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Mom and daughter with new puppy

New Dog Guide: Tips For First-Time Dog Owners

Owning a dog is a special privilege — one that can bring lots of love, laughter, and happiness into your home. However, it is also a life-long commitment that needs to be taken seriously. New prospective dog owners — especially children — need to understand that welcoming a dog or puppy into their lives is different from buying a new toy or gadget. Canines thrive on love, time, and attention, but if they're not given these essentials, they may develop behavioral issues.

So, before you welcome a new canine into your life, check out this first-time dog owner’s guide. It contains several important tips for new pet parents that can help make your pet's transition into your home a successful one.

Research is key

Finding a dog that will be the right fit for your lifestyle should start with researching the breed or breed mix you're interested in adding to your family. Why? Because dogs have been selectively bred by humans to have certain characteristics or to perform specific tasks. These traits and characteristics could be important factors when choosing the right dog for your family. For example, some hunting breeds were bred to chase after prey, then bay loudly until their owners could locate them. That may be fine if you're living in the country, but not so much if you're living in an apartment with thin walls.

You should also check with your home insurance policy, HOA, apartment, or condo regulations as some institutions have restrictions against certain breeds, such as pit bulls.

It's also important that prospective new puppy owners perform their due diligence before selecting a breeder to ensure that they are not purchasing from a puppy mill. Because these breeding operations are only interested in making a profit and not in the health of their dogs, their puppies are often sickly or have long-term health issues.

Prepare your home

Before bringing your new dog home, do a quick walk-through to look for items that might be dangerous to your canine or vice versa. Move anything dangerous or valuable out of the reach of your dog. You should also restrict your dog's movements in your home when you first bring your canine home. Some owners use baby gates or a portable pen to confine their dogs to a smaller area until they are sure their pet is potty-trained and/or won't chew on items they shouldn't.

Keep essentials on hand

While you don't have to purchase everything your dog needs before you bring him or her home, you'll want to have at least the essentials on hand. These include:

  • A crate (if you're getting a puppy, look for a crate that has a sliding divider that can allow you to adjust its size as your dog grows)
  • Leash and collar
  • Bed
  • Bowls
  • Poop bags/pooper scoopers
  • Grooming tools, such as a brush

If you're getting a puppy, you might want to have something to comfort your furry friend at night, such as a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. There are also stuffed animals with simulated heartbeats if you'd prefer something a little more high-tech.

Understanding the cost of owning a dog

First-time dog owners often underestimate the cost of owning a canine. Aside from the essentials listed above, your dog will also need all or some of the following:

  • Grooming: Some dogs — especially "hypoallergenic" or low-shedding dog — require regular grooming sessions, typically every six to eight weeks. These trips to the groomer can be pricey.
  • Vet visits: Routine, annual veterinarian visits for a dog, including vaccines, average around $225 a year. This amount does not include the cost of any medications or preventatives your dog may need.
  • Insurance: Dogs are living longer, and veterinarians now have access to many of the treatments and cutting-edge technologies that human doctors use to treat their patients. The downside? There are treatments available now that can save a pet's life, but the cost might be so high that an owner may not be able to pay for them. That is why so many owners are now choosing to purchase pet insurance. It can protect an owner from having to go deep into debt to pay for a pet's necessary surgeries and/or medical treatments.
  • Training: Some dogs are harder to train than others. If your puppy turns out to be a bit of a rascal, you may need to invest in a professional trainer.
  • Boarding and daycare: Will you be away all day at work? Do you normally take a couple of vacations a year? You'll need to factor the cost of doggy daycare and/or boarding into the budget for your pup.

Take your new dog to the vet

One of the first things you'll want to do after adopting a new dog or puppy is to take them to the veterinarian for a general checkup. Your vet can inform you of any health issues your canine may have and get them up to date on all his or her vaccinations.

Owning a dog will require your time

If you want a happy, well-adjusted canine, you'll need to spend time training, walking, and playing with him or her. A lot of behavioral issues — such as chewing, digging, and excessive barking — can be traced to a lack of physical exercise. Highly intelligent dogs, such as border collies, also require a lot of mental stimulation. Otherwise, they can become easily bored and, on occasion, even neurotic.

It's also very important to properly socialize your dog while he or she is young. This can help him or her feel comfortable meeting new people and dogs when you go for walks, head to the dog park, or visit new places.

In the end, the love is worth the effort

Although inviting a new puppy or dog into your life will be a lot of work, in truth, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Dogs are loyal, loving friends who will always be there for you through the good times and the bad.

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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