Congratulations! Having a new dog in your life is exciting, but if you’re a first time dog owner, there are important things you need to know. While there is much more to learn about caring for a dog than you’ll read here today, these six expert tips will help you get off to a great start.
Dog-proofing your home is a must
New pets are curious and want to check out everything — including things that could be dangerous. Get on your hands and knees and look at things from your dog’s level. What do you see? Good precautions include securing cabinet doors where toxic chemicals are stored, making sure electrical cords are out of reach and moving potentially toxic houseplants to higher ground.
Don’t anthropomorphize. Dogs are not people, too!
Canine behaviorists warn that dogs don’t experience many uniquely human emotions. Feelings like guilt, anger and spite are not part of how dogs operate. It’s a common mistake to anthropomorphize dogs — treat them as if they have the same characteristics as humans — but it leads to fundamental communication errors.
It’s tempting to try to frame your puppy’s antics in a way you understand, but thinking your dog ate your best shoes because he was mad at you for being gone too long leads to training mistakes that too often result in short, unhappy relationships.
Boot camp should start on day one
It’s never too early to teach your puppy good manners. Define your expectations for your dog’s behavior and don’t fall into the trap of allowing naughty habits because it’s cute or because you think she doesn’t know any better — of course she doesn’t!
Dogs aren’t born inherently knowing what acceptable behavior is in a human household. Good manners must be taught and consistently reinforced. Helping your dog be a model citizen is the key to many happy years together.
Socialized dogs are the best companions
Many troublesome canine behaviors develop because of lack of socialization. Pets of any age can benefit from training to make them more situation-friendly, but making your dog comfortable with a wide range of people, places and activities is best approached before he’s four months old.
If you want a dog that is relaxed and well-behaved in any setting, start socialization early. Take him for road trips and visits to the pet store. Let him romp in the dog park and meet new friends. Ultimately, your dog’s familiarity with most situations will determine his comfort level and his behavior.
There is no specific formula for how often you should feed your dog, but what you put in his bowl should meet all of his nutritional needs. Check the label for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that certifies the food is “complete and balanced” for your dog’s life stage. Foods for puppies, adult and senior dogs are formulated differently and the subtle differences can make a significant health impact.
When considering which dog food to by, price isn’t always a guarantee of optimal nutrition, but brands with superior ingredients get better results. Your dog will have a healthy coat that sheds less and there will be less to pick up in the pooper scooper!
Create a rainy day fund for pet care expenses
Some pet care expenses are predictable and there should be room in the budget for food and basic veterinary care, but surprise costs can threaten to derail your financial plans or worse, put you in a position in which you can’t give your dog the care he needs.
Things like boarding fees if you have to go out of town or medical care for a significant injury can add up quickly. Pet insurance is an option for veterinary bills, but starting a rainy day fund the day you bring your new dog home will cover the unexpected.
Building a relationship with your new dog takes time and patience, but with a little know-how, you’ll be on the right track. Relax, have fun, and don’t worry — you’ll learn the rest along the way.