Congratulations! Your family has grown by ‘four-feet’. Adopting a dog is simply fantastic. You will have a 24×7 happy-fur-ball around you to fill you with positivity, a true companion to listen to your 2 a.m. talks, a live alarm to ward-off burglars and a forever 2-year-old’s brain to melt your heart with his mischief. With the right foundation, your new family member will become part of your family in no time. So, if you’re a first time dog owner, this article on ‘Tips for First Time Dog Owners’ is just right for you.
Honestly, there’s a lot that goes into being a good dog owner. Pup, adult or senior dog, they all have to be cared for like a baby. For that, a good dog owner requires being able to commit a significant amount of time. First time owners who don’t spend enough time learning about their dog care and training, can find their dog and themselves in a very bad state, further affecting the bond with their dog.
To keep yourself from falling into this category, here are some tips for first time dog owners.
Common Mistakes of First Time Dog Owners
-Buying from pet stores instead of adopting
-Insisting on adopting puppies and not considering adult or senior dogs
-Choosing a breed not suitable to your lifestyle
-Not fulfilling your dog’s basic needs of food, exercise and love
-Feeding human food
-Not providing proper identification/microchipping
-Neglecting vet visits
-Not controlling/managing litter
Basic Tips for First Time Dog Owners Before Bringing the Dog Home
Before getting your dog home, you need to figure out the basics according to the breed. Things you will have to carefully consider first is: the space in your house, the time and money you can invest on your new dog’s complete care. Additionally, you’ll want to take into account the needs of the dog breed you’re adopting, and whether or not, that fits with you and/or your family’s lifestyle.
Apparently, dog breeds such as large hunting or sporting breeds, need more space for physical exercise and training. Small, toy breeds like Chihuahua and Shih Tzu may require less exercise, but are not ideal for families with small children, as these tiny dogs can get under your feet, tripping up adults as well as children if not paying enough attention. This can harm both humans and the dog. Families with small kids must consider dogs over five months old, as puppies still have sharp teeth and a lot of energy, and could unintentionally injure children.
Shopping list for first time dog owners
Once you’ve made a perfect decision, you will need to do a little shopping for your new family member, to give him a safe, comfortable and healthy life. Some items are annual purchases and some may be monthly buys. I was a first time dog owner too, so I can assure you, after little research you will surely manage to find that one pocket-friendly wholesale dog store with quality and economic products. Here’s a shopping list to guide you.
-A leash and harness to handle your dog
-A name tag collar with your details on it
-A steel or ceramic food and water bowl
-A comfy bed or bedding
-A brush/comb according to your dog’s hair-type
-A dog shampoo (according to skin requirement or vet recommended)
-A ball/toy for playtime
-A chew-bone to satisfy his natural tendency to chew things
-A finger brush/toothbrush/dental chew sticks for your dog’s oral hygiene
-A dog/baby gate (good option for families with kids or senior citizens)
-A poop scooper/poop bags (Yes, you’ll be scooping poop, so you’ll want to be prepped.)
Other important things a first time dog owner may need to purchase is dog food, flea shampoo, dog deworming tablets, supplements and other medication, etc. These items are and must be recommended only by certified veterinarians. Make sure you enquire about these at your dog’s first visit to his vet for his vaccinations.
Note: DO NOT skip the chew-bone as your dog will end up chewing on whatever is in his reach including leashes and walls. Chew bones also solve the issue of your dog’s needle-sharp teeth and helps soften his bite.
Choose a veterinarian for your new dog
Your dog will need a health routine and a vet for the same. It is good for your dog to have a very friendly and happy vet who manages to handle him calmly before any vaccine shot or medical care. Hence, when choosing the right veterinarian for your dog, make sure that your dog is naturally at peace around his vet after a few visits. Do some research and seek recommendations from relatives, friends and neighbours who already have dogs. When you visit the vet hospitals, meet the veterinarian and the staff to get an idea of everything beforehand. To be more satisfied, request a tour of their facility to make sure that you and your new dog will be comfortable with their standards.
Determine where your dog will spend most of its time
Once you’ve already had a conversation with your family members before finalizing on getting a dog, one essential decision that needs to be made is determining where the dog will spend most of his time. By doing so you can indirectly monitor your dog when you’re home and take them out for regular bathroom breaks and walks.
Also, when you need to leave your dog home, will they be in gated indoors with bathroom breaks arranged with another family member, neighbor or friend? Decide which option works best for you and your dog and do possible arrangements before your dog comes home.
Failing to do so may make the dog bored, destructive and nervous. Dogs left alone for longer hours will spend their day crying, peeing or pooping inside the house, similar to an unattended baby. So, be sure you understand that your dog requires proper attention.
Raising Your Dog Right
As soon as you welcome your adorable dog into his new home, your world and his world begins to experience change. Whether your new dog is a pup, adult or senior dog, remember one thing, this whole scenario is new, confusing and scary for him as much as it is for you. Your dog is coming into a new family with all his past experiences. So, you need be very patient and calm with your new dog. These are one some of the most important tips for first time dog owners.
Know your dog
A first time dog owner must keep in mind a dog’s natural behaviour to a new place during its first few nights. Puppies may whine, adult and senior dogs may howl or bark until they adjust to their new home. Your dog will stop whining, howling or barking once it starts trusting its new surroundings. Additionally, during the first year of their life, while they’re learning the rules of the house, all dog breeds will need more attention than they will in their next years. It’s important to view your daily schedule and accordingly devote time to your dog in knowing and training him.
Bonding with your new dog
Having a bond teaches your dog to trust you. Normal activities like playing, feeding, morning walks, and bathroom breaks help establish a bond with your new dog. Also, setting daily routines, creating a strong communication while training or spending some quiet time with your dog, or a random playtime during the day, are some ways to connect with your dog. When a dog has a routine with you, it happily relies on it because that’s how your dog wins your heart.
Introducing your dog to other humans and dogs
Dogs are social by nature. They simply love meeting new people and other dogs. It is advisable to start socializing your dog between 3 and 12 weeks of age. There is no specific approach to this, but, by being mindful of your locality’s rules and the park/garden rules for dogs, you will be good to go. Some fun things that you can do with your dog to introduce him to your neighbourhood and friends are:
-Go for a nice long walk
-Visit the beach
-Romp the nearby park
-Head out to the trails
-Program a sleepover at a cousin’s/friend’s place
-Design a playtime with kids on weekends
-Organize a family picnic/trip with your dog
-Plan a doggy date
Walks are the most probable way your dog will be meeting his new dog friends. Your dog will be super excited when he first encounters another dog. They may wag tails curiously, smell each other and play ‘fake cops’ for some time, and will soon get along quite well on daily meets. Make sure you keep your dog safe on a leash to have full control if things go south. Leash training is important from the very beginning as a leash is the safest way to keep your dog from becoming injured. Always stay calm and relaxed while handling your dog, no matter what. Remember, dogs can easily sense nervousness.
Make sure you have the right dog food
Find out what your new dog has been eating and decide if you want to continue that food or start introducing them to a new food. Check with the adoption shelter or your veterinarian to confirm that the food you are willing to use meets your dog’s nutritional needs. Keep in mind, your dog requires specific nutrients in different ages, just like a growing child does. Also, meal quantities and counts must be fixed from the very beginning if you want your dog to thrive. Maximum meals for a pup is four meals a day, for a 6-month old dog: thrice a day, and for 1-year onwards: twice a day. A dog above 7 years is considered a senior dog and must be fed one meal or two small meals in a day.
You can consider to look at the different types of dog food and their features, before deciding the right one for your new dog.
-Kibble (Dry food, Easy to store, Least expensive, Good for dog’s oral health)
-Canned (Wet food, Long shelf life, Expensive)
-Treats (Semi-moist, Meaty, Least nutritional, Occasionally given)
-Home cooked (Easy to control ingredients, High nutritional value, Economical)
-Raw Diet (Vet recommended)
-Vet Diet (Vet recommended)
The key to select the best food for your dog is to focus on high quality, digestible proteins, and to try to avoid things like poultry by-products, fat sources, and foods with artificial sweeteners, colours, flavours or preservatives. Most importantly, keep fresh water in all areas around the house in clean bowls, to keep your super active fur-baby hydrated at all times.
Note: Introducing a young mammal to solid food is sometimes termed as complementary feeding or weaning. For dog pups, weaning begins at 3-4 weeks, and your pup should now be introduced to puppy-formulated food. You can choose commercial foods available at pet store or cook a diet containing 25-30% protein.
Creating good habits from the beginning
Humans are creatures of habits, and so are dogs. Significantly, it is important to teach your new dog the dos and don’ts from the very beginning. But remember, we can begin training a pup only when it’s 12-weeks old. Puppies younger than 12-weeks do not have bladder control and depend completely on their owners to be attended to. In such age groups it is advisable to take your pup out in the morning and then once in every 30-60 minutes.
It’s equally important that your dog quickly comprehends which behaviours/actions earn them rewards and attention. Training is the best way to communicate this to your dog. From home training to training schools, you can choose the most suitable one for your dog. I have been house training all my dogs for the past 24 years and we have done pretty well so far. I have had all kinds of dog age groups from pup to senior. Initially, I began pee-pee training by introducing my dogs to their spot 5-6 times every single day. I devised a ‘one-word command’ and a ‘three-word sentence’ and stuck to for future use. Similarly, Potty Training my dogs got easier with consistency and patience.
Maintaining a regular exercise schedule
At times, dogs exhibit behaviours such as excessive chewing, digging, or barking. They do this to seek your attention when they are bored. The best way to keep a dog entertained and healthy is by working their bodies and minds through exercise. The amount of exercise your dog gets should be based on his age, breed, and size. For example, sporting breeds will need considerably more exercise per day than a miniature breed. Try to form a habit for a consistent amount of time each day and at the same time of day. Your dog will soon fathom his walk, run, or fetch time, and he’ll remind you on days you forget.
Vet visit schedules
If your new dog is a puppy, he will be visiting the vet for check-ups every three to four weeks until he is 16 weeks old. The vet will administer distemper-parvo and rabies, and might also give your dog vaccinations for diseases prevalent in your local area. He will also start the heartworm and flea/tick medication. When your dog is an adult, the vet will examine him to make sure he is healthy, and recommend medical care and vaccinations according to his past medical history. As your dog gets older, there will be a recommended schedule by veterinarians to ensure he’s getting the proper care intended.
What To Do When There’s A Problem
Take it from an experienced dog owner, be ready for setbacks. At some stage you will face things with your dog, like chewed-up shoes, head in the trash bin, etc. Remember, dogs are like kids, both have no short supply of energy and need to be monitored all the time. More importantly, it is a learning phase for the both of you. Yelling and beating will make things worse. You will end up having a no-fun, scared and timid dog. Be at ease and work it out with solutions for the problem.
Puppies chew rigorously during their teething phase and adult dogs just chew as a natural behaviour. They get to shoes and other stuff only when left unattended for longer hours or when they haven’t used their energy in the right place. Firstly, you need to ignore bad behaviour, secondly, you must keep your dog engaged with his chew bones and other toys, especially after meals, and thirdly, you must make sure to exhaust him with a tiring play session before bedtime or whenever required.
Accidental situations of peeing inside the house may occur for the same reason of being unwatchful. Your dog totally depends on you for all his nature calls. If you attend to him time to time and create good habits, you can surely avoid such situations. If you’re facing serious behavioural issues with your dog, it is advisable to deal with it with an expert. Don’t wait until things get worse; early intervention always helps. It is a sign of a responsible owner to be concerned about his dog’s behaviour, so get in touch with a professional dog trainer or a dog behaviour consultant.
Sadly, at some point, you may encounter an emergency situation with your dog. You must be observant of incidences like choking on tiny objects or bones, vomiting continuously, lethargy and weak limbs, and other life-threatening issues. Additionally, if your dog is off his food for a day or two and keep lapping water, there is usually nothing to worry about, as far as he is normally doing his other regular activities. If not, then contact your veterinarian’s office immediately, letting them know that you will be there as soon as possible, so that they can be ready for your dog.
“Remember, with you and your dog, it will constantly be a learning curve. I advise you to just do the best you can. So stay calm and know that, if you give your dog your love and care, he will return it tenfold.”