At the most basic level, all a dog really needs to thrive is food, water, shelter, exercise, and love (but most will tell you it’s way more than that). As an owner, your job is to provide all of this on a consistent basis. There’s nothing difficult about being a good pet owner, but dogs are definitely not self-sufficient. As a first-time dog parent, there are some things you need to know before you take the plunge that will help make your life easier and your new pup’s life happier.
Pick the Right Dog for Your Lifestyle
Not every dog can be happy in every home, and not every dog owner can be happy with any dog. There are good owner-dog matches, and there are bad ones. The best thing you can do is to perform an audit of your life and use that info to pick a dog that best suits your lifestyle.
Different dogs have different requirements when it comes to space and exercise. High-energy breeds need daily, high-intensity physical activity. If you work a lot and can’t commit to that, consider adopting a lower-energy breed. Some dogs are more social and mesh well with kids, whereas others don’t. Research breeds before you choose — it’s not optional. Failing to do this could be the first and most egregious mistake you make as a new dog owner.
Be Ready for Janitorial Duty
Even the best-behaved dogs and diligent owners need to prepare for the not-so-pleasant byproducts of pet ownership. It’s imperative that you purchase an enzymatic cleaner, as it’s the best solution for removing pet odor and stains from all types of materials. Try to avoid pee pads — even for puppies. Although they do help prevent pee from getting on your floors and carpets, they teach dogs that it’s okay to relieve themselves indoors.
Another thing you need is a good vacuum. Many typical household vacuums are not up-to-snuff when it comes to removing pet hair and dander, both of which are major allergy triggers. Make sure you find a good vacuum for pets before you buy.
Training Unlocks Many Doors
Whether you bring home a puppy or an older shelter dog, the end goal is the same: You want a well-behaved, happy dog that bonds with you. This doesn’t just happen overnight. Puppies are a blank slate and need a lot of training. Shelter dogs take a long time to acclimate to new environments and may come with behavioral problems of their own. Dogs are naturally loving and seek human companionship, but you aren’t guaranteed your own Lassie.
Luckily, one daily act can unlock all of this for you: training. By teaching a dog commands, proper etiquette, and good behavior practices, you will not only make a well-mannered dog, but you’ll also bond with them. That’s the key. Other ways to bond with your dog include traveling with them, socializing with them (don’t just let them loose in a dog park), and grooming them.
Freedom Is Earned, Not Given
Keeping your dog confined to a single room or cordoned off with a dog gate may seem cruel, and your dog may seem frustrated at first, but stick with it — it’s the best thing for them. Not only does it help your dog get comfortable in their new environment, but it also protects your home and your stuff from accidents and chew-happy pups.
In the end, following these tips will help you during the initial part of your journey. Beyond this, remember to give your dogs structure, discipline, love, and attention in equal doses. Dogs are reflections of their owners; if you are calm, gentle, and caring, your dog will be too.
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