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Becoming a first time dog owner can be an exciting and life-changing experience. With your new pup by your side, you'll find companionship, unconditional love, and endless joy. However, it's also important to remember that being a pet parent comes with significant responsibilities. To help you navigate this journey, we've compiled a first time dog owner checklist, which includes 10 essential tips for welcoming a new pup into your home. Our new dog owner guide below will help make your transition as smooth and successful as possible.
The first and most important point on our checklist is to research as much as possible! Before bringing a new dog into your life, you'll need to do in-depth research on the breed, their needs, and any potential health issues they might encounter. Every breed has its own quirks and challenges, and you'll want to be prepared for all of them. Armed with the right knowledge, you'll be in a better position to provide the best care for your first dog. Be sure to research the following:
Just remember, while every breed has its typical characteristics, every dog is unique. Energy levels, temperament, and other personality traits can vary immensely — even in the same litter.
There's no hiding the fact that a new pup comes with extra expenses! As a first time dog owner, you'll need to plan for the financial responsibilities that come with pet ownership. Some costs are easy to anticipate, such as food and vet visits. But be aware that some issues can arise unexpectedly — like health problems or injuries. Before you make the jump into becoming a pet parent, come up with a realistic budget. Consider the following:
We all need proper nutrition and a well-balanced diet to stay healthy — including dogs. They might be used to a certain diet and making a sudden change could upset their stomachs. Before bringing a new dog home, it's best to consult with the breeder or rescue organization about the dog's current diet. Then, you can either stick with their recommendation or slowly introduce a new brand of kibble. Just be sure you're feeding your pup high-quality, nutritionally balanced food appropriate for its age, size, and activity level.
If you're not sure what you should be feeding your dog, speak with a veterinarian for food recommendations. You can also review these helpful guides below for more information on dog nutrition:
Dogs thrive in a routine, and it can also help to prevent unfortunate bathroom accidents in the house! Before you bring home your first dog, think about what your daily routine will look like. A good routine will include regular meals, walks, training, brushing, grooming, and potty breaks. Plus, dogs need plenty of playtime and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy.
As a first time pet owner, are there any changes you might need to make to accommodate your dog’s needs? If so, make sure you have a plan in place. Once you've decided on a routine, try to stick with it. Being consistent will help your pup adjust to their new home and make them feel secure. Once they've settled in, they'll know what to expect, resulting in a happier dog.
Even if your new dog is advertised as potty trained, it's wise to anticipate accidents during the initial adjustment period. Your new furry friend could feel a little overwhelmed in their new home, and pottying in the wrong areas is a common response. So prepare for the worst but hope for the best. Here are a few tips for new puppy owners during this learning phase:
If you don't have access to a garden or yard, you can purchase a grass mat to help your pup get used to the feeling of grass. Here are two fantastic grass mat options:
Potty pads are also a great option for your first dog:
Bringing a new dog home is exciting, but it’s advisable to restrict some areas of your house in the beginning. Boundaries are important, so it’s good to get off on the right foot. You can always expand your pup's access as they demonstrate their trustworthiness and learn the rules.
This approach also helps you monitor them closely, ensuring their safety and preventing any mishaps, like chewing on your favorite shoes. Trust us, you'll be grateful when your cute little pup grows into a big, strong dog that knows what’s allowed and what’s off-limits.
We know what you're thinking — crates might seem a bit confining. But we promise, when used correctly, crates are actually like a cozy little den for your fur baby. It's their own special space to relax and feel safe, and definitely not a place for punishment.
Crate training is all about teaching your new dog that their crate is a personal haven. Just remember, pups shouldn't be left in crates for extended periods of time. According to the Humane Society, puppies six months old or younger should not be kept in a crate for more than three to four hours in a single stretch. The same applies to older dogs being house-trained.
If you’re wondering how to get a dog to follow commands, it’s all about positive reinforcement. No matter the age of your new dog, some degree of training will always be necessary. Also known as operant conditioning, this approach means rewarding your dog for good behavior. It’s one of the most effective ways to train your new pup.
Treats are an excellent way to reinforce good behavior. Here are a few highly recommended training treats:
Check out our article on the best dog treats for more treat ideas!
It's extremely important for your dog to learn how to play nicely with others. Start off slow by introducing your dog to your friends' and family's dogs. Once you know your dog gets along well with others, you can set up puppy playdates and strut your stuff at the dog park.
Don't forget to network with other dog owners in your neighborhood. As a first-time pet parent, they'll be an invaluable source of support, advice, and playmates for your pup.
Giving your dog the spa treatment they deserve is vital for their health and happiness. Regular at-home care — including daily brushing — combined with professional grooming sessions will keep your new dog looking and feeling fabulous. Plus, it's a great bonding experience for you and your fur baby!
At home, you'll want to pamper your pooch with these regular care activities:
Don't forget to schedule professional grooming appointments too! These sessions offer additional benefits like expert nail trims, ear cleaning, and stylish haircuts. Be sure to connect with our expert grooming team to understand how often your pup should be professionally groomed, as it varies by breed.
With these grooming and care tips under your belt, you'll have a happy, healthy, and oh-so-huggable pup. To all the first-time dog parents — get ready for a fantastic journey filled with lots of love, laughter, and tail wagging!