet its own special food should you desire or require that.
- Ensure that there are vet services available in the case of emergency.
Learning how to care for your new puppy can seem almost overwhelming at first, but owning a dog can be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding experiences of your life. Dogs provide constant companionship and unconditional love and truly become a furry member of your family. Soon enough, you won’t be able to remember what life was like without your beloved pooch.
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