In my immediate circle of friends, I don’t know a whole lot of people who have never had dogs Personally, I’ve always had a dog, from as far back as I can remember. The first one to make a huge impression on me was Jake, the dog I recently told you about in Can Dogs Sense Danger. So I guess I’ve never really been a “new” dog owner.
I guess some people come to dog ownership later on, though. Maybe they’re people who always wanted a dog, but whose parents wouldn’t permit it, or maybe they’re people whose life circumstances simply haven’t made dog ownership a good fit.
Either way, new dog owners are often “lost in the wilderness,” not knowing what to do. New dog owners are building a new relationship, and are sometimes in for a rocky road. It’s important to build a good foundation so that you can be sure you’ve chosen the right dog for you and your family. So, with that in mind, hers are tips for new dog owners.
1. Check Into Your Dog’s Background
What this means is that you should research the breed you’re considering in order to be sure that it’s the right choice. It also means that you should research the breeder you’re considering buying from, and get as much information as possible on the parent dogs.
Go and visit the litter, and spend some time with the adults as well – that’s the best way of determining what you can expect in terms of temperament and behavior. Don’t buy from anyone who won’t let you at least view the mother. It’s always possible that she was taken “off site” to a stud, and you might not be able to see the Dad, but if you can’t see the mother, chances are that something is off – you might be dealing with a puppy mill.
Ask questions, and if you’re put off, go elsewhere. As how old the bitch is, and how many litters she’s had. Has there been any socialization? Have the puppies been in contact with ids or other animals? Have they been allowed outside? Are the puppies on solid food? Have they been wormed and vet checked and had their first shots?
These are all things that you have to think about when you’re buying a dog from a breeder. It’s a bit different with a shelter dog, though.
With a shelter dog, you might not know very much about the dog’s background, and you’ll be limited to the information that you can get – it might not be a lot. Going forward, though, you should keep track of any vaccinations, the dog’s age, where he came from, if he’s been vet checked, and how he’s behaved in certain situations (like visits to the vet). Keep the information handy so that you’ll always be able to provide your veterinarian with all the information he or she needs about your shelter dog.
2. Get a Checkup
One of the best tips for new dog owners is to find a veterinarian right away. Your dog might not need heath care immediately, but if something goes wrong, the last thing you want to do is be going “down the list” waiting for an appointment. A checkup is important, too – it’s the best way to identify problems that could occur down the road.
3. Get Supplies
What do you need for your new dog? If you’ve never owned a dog before, then you might not know. Ideally, you should get a leash, a collar, some toys, food and water bowls, treats, grooming tools, and if you don’t plan to let your dog sleep on your bed with you, then a good dog bed or at least a pad.
A crate would also be a good idea. I know that a crate looks to you like a cage, but for a dog, it’s a safe space where he can go to kick back. A crate can also be important for potty training, since dogs generally don’t want to “go” where they live. A crate should be big enough that your dog can sit, stand, and turn around comfortably.
Keep in mind, though, that dogs should not be crated for long periods of time, and that a crate should never be used to punish your dog.
4. Look After Grooming
Short-haired dogs don’t really need to be groomed all that much, although they will still appreciate being brushed. Long-haired dogs require more vigorous grooming, and might even need to be brushed every day in order to dislodge loose hair and keep them comfortable.
You should also get a toothbrush for your dog, and a good doggie toothpaste. Dogs are the same as humans in that they can develop gum disease and tooth decay, and regular brushing is the way of preventing that from happening.
Some dogs are a bit resistant to tooth brushing, so if that’s the case with your dog, you might want to see a groomer or your veterinarian for some tips for new dog owners – they can show you how to do it the right way.
Another thing you should consider when grooming is that your dog’s nails might need to be clipped. Some dogs wear their nails down naturally, walking on hard surfaces, but others don’t. Start handling your dog’s feet at a very early age. Dogs can be a bit fussy about having their feet handled, but if you start early, you probably won’t have a problem trimming your dog’s nails.
5. Feed Your Dog Properly
I’m probably the last person to offer this as one of the top tips for new dog owners, since all I ever give my dogs is store brand dog food. I fly in the face of everything I’ve ever read online, and I give them food that contains wheat, corn, soy, beet pulp, and all those other things that you’ve probably heard are bad for your dog.
The thing is, I do this with the approval of my veterinarian. Why does he think this is fine?
There are a couple of reasons. First of all, I’m not showing. Second, my dogs aren’t all that active. Third, they have no allergies to corn, soy or grain. Third, my store brand dog food is nutritionally sound – the more expensive brands might be higher in certain nutrients, but according to Dr. Stephen, they’re not essential nutrients. So, Janice and Leroy do just fine on the store brand.
That said, when you’re considering what to feed your dog, you should think about his size, age, and activity level. Breed doesn’t much matter.
It’s often believed that dog foods that contain grains aren’t healthy, but that’s not necessarily the case. As I’ve just said, this type of food seems to be just fine for Janice and Leroy, and it was also fine for all the other dogs I’ve had that have lived well past their “best before” date. If in doubt, though, consult your veterinarian. He or she is the best source of information when it comes to what’s best to feed your dog.
You can also do your own research – look at how your dog’s food is made, where it’s made, what the ingredients are, and where the ingredients come from.
6. Know the Law
This applies to any dog owner, so it’s not just one of the tips for new dog owners. A lot of people don’t know that registering their dog is mandatory, or that they need a license to keep a dog.
Assume that you do need to register and license your dog. In fact, even if you live in an area where this isn’t required by law, keep in mind that if your dog is registered and licensed it will be easier to find him if he gets lost.
7. Don’t Assume That Your Dog is House Trained
A lot of the time, wide-eyed “new dog” owners ask the breeder if the puppy is house trained.
Don’t take any answer on faith – chances are that he’s not. You might choose a puppy that seems to want to go over into a far corner of the whelping pen to do his business, but will he continue the behavior once you get him home?
You’re almost certainly going to have to house train, so make sure to take your puppy outside regularly, especially if he’s just woken up, or if he’s finished eating.
8. Obedience Train
One of the best tips for new dog owners is to start obedience training early on. You can begin obedience training as early as eight weeks. Failing to obedience train is one of the most common reasons why young dogs end up in shelters, so if you want to be a good dog owner, start early. Teach your dog to sit, potty outside, stay, and more. Most dogs learn very quickly, so basic manners are easy to teach.
You can train your dog in as little as 10 minutes a day, and dogs learn fast, so if you’re having problems with obedience training, it’s probably your fault.
Obedience training shouldn’t be seen as a chore. It’s a way of teaching your dog to behave in a manner that will make both of you happy.
9. Set Rules
Sometimes, dog behavior issues are because rules haven’t been set that everyone in the household is expected to adhere to. If you have kids, you might have to spend as much time training them as you do the dog. You want your kids to know that ear-pulling and tail-grabbing are not going to be acceptable behaviors. You want them to know that it’s not okay to try to take away the dog’s food. You want them to know that the dog has to be treated with respect, not jumped on or otherwise tormented. This is especially important with new dog owners – you might not be all that familiar with dog behavior, and you’re going to have to learn.
10. Pick a Time for Exercise
Every dog needs play and exercise, so set aside a time each day for play, walking, training, and family time. The last thing you want is a bored dog – this is only going to lead to problems.
11. Take Your Dog to School
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” The thing with new dog owners, though, is that they’ve never even seen the wheel. They have to learn from scratch.
So, one of the best tips for new dog owner that I can offer is simply this – take your dog to obedience school. Your dog will learn, and so will you. You’ll both get the skills that are necessary to cope with whatever situations you might encounter.
If you take your dog to obedience school, he’ll also be better socialized, and less frightened of other animal and humans.
12. Know When You Need Help
One of the most important tips for new dog owners is to know when you’re out of your league. Maybe your dog is more than handle. Maybe you’re just not up to the task. There’s no shame in asking for help. If something is wrong, do what you need to fix it, and don’t obsess over the fact that you couldn’t manage it on your own.
Just do something. Ask your vet, a dog trainer, a groomer, or another expert for advice. Don’t try to go it on your own if it hasn’t worked up to this point. No relationship is perfect, and maybe the relationship between you and your dog isn’t. There’s no shame in asking for help.
The Final Word
Getting a dog, whether you take him when he’s a puppy or you get him when he’s an adult, is an adventure. And there will be roadblocks along the way. If you’re committed, though, this can be a wonderful adventure, provided that you don’t allow problems to become entrenched. So learn about your dog. If you’re not sure what you need to do, Google vigorously or consult a veterinarian. I’ve tried to provide some top tips for new dog owners, but they’re not all-inclusive. So see a vet, or read up.
You want to be the best new dog owner you can be. I hope I’ve got you started on the right path.