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Preparing to Adopt a Dog: Tips and Tricks for First-Time Owners

Are you planning to add a new curious copilot to your life but unsure where to start? We've got you covered.

Couple moving in with new dog

Are you considering adopting a new soulful sidekick? Becoming a pet parent is a huge responsibility. If you’re a first-time dog owner, you’ve come to the right place. Before making the final decision and adopting a dog, you must learn as much as possible about how to be a good caretaker.

So what should you know before adopting? How do you prepare the interior and exterior of your home? What supplies will you need? Figo's got the answers for you below.

Do your research

Bringing a new dog into your life is so rewarding, but it can also be a lot of work. Before adopting, make sure you do your due diligence and research everything there is to know about owning a pet.

Breed research: The first step is to read all about the breed you’re interested in adopting. Many breeds have different characteristics, behaviors, and needs.

Of course, if you're adopting a mixed-breed pet, breed guides may not help you there. Plus, each dog is an individual, so keep in mind that any information is simply a guideline.

However, many breeds have documented energy levels that either will or will not suit your situation - we highly recommend following them.

Find a vet: Once you’ve found the breed best suited for your family, you’ll need to find a reliable veterinarian in your area. Make sure you read all the reviews to ensure they’re a creditable facility.

Consider pet insurance: You should also search for the best pet insurance for your pet. Many pet owners don’t realize that vet bills and procedures can be unpredictable and pricey, and can add up quickly. That is why many dog and cat parents choose pet insurance to avoid racking up major expenses.

Decide on food: Research healthy pet food options to feed your pet. Americans spend 31 million on pet food each year, but a lot of the options are filled with unnecessary or even harmful ingredients. Ask your vet what the best option is for your individual pet.

Obedience training: One of the best ways to ensure a successful outcome when you adopt a pet is to invest in some sort of training. Our dogs are animals living in a human world; it's only natural that they will not come knowing the expectations we have for them. Far too many pets are returned to the shelter for being 'disobedient', when in reality they simply do not know what you want, and have not been given enough time to learn your routeines and rules.

Be sure to learn as much as possible about the best ways to train your pet. Sit, lay down, come, and stay are the basic commands but, teaching them manners is crucial as well. The last thing you want is to have a pet that jumps all over guests when they come into your home.

Leash walking classes and courses are also a huge plus if you can find the right tools to help you and your pup learn how to work together.

Pet-proof your home

Once you’ve researched everything there is to know about owning a pet and you’ve officially decided to adopt, the next step is to pet-proof the inside of your home to ensure your dog is well protected. There are many ways to pet-proof your home that you may not have considered.

Keep it clean: The first step is to get in the habit of cleaning up your belongings off the floor. Dogs tend to chew and eat just about anything they can, especially if they’re in a teething stage. The last thing you want is to rack up an expensive vet bill because your pet ate your socks and is not able to digest them! You’ll also want to hide any electrical cords or open outlets in your home. Don’t forget to remove small objects on tables that can easily be knocked over and broken.

Indoor plant patrol: A good rule of thumb is to treat your new pet like a human baby when pet-proofing your home. Don’t forget to remove any indoor plants you have that may be toxic to your pet. Many toxic plants can harm or even kill your pet if they eat them. Be sure to move them somewhere out of reach or remove them from your home completely. If you need a list of generally pet-safe greenery, we have some suggestions, too.

Pet-safe cleaners: Try to reduce the number of chemical products you use when cleaning. Find organic cleaning products that are safe and environmentally friendly instead.

Carpet free: Remember, accidents happen, especially during the potty-training phases. If you have carpeted rooms, you may want to replace them with alternative flooring options or pet-friendly rugs. If you have area rugs, roll them up and set them aside until potty training is done to avoid ruining them.

Create a safe backyard space

Your dog will most likely be spending a lot of time outdoors. It’s important to have a space where you can trust that they’re safe to roam and play.

Inspect the perimeter: Start by inspecting your backyard carefully to see what safety updates can be made. If you don’t have a fence already, consider installing one first thing. This will allow you to potty-train, play, and exercise your pet with a sense of security that they won’t escape. It’ll also prevent any unwanted visitors from coming into your yard as well.

Outdoor plants: If you have landscaping in your backyard, be sure to inspect the plants to make sure none of them are harmful to your dog. If you don’t have a backyard space for your pet, consider installing an artificial turf space for them to go to the bathroom.

Pool safety: Do you have an in-ground or above-ground pool in your backyard? If so, you may want to consider putting another fence around that if you don’t have one already. Teaching your dog how to swim is crucial to avoid any drowning accidents. You may also want to invest in a life jacket for them to wear for extra safety precautions.

Secure funds for big projects: Depending on the extent of safety updates you have to make indoors and out, the costs can add up fast. It may be beneficial to consider borrowing money from your home as a financing option.

Because the funds are being used for home improvements, it’ll also become a tax-deductible option. The best part is, if you have other home updates you want to make such as removing old carpets, replacing windows and doors, or installing a home security system to be able to monitor your pet when you’re not home, you’ll be able to use the funds towards these projects.

Stock up on pet supplies

Now that you’re ready to welcome your new curious copilot into your home, be sure to stock up on all the necessary supplies before their arrival. To start, we recommend:

  • Bowls

  • A crate (if you plan to crate train them)

  • Toys to play with

  • A leash and collar and optional harness

  • Training treats.

Once you’ve found the right food and things your dog enjoys, consider finding a pet monthly auto-ship service that delivers flea & tick medicine, food, or anything else you might want to have shipped to save you a trip to the store.

You may also want to stock up on safe shampoo to clean your dog with when they get dirty. It’s better to get them used to the water early so when or if they have to go to the groomer, they’ll be better behaved, hopefully!

Now that you’ve done your research, pet-proofed your home, created a safe space, and stocked up on all the necessary supplies, you’re ready to officially adopt your first dog! Don’t worry if you’re not an expert right away. Training and learning how to care for your new pup will take time. Remember to just be patient because everything is new for both of you!

Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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No one is permitted to sell, solicit or negotiate an insurance policy without a producer license in the state in which the plan is sold, and all prospects should be directed to Figo Pet Insurance. The information contained in this website is for illustrative purposes only and coverage under any pet insurance policy is expressly subject to the conditions, restrictions, limitations, exclusions (including pre-existing conditions), and terms of the policy documentation issued by the insurer. Availability of this program is subject to each state’s approval and coverage may vary by state. Coverage underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (IAIC), a Delaware Insurance Company, 11333 North Scottsdale Road Suite 160 Scottsdale, AZ 85254. Live Vet and the Figo Pet Cloud are separate non-insurance services unaffiliated with IAIC. Figo Pet Insurance's California license number is 0K02763.

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