10 Essential Tips for First-Time Dog Parents

May 4, 2023

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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.

1. Do Proper Research

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:

  • Breed-specific traits. What are your desired breed's grooming requirements, common health conditions, and typical energy levels? What is their temperament? Are they usually compatible with children? The best first time dog for new pet parents is a breed with a calm temperament — so choose wisely.
  • Allergies. Do any of your family members or people in your household have allergies? If so, there are many hypoallergenic breed options worth considering.
  • Life span and time commitment. Every dog is a long-term commitment, but some dogs live a lot longer than others. Research the breed's average life span and think about the time you're willing to dedicate to its care as a dog owner.
  • Veterinarian options. Locate nearby vet offices, read reviews, and get recommendations from friends and family. You'll want to make sure you can provide the best possible care before bringing a new dog home.

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.

2. Know Your Budget

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:

  • Vaccines and vet bills
  • Pet insurance
  • Training
  • Regular grooming
  • Monthly food costs
  • Dog walker and daycare costs
  • Leashes, dog toys, and other accessories
  • Pet technology, such as cameras, pet feeders, etc.

3. Make Sure You Have the Right Food

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.

Dog smelling a bowl of food held out by a person's arm.


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:

4. Plan Your Routine & Stick to It

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.

5. Assume Your Dog Is Not Potty Trained

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:

  • Create a clear routine so your pet can establish a sense of structure.
  • Reward your pup when they go to the toilet in the right place.
  • Schedule water and food intake. It will help you anticipate potty breaks.

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:

Happy dog with its tongue out staring upwards while sitting on the grass.


Potty pads are also a great option for your first dog:

  • Green Lifestyle Reusable Pee Pads. These large and thick pads provide exceptional absorbency and durability that’s perfect for potty training your pup.
  • Pet Parents Pee Pads. These dog pads are made from a special fabric blend called WickQuick. It is designed to absorb liquids quickly and hold them in, so that your pet doesn't track their mess all over the house.
  • Frisco Dog Training & Potty Pads. These disposable pads are leak-proof and can be purchased either unscented — with a dog attractant — or scented with a pleasing fragrance.

6. Limit How Much of Your Home the Dog Can Access First

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.

7. Invest in a Crate to Properly Crate Train

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.

An obedient dog looking expectantly while sitting in a crate.

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. 

8. Always Use Positive Reinforcement

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!


9. Incorporate Socialization in Your Pup’s Daily Life

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.

Two dogs enjoying a walk with two people holding a couple leashes.

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.

10. Stay On Top of Professional Grooming & At-Home Care

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:

  • Brush their fur to keep it tangle-free and remove loose hair. Check out our article on the best dog brushes for more information and our top brush recommendations.
  • Brush their teeth to maintain good dental health.
  • Bathe your dog to keep them clean and fresh. You can read our helpful guide on how often you should bathe your dog to learn more.

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!


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